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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  March 2003

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE March 2003

Subject:

Who is Charge? Edward Said

From:

Sujatha Byravan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 10 Mar 2003 09:18:26 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (157 lines)

        Published on Saturday, March 8, 2003 by the Al-Ahram Weekly

Who is in Charge?A Tiny, Unelected Group, Supported by Powerful,
Unrepresentative Minorities
by Edward Said

The Bush administration's relentless unilateral march towards war is
profoundly disturbing for many reasons, but so far as American
citizens are concerned the whole grotesque show is a tremendous
failure in democracy. An immensely wealthy and powerful republic has
been hijacked by a small cabal of individuals, all of them unelected
and therefore unresponsive to public pressure, and simply turned on
its head. It is no exaggeration to say that this war is the most
unpopular in modern history. Before the war has begun there have been
more people protesting it in this country alone than was the case at
the height of the anti- Vietnam war demonstrations during the 60s and
70s. Note also that those rallies took place after the war had been
going on for several years: this one has yet to begin, even though a
large number of overtly aggressive and belligerent steps have already
been taken by the US and its loyal puppy, the UK government of the
increasingly ridiculous Tony Blair.

I have been criticized recently for my anti-war position by
illiterates who claim that what I say is an implied defense of Saddam
Hussein and his appalling regime. To my Kuwaiti critics, do I need to
remind them that I publicly opposed Ba'athi Iraq during the only visit
I made to Kuwait in 1985, when in an open conversation with the then
Minister of Education Hassan Al-Ibrahim I accused him and his regime
of aiding and abetting Arab fascism in their financial support of
Saddam Hussein? I was told then that Kuwait was proud to have
committed billions of dollars to Saddam's war against "the Persians",
as they were then contemptuously called, and that it was a more
important struggle than someone like me could comprehend. I remember
clearly warning those Kuwaiti acolytes of Saddam Hussein about him and
his ill will against Kuwait, but to no avail. I have been a public
opponent of the Iraqi regime since it came to power in the 70s: I
never visited the place, never was fooled by its claims to secularism
and modernization (even when many of my contemporaries either worked
for or celebrated Iraq as the main gun in the Arab arsenal against
Zionism, a stupid idea, I thought), never concealed my contempt for
its methods of rule and fascist behavior. And now when I speak my mind
about the ridiculous posturing of certain members of the Iraqi
opposition as hapless strutting tools of US imperialism, I am told
that I know nothing about life without democracy (about which more
later), and am therefore unable to appreciate their nobility of soul.
Little notice is taken of the fact that barely a week after extolling
President Bush's commitment to democracy Professor Makiya is now
denouncing the US and its plans for a post-Saddam military-Ba'athi
government in Iraq. When individuals get in the habit of switching the
gods whom they worship politically there's no end to the number of
changes they make before they finally come to rest in utter disgrace
and well deserved oblivion.

But to return to the US and its current actions. In all my encounters
and travels I have yet to meet a person who is for the war. Even
worse, most Americans now feel that this mobilization has already gone
too far to stop, and that we are on the verge of a disaster for the
country. Consider first of all that the Democratic Party, with few
exceptions, has simply gone over to the president's side in a gutless
display of false patriotism. Wherever you look in the Congress there
are the tell-tale signs either of the Zionist lobby, the right-wing
Christians, or the military-industrial complex, three inordinately
influential minority groups who share hostility to the Arab world,
unbridled support for extremist Zionism, and an insensate conviction
that they are on the side of the angels. Every one of the 500
congressional districts in this country has a defense industry in it,
so that war has been turned into a matter of jobs, not of security.
But, one might well ask, how does running an unbelievably expensive
war remedy, for instance, economic recession, the almost certain
bankruptcy of the social security system, a mounting national debt,
and a massive failure in public education? Demonstrations are looked
at simply as a kind of degraded mob action, while the most
hypocritical lies pass for absolute truth, without criticism and
without objection.

The media has simply become a branch of the war effort. What has
entirely disappeared from television is anything remotely resembling a
consistently dissenting voice. Every major channel now employs retired
generals, former CIA agents, terrorism experts and known
neoconservatives as "consultants" who speak a revolting jargon
designed to sound authoritative but in effect supporting everything
done by the US, from the UN to the sands of Arabia. Only one major
daily newspaper (in Baltimore) has published anything about US
eavesdropping, telephone tapping and message interception of the six
small countries that are members of the Security Council and whose
votes are undecided. There are no antiwar voices to read or hear in
any of the major medias of this country, no Arabs or Muslims (who have
been consigned en masse to the ranks of the fanatics and terrorists of
this world), no critics of Israel, not on Public Broadcasting, not in
The New York Times, the New Yorker, US News and World Report, CNN and
the rest. When these organizations mention Iraq's flouting of 17 UN
resolutions as a pretext for war, the 64 resolutions flouted by Israel
(with US support) are never mentioned. Nor is the enormous human
suffering of the Iraqi people during the past 12 years mentioned.
Whatever the dreaded Saddam has done Israel and Sharon have also done
with American support, yet no one says anything about the latter while
fulminating about the former. This makes a total mockery of taunts by
Bush and others that the UN should abide by its own resolutions. The
American people have thus been deliberately lied to, their interests
cynically misrepresented and misreported, the real aims and intentions
of this private war of Bush the son and his junta concealed with
complete arrogance. Never mind that Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle, all
of them unelected officials who work for unelected Donald Rumsfeld at
the Pentagon, have for some time openly advocated Israeli annexation
of the West Bank and Gaza and the cessation of the Oslo process, have
called for war against Iraq (and later Iran), and the building of more
illegal Israeli settlements in their capacity (during Netanyahu's
successful campaign for prime minister in 1996) as private consultants
to him, and that that has become US policy now. Never mind that
Israel's iniquitous policies against Palestinians, which are reported
only at the ends of articles (when they are reported at all) as so
many miscellaneous civilian deaths, are never compared with Saddam's
crimes, which they match or in some cases exceed, all of them, in the
final analysis, paid for by the US taxpayer without consultation or
approval. Over 40,000 Palestinians have been wounded seriously in the
last two years, and about 2,500 killed wantonly by Israeli soldiers
who are instructed to humiliate and punish an entire people during
what has become the longest military occupation in modern history.
Never mind that not a single critical Arab or Muslim voice has been
seen or heard on the major American media, liberal, moderate, or
reactionary, with any regularity at all since the preparations for war
have gone into their final phase. Consider also that none of the major
planners of this war, certainly not the so-called experts like Bernard
Lewis and Fouad Ajami, neither of whom has so much as lived in or come
near the Arab world in decades, nor the military and political people
like Powell, Rice, Cheney, or the great god Bush himself, know
anything about the Muslim or Arab worlds beyond what they see through
Israeli or oil company or military lenses, and therefore have no idea
what a war of this magnitude against Iraq will produce for the people
actually living there. And consider too the sheer, unadorned hubris of
men like Wolfowitz and his assistants. Asked to testify to a largely
somnolent Congress about the war's consequences and costs they are
allowed to escape without giving any concrete answers, which
effectively dismisses the evidence of the army chief of staff who has
spoken of a military occupation force of 400,000 troops for 10 years
at a cost of almost a trillion dollars. Democracy traduced and
betrayed, democracy celebrated but in fact humiliated and trampled on
by a tiny group of men who have simply taken charge of this republic
as if it were nothing more than, what, an Arab country? It is right to
ask who is in charge since clearly the people of the United States are
not properly represented by the war this administration is about to
loose on a world already beleaguered by too much misery and poverty to
endure more. And Americans have been badly served by a media
controlled essentially by a tiny group of men who edit out anything
that might cause the government the slightest concern or worry. As for
the demagogues and servile intellectuals who talk about war from the
privacy of their fantasy worlds, who gave them the right to connive in
the immiseration of millions of people whose major crime seems to be
that they are Muslims and Arabs? What American, except for this small
unrepresentative group, is seriously interested in increasing the
world's already ample stores of anti-Americanism? Hardly any I would
suppose. Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour.Edward
Said is professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia
University, New York. His books include Orientalism and Covering
Islam. His latest work, Parallels and Paradoxes, cowritten with Daniel
Barenboim

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