*A new, 50-minute Bin Laden tape aired on al-Jazeerah, calling for Muslims to make a united stand against the looming US war in Iraq. Like Bush, Bin Laden insisted that Muslims are either with him or against him, no shades of grey. He called the Gulf leaders cooperating with the US “Karzais,” a reference to the pro-American president of Afghanistan who helped overthrow the Taliban. He also said that the final object of U.S. strategy is to create a greater Israel, covering “large parts of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, the land of the two holy shrines (Saudi Arabia) and the whole of Palestine.” He further asserted that “what is happening to our relatives in Palestine only represents a model” which will be implemented all through the Middle East by the “Zionist-American alliance”.
It has often been said that al-Qaeda is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, but this assertion has always been silly. Bin Laden fulminated against the Israelis in a sermon given in Jidda in 1990 during the first Intifada, and al-Qaeda has all along had prominent Palestinian members. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, checked out Israeli sites for a terrorist attack, and more recently we had the Mombasa attack on Israeli vacationers.
The spectacle of Ariel Sharon repeatedly invading Palestinian territory, subjecting it to harsh occupation, having rockets fired into civilian apartment buildings, starving Palestinian children, shooting civilians, imposing collective punishment, and so on, is guaranteed to cost American lives because all this will be blamed on the US by the radicals. If Bush had been smart, his first move after Afghanistan would have been to throw his muscle around and settle the Palestine issue by forcing an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. Apparently he has fallen for a line from the neocons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon’s ass. So, he has put Sharon on a very long leash. Rightwing Zionists keep claiming you can’t criticize Israel unless you criticize all the other human rights violators in the world at the same time. But what other country is running a colony as a prison camp in the 21st century?
*The divorce rate among Israeli settlers on the West Bank and in Gaza is way up during the past year, and is much higher than the 33% divorce rate in Israel proper. Apparently stealing other people’s land and shooting their children provokes a lot of domestic arguments.
*In an interview with Time magazine, French President Jacques Chirac said: “a war of this kind cannot help but give a big lift to terrorism. It would create a large number of little bin Ladens”. The French have much more experience dealing with Muslim radicals like the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, and were much more aware than the FBI and the CIA of the threat they posed in past years, and Chirac may be counted on to know whereof he speaks. In contrast, I very much doubt that President Bush could tell you what the difference is between a Sunni and a Shiite. Moreover, France is near to Muslim North Africa and has 5 million Muslims living in the country, and these issues affect it directly on a scale dwarfing the situation in the US.
*Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya has been at the forefront of urging a US war on the Baathist regime. On Sunday, however, he broke with Washington. The Bush administration put enormous pressure on Makiya, whom President Bush had appointed to a special commission on Iraq, not to go public with his concerns. He published his critique, however, in the Guardian’s Observer. You can read it in full here: http://www.observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,896554,00.html.
He writes: “The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities. The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government.”
In other words, the Bush administration is not actually going into Iraq to establish democracy. Rather, the Iraqi people will just be forced at gunpoint to trade a belligerant dictatorship for a pliant one. This is to be Chile 1973, not Japan 1945. I have been very afraid myself all along that the Cheneys, Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes would pull this switch on us at the last minute. In my view, the Left should be concentrating on this issue. There is some point in demonstrating against the looming war, simply to remind the gang in Washington that they rule over real people with real opinions, and can’t count on getting away with perpetual wars. The war will happen anyway, though. The most useful thing we could do is to hold the Bush administration to its promises about democracy in Iraq. If this war is fought merely to replace one dictatorship with another, it will be a black stain on the American soul ever after.
*A hundred deputies in the Iranian parliament called Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on the mat for inviting his Iraqi counterpart, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, to Tehran. They say they will introduce a motion for his dismissal if al-Hadithi sets foot in Tehran. Many Iranians have not forgiven the Baath regime for the Iran-Iraq war, which killed hundreds of thousands and wounded many more. Anti-imperialism means little to them beside that catastrophe, and they don’t want Kharrazi conferring with the Iraqi even to coordinate efforts at forestalling an American invasion.