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Published in the 1-15 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

A New Pax-Americana-Judaica for the Middle East
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Now that the countdown for presidential election in U.S. has begun, George W. Bush is getting desperate by the day to score a clear cut 'victory' in Iraq in order to make it the crown jewel of his presidency. Apparently, even he seems convinced that the 'victory' in Iraq he proclaimed last May at a stage-managed glitzy event on board the USS Lincoln, off the California coast, was premature and has been thrown back in his face.

But George Bush is not a man of peace, much as he and his neo con hawks may claim and want the world to believe. In fact, his popularity in America's 'Bible Belt' where his ultra-right wing Christian following abounds, rests on his fame for being a man of action. They say he is a decisive president. And the proof of his decisiveness is the confrontation he has provoked, out of the blue, with the radical wing of Iraq's Shiia majority population.

Up until now, the Shiias of Iraq had shown a remarkable self-restraint in their dealings with the American occupation force. This was largely because they wanted to give Bush the full latitude to prove what he has been saying ever since his missiles cruised into Iraq: that his mission was to democratise Iraq. Since democracy rests on the fundamental pillar of majority rule, the Iraqi Shiias were content to let Bush live up to his promise, despite getting regular evidence that his real plan was to swindle them, and all other Iraqis. And yet they gave him a long rope to hang himself. That was also close to the justice that reigns in the cowboy culture of Texas.

But the real agenda of Bush and his neo cons is not anchored on ushering in democracy into Iraq or any other country in the Arab world, for that matter, the gloves had to come off at some time. And that moment arrived when the American pro-consul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, arbitrarily shut down the weekly Al Hawza, the mouth-piece of the radical Shiia cleric, Moqtada Al Sadr, for the crime of spreading 'lies' against the American occupation.

Bremer and his mentors knew that he was disturbing a hornet's nest. But that was the whole idea. Sadr had been against the occupation from day one but had been restrained from challenging the American subjugation openly by the moderate clerics led by Ali Sistani. Bremer made further certain that Sadr would be provoked when he was, simultaneously, charged for the one-year old murder of a pro-American cleric, Majid Al Khooi, in Najaf last year, on the day after the fall of Baghdad to the Americans.

Sadr was, predictably, provoked unleashing his Al Mehdi militia to call a spade a spade. That was exactly what the occupation forces were waiting for. Their brutal and savage response has so far led to nearly a thousand Iraqis, mostly civilians-women and children-killed in cold blood in Faluja, Baquba and Najaf. The stand-off is still exacting a heavy toll, not only of Iraqi civilian lives, but also of U.S. occupation troops. More American soldiers have been killed since the current phase of Iraqi resistance began than in all the previous months of the occupation. 

It is still far from clear how the current struggle between the Iraqi resistance and the colonial occupation forces would play out. What is certain, however, is that the real intent of the American occupation of Iraq is becoming crystal clear even for those who might have had some fancy notions as to why Bush had invaded Iraq in defiance of international law and the will of the world community, as epitomised by the UN.

As more and more evidence is piling up against the proclaimed Bush objective to democratise Iraq-especially at the ongoing proceedings of the special commission investigating the causes of 9/11-it is now becoming an established fact that the core objective in invading Iraq was to make the Middle East absolutely safe for Israel, in the first place. In the second, Iraq was to be used as a beach-head for American domination of the region in cahoots with a rapacious and expansionist Israel, personified by its hawkish Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

It was, therefore, little surprising that with Faluja and other Iraqi cities being given a bloodbath, Sharon made a triumphal visit to the White House, his 10th since Bush came to power. But this was an extraordinary visit at which Sharon received Bush's total endorsement and unreserved blessings for every item on his agenda to crush the Palestinians into a non-entity.

There is so much affinity and identity between Bush and Sharon that the two could well be the two faces of the same coin. Their camaraderie is a natural thing.

Both are men of action who believe in the use of force as a first option and not as a matter of last resort. Both have little patience for international law or international diplomacy of which UN is the recognised global forum; they have a history of disdain and defiance of UN resolutions. Israel under Sharon has flouted the will of the international community with contempt, just as Bush did in Iraq.Both have an irrepresible proclivity to opt for unilateral action and disregard multilateralism as a regressive element.

With Iraq at the receiving end of the Bush wrath, so complete and comprehensive was the package of goodies Sharon received from his buddy, Bush, that the day after Bush signed on the dotted lines of the new Sharon Doctrine for the Palestinians that the mass circulating Israeli paper, Haaretz, jubilantly proclaimed " Sharon Got It All." 

It couldn't, therefore, be that Sharon 'got it all' from Bush at the spur of the moment. His plan for unilateral 'withdrawl' from Gaza had been in the air for sometime and must have been thoroughly thrashed out with Bush's neo con ideologues in Washington who share so much in common with their right wing Israeli Likud peers. Both believe as an article of faith that Erz Israel must fully become an integral part of a powerful Israel, if not exactly part of a 'Greater Israel' ruling over all lands between the Nile and the Euphrates. 

Bush's ultra- right- wing Christian admirers in the U.S. also believe in this as a religious necessity; their Old Testament tells them that the second coming of the Messiah will not happen until Israel owns all the land it covets. George W. Bush, to his own confession, is a very religious person and believes in the messianic divinity of his own mission in the 'undemocratic' Arab world.

So Bush couldn't hold himself back from agreeing with Sharon in toto over his 'vision' of a dominant Israel and an emasculated, semi-autonomous, Palestine more akin to an apartheid- era Bantustan than a sovereign state to which Bush still pays lip service.

Sharon will keep all of the sprawling Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 settlers live, and in the West Bank, where another 230,000 Israelis have put down permanent roots. Bush justified the gobbling up of Palestinian lands on the basis of realpolitik . To him the illegal Israeli settlements, opposed in principle by all previous administrations, are " facts on the ground." He doesn't want to bother as to how these 'facts' were created in the first place.

In return for the Bush largesse, Sharon, for window-dressing, may dismantle the settlements in Gaza where only 7,500 Israeli settlers live amid more than a million Palestinians. Bush saw this as a big sacrifice by Sharon and lauded his friend's act of magnanimity as " painful".

Sharon will lessen some of his 'pain' by completing his " security wall" to turn the rag tag and patchy Palestinian State, whenever, if ever, that oddity comes into being into a big prison boxed in by the Israeli settlements and barbed wires. Bush regards the wall as a legitimate need of the Israeli security to which his administration is firmly committed.

Bush also made a 180- degree turn on the Palestinians' right of return to the homes they were expelled from by the Israeli vandals. The Palestinians will not be allowed at all to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. Bush didn't bat an eyelid on this murder of international law and UN conventions.
Even a cursory appraisal of Sharon's new strategy to achieve his life-long ambition of driving the Palestinians into abject misery as serfs and slaves at the mercy of Israel throws up a remarkable similarity with Bush's own strategem in Iraq.
The much-touted unilateral Israeli withdrawl from Gaza-which Bush hailed as "courageous and historic"-will not, in any substantive sense, loosen the draconian Israeli grip over the Palestinians. Israel will still retain control over all access to Gaza on land, from the sea, and in the air. The Gaza Airport and Seaport will remain under Israeli control. So will be the land border between Gaza and Egypt. Needless to mention that all water resources will also remain under Israeli suzerainty. The poor Palestinains will not be given the satisfaction of being their own master in the few crumbs of land to be thrown in their bowl by a 'munificent' Sharon.
Bush's own grand design for Iraq, after the cosmetic transfer of 'sovereignty' to the Iraqis on June 30th will be no different from the Israeli blueprint for Gaza.
Israel may not station its troops in an 'independent' Gaza but will retain the right to send them barging into the enclave at the slightest 'provocation.' It alone will define and interprete what constitutes a provocation. 
But Bush has something better on his mind for Iraq. More than a hundred thousand American troops will be stationed at 14 different military bases on the Iraqi soil. Of course an agreement with the 'Free Iraq' blessing these bases will be signed before the transfer of power on the D-Day, June 30th. These American bases will enjoy extra-territorial rights in Iraq and will not be subject to any existing or future Iraqi law.
Even the 'Free Iraq's' own armed forces shall be subject to the overarching 'advice' of a national security adviser, appointed by the Americans.
Borrowing a leaf from Sharon-although it is difficult to decide who is borrowing from whom-Bush has already mandated, through his viceroy, Bremer in Baghdad, that all decisions taken by him to parcel out the Iraqi economic assets and interests to non-Iraqi capital and corporate speculators will not be reviewed or altered by a future Iraqi government.

The bottom line for both Bush and Sharon is to have the best of the two worlds: inspire fear of their awesome power in the hearts of the Palestinians and the Arabs and browbeat them into surrender. Sharon's crimes against Hamas in recent months underline this two-pronged strategy of unbridled use of relentless force. In less than a month two stalwarts of Hamas-Shaikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantissi-have been brutally slain in acts of state terrorism. Sharon feels himself unaccountable to none as long as he has the blessings of the world's lone super power for his crimes, sanctified in Washington as " legitimate defence. 

The only 'reality' that matters to Bush is that he is fighting a 'just war' against terrorism for which, as he has said on a number of occasions in the past, he has been chosen by divine guidance. Another reality important to him is that Sharon is four squares behind him in this global war because Israel, too, is a 'victim' of terrorism.

This mind-set dictates that U.S. and Israel, between them, should redraw the map of the Middle East in the light of their 'security concerns.' So the world should, henceforth, awaken to an era of a new condominium of power in the Middle East in general, and the Arab world in particular. Bush and Sharon are the new crusaders sworn to slay the demon of evil and will allow nothing to stand in the way of their joint messianic mission to rid the region of 'evil.' 

Pax Americana, under Bush, is a global concern with an out-reach swaddling the world, especially its Islamic segment. However, in the Middle East Bush seems inclined to share the spoils with an expansionist Israel because such a confluence of interests will serve them both well. In the short run, it may help him in lining up the Jewish vote behind his ambition for a second stint in the White House. In the long run, Pax Americana will have a twin brother: Pax Judaica in the Arab world. But is anyone there listening ? 

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