american in palestine

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


to me this picture has come to symbolize the war between israel and lebanon:

it was taken within the first two days of the war....way back on july 14th or so, when people were fleeing for their lives from the hundreds of missiles raining down on southern lebanon....
and the people in northern israel were beginning to hunker down in shelters as hezbollah fired rockets in their direction....

the little girl, half-buried in rubble, was in one of the many vehicles of lebanese people fleeing north which were hit by the supposedly 'precision-guided' israeli missiles.

her face, covered in dirt, is peaceful.

in death, she can have, perhaps, what she never had in life: peace.

i have a question. perhaps it is don't need to answer....but consider this: if the US objective is to 'bring democracy to the region', and to replace the 'dictatorships' of the region with 'democracies', WHY is the biggest ally of the US in the region the most brutal dictatorship: Saudi Arabia? (well, second to Israel, of course, which is the biggest recipient of US aid in the entire world, by far, and whose commitment to 'democracy' is questionable, as it does not apply to non-Jews).

and the other US allies in the region are also either dictatorships or very repressive monarchical systems. here's some background info...and i'm sorry if this is boring history, but I think it is important to understand:

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia was an absolute monarchy, created by King Ibn Saud in 1906, until 1992, at which time the Saud royal family introduced the country's first constitution. The legal system is based on sharia (Islamic law). The Saud family rules with an iron fist- women are not to go outside without full head coverings, 'honor killings' of women are frequent - first (and only) 'elections' were 2005 municipal elections - women weren't allowed to vote. U.S. troops maintained massive bases from 1993-2003 in and around U.S.-controlled oil fields and refineries (there are still a number of troops there since the U.S. 'pulled out' just after Saudi bombers killed 34 U.S. soldiers in May 2003). This is one of the reasons that was given by Osama bin Laden for his attack on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in 2001: the presence of U.S. troops in the home of Islam's holiest sites, Medina and Mecca.

Jordan (The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan): monarchy - ruled by King Abdullah since independence post WW1, then, after his death in 1999, ruled by his son, King Hussein. People are afraid to even speak about politics, due to the infamous 'underground desert prisons' that many dissenters and communists have been sent to. Media is tightly controlled, government is appointed by King Hussein.

Bahrain: gained independence from Britain in 1971 - Prince Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, ruled until he died in 1999; His son, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa ascended to the throne. Popular protests brutally repressed, particularly in 1994, when a popular uprising almost overthrew the dictatorship.

Oman: Absolute monarchy - In 1970, the sultan, Sa'id bin Taimur, who had ruled since 1932, was replaced by his son, Qabus ibn Sa'id. Before 2003, only the elite were allowed to vote in municipal elections.

Qatar: Familial monarchy (Emirate) - in 2005 implemented first constitution. The World Trade Organization selected Doha, the capital of Qatar, for its 2003 world summit, due to the fact that protest is illegal there (having faced massive protests at prior summits). About 85% of Qatar's income from exports comes from oil. Its people have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world - that is, the 40% of the population who are Qatari. The majority of the population are low-paid immigrant oil workers. Qatar permitted U.S. forces to use Qatar as a base during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

United Arab Emirates: Federation formed in 1971 by seven emirates (emirates are Islamic religious-ruled areas). After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the UAE was identified as a major financial center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers. The UAE remained a U.S. ally, and the U.S. has stationed troops in the UAE during the 2003 Iraq war.

Kuwait: constitutional monarchy, governed by the al-Sabah family since its founding in 1961. Kuwait has 20% of the world's known oil resources. Since 1946 it has been the world's second-largest oil exporter. The ruling sheik receives half of the profits. In July 1990, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein blamed Kuwait for falling oil prices, and claimed the Kuwaiti government had been tapping underground Iraqi oil reserves across the border. After a failed Arab mediation attempt to solve the dispute peacefully, and a go-ahead from the U.S. Ambassador to the region on Aug. 1, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and set up a pro-Iraqi provisional government. The U.S., in coalition with international military forces, declared war on Iraq, and drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in a mere four days, from Feb. 23–27, 1991, ending the First Gulf War. In 1999, the emir gave women the right to vote and run for Parliament, but later that year Parliament defeated the ruler's decree. Kuwaiti society has grown increasingly conservative under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists. In 2003, traditionalists won a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections.

Turkmenistan: founded in 1922, then became a one-party republic after the Soviet breakup in 1991. Saparmurad A. Niyazov was voted president-for-life by his rubber-stamp Parliament in 1999, and the country is considered to be the most authoritarian of all of the former Soviet republics.

Uzbekistan: Since the Soviet break-up in 1991, 'President' Islam A. Niyazov has retained absolute dictatorial control over the country, and opposition of any kind is not tolerated. In 1999, after a bus hijacking, he declared, “I am prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, in order to save peace and calm in the republic.”

Pakistan, another 'U.S. Ally', is supposedly a 'parliamentary democracy' - despite the fact that its current 'Prime Minister' Shaukat Aziz was not popularly elected, but hand-picked by the Parliament (with the help of the US), in 2004, and is the former Citibank Vice President, clearly representing US corporate interests in the region (but not necessarily the people....who have been having major protests and acts of dissent since his selection).

It is worth noting that the 'terrorist plot' uncovered several days ago was made up almost entirely of British Pakistanis. Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has seen quite a lot of US "mistakes" in which civilians were massacred by US airstrikes since US troops arrived in the area way back in 2002. This has led to growing support for the Taliban in that part of Pakistan, NOT due to the fact that the Taliban is a group espousing fundamentalist religious ideology, but because, as far as anti-US fighting in Afghanistan, they're the only game going......

And if you follow the news from Afghanistan at all, you can see that the Taliban have gained a lot of their strength back since the US decimated the country with airstrikes in 2002. As the US occupiers remain, resentment against them has only continued to grow, leading to widespread support for the various Taliban militia groups that have re-formed throughout the country, and in western Pakistan as well.

it seems that the Bush administration is following the same logic that Carter, Ford and Reagan followed in the 'Cold War' era in their policies toward Central and South America; supporting brutal dictatorships and crushing democratic popular movements because they were considered 'communist'. Now it seems the word 'communist' has simply been replaced by the word 'terrorist' (or, for the more racist and xenophobic among the Bush-ites, 'Muslim')....and the same policy continues to apply. haven't we, as people, learned the errors of our ways?? the 'cold war', while it may have preserved U.S. and Russian lives, cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives in central and south america, not to mention southeast asia.....all for the so-called 'war on communism'. but americans have short memories.....who even recalls what 'iran-contra' was about, or what it implied, or who was involved (despite the fact that many of the key players in that massive scandal are right up again in the driver's seat leading bush's 'war on terror' using the same tactics they used to terrorize the people of nicaragua in the early 80s).

three good articles:
Jonathan Cook in Nazareth: Suddenly, I'm an 'Islamic Fascist'

Robert Fisk in Beirut: If you want the roots of terror, try here

Sandy Tolan (UC Berkeley, writing about Gaza): The catastrophe that never ends

ps. please read my fiance's article on this 'citizen journalism' site, and rate it with 5 stars (only if you think it deserves it, of course):
Saed Bannoura: A Moment that Changed My Life:

there are some good articles on - one of them, by an argentinean who biked to alaska, describes "the dreadful working conditions and poverty of Bolivian silver miners of Potosi. I’ve heard about their plight before, but when I saw it with my own eyes I felt ashamed that such peril still exists on earth. It was and still is one of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life. It felt like going back in time to a medieval vision of hell on earth - the primitive, basic working conditions, the heat, dust and fumes. Witnessing people, many of them young children, forced to work with primitive means of protection and equipment was truly humbling. They toil with hammers and chisels in dark, dusty caverns for hours on end. To sustain energy and satiate hunger at an affordable cost, they usually forfeit meals and simply chew coca leaves. And to blunt the agony of their work, most miners smoke unfiltered cigarettes and drink nearly pure, 196 proof grain alcohol. If their lungs don't soon fail, their livers often do."

it humbles me, too, to think of the millions of people scrambling, scraping, dying in the mines to preserve the "diamond is forever" slogan sold to young brides or the coltan for cellphone microchips or the gold standard. every privilege americans have, and refuse to think about, comes at a tremendous cost. why are we so convinced that we deserve more than other people? how horribly, undeniably, unsustainably unfair of us. when will we ever learn? when will we eeeever learn?


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