WHAT WE THINK
January 30, 2004 | Page 3
THE WHITE House presented Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a "charm offensive" to ask European nations for help in the U.S. "war on terror." But when the audience of prime ministers, corporate executives and other diplomats gave Cheney a chilly reception, U.S. media commentators scratched their heads--before dismissing the Europeans as a "tough audience," in the words of the Chicago Tribune.
The bewildered pundits could have looked at what Cheney actually said. His speech was an unapologetic defense of Washington's empire and its plans to dominate the oil-rich Middle East--whether that plan takes the form of the direct occupation of Iraq, or is carried by Washington's ally Israel through its war on the Palestinians.
Europe can't survive as a "privileged enclave surrounded on its outskirts by a breeding ground of hatred and fanaticism," Cheney lectured his listeners in Davos. "The days of looking the other way while despotic regimes trample human rights and rob their nations' wealth and then excuse their failings by feeding their people a steady diet of anti-Western hatred are over."
What a hypocrite! Last year, the whole world saw the U.S. government defy any number of countries and world public opinion to wage its war on Iraq. Washington's invasion caused tens of thousands of deaths--on top of more than 1 million in the 13 years of military and economic war that came before it.
U.S. authorities moved quickly to gain control over Iraq's massive oil wealth, while Cheney's administration fed the U.S. population a steady diet of anti-Arab hatred. Now, Cheney is trying to use threats to force Europe into supporting U.S. aims in the Middle East.
It's obvious why Cheney's ploy fell flat, and it has nothing to do with charm. In contrast to their fire-breathing rhetoric, the Bush administration's case for war has been totally discredited.
David Kay, the White House's man in charge of weapons inspections in Iraq, admits that there aren't any weapons of mass destruction. "I don't think they exist," said Kay last weekend as he stepped down from his CIA post. "The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist--we've got to deal with that difference and understand why."
This is a stunning admission that confirms everything that antiwar activists said before the war began and since.
If the U.S. were truly interested in ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, there is one country known to possess a large arsenal of nuclear weapons--Israel. But of course, the U.S. runs diplomatic interference for the country that has the best-armed military in the region--because Israel is Washington's number-one ally and chief deputy in the Middle East.
In fact, Israel has been a cornerstone of U.S. strategy for more than a quarter century. Some of Israel's "indiscretions" directly serve U.S. interests--such as its menacing posture towards Syria and Lebanon.
Last week, Israel violated Lebanese airspace with jets and sent a bulldozer over the border. When Hezbollah guerrillas fired on the bulldozer, killing an Israeli soldier, Israel reacted with indignation and launched missiles deep into Lebanese territory--as if Lebanon had caused the incident.
Israel's overwhelming military superiority--and its willingness to use it--make it easier for the U.S. to pressure Middle Eastern countries without having to commit its own military forces. That's why U.S. politicians can be counted on to deny the facts of Israel's crimes--sometimes even more fiercely than the Israelis.
What this defense means in real terms is justifying savage oppression and ethnic cleansing on a grand scale. Israeli historian Benny Morris--whose research provided much of the evidence of the terror used by Israel to drive Palestinians from their homes after Israel was founded in 1948--took his argument one step further in a recent interview in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper.
"There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing," he said. "[A] Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads."
The Bush administration counts Israel as one front among many in its war for global domination--and anyone who thinks that this is an exaggeration should consider how casually Bush, in his State of the Union address, included Jerusalem among the cities where the U.S. is fighting its "war on terror."
The antiwar movement faces the challenge of building opposition to Bush's occupation of Iraq as the resistance of Iraqis grows. But it would be wrong to treat the other occupier of the Middle East--Israel--and the resistance of the Palestinians as if these were unrelated issues. We have to oppose these twin occupations--in Iraq and Palestine.