No to War-Mongering

It was disheartening to read the war-mongering essay “I Was Afraid to Speak Out About Iran” by Lawrence Mass in the August 10-16 issue of Gay City News — written ostensibly about the repression of gays in that country. Brave armchair generals say things like “by any means necessary,” but they really mean murder.

We’ve tried that in Iran before. Eisenhower destroyed Iran’s democracy and condemned the nation to the Shah’s tyranny for two decades. We got our loyal dictator for a while, but the plan fell to hell when the mullahs declared the Islamic Revolution and set the tone of desperate fundamentalism that ravages the world today.

It turns badly for us when we seek to undo sovereign nations. Compare the challenges in Iran today. In the past when we wanted to overthrow a government that threatened American ownership of foreign natural resources, we sent a CIA agent to give guns to whatever sadistic insurgents wanted a coup. Such operations were formulaic and cheap. Our puppet dictator ruled with an iron-fist, and our corporations had their pick of what Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez now calls the people’s natural resources.

Today the costs for such thievery threaten our own sovereignty. What the CIA once did with a suitcase of hundred dollar bills, now costs a thousand billion dollars and massive armies, without the benefits of an obedient regime.

The policy of regime-change is outdated and leads to virulent anti-Americanism and the terrorism that thrives on it. Economic incentives and creative diplomacy work better. To get there we have to betray the major lobbies and think tanks that hate these alternatives to war.

After decades of weapon-accumulation and training, former pushovers kill our soldiers with suicidal bravery and expertise. Vietnam is the new rule. Our psychotic civilian slaughter only prompts theirs. Talking on a cell phone in Baghdad is enough to get blown away by some scared kid from Minnesota. Bombs land on babies. We don’t count their dead.

We might not care, but extended families do. Arabs and Persians will not be the gooks our government makes of them.

Mass wants to extend the carnage to an Iran less weakened by sanctions and war than was Iraq at the time of our most recent invasion. He has no time for negotiation or re-incorporation of Iran into the community of nations.

Demonizing helps nothing. Mass forgets the effect of Bush’s “axis of evil” shtick on the progress President Mohammed Khatemi was making in Iran. He has no memory of how White House cowboy talk undid Bill Clinton’s diplomacy and bolstered the Islamic Revolutionary Guard to replace Khatemi with current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He says nothing about how we have isolated Iran, denying its youthful and modernizing impulses. Such nuance, history, and context are threatening to those who wish for unimaginable war.

Our racism lets us dismiss talking, and helps us mischaracterize the Muslim capacity for civilization. We forget that Western civilization was pulled from its fundamentalist Dark Ages with books Arabists provided. All we remember is 9/11.

Islamic militants trained by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union constructed a terror network that planned and finally hit the United States. We ignore the reasons why one people would unleash horror on another. We prefer racism to the history of how we took up the British project of replacing Ottoman civilization with dictators to better control the region’s oil for ourselves. We don’t take seriously the resentment and desperation our meddling has caused. We dismiss the religious-nationalism of Islamic terrorism, because we do not recognize ourselves as imperialistFor this reason we don’t recognize Israel as a European colonial project in sacred Muslim lands. We care only about the Biblical associations, and ignore the metaphor of Lost Eden Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and Palestinian territories represents to Arabs. We block United Nations resolutions that demand Israel return to its U.N.-granted borders. We perpetuate a South African apartheid-style injustice, and feed the hatred with our arrogance.

We do this with taxpayer dollars. According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs “for the 1949-1996 time frame, the total of U.S. foreign aid to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined was just over $62 billion—almost exactly the amount given to tiny Israel.” Those who understand the socioeconomic roots of AIDS transmission in Africa should be disgusted by this fact.

The rhetoric of Israeli settlers and other Bible-fundamentalists include refrains like “gas all the Arabs.” Such people incrementally steal and settle land beyond Israel’s international borders, fostering the kind of verbose hatred anyone should expect. They do so with American guns and funds. They treat resultant Palestinian refugees like natives in apartheid Bantu-stands. These supremacists exert control within the Likud party, getting marriage laws passed, for example, that require Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians to leave the country. They have the bomb. The Likudnik Israel lobby in Washington spies on the United States, as the recent indictment of two top lobbyists shows.

Until Americans become comfortable analyzing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s extraordinary role in the life of our nation, without fear of being tarnished with the career-ruining word-bomb “anti-Semite,” such betrayals of our national interest will continue, as will our funding of Palestinian repression.

We pay no heed to Israel’s state religiosity, or indeed our own. Instead the Islamic fundamentalist is the only threat we recognize to civilization. Nuclear weapons threaten civilization, as Einstein warned us. America’s flagrant disregard for non-proliferation agreements threatens civilization, as does America’s acquiescence to Israel, Pakistan, and India getting the bomb. Not to understand Iran’s nuclear program as more of the same realpolitik in a region the Muslim world does not want to see dominated by Israel is foolish.

The road to peace is not the way of war as Orwellian hell-raisers pretend. The road to peace instead leads the United States out of the Middle East. We must leave the Middle East to its natives, as Gandhi said to the British about India. Muslim men have decided to expedite this process with ugly acts that are not uglier than our own murderous rampages. We should carve the names of collateral damage into the monuments we build for our own dead, before going off to make more.