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Political Animal

Happy New War

By Brian Morton | Posted 1/7/2009

Quite possibly one of the silliest and most pointless things a black American political columnist can write about is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The only thing that can come of it is a sharp and fierce questioning of one's motives, a possible charge of anti-Semitism, and very little else, much less any movement toward the end of a conflict that seems as old as time itself.

I read a paragraph by columnist Johann Hari in the British newspaper The Independent, and it reminded me of nothing so much as the historical period when Oliver Cromwell all but tried to drive the Irish Catholics of Britain to extinction in the mid-1600s. "To hell or Connacht," Cromwell said, a place where it was said there was "not wood enough to hang a man, water enough to drown him, nor earth enough to bury him." Hari writes:

I add this not to judge the actions of the Israelis, but to point out that after centuries of hardened conflict where once the idea of peace seemed impossible, Northern Ireland is no longer a land of intractable and hopeless violence. Peace is never impossible, no matter how it may hide in history's crevices.

Which is why it is jaw-dropping to listen to the neocon of the Bush neocons, John Bolton, continue to push for an American war with Iran. On Hannity and Colmes last week--always the place one turns when one wants wild-eyed Dr. Strangelove war-mongering--Bolton, in the context of the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza, was asked by Alan Colmes, "You would strike Iran right now?" Bolton answered, "I would have done it before this."

Right after Sept. 11, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld were pushing to go into Iraq before there was even a shred of dubious evidence to link the terrorist plot to Saddam Hussein. There was the "axis of evil." There was the "global war on terror." All the words used by our elected leaders and their functionaries served to point to something that in hindsight is as easy to see as last year's calendar in the garbage: They wanted war. Big, long, and expensive.

War strengthens the executive. War takes money away from social and entitlement programs (liberal) and gives it to defense contractors and bankers (conservatives).War rallies the public, and punishes dissenters. A "global war" against an "axis of evil," more than anything else, would create a permanent Republican hegemony, fund their friends, bankrupt their enemies, and turn the president into a king.

The fact that Americans had to die for it was a consequence that seemed to matter little. After all, the hardest hit were taken on the front lines of the administration--that is, if you listen to them tell it. Alberto Gonzales: "I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror." Laura Bush said in April 2007, "No one suffers more than their President and I do." Not long after that, spokesman Tony Snow said the president "is in the war every day."

It seems shocking to hear it, much less to say it, but you can really think that what this outgoing administration wanted was a nice global-sized Crips vs. Bloods fight of their very own, a Muslims vs. True Christians perpetual dustup for the ages that could solve all their political problems for now and forever. Hence the talk of a "permanent Republican majority." They wanted it all.

And now, the last crying voice in the wilderness is still calling out "War! War! War" while a nation has collectively turned its back.

The Obama administration will now be forced to wade into the steep undertow that is the Likud-Hamas battle, and hope somehow to get all the parties talking again. The Israelis are determined to either bomb or starve the Palestinians into submission, and with every explosion or death from starvation, the Palestinians' hatred is hardening. It seems the first thing Barack Obama will have to bring to the table will be hope. Little else appears to be working.

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