Ariel Sharon was elected on the strength of a one-sentence platform to “let the Army win”. Colin Powell and George Bush, characteristically indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians and bowing to the Israel lobby, made a deliberate decision to give Sharon a chance to implement his campaign promise. The old butcher of Sabra and Shatila was given a carte blanche to intensify the violence initiated by the Barak government. It now appears that Sharon has come to recognize that the Army alone cannot win. So, impulsive and demented as ever, he has decided to expand his initial proposal and “let the navy win” and “let the air force win”. Perhaps the man with the stain of Qibya on his record might next decide to use a little bit of Israel’s huge nuclear arsenal. The Israelis elected him to kill more Palestinians and he is just being Sharon.
For the first time in thirty-three years of military occupation, the Israeli air force, using free American supplied F-16 fighter jets, launched strikes against Palestinian towns in the West Bank. Colin Powell accepted this latest escalation with a shrug. He is, after all, a man who still believes that with a few more ‘Phoenix’ campaigns and a few million additional tons of napalm and Agent Orange, America could have ‘won’ in Vietnam. He is a general who believes politicians should not restrain military men.
Reportedly, the general had a friendly phone chat with ‘Arik’ immediately after the F-16s had killed a dozen Palestinians in Nablus and did not bother to raise the subject of the illegal use of American supplied weapons. According to American law, these particular weapons are strictly for defensive purposes. But that was not a problem for Powell, the law being something of an obstacle to his insatiable quest for power and personal wealth. Maybe he spent the precious moments on the phone with his buddy ‘Arik’ exchanging war crime stories. Perhaps they talked about the smell of napalm in the morning or about the reports that as a division commander in Vietnam, Powell did his bit to cover up the My Lai massacre and other reported atrocities.
Let us agree that those who spill the blood of innocents during times of war, whether they are Prime Ministers, Army snipers, Air-force pilots, ex-Generals or ex-Senators, are not men of honor, much less soldiers. The deliberate assault against unarmed civilians, even in the heat of battle, is not allowed by American law or under many international treaties to which we are parties. This might come as a shock to Colin “overwhelming force” Powell, but war crimes statutes don’t have exit clauses for Israelis or Americans. Neither do they have statutes of limitation. Let us further agree that a Secretary of State or a President who does not enforce American law is, in effect, breaking the law. When these men, Bush and Powell, were sworn in to their high offices, they took an oath to uphold the constitution, not to express their personal racist views about the value of an Arab life. Now, both these men are definitively aware that the law is being broken by a habitual war criminal called Ariel Sharon and that they have a legal obligation to do something about it. The fact that they do not value Palestinian lives is not material to any defense that they might raise in future litigation. Considering the substantial legal evolution in tracking and prosecuting war criminals, they are well advised to check with their lawyers. Finally, let us be clear that the misuse of the F16s by Sharon’s flying thugs is a violation of domestic American law, not some obscure UN resolution clause.
The families of the Palestinians who were killed in this Powell sanctioned F16 air raid and those who survived and sustained injury should consider seeking American lawyers to investigate the possibilities of pursuing legal action in American courts on the strength of domestic statutes. A guy like Powell needs to be reminded that he is not above the law. Recall that Ex-Senator Kerrey, as part of his defense, has claimed ignorance of American law regarding the treatment of ‘enemy’ civilians in times of war. Powell needs to pay a little attention to the laws of the land, if not for the sake of his country, than for the sake of his personal estate.
Today in France, a general who was involved in the torture killings of Algerian rebels is facing a trial, four decades after the war ended. In Poland, an ex-Prime Minister is being charged in the murder of dozens of unarmed Polish anti-Communist protesters, some twenty years ago. In the Ukraine, an authoritarian President is being investigated for having the head of a journalist chopped off. Milosovic sits in a prison cell in Belgrade awaiting extradition to The Hague, something that seemed quite remote just a year ago. The fact that Noriega is still rotting in an American jail should make for firm legal precedent in domestic courts. By now, the precedent of the Pinochet case should demonstrate that, for certain heinous crimes, there really will be no place to hide and plenty of time to bring a case to trial.
Granted that the political environment in America and Israel currently allows a war criminal like Sharon to become a Prime Minister and act out his demented fantasies. Yet, in a few years, those who are carrying out his criminal orders might find themselves facing serious charges in court, both criminal and civil. And American political leaders, who gave Sharon a green light to illegally use jets to bomb towns and villages, could very well be targets of individual lawsuits seeking remedies in American courts. Given the number of Palestinian-Americans, it is likely that not a few lawyers will be checking out the possibilities of taking legal initiatives.
First things first? The motive? Why would Powell deliberately ignore the law? The Bush administration came to office gasping for legitimacy. Over the first hundred days, a concerted effort was made to avoid any entanglements with the mass media mafia, especially Sulzberger’s crew at the New York Times. For those who have forgotten the amount of bad blood between Sulzberger and Bush, I recommend they re-read a previous article, “Gore’s Losermen at the New York Times“. This is an administration that calculated that tangling with the Jewish lobby, already sore that their man lost the election, would lead to a permanent state of counting chads in Florida. For the sake of ‘domestic peace’, the Bush administration basically bowed to the lobby’s demands to allow Sharon and his IDF thugs to declare a free-fire zone in the West Bank and Gaza.
Reading the New York Times, three months down the road, I detect a cocky confidence in their ‘access’ to the president and the General Powell. In exchange for allowing Sharon to ‘win’, the Jewish Lobby, led by Sulzberger, the 800 pound Gorilla on 43rd Street, has abandoned its threat to squat in the voting booths of Florida for the next four years. Bush and Powell have basically agreed to pay with Palestinian blood for a peace treaty with the New York Times and CNN. To men like Powell and Bush, Palestinian lives have always been cheap currency. At the very ethnic New York Times, where Israel is a Sulzberger family affair, Sharon received blanket endorsement for his plan to let the army ‘win’. So until Sulzberger issues other instructions, Powell will limit himself to having warm fuzzy chats with his pal ‘Arik’, with an occasional grunt about ‘the violence’.
Using The Air Force’ F16s to bomb civilian neighborhoods was just standard escalation procedures, a predictable Sharon response. In Lebanon, when things didn’t go according to his invasion plan; an unstable and mercurial Sharon retaliated with Sabra and Shatila. That particular fit of Sharonese anger, a response to the Habib agreement and to the heroic Lebanese and Palestinian resistance, lasted for four days and cost a few thousand Arab lives.
Powell’s conduct is not surprising given his motives. As for Sharon, he is simply living up to his filthy reputation as a compulsive war criminal, I marvel at those who still send their complaints about Sharon to the Bush administration. Some Palestinians and Arabs seem to have a severe learning disorder. America is not going to contribute anything positive to resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Powell just recently expanded the Israeli lobby’s lease at the State Department to include censuring third countries, like Colombia, France and Egypt, that do not bow to Israeli whims.
As far as I am concerned, the only thing one can discuss with our spineless and shallow American political class, which includes quite a few journalists, is their need for immediate intensive sensitivity training before broaching all matters related to the Middle East. American politicians need to disengage our country from the Middle East, because the United States government, as currently constituted, does not have the moral fortitude to do the right thing by the people of the region. Being anti-Palestinian has become a requirement for running for office; for staying in office; for financing campaigns; for keeping the media on your good side. Men who so effortlessly squander the liberties and rights of others, based on the cynical calculus of domestic ethnic politics, are hardly qualified for a role as ‘honest brokers’. For a generation, America has played a major role in inflicting and financing a regime of repression against Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. Shunning Arab-Americans is just part of the mix.
Anti-Arab bigotry is a cheap ticket to a nice media splash for the low life politicians who pollute the Bush administration and the current Congress. There is little variance from the breed of morally anemic garbage that infested the Clinton administrations and the previous Congress. Every adult American who bothers with politics is aware that with the right amount of coin, any congressman or senator can be purchased, like a common hooker. The average American might not know his congressman’s name, but we are quite certain that they come with a price tag, one beyond the purchasing power of ordinary citizens. Indeed, the Mark Rich pardons, by now deeply buried in mass media archives, prove that even presidents can be enticed with the right amount of silver.
Consider that after reviewing Israel’s excessive use of lethal force against the Palestinians, the House recently voted to cut aid to Lebanon. The Hungarian Jewish Congressman who thought up this latest Arab-bashing scam, Lantos (D-CA), is not only influenced by the Israeli lobby, he is a loud and obnoxious Israel Firster who mistakes himself for a member of the Kenesset. For most of the members of the Jewish Caucus in Congress, which includes eleven Senators, Sharon is the kind of guy that can force the Palestinians to endure another generation of brutal IDF military occupation. They see the squashing of the Palestinian independence uprising as a desirable outcome. Many of these political whores consider themselves liberals; the kind of liberals that will harass the FBI for not giving McVeigh a fair trial and in the next breath excuse the murder of Palestinians by Israeli assassination squads. These congressmen do not even pretend that their policies are designed to assist American interests and they care less if American interests are damaged in the region; their performance is conditioned by their obsessive attention to their campaign cash registers. And so, they would allow a land thieving Israeli settler movement to ‘win’ by expropriating what precious little is left of Palestinian native lands. Make no mistake, American politicians who are anti-Arab racists, are racists first. Arabs are just a convenient no-cost target and it never hurt any Senator’s campaign to take a swipe against Palestinian freedom.
Getting back on the case of Colin Powell, who being entirely too engaged in his personal agenda to worry about Palestinian aspirations, appears to have committed a serious crime. By not even mentioning the illegal use of American supplied weapons against a civilian population under belligerent foreign occupation, Powell has opened himself to the charge of breaking a serious law. But why take the law seriously, when you know the judges, the mass media titans like Sulzberger and Graham, are part of the gang that applauds like a Greek chorus, even as you break the law? Powell should give ex-Senator Kerrey a call and find out how messy decisions can catch up with you. This is America. One good lawyer can take Powell down over one illegal use of American weaponry in one Sharon atrocity that cost a dozen Palestinian lives. So, while Powell seems as smug as ever, back slapping his new flame, Arik of Qibya, he should sit back for a moment and consider that things catch up with old French, Chilean and Polish Generals. Perhaps, he should invite a legal chaperon to supervise his love affair with this Israeli war criminal before he ends up with an unwanted pregnancy.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)