In the formative years of paxa Romana it was common practice for wealthy families to seek out soothsayers who would read the entrails of geese, sheep, and fish to prophesy into the future.
In the formative years of paxa Americana one need not rely on such drastic measures to predict times to come. The devil is in the details, as they say, and there are many interesting concurrent ‘details’ to choose from.
Last week saw a flurry of public (and discreet) events that should give one some insight into events in the Middle East.
1.. The U.S. quietly, and with practically minimal media coverage, increases financial and military aid to Israel by a whooping 500 million dollars.
2.. Israel announces that Dov Weisglass, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Arik Sharon, meets with U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to discuss Israel’s demand for 10 billion dollars in loan guarantees. Of note is the fact that the Federal Reserve just slashed rates, U.S. unemployment rates are rising and 401ks are quickly becoming worthless garage sale artefacts.
3.. The heat is one, part un: U.S. Congress considers slashing military aid to Egypt; the aid is a pivotal clause in the 1979 Camp David Accord. The U.S. move comes in protest over an Egyptian TV serial alleged to be anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, prominent U.S. evangelicals continue to slander Islam and Islam’s prophet. The FBI reports that anti-Arab attacks in the U.S. rise by 300 percent since 2000; anti-Islamic attacks rise by 2350 percent since 2000. No measures taken there.
4.. Mideast experts agree that the pressure on Egypt is due to the latter’ s stance over an impending war on Iraq. Egypt has vehemently opposed a new war, with Egyptian President Mubarak claiming that such a war would “open the gates of hell in the Middle East.”
5.. North Korea’s ambiguous announcement over nuclear weapons ominously slides from front-page news coverage. The White House line, ‘focus on Iraq, forget North Korea’ is mimicked by major U.S. news media.
6.. The U.N. Oil-For-Food programme is renewed for only 9 days as the Security Council witnesses debate concerning the dual use list. The U.S. wants to introduce new items to the list. Pencils are still considered dual use for the graphite and lead they contain. The U.S. fears that imported pencils for school children may be fitted to missile warheads.
7.. Arab editorials charge that the U.S. move concerning the oil-for-food programme seeks to reverse the improvements to Iraqi infrastructure gained in the past few years. U.N. experts, along with UNICEF and WHO, agree that the programme has somewhat improved the plight of the Iraqi people. Moderate Arab governments fear the U.S move will be interpreted as a new measure to make life harder for the Iraqi people. (SEE MADELINE ALBRIGHT).
8.. Dr. Hans Blix, U.N. weapons inspections head, continues to be ridiculed by U.S. officials. The Washington Post blasts him for being sympathetic to Iraqi grievances; “Blix has an unparalleled record for failure in dealing with Saddam Hussein”. Former U.N. weapons inspections head Richard Butler implicitly casts doubt on Blix’ record for professionalism. Russia and France protest that U.S. attacks on Blix are undermining the weapons inspections process and aggravating the situation.
9.. Iraqi grievances that production of plastic slippers should not be considered a dual use item are ridiculed by CNN anchor Paula Zahn. “They are effectively lying”, says Zahn. So much for objectivity.
10.. U.S. intellectuals stage a protest outside CNN’s World Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. They charge that CNN has become a mouthpiece of the U.S. government.
11.. The heat is on, part deux: Saudi Arabia comes under the most vigorous attack in the U.S. media, spurned partly by pro-Israel U.S. Congressmen. This time the attacks are personal; Newsweek and Time articles allege that a Saudi princess donated money to a pair of 9-11 Al-Qaeda hijackers. The fact that Al-Qaeda’s enemy number one is Saudi Arabia is purposely lost in U.S. media. Unilateral action to apprehend Saudis in Saudi Arabia is threatened. New York Daily calls Saudi Arabia an enemy.
12.. Don’t fool yourselves: The pressure on Saudi Arabia has little to nothing to do with the ‘war on terrorism’; the pressure is piling up as Saudi Arabia continues to deny the U.S. use of military bases in the oil-rich kingdom to stage a war on Iraq.
13.. The Ukraine comes under intrusive inspections as FBI investigators dig for proof that Ukrainian officials sold highly advanced radar systems to Iraq. Leads point to a third party middleman, China. Of note, the Ukraine, Chine and Russia oppose a war on Iraq.
14.. Venezuela’s democratically elected President Hugo Chavez survives yet another coup attempt. Chavez cites that this is the 4th major coup attempt in less than a year; points finger of blame at CIA. Of note is Chavez’ visit to Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in 2000/2001, irking U.S. officials.
15.. Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore ridiculed in U.S media for his critique of Bush’s international policies, namely in Israel/Palestine and Iraq. Gore claims Bush squandered international good will towards the U.S. U.S. media has a field day with Gore. Message: no dissent, no criticism, no straying from the official line will be tolerated.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Muslim Canadian journalist living on the Pacific Coast.