America seems to suddenly have an abundance of experts and pundits on Bin Laden and Islamic Extremists. All of them seem to have firm opinions on how to deal with those responsible for the carnage in New York. They want the death sentence for the suicidal terrorists who assaulted our shores. Once this war is over, these very same pundits and experts will resume their search for Chandra Levy and chase O J Simpson around some Florida golf course.
For now, these ‘experts’ seem to have great assurance analyzing the situation in places like Qatar, pronouncing their instant wisdom on ‘Gutter’. Expect more of this kind of ‘Gutter journalism’ as we march off to resume fighting a ‘new’ war against terrorism. After all, the networks, having cut back their news staffs, are left with only a handful of qualified foreign correspondents. Now, they find themselves being scooped by ‘El Jazira’. In this ‘new’ war, the Pentagon tapes will not do. A war is going on in distant Afghanistan and all CNN has to show is old footage of Sadam Hussein meeting his cabinet in some plush bunker. It is difficult to deliver infotainment products without pictures and there is no El Rashid hotel in Kabul to accommodate a camera crew from Times Warner. So to give the American networks a ‘fair’ playing field, the State Department has asked El Jazira to shut down their offices in Kabul (which is still pronounced as ‘Cobal’ by some of the FOX ‘experts’).
If Colin Powell is concerned about the effects of the media on this conflict, let him start in his own back yard by withdrawing Rupert Murdoch’s FCC license for inciting hate against Arab-Americans and promoting a war criminal like Ariel Sharon. Murdoch’s pundits are actively involved in Israel’s ‘Hasbra’ project and the State Department knows what that means. They are not just ordinary jingoists, they are pro-Israeli militants who want to prod America into escalating the war. These lunatic Likudniks are perfectly prepared to fight a war for Israel with American blood. That is why Benjamin Netenyahu thinks the assault on New York “is a very good thing”. If anything is hurting America’s image abroad, it is the bigoted ‘FOX’ racist drivel that is picked up by Arabs and Muslims all over the globe. They react to the bellicose bigotry of FOX in the same manner we react to a Bin Ladin press release.
While CNN is panicking over footage, the bigots at FOX are recycling their experts from the Israeli lobby, hoping to shore up the fortunes of Ariel Sharon, a war criminal on intimate terms with Rupert Murdoch. You can almost feel the embarrassing pain of Rumsfeld answering the same kind of questions one would expect at a Star Treck convention. Please show pity for the wizards of the infotainment business who just dropped in from Chandrala. It would be easier to switch gears from being an ambulance chaser to arguing a case before the Supreme Court.
It was not a lack of knowledge that led us into this sorry state, but a serious deficiency in intelligence and judgment and a sewer class brand of journalism. The graduates of the ‘Rupert Murdoch’ school of jingoistic journalism have induced our leaders to govern by polls; which they are more than happy to finance. CNN (which is owned by Time/Warner which is owned by AOL) and FOX (which owns the New York Post and the London Times) mess with our minds even on subjects as serious as war and international terrorism. The New York Times (which owns the Boston Globe and three dozen municipal dailies) and the Washington Post (which own NewsWeek) can and do intimidate our political class into submission. Even at a time like this. A few media barons, many of them staunch Israel Firsters like Sulzberger, are intent of stifling any probing of our foreign policy.
Behind our disastrous foreign policy failures, you will find entrenched interest groups that slavishly bow to the interests of a foreign state. Their loyalty to men like Sharon and Shamir should make their politics obviously suspect. But that is another one of those questions no one cares to bring up. They are free to cast aspersions and doubts about every single Arab-American and Muslim American and to cover their ass for their intense engagement in designing foreign policies rooted in a political doctrine every bit as strange and un-American as the supremacist ideology of the Taliban. They are at liberty to recommend ‘nuking’ or otherwise ravaging other peoples’ homelands just because that is what Tel Aviv wants. Dig up what these pundits were advocating in July and August and you will find them encouraging Ariel Sharon to abandon ‘restraint’ and increase the Palestinian kill count. Their solution to ‘Arab’ problems never waiver with the passage of time. Their advice is always more of the same: Steal more Palestinian land, kill more of their children and the Palestinians will forget all about previous episodes of land theft and mass murder.
The President of Major Jewish Organizations, Mortmier Zuckerman, owns US World and News Report, the third largest American weekly magazine. Mort is one of the most prolific disseminators of pro-Israeli propaganda in America and the free world. If Mortimier’s dual role does not disturb you, consider that every major one of these American Jewish Organizations have warmly embraced serial war criminals and terrorists from Begin to Shamir to Ariel Sharon. They have deliberately and purposely buried their war crimes record stretching from blowing up the King David Hotel to Deir El Yassin to Qibya to Sabra and Shatila. These publishers were ‘bold’ enough to dig up the massacre at ‘No Gun Ri’ and the War record of ex-Senator Kerry, but insistent enough to market Sharon as a ‘war hero’.
Like all good propaganda machines, in times of war, as in times of peace, those who operate the machine know the value of redundancy. Mostly, they know how to avoid asking serious questions. And if serious questions arise, they have the same redundant evasive answers. Eventually, most propaganda is filtered out in the history books, and left to the academics to sort out. Read a history book on the Palestinians and you will emerge a permanent believer in the mind messing powers of our media lords. I recommend you start with ‘the Question of Palestine’ by Edward Said and then move on to ‘Manufacturing Consent’ by Naom Chomsky.
Unlike the gutter journalists, I do not claim to have all of the answers. But I do believe that this is a vastly different kind of war and we had all better be ready to at least ask serious questions. In the battles to come, our clarity of vision will be as important as the strength of our military. In charting our course, we must always keep an eye on the rear mirror. But do not bother our gutter journalists with these matters. Before you listen to the self-appointed ‘experts’, consider consulting an expert on who should be an expert. The current crop of media starlets is simply not qualified to do any of the heavy lifting. This is especially true of the extraordinary number of ‘American’ journalists who continue to brazenly market one Israeli agenda or another.
Which brings me to the plight of the Afghanis and how things got this crazy. Our media elite would like their audience to believe that history has always been thus in the multi-tribal lands of these proud Central Asian tribes. Believe the pundits and abandon hope. If you want a historical analogy to Afghanistan and the Taliban, the closest modern analogy is Cambodia and the Khemer Rouge. Both countries, historically isolated from the broad currents of modern Anglo-European intrigue, found themselves in the thick of the proxy wars between America and the Evil Empire. And when the cold warriors were done, they abandoned both countries to the vagaries of fratricidal chaos and ideological extremists. Famine, war and alien ideologies were allowed to wreak havoc with the social and political fabric of both nation states and millions of their citizens were left to rot and die without so much as an audible whimper from the ‘civilized world’.
As the events of the last few weeks have demonstrated; history does not repeat itself; but it might follow a path that leads to your front door. So, it is worth keeping an eye on current events even if Chandra is missing. While the American military takes to the skies of Kabul to unleash another wave of violence on a generation of Afghanis emerging from a generation of violence, we can do more than sit back and watch green dots on CNN. Be assured of this, this conflict is not so complicated that we need to consign it to the ‘experts’ in the media and government. Neither, were the events of September 11th inevitable. One of the reasons our foreign policies were allowed to spin out of control was the American public’s failure to pay attention. If we can change our security policies and admit our intelligence failures; we can certainly question the architects of a foreign policy that has fallen flat on its face and exposed our country and the world to great peril.
Afghanistan is a nation of ancient tribes now caught in the middle of yet another of the nasty little wars that have visited their homeland by way of other people’s troubles. In much the same way the Vietnam war spilled over into Cambodia, the Middle East conflicts over Palestine and oil have inflicted themselves upon both Afghan and New Yorker. In the wake of another epic American foreign policy debacle, know-nothing barely literate Afghanis have filled the void left by the professional class of Afghanis who departed to the safety of other shores, escaping the onslaught of Russian tanks in 1979. The Taliban partisans are only marginally different from the teenage peasant guerrillas who herded the citizens of Phnom Pen to the killing fields in the vain hope of restoring some idealized ‘authentic’ Cambodian reality.
How did things get this crazy? A good part of the answer to that question is the Israeli lobby which, for half a century, has had its fangs deep in the rotten flesh of a State Department auctioned off to foreign lobbies as part of the spoils of multi-billion dollar election campaigns. Another part of the answer lies with the mass media tyrants who systematically distorted the narrative of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It does not take deep probing of American foreign policy to uncover the influence of ‘The Lobby’. Just ask the Turks. They know enough to go through Tel Aviv to get a decent ear in Washington DC. The Armenians can tell you stories on that count.
Bin Laden and his followers are fanatical by-products of American foreign policies that had nothing to do with American national interests. What American interest was ever served by subsidizing illegal Israeli settlements? How was America’s image enhanced by the brutal collective punishment of the Palestinians? Why has the United States been so indifferent to the conduct of Israeli occupation troops? Why did American taxpayers pick up the tab for a land-grabbing foreign occupation army that displaced a native people from their homeland? Why do both Democrats and Republicans pay public homage to a war criminal like Ariel Sharon? How did it come to be that the our media lords would conspire to cover up well-documented war crimes like Qibya and Sabra and Shatila? Why do they ignore the overtly racist rantings of Israeli leaders?
Why did we need to taunt and humiliate the puritanical Wahabis by stationing a few thousand soldiers on their soil? If American forces are in the gulf to contain Sadam Hussein, could we not have stationed them in Kuwait or Turkey or on a carrier? Was Sadam Hussein allowed to retain his dictatorship to allow for permanent American military bases in the Gulf? Did anyone at the State Department or the CIA monitor the feedback from the Saudi Street on the embargo on Iraq?
After making allies of the Afghans and assisting them in liberating their lands from Soviet invaders, why did we abruptly pick up and leave? When we had billions of tax dollars to lavish on an illegal Israeli military occupation, why did we spare so little for the freedom fighters who paid a million Afghan lives to defeat the Evil Empire?
Is it true that Alexander Haig gave the green light for Sharon to invade Lebanon in 1982? Was the Gulf war a ‘war of choice’? Did we really prod Sadam Hussein to launch an eight-year war against Iran? How come we never hear anything about an American administration advocating democratic rule in the Middle East? Why do we consider absolute monarchies ‘moderate Arab states’? Is a ‘moderate Arab state’ something like a client government?
Why did the Clinton administration deliberately ignore the thousand day genocidal siege of Sarajevo? When Seven Thousand Slavic Europeans were slaughtered in Srebrenicia, why did NATO refuse them protection? Did it have anything to do with their religion? Did anyone in the State Department bother to gauge the cumulative effect of the carnage in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Palestine, Beirut, Chechnya, Iraq and Algeria? Did we have any kind of strategy, other than a military one, to try to cool tempers before things got this crazy? Did our political class ignore the counsel of real experts in the State Department and CIA on how to diffuse anti-American sentiments among the people of the Middle East? Did the Gulf War, the Balkan wars and the end of the Cold war lead to a triumphalism that cast reason to the wind? Is that why we didn’t bother to monitor the increasing radicalization of thousands of young Middle Eastern extremists? How did such lethal organizations develop so rapidly and why were they off our radar screens? What kind of messages did we send to cause such anger in so many hearts? Did the architects of our foreign policy allow arrogant Israel Firsters to monopolize the debate on these matters? Do Mass Media titans like Rupert Murdoch and Sulzberger heavily influence these policies? Is that a good idea? How exactly did the United States of America become identified as just another Middle Eastern belligerent? Why are ‘they’ pondering why America hates them? Why are these fanatics obsessed with inflicting their rage on us? What could we have done to prevent Bin Ladin from recruiting suicidal death squads indifferent to the loss of thousands of innocent lives?
Do we have any long-term strategies to convince the citizens of our precious little planet, including the native people of the Middle East, that the vast majority of Americans have noble intentions? Can we send an urgent message around the world that Americans are a far greater people than our foreign policy? Is it possible to have a foreign policy as decent as the American people? Why did we allow so many rogue elements, straight out of the Israeli lobby, to monopolize the national debate on foreign policy? Go find Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross, our ‘mediators’. They are back doing public relations work for the Israeli government in ‘Zionist think tanks’. Who hired these guys? Did we check their ethnic agendas at the door before leasing out the state department? Did anyone seriously expect these guys to deal from a straight deck of cards?
As we mourn our dead in New York, as American bombs fall on Afghanistan, as we inflict ‘collateral damage’ on the impoverished civilians of that distant land, as we place young Americans in harms way, as we express gratitude for the courage of our Firemen, the citizens of this great republic must also regain the courage to ask the questions that are so conveniently evaded by the class of gutter journalists who are too vain to admit that they don’t have a clue about ‘Qatar’. Let us not allow the ‘experts’ to define the parameters and boundaries of this debate. It is a simple matter on catching up with a few untold stories about Afghans, Palestinians, Israeli repression, Wahabis, the Gulf War, Sanctions, Oil, absolute monarchs, campaign finance laws and media tycoons with ethnic agendas.
Things did not get this crazy only because of American policies. Israeli policies really inflame passions in the Middle East. By electing Sharon, with his record of indiscriminate violence and atrocities, the Israelis sent a clear message that they would escalate the violence. The Bush administration was very accommodating until Septermber 11. We need to know how America ended up with a policy so out of stream with the international consensus.
The coming battle will be for hearts and minds. A billion hearts and minds. We can answer their rage with reason. Even suicidal terrorists can be deprogrammed. We must send a clear message that the old days of the Jewish Lobby manipulating American foreign policy are a thing of the past. The people of the Middle East must get a good look at the goodness of American hearts. The Taliban must go the way of the Khemer Rouge. Bin Laden and his followers will no doubt fight to the death. They have chosen their paths. We can all choose not to follow. We can open a new page that will result in resolving disputes before they get anywhere near the boiling point. International norms of behavior will need to be accepted by all states and by all people, including Israelis.
Like it or not, the world needs to be policed and Americans will often be called on to do such policing. Despite our policies, there is an easily accessible residual of good will towards Americans all over the world. Any village policeman can tell you that the most important challenge is winning the citizen’s trust. We certainly have not done that. Mostly, because we have not bothered to try. In many cases, we casually made enemies to appease the fanatics in the Israeli Lobby. Time to end the riots and restore law and order. Many parts of the world have endured infinite injustice. We must show them that we will not stand with those who would rob them of their freedom. We must prove, by deed, that we do not hate them. If we cannot address every legitimate grievance, we should at least avoid taking sides with those inflicting repression. America still has choices. We can become a larger version of Israel or a giant replica of Canada or Sweden. We can have a foreign policy that makes us proud or a foreign policy that we must stuff down other people’s throat to appease a militant ethnic lobby.
There is nothing sacred about foreign policy. It is not so complicated that you need ‘experts’ to defraud you of an honest opinion. The catastrophe in New York was not pre-ordained. It could have never happened. With a foreign policy as good as the American people, nothing like this might ever happen again.
One final brief word. This is a time for all men of good will to actively tune out the ‘gutter journalism’ of the media monopolies. We must seek alternative voices and consider second opinions. Whatever we do, let us not enjoy this war. The images of Americans having a good time killing Iraqis in a ‘duck shoot’ did not go down well in the Middle East. That is the image CNN sold in a deliberate campaign to humiliate Arabs. The Ted Turner Wars are over. This is not entertainment. This is war or peace. Peace is the answer. Justice is the most direct path to that noble destination.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).