Are we the next Gestapo?

Several weeks ago a van careened out of control on a Chicago street and breached the curb and struck a porch where several women sat talking, injuring several and killing at least one of the women. A gang of young men walking up the same street saw the incident and proceeded to drag the 62-year-old driver and his passenger from the van and beat them both to death with bricks. In San Diego a public museum offered two different exhibits to entertain its patrons. One, the “Story of man” was a display of anatomically correct monkeys and a couple of monkey men that sought to illustrate the evolution of the human being from apes to Human beings. One attendant mentioned that the private parts of the evolved man where much larger than the monkey men’s and felt this might not be an accurate representation of that aspect of evolution. The other display was a collection of tools used in medieval Europe to torture human beings. The display of torture devices drew a larger crowd than the monkey man exhibit. In another incident two young men heard that a third young man had been accused of sexually molesting their nephew. The two young men found the third young man, a friend, and beat him, then heated a cooking spatula, and proceeded to place the hot spatula on the accused man’s genitalia.

All of this is happening in the United States, while Israel, under our watchful eye, and silent tongue, using U.S. made weapons, carries out any number of gangland styled “hits” in the occupied territories. The Israeli army carries out these extra judicial killings under the guise of fighting terrorism, and it is tolerated by a supposedly civilized world, for what reason, no one knows. Israel has demonstrated its ability to arrest and try those suspected of executing retaliatory attacks. It arrested and has planned a trial for alleged terrorist Marwan Barghouti. This should cause people to ask why others, including the alleged Hamas leader who was killed in his home along with 14 others, the majority small children, could not have also been arrested, tried and convicted in a court of law. This question is especially important if strong enough evidence was available to make his death and the death of his wife and 12 others, including his own and other children, so desperately important that a cease-fire plan that could have saved the lives of numerous Israelis and Palestinians alike was scuttled as a result of this obvious crime. Another irony, is that all this is taking place as the United States is debating attacking a sovereign nation, namely Iraq, preemptively, based upon Israeli intelligence rumors that its leader, Saddam Hussein has managed to restart a weapons program that was supposedly destroyed following the Gulf War. Hussein’s crime is that he has not allowed the inspections that he agreed upon at the end of the Gulf War. Rather than to seek enforcement of the breached agreement through diplomatic and legal remedies, we have decided that we should risk the lives of perhaps 250,000 young American men and women to “get Hussein.” This is not to mention the impact that getting Hussein might have upon the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women and children whose lives might be lost in an attack.

There may not be an obvious connection between any of the above noted events. Yet the attitude that supports each act, and each strange and eerily distasteful demonstration of fear, and fascination with violence, animalism, and revenge, and torture should cause us more than a little concern. We vowed after September 11th that we would not allow the perpetrators of those attacks to defeat us as a nation, or a people, by causing us to be afraid, and to hate, and to act irrationally. We vowed that the war, or campaign against terrorism would be a methodical campaign that would be carried out thoughtfully and deliberately with only a few objectives; conduct investigations to identify the guilty parties, bring them to justice through the law, and disrupt their network, and cut off their resources. We were told that it would be a long-term project, but that we would not allow it to diminish us. Unfortunately, it may have already done that.

Perhaps some of the international resistance to an attack on Saddam Hussein that we are witnessing, is based on the fact that others, outside the United States might see us differently than we see ourselves, and perhaps they are frightened and concerned by what they see. Is this the leader of the “free world?” Perhaps in their reluctance to join the lynch mob that has formed and wants to take off for Iraq, the rest of the world is saying to us that we are not acting up to their expectations, and that we have in fact been deeply and adversely affected by something that is driving us in the wrong direction. Whatever that something is, it is a greater threat to the United States than Saddam Hussein might ever be. The proof of this is the mere fact that we have suggested with forethought, that we, the United States, should use the most powerful military apparatus in the world, to attack a third world country, and remove its leader forcibly from power based upon ! rumors. The intelligence that is driving our presumption that Iraq is in fact in possession of weapons of mass destruction, and poses an imminent threat to the United States is being provided by Israel. Israel is a nation that has everything to gain, and nothing to loose should we attack Iraq, while we have nothing to gain, and an awful lot to loose.

While Iraq has languished under economic sanctions for years, and its people have paid a tremendous price for its government’s previous and continued transgressions of the law. Israel, on the other hand, has been free to pursue its economic, military and other interests, unabated by either law, or morality, and has accomplished little more than a series of arrests and murders of Palestinians. They have a nuclear program, and possess biological weapons, and are headed by a tyrant arguably equal to Hussein in his apparent disregard for human life, and respect for international or any other type of law. Have we forgotten Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, Jenin? Have we forgotten about the “targeted assassinations?” Does it make sense that we would follow intelligence provided by such a government, as we contemplate risking not only the lives of our children, but also our reputation and credibility as a nation, pursuing goals that are questionable, and that in n! o way serve our interests?

There is no victory for the United States in Iraq. Not for the United States, or anyone else. The only thing that could possibly await the United States in Iraq is shame and defeat. If not a military defeat, certainly a moral defeat. The price of such a defeat would not be calculated in dollars and cents, or even lives. It would be measured by the loss of esteem we would have for ourselves as a people, and a nation, and the respect we would lose in the eyes of other nations and peoples who look to us as leaders, particularly in the areas of legal, moral, and human rights. To understand the price to be paid, we might revisit a segment of a classic American movie, where the master of the Evil Empire says to a young Jedi, “Come over to the Dark Side.” The Jedi of course refuses. The leader of the Evil Empire smiles slyly, knowing that the young Jedi has no idea what he really means by “Come over to the Dark side,” as in be our ally. The young Jedi perhaps think! s the Evil Emperor wants him to sign up for his army, or fight for his cause through some sort of initiation. The Evil Emperor then opens a window to the world and shows the young Jedi that all of his friends and comrades are being hunted down and destroyed by the Emperor’s forces of evil. He looks at the young Jedi and says, “you will join me because I will make you watch as I kill each of your loved ones and friends, and you will get angry and then you will hate. The minute that you feel hate and lash out to attack, or to kill me, know that you will have in fact become one of my slaves. You will have come over to the Dark side.”

Our Evil Emperor or tempter is not a man, yet the Dark side does exist. It has been our challenge since September 11th to resist the temptation to become a nation of darkness. It has been our challenge to avoid becoming a people who are eager to inflict pain, exact vengeance, and to trample the law in our pursuit of whatever it is that so frightens us. Although we have nothing to fear, we are behaving like a cowardly and frightened people in respect to Iraq. America, our greatness did not result from our ability or desire to kill and maim, and torture other human beings, nor to become dictators and occupiers of other people’s lands. We are the people who fought great battles of liberation. We are not the people who arrogantly sought to impose our views, or culture, or beliefs upon others. Nor are we the timid, who fear every move, every rumor, every threat spoken, quick on the trigger. These are traits of hypocrites and liars, demonstrated by those of weaker, less impressive stuff. God did not bless us to be the greatest and most prosperous people in the world, so that we might, in our anger and hurt, our greatest test, decide to lash out and “take down” everyone that we dislike, or disagree with, or fear. This is beneath us. It is contrary to our beliefs as Christian and other believing people, and against our belief as a nation in the rule of law. It means that we have exhausted our intellectual and diplomatic resources and are left to rely only upon brute strength in the resolution of our affairs, and considering the quality of minds present in the United States, this does not bode well.

At the same time that Israel is urging us on, in fact instigating a war between the United States and Iraq, it is also possible, that through its various propagandists here in the United States, Israel is also promoting the idea that the United States should attack Saudi Arabia. Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, in her article “Strange figure behind inflammatory briefing on Saudis” (August 16, 2002) said, “We (the United States) have a hitherto largely unknown Polish-Jewish-French Dr. Strangelove named Laurent Murawiec” in our midst. According to Geyer, Murawiec is pushing the United States to see Saudi Arabia as our number one enemy in the Arab world. Geyer says that Murawiec attended a Pentagon briefing where he suggested rather forcefully that the United States should “threaten Saudi rulers with violent retributions if they do not do exactly as we say, and invade Saudi oil fields, take over their dollar investments in the United States and/or find ! alternatives for the Saudi holy places of Mecca and Medina.” George Will in the article “Change Iraq for the better, change region for the better,” called Saudi Arabia, “a dead regime walking.” Although he argues that modernity is the answer to Saudi Arabia’s extremes, he also suggests that a Iraq regime change, could, or might lead to our consideration of a Saudi regime change, saying,” Sooner or later, and probably sooner, all this will meet its match in modernity. America’s reluctant allies in Europe should support American actions that hasten that dayéif Iraq’s next government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, the entire region may be changed.” What this might imply is that once we have carried out Israel’s dictate to destroy Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power, Israel’s next request might be for us to destroy Saudi Arabia. There are no words to express how ridiculous these ideas are, and how we must appear to the rest of the world. In all likeli! hood our willingness to even consider such is seen by our allies not as a sign of our strength, but rather our weakness.

There are of course those in our present administration who are sincere in their desire to establish democratic governments in the Muslim world, and lesson some of the suffering of those people. Democratic Arab governments would perhaps work to ease anti-American sentiments in that part of the world, and cooperate more closely with the United States. It is anti-Americanism, and not ” Saddam Husseinism” that is perhaps the biggest threat to U.S. interests in the Muslim world. For years Muslims have pushed for democratization in the Muslim world, and sought U.S. support in that respect. Unfortunately, the present U.S. approach to democratization, along with too obvious Israeli interests piggybacking what might be sincere U.S. overtures, will cause anyone who moves to change anything in the name of democratization or anything else, to appear to be either puppets of, or collaborators with Israeli Zionists, and that would make their success highly unlikely. Most ! Muslims, and Arabs, along with many others, are convinced that Israel is out to destabilize the region, and expand in an attempt to become “Greater Israel.” We should not underestimate the magnitude of the unrest in the region that would accompany any attempt by Israel to expand into other parts of the Arab/Muslim world. An attack on Iraq, even led by, or carried out unilaterally by the United States, would likely be seen as such an attempt. This alone should cause us to revisit the numerous international treaties, conventions, and theories of conflict resolution that could provide an internationally accepted legal criterion for military engagement. We might also look at some historic precedents that show us how the world was impacted when a single nation, Germany, led by Adolph Hitler, sought to eliminate all of its perceived threats, and fears with military attacks, occupations, and regime changes.

The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women.