12 August 2006


Stealing a line from odious hate monger radio host Michael Savage, President Bush, in the aftermath of the arrests of 21 alleged extremists in Great Britain in connection with a plot to blow up US-bound commercial airliners, said "it is a “stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”.

That remark drew attention from all sides — including domestic critics and Muslims around the world.

Fascism is defined as a "system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism". Now, one could make a great case for Hussien's Iraq as a fascist model, but a global set of jihadists, unified by what they view as an immoral enemy just doesn't fit. I'm not a fan of total societal subordination to theocratic edict, but it's not fascism.

The indiscriminate and inaccurate dropping of the fascist moniker serves the neoconservative movement in two-fold fashion. It fits into their "axis of evil" story and paints our side as lovers of "freedom", but more important it trivializes or conceals our own country's slow march to fascism, and state driven erosion of "freedom". Indeed, notable conservative luminaries argue for the end of "probable cause" and other neoconservative banner unfurlers believe the Constitution should be stomped over, all in the interest of a vague, perpetual "war on terror".

As an addendum here, checkout Why Hezbollah has "Rocketed" to Success.

The other night, as I watched the engrossing, if challenging, film Syriana, I was struck by the portrayal of the grim, shabby lives of the oil workers for the vastly wealthy Saudi families -- those "pliant dictators in oil-producing countries" enabled by U.S. intelligence operations, "the American penchant for military intervention," and Texan oil CEOs (whose idea of recreation is a canned hunt on Texas ranches, an apt metaphor for how they like to set up their business deals).

The CEOs, the Middle East dictators, and the U.S. and Israeli policy makers -- utterly removed from the low wages, terrible housing, lack of health care, and family crises of their worker bees (including minimum wage workers in the U.S.) -- think that military might, invasions, and submissive compliance of their own citizens, by ratcheting up fears of terrorist attacks, will keep their populations in check.

Syriana "opens with a shot of desi oil workers struggling to get onto a crammed Tata bus. Later in the movie, a shady oil company merger triggers layoffs. A Sikh foreman gets on a megaphone to Pakistani workers, telling them they've been fired, they must surrender their badges, and unless they find another job soon they have to report to immigration within two weeks and be deported."

In the Lebanon crisis, while the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other nations fail to "get it," Hezbollah has emerged victorious -- not because of its daily rain of rockets on Israel but because it has grown grassroots support in the alleys and streets of the less-advantaged Shiites of southern Lebanon.



The Hizbollah rocket campaign against Israel has been a colossal failure, and this is being noticed in the Arab world. So far, it appears that Hizbollah has to fire over a hundred rockets, to kill one Israeli civilian. This is not impressive, especially when you consider that Hizbollah is trying to kill Israeli civilians. Many of the rocket warheads have been modified (with the addition of hundreds of small metal balls) to enhance their anti-personnel effect.

The Hizbollah problem is that they are firing unguided rockets at a handful of targets (residential areas) within 20 kilometers (the range of their 122mm rocket) of the border. These rockets will only hit something if you fire a lot of them (several dozen is best) and aim them properly. But the Hizbollah rocket teams, operating at night, and under constant threat of discovery by Israeli aircraft and UAVs above, must move quickly. This apparently means that careful placement of the launchers is not a high priority. That can be seen by the increasing number of rockets landing in unoccupied areas. On some days, the Hizbollah rockets don't kill or wound anyone inside Israel.

Meanwhile, the Israelis, using guided weapons (missiles and smart bombs), are trying to avoid civilian casualties. They have a more difficult time of it, because nearly all their bombs and missiles hit what they are aimed at. Still, that has resulted in one dead civilian for every two or three bombs and missiles used. That's an unprecedented reduction in "collateral damage." But it isn't getting reported that way. And when one Israeli bomb apparently killed over fifty civilians, the Arab world cried "war crime." However, when Arabs were asked how they would respond to a similar hit on Israeli civilians, they believed that would be a "great victory." Same attitude was seen back in World War II, when, early in the war, German and British bombers were hitting each others civilians.

For many Arabs, and their Western supporters, objectivity has been tossed aside, and reality twisted to conform to more popular views. Israel was attacked by a terrorist group, whose ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel and establishment of a worldwide religious dictatorship. Yet many see Israel as the aggressor, for defending itself too vigorously. As a democracy, Israel is responding to its public opinion, which is solidly behind the response to Hizbollah aggression.

It's a war of attrition, where neither side is willing to reveal what their score is. Hizbollah believes time is on its side, but this appears to be more imaginary than real. The fact of the matter is that Hizbollah cannot win. Israel is fighting for its very existence, while Hizbollah is fighting to preserve a warlord army in a democracy that, so far, has avoided taking control of southern Lebanon for fear of starting another civil war. Hizbollah is a militant religious group subsidized by foreigners (Iran and Syria), that both Israelis and Lebanese want gone. By Hizbollah's twisted logic, they will have "won" if they still have any presence in Lebanon after this is all over. One outcome that is certain is that Hizbollah will have once more demonstrated that terrorism cannot destroy democracy, no matter how fashionable the terrorists have become among people who should know better.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are cheering on Hizbollah, but otherwise left in the shadows because of a lack of media attention. Egypt is hosting negotiations to obtain the release of an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas. The Palestinians are inclined to give up the Israeli soldier, in return for some kind of economic relief. Since Hamas took over in March, most foreign aid has stopped and the Palestinian economy is hurting.