From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Wed Dec 24 1997 - 09:35:12 PST

  • Next message: Mark Hedges: "Re: [IWAR] Intelligence Wars."

    -       _______   ____   ______
           /  |/  /  /___/  / /_ //    M I D - E A S T   R E A L I T I E S
          / /|_/ /  /_/_   / /\\             http://WWW.MiddleEast.Org
         /_/  /_/  /___/  /_/  \\              
                                         Edward Said: "Apocalypse Now" 
        To receive MER regularly just email to INFOMERat_private
                    "THE MEDIA...IS AN EXTENSION OF THE
                            WAR AGAINST IRAQ"
                                    Professor Edward Said
            MER - Washington - 12/21/97:
               The following article was recently published by
            Professor Edward Said, one of the most astute and
            thoughtful analysts of Palestinian background who
            has lived most of his life in New York City where
            he teaches Comparative Literature at Columbia 
               As the U.S. once again mobilizes its modern-day 
            empire against Iraq -- controlling the entire Middle East
            region through its unique combination of military
            force, intelligence gathering, "client regimes", military 
            technology and big business relationships -- Said's 
            articles are surely among the most provocative and 
            insightful, even if he himself has chosen to go light 
            on the Arab regimes (and also to overlook the earlier 
            this century British castration of Iraq that "created" 
            Kuwait in the first place), in order to be published 
            in some of their key newspapers.
               One of the additional ironies about today's Middle
            East is that Said's bi-weekly column is now jointly 
            published in key Saudi and Egyptian newspapers -- media
            controlled and manipulated by American-sponsored regimes 
            far more than what takes place in the U.S.; and regimes 
            whose conspiracy with the Americans to bring Iraq to its
            knees at barbarous cost and to sell-out the Palestinians 
            through the disingenuous "Peace Process" Said has himself 
            so brilliantly focused on in other media at other times...
            but never in his Arab world column. 
                        A P O C A L Y P S E    N O W 
                            Professor Edward Said
       It would be a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening
    between Iraq and the United States simply to an assertion of
    Arab will and sovereignty on the one hand versus American
    imperialism, which undoubtedly plays a central role in all this.
    However misguided, Saddam Hussein's cleverness is not that he is
    splitting America from its allies (which he has not really
    succeeded in doing for any practical purpose) but that he is
    exploiting the astonishing clumsiness and failures of US foreign
    policy. Very few people, least of all Saddam himself, can be
    fooled into believing him to be the innocent victim of American
    bullying; most of what is happening to his unfortunate people
    who are undergoing the most dreadful and unacknowledged
    suffering is due in considerable degree to his callous cynicism
    -- first of all, his indefensible and ruinous invasion of
    Kuwait, his persecution of the Kurds, his cruel egoism and
    pompous self-regard which persists in aggrandizing himself and
    his regime at exorbitant and, in my opinion, totally unwarranted
    cost. It is impossible for him to plead the case for national
    security and sovereignty now given his abysmal disregard of it
    in the case of Kuwait and Iran. 
       Be that as it may, US vindictiveness, whose sources I shall
    look at in a moment, has exacerbated the situation by imposing a
    regime of sanctions which, as Sandy Berger, the American
    National Security adviser has just said proudly, is
    unprecedented for its severity in the whole of world history. 
    567,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the Gulf War, mostly as
    a result of disease, malnutrition and deplorably poor medical
    care.  Agriculture and industry are at a total standstill. This
    is unconscionable of course, and for this the brazen inhumanity
    of American policy-makers is also very largely to blame. But we
    must not forget that Saddam is feeding that inhumanity quite
    deliberately in order to dramatize the opposition between the US
    and the rest of the Arab world; having provoked a crisis with
    the US (or the UN dominated by the US) he at first dramatised
    the unfairness of the sanctions. But by continuing it as he is
    now doing, the issue has changed and has become his
    non-compliance, and the terrible effects of the sanctions have
    been marginalised. Still the underlying causes of an Arab/US
    crisis remain. 
        A careful analysis of that crisis is imperative. The US has
    always opposed any sign of Arab nationalism or independence,
    partly for its own imperial reasons and partly because its
    unconditional support for Israel requires it to do so. Since the
    l973 war, and despite the brief oil embargo, Arab policy up to
    and including the peace process has tried to circumvent or
    mitigate that hostility by appealing to the US for help, by
    "good" behavior, by willingness to make peace with Israel. Yet
    mere compliance with the US's wishes can produce nothing except
    occasional words of American approbation for leaders who appear
    "moderate": Arab policy was never backed up with coordination,
    or collective pressure, or fully agreed upon goals. Instead each
    leader tried to make separate arrangements both with the US and
    with Israel, none of which produced very much except escalating
    demands and a constant refusal by the US to exert any meaningful
    pressure on Israel. The more extreme Israeli policy becomes the
    more likely the US has been to support it. And the less respect
    it has for the large mass of Arab peoples whose future and
    well-being are mortgaged to illusory hopes embodied, for
    instance, in the Oslo accords. 
          Moreover, a deep gulf separates Arab culture and
    civilization on the one hand, from the United States on the
    other, and in the absence of any collective Arab information and
    cultural policy, the notion of an Arab people with traditions,
    cultures and identities of their own is simply inadmissible in
    the US. Arabs are dehumanized, they are seen as violent
    irrational terrorists always on the lookout for murder and
    bombing outrages. The only Arabs worth doing business with for
    the US are compliant leaders, businessmen, military people whose
    arms purchases (the highest per capita in the world) are helping
    the American economy keep afloat. Beyond that there is no
    feeling at all, for instance, for the dreadful suffering of the
    Iraqi people whose identity and existence have simply been lost
    sight of in the present situation. 
       This morbid, obsessional fear and hatred of the Arabs has
    been a constant theme in US foreign policy since World War Two.
    In some way also, anything positive about the Arabs is seen in
    the US as a threat to Israel.  In this respect pro-Israeli
    American Jews, traditional Orientalists, and military hawks have
    played a devastating role. Moral opprobrium is heaped on Arab
    states as it is on no others. Turkey, for example, has been
    conducting a campaign against the Kurds for several years, yet
    nothing is heard about this in the US. Israel occupies territory
    illegally for thirty years, it violates the Geneva conventions
    at will, conducts invasions, terrorist attacks and
    assassinations against Arabs, and still, the US vetoes every
    sanction against it in the UN. Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq are
    classified as "rogue" states. Sanctions against them are far
    harsher than against any other countries in the history of US
    foreign policy. And still the US expects that its own foreign
    policy agenda ought to prevail (eg., the woefully misguided Doha
    economic summit) despite its hostility to the collective Arab
       In the case of Iraq a number of further extenuations make the
    US even more repressive. Burning in the collective American
    unconscious is a puritanical zeal decreeing the sternest
    possible attitude towards anyone deemed to be an unregenerate
    sinner. This clearly guided American policy towards the native
    American Indians, who were first demonized, then portrayed as
    wasteful savages, then exterminated, their tiny remnant confined
    to reservations and concentration camps. This almost religious
    anger fuels a judgemental attitude that has no place at all in
    international politics, but for the United States it is a
    central tenet of its worldwide behavior. Second, punishment is
    conceived in apocalyptic terms. During the Vietnam war a leading
    general advocated -- and almost achieved -- the goal of bombing
    the enemy into the stone age. The same view prevailed during the
    Gulf War in l99l. Sinners are meant to be condemned terminally,
    with the utmost cruelty regardless of whether or not they suffer
    the cruelest agonies. The notion of "justified" punishment for
    Iraq is now uppermost in the minds of most American consumers of
    news, and with that goes an almost orgiastic delight in the
    gathering power being summoned to confront Iraq in the Gulf. 
       Pictures of four (or is now five?) immense aircraft carriers
    steaming virtuously away punctuate breathless news bulletins
    about Saddam's defiance, and the impending crisis. The President
    announces that he is thinking not about the Gulf but about the
    21st century: how can we tolerate Iraq's threat to use
    biological warfare even though (this is unmentioned)  it is
    clear from the UNSCOM reports that he neither has the missile
    capacity, nor the chemical arms, nor the nuclear arsenal, nor in
    fact the anthrax bombs that he is alleged to be brandishing?
    Forgotten in all this is that the US has all the terror weapons
    known to humankind, is the only country to have used a nuclear
    bomb on civilians, and as recently as seven years ago dropped
    66,000 tons of bombs on Iraq. As the only country involved in
    this crisis that has never had to fight a war on its own soil,
    it is easy for the US and its mostly brain-washed citizens to
    speak in apocalyptic terms. A report out of Australia on Sunday,
    November l6 suggests that Israel and the US are thinking about a
    neutron bomb on Baghdad. 
       Unfortunately the dictates of raw power are very severe and,
    for a weak state like Iraq, overwhelming. Certainly US misuse of
    the sanctions to strip Iraq of everything, including any
    possibility for security is monstrously sadistic. The so-called
    UN 661 Committee created to oversee the sanctions is composed of
    fifteen member states (including the US) each of which has a
    veto. Every time Iraq passes this committee a request to sell
    oil for medicines, trucks, meat, etc., any member of the
    committee can block these requests by saying that a given item
    may have military purposes (tires, for example, or ambulances).
    In addition the US and its clients -- eg., the unpleasant and
    racist Richard Butler, who says openly that Arabs have a
    different notion of truth than the rest of the world -- have
    made it clear that even if Iraq is completely reduced militarily
    to the point where it is no longer a threat to its neighbors
    (which is now the case) the real goal of the sanctions is to
    topple Saddam Hussein's government. In other words according to
    the Americans, very little that Iraq can do short of Saddam's
    resignation or death will produce a lifting of sanctions.
    Finally, we should not for a moment forget that quite apart from
    its foreign policy interest, Iraq has now become a domestic
    American issue whose repercussions on issues unrelated to oil or
    the Gulf are very important. Bill Clinton's personal crises --
    the campaign-funding scandals, an impending trial for sexual
    harassment, his various legislative and domestic failures --
    require him to look strong, determined and "presidential"
    somewhere else, and where but in the Gulf against Iraq has he so
    ready-made a foreign devil to set off his blue-eyed strength to
    full advantage.  Moreover, the increase in military expenditure
    for new investments in electronic "smart" weaponry, more
    sophisticated aircraft, mobile forces for the world-wide
    projection of American power are perfectly suited for display
    and use in the Gulf, where the likelihood of visible casualties
    (actually suffering Iraqi civilians) is extremely small, and
    where the new military technology can be put through its paces
    most attractively.  For reasons that need restating here, the
    media is particularly happy to go along with the government in
    bringing home to domestic customers the wonderful excitement of
    American self-righteousness, the proud flag-waving, the
    "feel-good" sense that "we" are facing down a monstrous
    dictator.  Far from analysis and calm reflection the media
    exists mainly to derive its mission from the government, not to
    produce a corrective or any dissent. The media, in short, is an
    extension of the war against Iraq. 
       The saddest aspect of the whole thing is that Iraqi civilians
    seem condemned to additional suffering and protracted agony.
    Neither their government nor that of the US is inclined to ease
    the daily pressure on them, and the probability that only they
    will pay for the crisis is extremely high. At least -- and it
    isn't very much -- there seems to be no enthusiasm among Arab
    governments for American military action, but beyond that there
    is no coordinated Arab position, not even on the extremely grave
    humanitarian question. It is unfortunate that, according to the
    news, there is rising popular support for Saddam in the Arab
    world, as if the old lessons of defiance without real power have
    still not been learned. 
       Undoubtedly the US has manipulated the UN to its own ends, a
    rather shameful exercise given at the same time that the
    Congress once again struck down a motion to pay a billion
    dollars in arrears to the world organization. The major priority
    for Arabs, Europeans, Muslims and Americans is to push to the
    fore the issue of sanctions and the terrible suffering imposed
    on innocent Iraqi civilians. Taking the case to the
    International Court in the Hague strikes me as a perfectly
    viable possibility, but what is needed is a concerted will on
    behalf of Arabs who have suffered the US's egregious blows for
    too long without an adequate response. 
       [Published in late November in Arabic in the Saudi government 
    controlled publication Al-Hayat, published in Arabic in London, 
    and in English in the Egyptian government controlled publication 
    Al Ahram Weekly published in Cairo.]
       MID-EAST REALITIES is published a number of times weekly and the 
                  MERTV Program shows weekly on Cable TV. 
        Email to INFOMERat_private to receive MER regularly.  
        Email to: INFOMERTVat_private about the weekly TV program.
        For past MER articles go to: http://WWW.MiddleEast.Org.
             M  I  D  -  E  A  S  T      R  E  A  L  I  T  I  E  S
                              (c) Copyright 1997
        MER may be freely distributed by email and on the Internet so 
           long as there is no editing of any kind.  For any print 
               publication, permission in writing is required.   
        MERat_private / Fax: 202 362-6965 / Phone: 202 362-5266

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 12:58:09 PDT