Third Party & Independents Archives

Peace in the Middle East

While watching the President’s speech last night, I must admit that I kept remembering a personality profile I had read recently that describes our Commander-in-Chief perfectly. So this morning I wandered around on the web until I found it:

"His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Sounds like that nailed it to me. Fits George Bush like a glove. Only one problem though: it was prepared by the OSS (the predecessor of today's CIA) to describe Adolph Hitler.

Who does Bush think he's kidding? Is Al Qaeda participating in the Iraqi insurgency? Absolutely. Is Al Qaeda leading or controlling it? Absolutely NOT.

If you're looking for a historical parallel you don't have to go back to Vietnam. Contemporary Iraq should remind us of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in the 1970's and 1980's. We get to play the part of the British and torture our prisioners; the Shiites and Kurds get to play the Protestants and repress minority rights; and the Sunnis get to play the Catholics and blow things up. In other words, batten down the hatches; we're in for a long and bumpy ride.

Everybody who thinks that a functional Iraqi (nee Kurd/Shiite) Army will solve everything and quell the insurgency probably also thinks that Saddam hired Osama to fly the planes into the World Trade Center. The bottom line is we should be prepared for years if not decades of sectarian Iraqi violence (even Secretary Rumsfeld is beginning to realize this) and for living with the continued threat of religious terrorism from the jihadists.

How can we get out of this mess?

Permanent peace in the Middle East will require two admittedly difficult but nevertheless achievable endeavors:

1. Bring Me the Head of Osama bin Laden

Forget the skyrocketing budget deficits. Forget lying about Saddam's WMDs. Forget the tax breaks for wealthy heirs and affluent corporations. Forget the staggering ineptitude of not preventing the attacks of September 11th. One inescapable fact remains: How could George Bush get re-elected while Osama bin Laden is still running around loose?!?

Didn't he stand on the rubble of Ground Zero and promise the rescue workers that those responsible would pay for their acts of barbarous cruelty? Karl Rove may criticize the Democrats (justifiably in my opinion) for an excessively legalistic reaction to horrors of 9/11, but at least they wanted to catch the guys who did it, not let them waltz around the mountains of Western Pakistan and sneer at us!

If you had asked me on 9/12/01, I wouldn't have given Osama four more weeks of freedom instead of the four years he's enjoyed under the Bush Administration. This guy is the worst mass murderer in American history and he's still on the lam. If you don't think Osama's freedom heartens Al Qaeda and exacerbates terrorism, especially in Iraq, you're crazy. (Or President.)

So step #1 in quelling the Iraqi insurgency: destroy the operational capacity of Al Qaeda and capture, if possible, or kill, if necessary, Osama bin Laden.

2. Theocracy Ain't Democracy

Imagine for a moment that you're a young patriotic Iraqi Sunni watching soldiers from the other side of the world with a carte blanche to capture or kill you patrol your streets in armored vehicles. They say that they came to your country to liberate you from a ruthless dictator. On the other hand, some of your friends tell you that the soldiers are lying - that they are conquerors, not liberators, determined to control the country through a permanent military presence and a Shiite/Kurdish puppet government. Who do you believe? Thankfully, the vast majority believes us. Unfortunately, a significant minority doesn't.

So how can we persuade that violent minority that we're on the level? After all, the United States has never conquered another country (except for the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Ri - oh well, never mind). And we always bring our troops home when the war is over (except for Germany, Japan, Cuba, South Kor - damn, 0 for 2). Well, at least we never cut and run or let terrorism scare us out of honoring a commitment (except in South Vietnam, Beruit, Somalia, - hmmm, this isn't going as well as I expected).

The bottom line is that, if I were that young Iraqi patriot, I'd want some proof of the beneficent intentions of the United States.

What would it take? How about this:

If we're willing impose secular democracy upon our enemies, are we willing to induce our friends to adopt it? If American values and principles are universal, as we contend, then perhaps we should begin down the road to peace in the Middle East by exporting them to our closest ally in the region first. Maybe this might convince our young Iraqi patriot that the fight in his country is not between two different forms of intolerance, but against intolerance itself. And who's our closest ally in the Middle East? Israel.

But wait a minute, isn't Israel already a democracy? Well, not quite. For example, Israel's Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty begins by defining,

"… the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Jewish AND democratic? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron? Jews, regardless of nationality, have the ability to immigrate to Israel, but Palestinians who've lived there for generations or centuries don't? The Israeli government has an official Ministry of Religious Affairs? The judicial system of Israel includes religious courts? Israel has a religious symbol displayed on its flag prominently? If it looks like a theocracy and walks like a theocracy and talks like a theocracy, my guess is that it is a theocracy.

Let's face it, a country can't be Jewish and democratic any more than it can be Christian, Hindu, Moslem or Shinto and democratic. The ultimate sovereignty of the state is either temporal or spiritual; it cannot be both.

In 1948, Israel declared its independence and issued its Israeli Declaration of Establishment that authorized the creation of a provisional government,

" … until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948."

Well, needless to say, that never happened. The religious leaders contended that man's laws couldn't supplant God's laws. So they agreed to disagree with the secularists, adopted a handful of "Basic Laws" eventually and called it an "informal constitution". It's nearly sixty years later Israel still doesn't have a written constitution. Perhaps it's time for the Israelis to honor their own founding document, follow Iraq's lead and adopt a permanent written constitution. (We shouldn't be too hard on the Israelis though. After all, it took us the better part of 200 years to honor the phrase "all men are created equal" written in our own founding document.)

Moreover, according to the Declaration of Establishment, the founders of Israel,

"APPEAL - to the Arab inhabitants … to participate in the upbuilding [sic] of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship…."

In order to confer civic legitimacy upon the resultant government, it seems obvious that the State of Israel (gotta do something about that name - how about Canaan?) must include all of the areas under governmental control, including the West Bank and Gaza. The US must abandon its philosophically absurd and geographically impossible "road map". A Jewish Israel and an Islamic Palestine cannot co-exist peacefully on the same land in perpetuity. Their mutual antipathy and distrust will preclude it.

So instead of creating two biter theocratic and ethnocentric rivals, we must use our influence to incorporate the Jewish and Moslem residents of Israel and Palestine (as well as the Christians and the Druze) into one secular nation that embraces all of the human rights we espouse as universal, especially Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation between church [or mosque or synagogue] and state.

If the Israelis and Palestinians (Canaanites?) adopt a constitution that guarantees fundamental human and civil rights and that delineates between governmental and religious authority assiduously, they must receive the approbation of the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. Most importantly, however, they would prove to the nations of the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular that disparate peoples can write a formal constitution that creates a society that accommodates a variety of ethnic groups and religions equitably, impartially and peacefully. And ultimately, isn't this what we're fighting for in Iraq?

In short, the road to a permanent peace in the Middle East may end in Baghdad. Or it may end in Cairo or Mecca or Tehran or Damascus. But it must begin in Jerusalem.

Posted by Chuck Hanrahan at June 29, 2005 5:40 PM