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Thread: The Fact Behind the Fictions: the U.S. and Israel Plan Permanent Occupations

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    Post The Fact Behind the Fictions: the U.S. and Israel Plan Permanent Occupations

    The Fact Behind the Fictions: the U.S. and Israel Plan Permanent Occupation

    By Rachelle Marshall


    I BELIEVE President Bush declared the death of the peace process today. Yasser Abed Rabbo, former Palestinian information minister, on Bush’s acceptance of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for unilateral “disengagement,” The New York Times, April 15.

    As resentment against the U.S. occupation in early April boiled over into a guerrilla war involving tens of thousands of angry Iraqis, Americans began comparing the situation to the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, where the United States became bogged down in a bloody, no-win war that had no credible justification. Arabs and some Israelis, on the other hand, saw parallels with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon sent his army to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organization and its leader, Yasser Arafat. The Israelis were intially welcomed by Lebanese Shi’i, but Israel’s continued occupation and the brutal tactics the army used to maintain it provoked a long and costly guerrilla war that eventually forced the Israelis to withdraw.

    When U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 they, too, were welcomed by the Shi’i, who had been severely persecuted under Saddam Hussain. But again, a combination of insensitivity and arrogance on the part of the invaders has turned potential allies into enemies. Shi’i who were once enemies of the Sunni minority have now joined them in fighting the Americans. “In 1982, it was Sharon who didn’t learn from the American experience in Vietnam and was doomed to repeat it,” said Avraham Burg, a member of Israel’s Labor Party. “Here is George W. Bush who didn’t learn from Sharon’s experience in 1982.”

    Professor As’ad Abukhalil of California State University at Stanislaus agreed. “In Lebanon, it took two years for the Shi’i to rise up,” he pointed out. “In Iraq, it has taken less than a year.”

    It was not surprising that the two leaders who had aroused so much misery and despair in the Middle East, and caused so much bloodshed, found a meeting of minds when they met at the White House on April 14 and tossed away the rights of three million Palestinians. Sharon wanted Bush’s endorsement of his plan to withdraw Israeli troops and 7,500 settlers from Gaza so that he could be sure of the Likud Party’s approval when the issue came up for a vote in May. Sharon also wanted Bush to approve Israel’s annexation of five large settlement blocs that extend deep into the West Bank, recognize Israel’s right to send troops back into Gaza at any time, and agree that a final peace agreement would not include the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel or require Israel to return to its 1967 borders.

    Having decided that using the army to guard a few thousand settlers in Gaza was becoming too risky and too expensive, Sharon had found a way for Bush to claim credit as a peacemaker and still allow Israel to retain control of the area. As the Israeli leader hoped, Bush gave him everything he asked for. In doing so Bush defied U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for Israel’s return of the occupied territories, ignored international laws declaring Israel’s settlements illegal, scrapped his own “road map to peace,” and reversed longstanding U.S. Middle East policy. Former President George H.W. Bush suspended U.S. loan guarantees to the Israelis until they froze settlement construction. His son gave Israel a green light to keep and expand the settlements indefinitely.

    Bush not only approved of Sharon’s land grab, but praised it as “historic and courageous,” citing Israel’s willingness to leave Gaza and dismantle a few West Bank settlements. In reality, Israel will keep permanent control of Gaza’s borders, seaport and airport, and widen the security strip between Gaza and Egypt. The 1.2 million Arab residents of Gaza will be locked inside a prison guarded by the Israeli army. The four West Bank settlements to be dismantled house a total of no more than 500 Israelis, a fraction of the 400,000 settlers who will remain. After his meeting with Bush, Sharon said the Palestinians “were dealt a lethal blow.”

    The European Union, as a co-sponsor of the road map, immediately said it “would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders” unless it was part of a negotiated solution. But if Sharon has his way, there will be no negotiated solution. The White House meeting followed a series of intensive negotiating sessions Israeli officials had held with Jewish settlers, members of the Likud Party, cabinet members, and Bush’s fiercely pro-Israel policy adviser Elliott Abrams, on the future of the Palestinian territories.

    The only party missing from these talks were the Palestinians. Excluding them from the peace process has been Sharon’s intention from the start. The New York Times quoted him on April 15 as saying that closing the door to negotiations with the Palestinians and the possibility of a Palestinian state “will bring their dreams to an end.” Palestinian official Saeb Erekat described Sharon’s strategy as:”Destroy the Palestinian Authority, kill Arafat, throw it all into chaos and anarchy and extremism, and say, ‘I don’t have a partner...’”

    The same policy undoubtedly prompted Israel’s assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City on March 22 and Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi on April 17. The murders of the spiritual and political leaders of Hamas brought condemnation from every corner of the globe except Washington, where White House spokesman Scott McClellan repeated the familiar mantra, “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The Bush administration takes no note of the fact that the helicopter missiles the Israelis use in attacking targeted individuals have also resulted in scores of civilian casualties. Nor does Washington ever question whether “self-defense” applies to a government that has seized someone else’s land and colonized it in violation of international law. On March 25 the United States stood alone in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the assassination of Sheikh Yassin and “all terrorist acts against civilians.” The reason given by U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte was that the resolution did not name Hamas.

    That the killing of two top Hamas figures took place when it did is no coincidence. Israel’s almost daily raids and assassinations had weakened Palestinian security forces in Gaza and created a situation of near-anarchy. Consequently Palestinian officials were working diligently to secure the cooperation of Hamas and the various other militant factions on a plan to keep order in Gaza once the Israelis were gone. As a revered leader and moderating influence within Hamas, Sheikh Yassin was in a position to help keep the peace. A peaceful transition was the last thing Sharon wanted, however.

    When Sheikh Yassin’s death failed to elicit serious retaliation from his followers, the Israelis targeted Dr. Rantisi, whom they had failed to kill in an earlier attempt. As thousands of Gazans accompanied his coffin through the streets shouting for revenge, Palestinian human rights advocates predicted that the killing would lead to more violence. Dr. Ahmad Majdalani wrote in a column for the March 26 Jerusalem Times that Sharon clearly hoped that “ever escalating violence would give [him] the leeway to finalize construction on the wall he is building and establish on the ground the facts that he wants. It was Sharon’s way of saying to the Palestinians that they have no choice but to accept the peace Israel arranges for them.”

    The peace Sharon has in mind calls for three million Palestinians to remain surrounded by Israeli settlers and Israeli forces—a situation that amounts to permanent occupation. A similar kind of peace is what the Bush administration intends for Iraq. At his April 13 press conference, Bush portrayed the continued fighting in Iraq as a battle in which “enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world.” He asserted that ”The defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere, and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people.”

    In other words, Iraq is now a front in the never-ending war on terrorism, and the U.S. military must remain there to protect not only American security but the security of the entire world.

    While Bush was speaking, Shi’i and Sunni militias were battling coalition forces in Baghdad and Fallujah, and had encircled the holy city of Najaf. The explosion of violence followed a series of provocations by occupation authorities that began in late March, when chief occupier J. Paul Bremer ordered the closure of the Baghdad weekly Al Hawza for spreading what he said were false rumors. The paper was an outlet for the views of the radical Shi’i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He had only a small following, but thousands of Iraqis protested the closure as an act of blatant hypocrisy. “Where is democracy now?” they shouted.

    A few days later, after four American security guards were killed in Fallujah and their bodies burned by a crowd, Marines responded by laying siege to the city. When Iraqis fought back, U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on houses where the gunmen were thought to be hiding, Apache helicopters fired missiles into residential neighborhoods, and AC-130 gunships strafed the streets. An American soldier said he saw a helicopter fire a missile at a man holding a slingshot; a woman hanging laundry was killed along with several relatives when a missile destroyed their house; a severely wounded woman arrived at a hospital still holding a white flag.

    By the end of a week, parts of the city were in ruins, there was no electricity, and food and water were scarce. A truce brokered in late April by Iraqi officials brought a temporary lull in the fighting, but only after 90 U.S. soldiers and at least 1,000 Iraqis had been killed. Most of the Iraqi dead were civilians, including many children, according to hospital workers.

    Despite the series of devastating suicide bombings that followed, killing scores of Iraqis, Iraqis directed their anger at the Americans who had invaded their country rather than at the “terrorists” Bush was talking about. According to reporters, the methods used by U.S. forces to combat resistance—curfews, bombings, house raids, indiscriminate shooting, and arrests—had provoked hostility across religious and class lines. “Long live the resistance” was scrawled on walls in the Sufi section of Baghdad after soldiers invaded the lodge of a Sufi sheikh and took away four men. “Sufis were the link between the British and the Iraqis,” Thahir al-Sheikh Qummer told a reporter. “But America has made us into rebels.”

    In Fallujah an American major said during the fighting, “I guess these guys didn’t want to die for Saddam. But all this anti-American feeling is now uniting them.”

    Iraqis also blame Americans for such problems as polluted water, sporadic electricity, and above all unemployment and the lack of security. Thousands of American technicians and other foreign workers are taking highly paid jobs Iraqis might fill. Iraqi businessmen face competition from cheap imports and see reconstruction contracts going to foreign companies or to cronies of influential Iraqis. As an Iraqi plant manager said of the Americans, “It’s not the war that caused the hatred. It’s what they did after. It’s what they’re doing now.”

    Although June 30 is the date of Bush’s turnover of “sovereignty” to the Iraqis, they will not be independent for a long time to come. When the respected Shi’i cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani objected to the original U.S. plan to install a handpicked government in place of the coalition authority, the Bush administration had no choice but to allow the United Nations to take responsibility for selecting a caretaker government and conducting elections. But the U.S. occupation troops will remain.

    According to a report by Naomi Klein in the April 19 Nation, American engineers in Iraq already have begun work on 14 permanent military bases that Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt calls “a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East.” The United States also will control Iraq’s economy, since the U.S. Embassy will be in charge of reconstruction aid and oversee the restructuring of Iraq’s electricity and water systems and the oil industry, as well as the courts and police. Iraq’s 25 government ministries and the news media will continue to be run by officials appointed by Bremer to long terms. Only Iraq’s overcrowded and poorly equipped hospitals will be left solely to the Iraqis.

    The two most powerful figures in Iraq after Bremer leaves are likely to be John D. Negroponte and Ahmad Chalabi, both of whom are distinguished by their unsavory pasts. Negroponte will leave his U.N. post to become ambassador to Iraq, and as such will preside over the largest U.S. embassy in the world. He speaks no Arabic and has no Middle East experience, but he is a specialist in covert actions and a certified neoconservative. As ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s he was involved in the Reagan administration’s illegal plot to sell arms to Iran in order to finance Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.

    Chalabi fled Jordan some years ago just before being convicted of embezzling $30 million from a bank, and he is regarded by many Iraqis as corrupt. As head of the exile Iraqi National Congress he transmitted false information about Iraq’s weapons in order to bolster the case for going to war. Chalabi’s chief asset is that he is a favorite of the Pentagon and especially of pro-Israel neocons. Thanks to Paul Bremer, Chalabi controlled the “de-Ba’athification” process in which 120,000 Iraqis were fired from their jobs in schools, government, and universities. He also has a say in allocating lucrative reconstruction contracts. If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has his way, the pro-Israel, pro-U.S. Chalabi will have a top position in the next Iraqi government. For good measure, Chalabi’s nephew, Salem, has been appointed general director of the tribunal that will try Saddam Hussain.

    Bush and Sharon had good reason to smile at their April White House meeting. The United States will soon have permanent military bases on the borders of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Israel, with U.S.-backing, now has virtual control over all of Palestine, Gaza, and part of Syria. The U.S.-Israeli partnership is on the verge of becoming a new Middle East empire. But even the most powerful empires don’t last. Rome, the Ottomans, Portugal, Spain, and Britain all overreached themselves and eventually were forced to give up their conquests. The U.S.- Israel alliance may be triumphant at the moment, but if the people in the Arab world who have had enough of colonialism, oppression, and autocratic rule have their way, that triumph will not endure for long.

    Rachelle Marshall is a free-lance editor living in Stanford, CA. A member of the International Jewish Peace Union, she writes frequently on the Middle East.

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    Post Re: The Fact Behind the Fictions: the U.S. and Israel Plan Permanent Occupations

    Dubya has a plan for the Mid-East. He wants to turn it all into a "democracy" with values which are identical to American values. In this way, he believes, he will make the world safe for Isreal, his real goal, and, incidently, bring the Arabs, Iranians, etc. into a new age.

    Dubya is a weak-willed little boy who is easlily influenced by people of his father's generation, hence, the influence of the Neo-Cons which are his closest advisiors.

    Dubya actually believes Iraqis want to be mini-Americans. Maybe his Neo-Cons tell him this, I don't know. Perhaps an expression from MTV would not be understood by all but I don't know a better one. Bush actually believes Iraqis and Palestinians are lining up in the streets shouting to him: "Mr. Bush, Pimp my country".

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    Post Re: The Fact Behind the Fictions: the U.S. and Israel Plan Permanent Occupations

    The Sale of my country to pro-isreali forces will be our ultimate demise.
    Some days you just want to holler your head off!!!

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