Mukhtar's reply is unambiguous:
"They steal our land; they destroy our homes; they kill innocent people. And you call it "peace?' I will not be corrupted by that man's "peace.' "
Later, in the final dramatic meeting with Graziani, the insurgent leader tells the fascist general: "No nation has the right to occupy another. We will never surrender. We win or we die."
US imperial overreach in 2012
Despite the conservative US strain of nostalgia for the good ol' days when men were men and the brown people of the world respected the sting of our imperial might, the so-called Arab Spring is a harbinger of change for the Middle East and for the United States. The confidence of US imperialism rooted in the bully days of Teddy Roosevelt can only be regained in the minds of Americans through the fantastical fever dreams of bullies like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and political hacks like the hero John McCain and his trusty sidekick Lindsey Graham.
The glory days are over. From now on out, it's fantasy and firepower or it's being able to humbly recognize reality. The challenge for our leaders is to pragmatically transition an arrogant, imperial nation to accepting itself as just a powerful and responsible nation among other nations in the world. A City On The Hill populated by Exceptional People may make for great poetic speeches, but it's a lousy symbol to guide the nation anywhere but over a cliff.
I think most Americas, no matter what party, would agree that the future requires hard work and the hard, unromantic thinking that goes with it. The recent embassy attack in Libya is a case in point. While we have done the obligatory beating of the chest about bringing the culprits to justice, the fact is the attack was so successful it caused an American rush for the exits. Reportedly, CIA agents tripped over themselves getting to the airport to flee the country like rats leaving a sinking ship. Right now, the FBI can't get to Benghazi to investigate the attack due to fears for their own safety.
This is not a good omen for future influence in the land of Omar Mukhtar. No doubt, like the Afghan soldier quoted earlier, many elements in Libya covet our weaponry. They're glad to see Gaddafi gone. But whether they desire our presence, our advice and our oversight is another question. It's imperial predicaments like this that raise the stock of drone R&D and manufacturing. We can still muster significant imperial sting with young men and women in air-conditioned rooms 12,000 miles away from the action. Ms Clinton gave the imperial mindset away in the New York Times story when she bemoaned the fact, "Now with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions."
A translation of a "larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver" might be there's a perceived growth of areas of the world US imperial might can not control. This sense of urgency has roots in the imperialist's core assumption that everywhere around the world people are crying out for the US to save them from chaos. Pax Americana to the rescue.
Syria is in full civil war. Israel, facing a partially self-inflicted sense of being cornered among enemies, seems to want war with Iran as a way out of its nightmare. Meanwhile, the mullahs in Iran -- from all evidence, quite rational -- aren't playing the game and are spewing hatred at Israel and the US. They're threatening to join Israel and make a bomb of their own. The fact Israel and the US are killing their scientists in broad daylight and Iran has a real historic beef with European and American imperialism is never recognized in the west. I'm referring to the 1953 overthrow of a democratically-elected, moderate Iranian government and the ushering in of the brutal shah. Imperial perpetrators always forget this stuff; imperial victims don't.
One of the more interesting turns of events in the Middle East -- I'd call it a bright spot -- is a potentially constructive relationship between the US and Egyptian Presidents, both of whom in their own ways have declared themselves to be bridge builders. Back in 2009, Obama told Al Arabya TV, "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy." At the UN the other day, he seemed to re-emphasize that approach. The trouble is, he has to manifest those sentiments in actions beyond the rhetoric.
On his part, Mohamed Morsi -- the popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt -- recently outlined a formula for future relations between Egypt and the US that seems to provide a way to move beyond the imperial relationship of old. (The new president of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, a former human rights activist, is also a very interesting new leader.)
By supporting dictators over popular government, Morsi told The New York Times, "Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region." Was the Egypt he now ruled an "ally" of the United States, he was asked? "That depends on your definition of ally," the US educated engineer responded.
Morsi emphasized that as the popularly elected leader of all Egyptians he had reined in the powerful Egyptian military that rose to power under Mubarak and was a clear ally of an imperial United States. "The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop," he said. "Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern."
This, of course, scares the living bejesus out of traditional American imperialists. Mitt Romney criticized Obama for going easy on the Arab Spring in Egypt, although he hasn't shared what he would have done as President. Would he have recommended gunning down demonstrators in Tahrir square like a General Graziani would have done in Libya? Would he have sent in F-16s?
Morsi ended The Times interview by raising the issue of Palestine. By signing the Camp David accord, he said, the US had obligated itself to Israeli withdrawal of troops from the West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian sovereignty. For this reason he considered the treaty "unfulfilled."