Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Terrorists

Well, surprise, the world did not end! Were the true believers disappointed? Probably. What will they do? I don’t know for certain, but if I had to guess they will wait a while, claim they simply made a mistake in their calculations, and eventually make another prediction. It’s just like magic, there’s nothing really wrong with it, if you just do it right and nothing unexpected intervenes. My personal prediction for the end of everything is 11/11/11/11. Why? Why not?

Anyway, I was trying to consider the problem of terrorism. I have learned (although I’m sure I already basically knew this) there is no agreed upon definition for terrorism. Indeed, there seem to be at least 100 different definitions. In one dictionary is says terrorism is “the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion.” Basically, it seems to be agreed that terrorism employs violent acts to create fear, for religious, political, or ideological purposes. It seems also to be agreed that terrorism disregards or actually targets civilians. Thus terrorism could be applied to just about everything that happens between nations, and certainly describes the Israeli treatment of those in Gaza. It would also apply, I think, to our continuing inhuman and obscene drone attacks in Pakistan. However, in order to get around this obvious truth it is also usually said or suggested that terrorism has to be done by “non-governmental agencies, or “subnational or nonstate entities.” How convenient. Thus if Israel fires into Gaza, killing people, or if they target individuals for assassination, or if they bomb indiscriminately into their pen of Palestinians, this is apparently not terrorism, whereby if Hamas or Hezbollah fire missiles into Israel, or conduct suicide bombings, that is clearly terrorism. Technically, in these two cases, it isn’t truly that simple. First, Hamas, that does sometimes employ terrorist tactics, is not, strictly speaking, a non-governmental agency, being the duly and legally democratically elected government of the Palestinians. Hezbollah, who also sometimes employ terrorist tactics (as the Israelis once did and continue to do), is also a legitimate part of the Lebanese government and is, in fact, the only bulwark against Israeli aggression and occupation. Hezbollah and Hamas are said to be terrorist groups supported by Iran, but Iran has a functioning government so is not itself a terrorist organization (see how simple this all is). The U.S. supports Israel to the tune of billions very year, a condition that seems to be regarded as perfectly reasonable and legitimate, but Iran, that supports Hezbollah and Hamas, is regarded as a rogue nation that supports terrorists. See, Iran, right in the middle of the Middle East, is not supposed to have any national interests there as we do, at least not any that are not approved by us. I hope the absolute hypocrisy of this does not escape you. Most of the discussions of terrorism omit the obvious fact that it is mostly employed by those who are at a terrible disadvantage, without the resources to engage in more overt or traditional military means. It is, that is, asymmetrical. Although I do not approve of terrorism at any time or in any form, I confess I find it much more understandable on the part of the Palestinians than on the part of the Israelis or the U.S.

I thought President Obama’s speech to AIPAC today was mostly reasonable, considering what he obviously had to say to please them, and it did seem to be well-received. But consider carefully what he said, our relationship with Israel is absolutely permanent and unbreakable. Thus no matter what Israel does, murder, genocide, violations of international law, torture, or whatever, we will support them (as we always have). He did not pass up a cheap shot at Iran as well, mentioning the oft-repeated falsehood that Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map,” which is not what was actually said even though it has now become regarded as factual. And, of course, we will go to any length to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb (that they are quite likely not even doing) because, by implication at least, if they did develop a bomb they would immediately use it on Israel. The utter imbecility of this belief leaves me often speechless, but of course they are Iranians, they have no sense, and would of course welcome having their country completely obliterated in a matter of minutes.

I am not at all sanguine about the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. If the plan is simply to wait and allow the two parties to swap territory and establish their mutually agreed upon borders, it is not going to happen. The Israeli government (as opposed perhaps to many Israeli citizens) does not want a settlement, does not want a Palestinian state, and thus will not want to give up much of anything toward that end, so why should they. The U.S. and the entire international community will have to demand a settlement (probably even if not an entirely fair one to the Palestinians) and force Israel to agree or it will just never happen. The U.S. has long since exposed itself as an obviously biased participant and thus cannot by itself arrange any satisfactory outcome. In short, the situation remains the same mess it’s been for years, the rhetoric and the intentions are the same, the spirit may or not be willing but the flesh as always is weak.

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