Two days ago, Chris asked the following: “Any good answers to the Hariri killing and the switch in emphasis to Hezbollah? Or to what Hillary’s doing in Yemen?”
Re. Hillary Clinton’s trip to Yemen, I’ve seen/read little so far except the usual fluff about Hillary falling down and about this being her “apology tour” for WikiLeaks. There was a recent article in the right-wing Weekly Standard about discussions with the Yemeni president to establish a “jihad rehab” program similar to what Saudi has (which the neocons at Weekly Standard do not like at all – they make it sound like the Saudi effort is/was nothing but a revolving-door gimmick to get Saudis out of Guantanamo). Apparently Hillary expressed support for the Yemeni program which, if it becomes a reality, will be funded by American taxpayers, of course.
If true, it might fit with some of the speculation I’ve heard, that Obama has some still-secret administrative trick up his sleeve, to bypass Congress and close Guantanamo without going through any more “You lie!” legislative foot-dragging. I sure hope so. It would go a long way towards redeeming his image in the eyes of his liberal/progressive base, and it would deflate one of Al Qaida’s biggest recruitment balloons. The world would see it as a step toward actually earning that Nobel Prize. Doing it now would make it a ho-hum issue by the time the next election comes around, not a red-meat, red-hot rallying cry for rabid Republicans.
Speaking of professional right-wingers, i.e. Israel’s apologists (and quite often neocon fronts for advancing Israel’s interests who hide behind the façade of an American think tank), they have been very active of late, defending the necessity of Guantanamo and stridently opposing its closing. For example, there was an op-ed in yesterday’s San Francisco Examiner, by Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (and a co-author of the Weekly Standard piece). “Mugged by the realities of Guantanamo” is all about the failure of Obama to close the prison, and how his order to do so, now two years old, was driven by ideology rather than a realistic knowledge of the nefarious character of its inmates. At first glance, the article seems reasonably well-reasoned and not overly partisan, but just who/what is the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)? According to a Jewish anti-Zionist activist quoted in SourceWatch, “it is one of the most influential and powerful of the Zionist lobbies which changed its name and sprung into action immediately after 9-11.” It is very busy seeding mainstream media with a variety of articles, all in the noble defense of democracy, I’m sure.
Now, why would a neocon shill for Israel (and that’s at least a three-way tautology) care about an American prison in faraway Cuba? That’s the question that naturally follows when you discover that neocons want Guantanamo to last forever. Here are some of the things I can think of (and this is nothing but rank speculation on my part)… First of all, it’s a smokescreen to distract Americans. As long as we’re spoon-fed the thin soup of sound-bite news (and sadly, we’ve become conditioned to regard our information starvation diet as completely satisfying), we’re not paying attention to what’s going on with ever-expanding Israel and her occupations and foreign-policy manipulations. And as long as we’re fixated on our own festering civil rights abuses, we’re not paying attention to anyone else’s, and that includes Israel’s (the only democracy in the Middle East, you know). The second thing Guantanamo does is validate Israel’s practice of rounding up Palestinians on a whim. If we can do it, so can they. If we can torture, so can they. If we can kill with impunity, so can they. From Israel’s perspective, what’s not to love about Guantanamo? The third thing is probably the most important, especially if you think the America is on the verge of becoming a fascist state. Guantanamo is a stark reminder of all those things we’re told to be very afraid of, a proxy almost, an icon for the terrors of 9-11, which validates all the other crazy, evil things we do and justify in our minds. By extension, if we’re afraid of anything and everything, we can empathize with those poor, oppressed Israelis who are besieged by our common enemy. That’s why it is anathema in our public discourse to not refer to resisting Afghanis and Iraqis and Palestinians (and soon, maybe, Iranians and Pakistanis) as “Islamic jihadists” or, better yet, “radical Islamic jihadists.” We must never forget that Israel’s pain is now ours and their justifications are ours, too. As long as we’re kept wallowing in the same amoral mire, we can hardly point the finger at anyone else.
And that probably helps explain some of the other part of your other question, about why the blame for the assassination of PM Hariri in 2005 is such a “mercuric” thing (to tangentially connect this toxic discussion with another). The better question, as with all Middle Eastern riddles, is who benefits most by shifting the blame to Hezbollah. Unfortunately, having lost the lofty perspective that a moral high ground might have provided, at least part of the answer is us (or as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”) – our CIA has been active in Lebanon for as long as there has been a CIA, but its meddling has been especially overt during the last decade (in my opinion they were behind much of the Nahr al-Bared fiasco). Others who stand to gain from a tarnished Hezbollah are the usual actors in Lebanon’s political status quo, the old tribal/family/confessional dynasties who refuse to surrender power even though they represent minority segments of the Lebanese population. Who else? Palestinian refugees in Lebanon can’t be too happy about the rise of Hezbollah as the most successful resistance fighters in the Muslim/Arab world since Saladin. And of course Syria is always in the shadowy background – their guilt in the Hariri affair seems to come and go according to the whims of their standing du jour with the international community (whatever that is).
It’s like the old Agatha Christie mystery, “Murder on the Orient Express,” where all the suspects participated in the crime. It seems that almost everybody, except Hezbollah’s “street” supporters (who are legion, throughout the ME, greatly complicating the chess game, methinks), wants Hezbollah at least taken down a notch or two, if not wiped out entirely. I think Syria’s come-and-go relationship to the Hariri investigation is the most obvious hint that points to Israel (in collusion with the rest of “The West”) as the biggest regional beneficiary to gain from redirecting the blame for Hariri’s death onto Hezbollah. There are rumors afoot that Syria and Israel are in secret peace negotiations, so Syria’s absolution of guilt in this matter could be an extended carrot to make it a more willing partner and a less willing “sponsor of state terrorism” (whatever that is). Interesting, n’est pas, how unbalanced the scales of justice are on this terrestrial plane? But beyond that, and beyond the internal Lebanese rivalries, Israel is the most obvious enemy of Hezbollah, the most obvious player to want to see it targeted, if not destroyed. I doubt if there are any completely unilateral actors in the guilt-shift, but Israel is not likely to forget, any time soon, the great damage Hezbollah inflicted in 2006 to the carefully-crafted myth of Israeli invincibility. Not even the rape of Gaza three years later has erased the sense that Israel can eventually be defeated, given the right well-armed and incredibly motivated opponent. Especially one that is beloved by the poor and downtrodden (who view themselves as widely suppressed by effete tyrants artificially propped up by oil-addicted Western powers). Israel had nurtured (and exercised) its Superman image for years as a deterrence to its hostile neighbors, and as an extinguisher of hope and resistance among Palestinians exiled and occupied. Hope and a thirst for justice in this life are powerful things and Israel will not soon forget how Hezbollah and its benefactor Iran have reawakened, unloosed those jinn.
Meanwhile, on Friday (January 14), Robert Fisk brought out an aspect of the whole matter I missed completely in my own response above, that the shifting targets of the tribunal are now aimed at Hezbollah’s sponsor Iran (currently the West’s favorite bogeyman, along with North Korea) as much as they are aimed at Hezbollah itself. Again, it’s not too difficult to connect the dots and arrive in short order back at Lebanon’s southern neighbor…
Legitimacy seems to be a finite commodity in the Middle East. It cannot be allowed to exist outside of Israel without diminishing it inside. In other words, if Hezbollah and Hamas are legitimate, Israel must be perceived by the rest of the world as less so. If Turkey’s efforts at breaking the Gaza blockade are seen as legitimate, what does that say about the brutal siege of Gaza? It’s a sad observation because, if accurate, it is hard to see a way forward as long as Israel exists in its current form. But that is, at the end of the day, my ultimate hope, that Israel as it now is, a brutal, apartheid, theocratic/racist regime rushing headlong towards fascism, will someday be assimilated into the ancient, eternal Levantine culture that predates it and will eventually outlast it. Still, at the end of the day, none of this is much more than idle speculation. Evidence, I’m sure, of rampant anti-Semitism or irredeemable naiveté if one looks at the issue only through the standard, politically-correct American prism of believing that Israel can do no wrong…
– Monsieur d’Nalgar
PS – some of the links mentioned: