It’s been record heat the last two weeks nationwide and admittedly, last week in NYC felt like hell at times. Staying focused and for that matter hopeful hasn’t been easy with many personal setbacks and no less a new battle with Verizon, an old nemesis when it comes to consistent communications. Needless to say I have been beset by negativity and at times despair over being a working artist who is frankly not getting ahead – yet trapped in a maze of constant activity, where the pursuit of intangibles feels so obscured by the daily grind of work, commuting, and bill paying.
But I’m lucky, as most of us are, quite lucky, quite privileged in many or all regards. Sure I have a nameless role in an organization that supports artists across the country and the world at large- an occupation where I am under payed, overworked, and never appreciated by all parties involved in the equation. I can say the same for most of my co-workers on that front too. I am however alive today. I am not maimed by the bombs that are destroying countless lives throughout Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel.
Countless blogs have been posting from within and without Lebanon over these last 3 weeks and to read them is sobering – achingly sobering. The same can be said of the Iraqi blogs that have been able to maintain themselves through 3 years of endless bloodshed and broken promises. These are testimony to the human spirit in contrast to the nightmare of human political enterprise.
In the course of these 3 weeks I have seen a groundswell of anti-Israeli graffiti spring up around me. It’s plastered all over the subways, in the elevators and hallways of the buildings that are part of my normal routine. Somewhat reminiscent of similiarly angry tags that sprouted from the 911 tragedy – political critique bordering on hate and some outright hate.
Its hard to even fathom what Israeli generals think they are accomplishing with a brutal campaign against civilians or what Hezbollah thought they would succeed in doing with that ill advised “border crossing” three weeks back. On one level it was surely a test of PM Olmert, to see what the new guy was made of. Well now we know, an iron fist. It seems a marked departure for one of the architects of the Gaza West Bank pullout. It’s difficult to watch the agony of the civilians in Lebanon. They have now suffered decades, prisoners to other people’s wars- Syrian, Palestianian, Iranian, Israeli. Historically, today seems all too familiar for such a small country.
As the shelling continues Pope Benedict and Ayatollah Sistani have both repeatedly called for a ceasefire. Both have been met with silence and perhaps a political lesson. The real powers don’t want to hear from them unless they can be used in a rhetorical moral battle to stir up unmitigated hate from the unwashed masses. If it’s a call for peace or level headedness, then these men are quickly reminded of how antiquated their social and spiritual role actually is within the world of real politik. It’s a disgrace in itself as both represent millions – singularly and collectively.
So what is behind this – a war which seems more planned than reactionary?
Is it the Judeo-Christian hate machine unleashed as so many taggers want to purport? Doubtful as an awfully large number of Christians are the victims. These are a segment of Middle Eastern culture almost always forgotten by the right and left, and far too often squeezed out by the competing interests of Sunni, Shia and Israeli. Where are all the evangelicals- Dobson, Falwell, Robertson? Only the Pope has spoken for these people. I presume the rest are consumed by their Christian-Zionism, their lust for armageddon. Their peculiar brand of nihilism wants more than anything to find secret knowledge within the events of this war – that secret knowledge being arcane “prophesy”. This theological/political obsession of “end times” precludes them from seeing the human tragedy that is unfolding at an alarming pace.
What does feel likely to me about all of this is that this is perhaps the first real all out war over resources. This will become regional quickly. A lot of parts of the puzzle are coming together now. This is a core versus periphery conflict and the prize is natural gas and oil reserves. Iran has the second highest of both in the entire world.
Look at some recent events. The Saudis just made two multi $billion arms deals with France and the US. Iran has made similar deals with Russia and Venezuela.
China has wooed Iran as well, making efforts to step up its presence in the Middle East as well oil rich areas of Africa. You can feel the polarization happening pretty quickly. India is a player here too. Iran, by luck or sly design is ready to make a push to be the regional power. It is their historic time and in some Shia minds, a theological destiny to reclaim the upper hand within Islam itself. The Saudis seem to be stockpiling as a precaution as they and Israel are the only true roadblocks to Iranian regional dominance.
Iran knows where they fit on the Neo-Con roadmap – the bull’s eye. Thus they have made fast friends with Security Council members, China and Russia. It’s not just about business and nuclear power, but political clout and personal protection. This all is a prelude to war with Iran – you can count on that war unless cooler heads come to surface. The stakes are high – energy supremacy for the next 40 years.
So what of Israel? Well many of my Israeli friends will quickly say this is about their own survival and that Olmert is just showing their strength (and I’d argue their weakness). I know several people who will perhaps be called up from reserves if this doesn’t stop soon. Many of their peers already have. It’s a depressing thought.
Israel has its personal reasons, its grudge against Hezbollah(and by extension Hamas) but who is allowing this to continue on? The Neo-Con agenda as executed by various principals here in the US and Britain. It’s a gamble for sure. They think that through destruction they can implement their utopia of proxy states. Funny how they repeatedly like to gamble with innocent lives and if it fails? Well then just retreat to some think tank or corporate board unscathed.
Lebanon is the direct ticket to Syria and the quite weak Assad. If Syria can be dismantled along with Lebanon then it creates a vacuum (one which will bite us in the ass) that can be filled by pro-US/EU interests as a counter point to Iran.
When will people learn that this never works? It simply creates more enemies and failed states. All these plans are implicitly immoral and incompetently executed to add insult to injury. Regular people suffer – and for generations. It’s a dangerous game for all players because the balance and luck can quickly tip out of control. The Middle East is full of angry, impoverished people – most under the age of 30. These forces can quickly be armed by outside interests of all stripes.
If only Democracy were the goal – but that’s just the tag line to mask the drive for natural resources. Democratization comes about culturally, not militarily.
We’re obviously running out of natural resources. Allies are no longer enough. Corporate interests want direct control of the oil and more importantly gas resources. That is the only sure way to manage the coming energy demand and remain profitable. It’s pretty obvious that was the Cheney doctrine in Iraq and Halliburton/KBR’s no bid monopoly on the oil wells and pipelines. I’m sure it informed his request of President Clinton, while CEO of Halliburton, to end the sanctions against Iraq and his request to open up talks with Iran for the purpose of energy trade. If only this energy were put into renewable energy, diplomacy and technology.
There is an irony here within the Neo-Con Middle East agenda. The invasion of Iraq actually produced a desired effect. Iran was rattled, and through the Swiss sought to go to the table with the Administration and the State Department. It could have been an opportunity to quell nuclear ambitions and make progress on other fronts. Our arrogant leadership rebuffed. Around this time Syria also leaves Lebanon as its foreign controller signaling its own political weakness within the region and its fear of invasion -a situation that is now become obsolete and squandered. Why? Because months later due to lack of forces and leadership, we became bogged down in a sectarian/civil war in Iraq. Iran has realized its new position as a leader with few restraints. Syria now thinks it acted too quickly and Assad has internal political pressure to reassert Syrian influence in Lebanon. Our military is now surrounded by enemies and battered after 3 years of futile fighting and rebuilding within Iraq. Israel is sending a message of defiance to its neighbors – do not seize the opportunity to assert regional dominance.
Meanwhile back in America, 50% of the population is still pre-occupied with those missing WMD’s that Saddam so skillfully hid or whether or not the attacks in Haifa are Biblical prophesy.
Israel seems to be making the same mistakes of the Bush camp, destroying so many innocent lives while killing any prospects of public agreement. These words seem to have been forgotten and need to be reconsidered.
Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, while Mayor of Jerusalem:
"Political leaders can help change the psychological climate which affects the quality of relationships among people." His speech concluded with reflections on the importance of political process in overcoming differences: "How are fears born? They are born because of differences in tradition and history; they are born because of differences in emotional, political and national circumstances. Because of such differences, people fear they cannot live together. If we are to overcome such fear, a credible and healthy political process must be carefully and painfully developed. A political process that does not aim to change the other or to overcome differences, but that allows each side to live peacefully in spite of their differences."In closing, I think is a helpful read, Ending the Neo-Conservative Nightmare, by Daniel Levy.
Here's a place to help those suffering in Beirut.
image: Dan Perjovschi