Elsewhere in the Middle East

While focusing on the war in Iraq, it’s important not to lose sight of events taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Palestine Monitor reports that limited resources and humanitarian aid make the population especially vulnerable during the war. "[W]hile Israel is ensuring that its own citizens are provided with gas masks and other equipment in the event of an attack on the region, no such provisions have been made for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories — in contravention of Israel’s clear obligations under the Geneva Conventions [Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War]."

There are also reports from the PM (not yet on the website but sent to me by a colleague in the area) that as of Friday, March 21, "Israeli soldiers…invaded the Old City of Nablus and are currently holding several men, women and children hostage. The Israeli army has also destroyed several houses in the area. In another development, an Israeli soldier shot a US activist and member of GIPP (Grassroots International Protection for Palestinians) in Nablus — the second Israeli attack against a US citizen this week. Eric Hawanith, 21, from Chicago, was shot in the chest and leg by three rubber-coated steel bullets."

The Case for Colonialism

“Daniel Kruger [The Spectator]says that we should not be frightened of being ‘imperialist’. It is the job of the West to plant the seed of liberty in lands now ruled by despots.” Kruger spins his argument from the black and white threads of unilateralism (power) and multilateralism (collaboration and negotiation). Defending the “moral superiority” of the unilateralists (lead by the U.S. and U.K.) and their manifest destiny, i.e. “protecting the poor natives and advanced civilization” (Queen Victoria). The argument is for colonialism as humanitarian intervention.

And how is the moral high-ground seized? By claiming that for 19th century Britain, colonialism was a tool for the unilateral abolition of slavery. “The task today for Britain’s imperial heir [the U.S.] is to reverse the debilitating effects of socialism and tyranny in the developing world” and to “plant the seeds of liberty”. [emphases added]

It looks as if the “seeds” will be planted in the bombed-out terrain of Iraq largely by U.S. corporations. As Elizabeth Becker reported in the NYTimes yesterday, “Bush administration plans for the rebuilding of Iraq call for private American corporations to undertake much of the work, with the United Nations development agencies and other multilateral organizations sidelined, according to administration officials who have seen confidential documents outlining the plans. With the administration offering $1.5 billion in work to private companies and just $50 million to American aid groups like Save the Children, the plan will leave out many large international organizations.” And one of the companies from which bids are being privately solicited is Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Company, which Vice President Dick Cheney once led.

But, of course, all of this is “morally justified” once you’ve reaffirmed your commitment to colonialism.

Daniel Kruger, in case you don’t know, is Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, a British think-tank founded by Margaret Thatcher in 1974.

From Realism to Evangelism

George Soros has written an op-ed piece called "The Bubble of American Supremacy" in which he claims that the Bush administration is driven by the ideology of political realism — that might makes right. "The Bush administration believes that international relations are relations of power; legality and legitimacy are mere decorations." But it has been argued, by James Chace of the World Policy Institute and others, that the administration has moved from political realism to political evangelism. (See, for example, "How a War Became a Crusade," by Jackson Lears, NYTimes, Op-Ed, March 11, 2003) This reminds one of the 19th century belief in "manifest destiny" and casts current U.S. policy in a somewhat different and even more troubling light.

U.S. Dirty Tricks

Here’s a story the Observer broke last week that’s getting no attention in the U.S:
"The United States is conducting a secret ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq. Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer."