The State Department has threatened to withdraw the $1.3 billion it sends every year to Egypt because the Egyptians are holding US citizens connected with pro-democracy groups the Egyptians claim have instigated the Tahrir Square movement.
Specifically, the Egyptian military government prevented a half dozen Americans -- including Sam LaHood, director of the US International Republican Institute in Cairo -- from leaving the country. LaHood is the son of US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The State Department's goal in supporting groups like Mr LaHood's is to encourage democracy friendly to the US.
Before this incident, President Obama warned Egyptian military strongman Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi that the upcoming installment of US military aid was contingent on his playing ball with US interests. The snatching of LaHood and the others turned the situation into a diplomatic incident. LaHood was quoted in The New York Times as wondering whether he would be brought to trial for meddling in Egyptian affairs.
"[T]he whole thing is ludicrous," he said.
That may be true, but even more ludicrous is the failure to provide a similar warning on the other side of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. That is, according to several recent reports, Israel's top leaders are making it known they feel a massive air attack on Iran by Israel is a manageable thing -- that suggestions such bombing attacks would lead to a major conflagration are all bluff. A Sunday New York Times Magazine article by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman concludes "Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama by unknown
Why do US leaders threaten to withhold patronage military funds when Egyptian militarists drag their feet on democracy, but not when Israeli militarists seem ready to drag us into World War Three?
Of course, we know the answer to this. Egyptians are backward brown Arabs with a history of living under the thumb of British colonial rule and US imperial hegemony. We know the drill: Bernard Lewis and the failures of Arab modernization. Israel, on the other hand, is just like us, a western garrison state run by a Prime Minister who went to Cheltenham High School just outside of Philadelphia and who likes to mentally link Iranians with Nazi Germany and the holocaust.
With the middle east in upheaval, the fact Israel finds itself a vulnerable fortress state wound so tightly it won't even budge an inch to recognize obvious Palestinian grievances is a global tragedy.
To say it did not have to be this way and that there were other choices from the very beginning is at this late date pointless. That's the nature of tragedy; decisions are made and one has to live with them.
In the course of researching something in Philadelphia, I ran across a national group called The American Council for Judaism that was founded and headquartered in Philly in the mid 1940s and was part of a struggle here in the US preceding the establishment of the State of Israel. "The Council committed itself to the position that Judaism was a religion, not a nationality, and to the creation of a democratic state in Palestine," according to Thomas Kolsky in the book of essays Philadelphia Jewish Life 1940-1985 . These Jewish Americans sought a secular state that was not exclusively Jewish in character, one in which Jews, Muslims and Christians could live in a state of negotiated harmony.
Members of the Council suffered intense verbal assaults from Zionists using epithets like "dwarfs" and "pygmies." Once Israel was recognized as a state, the group lingered for a while but eventually disappeared. Hated by American Zionists, Lessing Rosenwald, the widely respected president of the Council, was invited to Israel in 1957 as the personal guest of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion, of course, did not agree with Rosenwald, but he was large enough in spirit to respect him for his integrity and the honorable basis for his beliefs.
The United States helped arm Israel for its own self-defense but also to fill a role as one of its imperial military proxies in the region. From 1953 until 1979, Iran was also considered a US military proxy in the region. Its government had been installed by a British-US coup in 1953. The internal brutality of that government was so egregious, it led to the current revolutionary government, which, as one might expect, is hostile to the western governments that foisted the Shah on them from 1953 to 1979.
Everybody in this equation has been twisted and distorted by this history, as they have been driven by their own self-serving, diametrically opposed interests. It's a Mexican standoff. Many of the finest minds in these societies devote themselves to figuring out how to maneuver to advantage through what has become a permanent state of war just below the level of flat-out conflagration.
For the average American out of the elite secrecy loop it feels like runaway madness. He or she wants to scream: "Stop!"
In the first Republican debate in Florida, Mitt Romney was asked about Cuba. He gave the expected garbage answer about the evils of Castro. Next, the moderator went to Gingrich, who one-uped Romney and said he'd initiate covert military action against the government of Cuba. Given the new US military doctrine of sophisticated Seal Team assassination units touted by the Obama administration, Gingrich's answer presented a provocative prospect for the Latin America of 2012.