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ExpatPundit

"Five axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

1. Boy, we hate Americans.

2. We really do.

3. Really.

4. I'm not kidding. We really hate them.

5. So how come they never pay us any attention?"

--Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997, p.105.





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Saturday, April 13, 2002

Say it in rhyme. Charles Johnson notes with appropriate disdain that the Saudi ambassador to Britain praised Palestinian bombers and criticized the U.S. in a poem published in London's al-Hayat daily paper this week (the ambassador is apparently also a renowned poet, seriously). Among the catchy lines Ghazi Algosaibi ode are:

"May God be the witness that you are martyrs ... You died to honor God's word. (You) committed suicide? We committed suicide by living like the dead...We complained to the idols of a White House whose heart is filled with darkness."

Some find this behavior to be unseemly, given that it was taken by an international representative of a government that purportedly considers itself an ally of the U.S. and claims to be sincerely pushing a peace proposal aimed at stemming violence in the Mideast. Rather than carry on in such a negative fashion, I recommend that the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Zvi Shtauber, should respond with some verse of his own. With luck, we can get a lively poetry slam-cum-game of "the dozens" going here. To help Ambassador Shtauber get warmed up, I hereby offer (free of charge) several poems that I have penned myself:

Limerick:
There once was a poet from Mecca,
Who glorified bombing attacks-a
If he keeps up this praise,
then one of these days,
We'll bomb-a his country to heck-a.

Haiku:
What's that noise above?
Saudi princes turned to dust.
Chickens come to roost.

Vaudeville song:
Hello Mullah! Hello Fatah!
Here we are in, Camp Ramallah!
Time to stamp out, Wahhabi violence
When you're gone we'll rest and just enjoy the silence.

What do you think? Should I send them to al-Hayat?
Don't kill the parents...kill randomly. Two weeks ago I posted the suggestion from an acquaintance suggesting that if suicide bombers were motivated in part by providing honor and money for their families, then one way to dissuade them would be to seek out and kill their parents as a reprisal. My point was not necessarily to advocate this, um, provocative idea, but rather to demonstrate how at least one Protestant midwestern American's views had hardened over the last several months.

This post turned out to generate a decent amount of response. (You'll be happy to know that almost all of it was opposed to the idea.) And this gives me mixed incentives. On the one hand, I don't want to become perceived as a bloodthirsty extremist, especially because I'm not. On the other hand, it's clear that extreme, provocative views generate more response, which is kind of enjoyable.

So allow me to convey an alternative proposed by one of those who responded, Fred L.: Essentially, killing the parents is a bad idea, not least because 1) it provides a propaganda weapon to the PA, 2) the Palestinians might be able to hide the identity of the bombers. Given this, why not adopt a more parallel tit-for-tat strategy? What if an underground, vigilante Israeli hit squad were to launch bloody attacks on random civilians in the West Bank in retaliation for each suicide bombing? This wouldn't be connected to the government. Of course the government deplores this activity, but how can we expect the Israeli government to stop such actions by desperate people? It's terrible, and we are trying very hard to bring them to justice. Really we are. Surely the world would understand.
I wonder what the other 90 bombings were for. Sandwiched in an article about yesterday's Jerusalem bombing was this beaut:

The bombing was an act of defiance and revenge upon Israel for its two-week incursion into the West Bank...

I understand that Hume philosophized about the limits of drawing conclusions from experience -- i.e., just because something has happened several times before doesn't mean you can expect it to happen again -- but maybe...just maybe...based on the spate of suicide bombings that occurred prior to the Israeli military response, we should admit the possibility that this bombing would have happened even if Israel hadn't sent troops into the West Bank. Oh, but this would run counter to the "cycle of violence" shibboleth. Sorry, sorry. I'll just be quiet now.
You'd think this wouldn't have to be said over and over. Marcus Gee has a nice column decrying the discrepancy between global support for the U.S. action against al-Qaeda/Taliban in Afghanistan in September and global condemnation for the Israeli action against Hamas/Islamic Jihad/Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades/Fatah this month. Nothing particularly new here, but then again most people apparently want to shrug off the uncomfortable parallels, so it's worth repeating.
Equal-opportunity exasperation. Paul Koring may be my favorite Globe and Mail columnist these days. Each day he writes about the carnage in the Mideast, and each day you can feel the exasperation just dripping from his pores. He's pretty damned pissed off at both sides. And at everybody else, for good measure. Here he is today on the prospect of a "smoking gun" money trail between Arafat and Iraq:

Dore Gold, a key adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, claims that documentary evidence has been uncovered during the Israeli military offensive that ties Baghdad to Palestinian terrorist attacks. But unless his claim can be independently corroborated, it is suspect. Israel is immensely capable of fighting a propaganda war: Faking documents -- including Canadian passports for use in state-sponsored assassination efforts -- is a long-standing Israeli skill.

Koring follows this with a catalog of many of Arafat's disastrous decisions that tied him to Saddam Hussein throughout the 1990s, culminating with:

If -- and it remains a big if -- Mr. Hussein turns out to be a paymaster and supplier of explosives to Palestinian terrorists, and Mr. Arafat is shown to be directly involved, then he will be well and truly finished as far as Washington is concerned.

Two days earlier, in an article called "Palestinian Leader Stale-dated," Koring writes:

Nearly a decade after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Yasser Arafat may be past his "sell-by" date.

The Palestinian leader has utterly failed to deliver on the promises of peace he so nobly articulated in Stockholm, for which he later shared the prize with former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

After asserting that Arafat is "far from alone" in shouldering blame for the collapse of the peace process (and knocking Israel's electoral instability and the assassination of Rabin), Koring continues:

Long before the present cycle of violence was launched 18 months ago, Mr. Arafat's authoritarian rule in the Palestinian territories was suspect. Corruption was rampant; ordinary people lived lives of misery, and the Palestinian Authority ruled with an iron fist and a host of "security forces." Arab leaders, moderates and hard-liners alike, all insist that Mr. Arafat remains the sole legitimate Palestinian leader, but they too are without exception authoritarian rulers. Their support sounds increasingly hollow....

It is not for Americans, Israelis or others (including the rest of the Arab world) to choose the Palestinian leader. For the moment, the besieged Mr. Arafat is it. But the Palestinians, like the Israelis, will need a leader that everyone can trust if there is to be any prospect for peace.

And the day before that, here's Koring smacking down the Israelis:

Thumbing its nose at the rest of the world is almost standard practice for Israel. For decades, successive governments have rejected or ignored binding United Nations Security Council resolutions, particularly those requiring withdrawal from seized and occupied Arab lands. Thumbing its nose at Washington, Israel's best, and often only, friend is more rare -- but not much. So it wasn't a surprise that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first ignored, then rejected President George W. Bush's initially polite and then increasingly blunt demands that Israel end its massive military operation in the West Bank.

But wait! Just two days before that, Koring sucker-punches the rest of the Arab world, where after four seemingly innocent paragraphs describing Powell's visits to several Arab leaders before his arrival in Israel, Koring writes:

For half a century, Arab states have championed the Palestinian cause. All the while they have collectively and individually done little for the Palestinian people, especially the hundreds of thousands living miserably in fetid, overcrowded refugee camps -- their utility as a crude political club has left them isolated, unabsorbed and, often, deeply resented. Now, however, Mr. Powell is going to expect Arab states to deliver -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in particular. They will be asked to put pressure on Mr. Arafat and play other roles in any rekindled Arab-Palestinian peace process.

And lest you think that Koring is annoyed only by the Mideast nations, here's another article of his from yesterday punching a couple of holes in the U.N. and resolution 242:

Mao Tsetung, Charles de Gaulle, James Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and Leonid Brezhnev; all are long-dead Cold War leaders whose governments held the five permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council that passed Resolution 242 in 1967.[NB: Actually, it was Chiang Kai-Shek; Taiwan held the seat back then. Koring had a correction today]. Half the people now on the planet weren't born then. Man hadn't set foot on the moon, cellphones and home computers didn't exist. Yet like the Kashmir ceasefire line and the Helsinki accords, other well-intentioned relics, Resolution 242 casts a dark shadow far beyond the graves of its architects.

The resolution is ambiguous. After the usual preliminary blather, the UN Security Council (essentially the great powers of the day) called for:

"Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

Ever since, an endless and bitter debate has swirled about exactly what those words say: what the framers meant, the significance of the absence of an article before the word "territories," whether conditionality is inherent in the text. Supporters of Israel insist that "withdrawal from territories" doesn't mean all territories but is rather a flexible requirement to be determined by "secure and recognized boundaries." The Palestinian side insists that the resolution requires Israel to relinquish all the land seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Maybe it doesn't matter. New and starkly different realities exist both in the Middle East and the rest of the world; whatever the resolution meant 35 years ago, it was drafted and passed in a time that no longer exists, and regards a set of realities that have passed forever.

There you go. I like this guy. Koring can't believe he actually has to write about the lunatics who keep squabbling in the Mideast. For God's sake, he says implicitly in each article, why the hell can't you guys clean house and work this out, already?

Personally, I think that he's occasionally a bit hard on Israel. But in Canada these days, it's a breath of fresh air just to have a journalist who's willing to voice outrage about the activities of Arafat et al., so I'm happy to have an equal-opportunity basher.
An unusual complaint against the Europeans. Here's one you don't hear too often these days: Those darn Europeans aren't being vocal enough in their sniping about U.S. policy. That's one of the themes of this recent "Letter from United States Citizens to Friends in Europe," which states that "a sane and frank European criticism of the Bush administration's war policy can help anti-war Americans make their voices heard":

Following the 11 September 2001 suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush has declared an open-ended "war on terrorism". This war has no apparent limits, in place, time or the extent of destruction that may be inflicted. There is no telling which country may be suspected of hiding "terrorists" or declared to be part of an "axis of evil".

Actually, I think we have a very good idea about which countries are likely to fall into this category.

The eradication of "evil" could last much longer than the world can withstand the destructive force to be employed. The Pentagon is already launching bombs described as producing the effect of earthquakes and is officially considering the use of nuclear weapons, among other horrors in its constantly improving arsenal.

This letter is dated Wednesday, April 10th. I was busy that day; did I miss the news about these cool new "earthquake-effect" bombs that the Pentagon launched that day? Or was this part of the letter sparked by the, shall we say, "less than scientific" Indymedia assertions that the recent earthquake in Afghanistan was really caused by a bomb?

The material destruction envisaged is immeasurable. So is the human damage, not only in terms of lives, but also in terms of the moral desperation and hatred that are certain to be felt by millions of people who can only watch helplessly as their world is devastated by a country, the United States, which assumes that its moral authority is as absolute and unchallengeable as its military power.

Yes, who could forget the desperation and hatred of the U.S. resounding through the streets of Kabul as Afghans celebrated their newfound liberation from Taliban tyranny.

We, as United States citizens, have a special responsibility to oppose this mad rush to war.

Why, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan a mere one month after September 11! And now, scarcely seven months after that day, the U.S. is actually talking about attacking a second terrorist-supporting country! We must stop this breakneck-speed avalanche of carnage! Think of the children!

You, as Europeans, also have a special responsibility. Most of your countries are military allies of the United States within NATO. The United States claims to act in self-defense, but also to defend "the interests of its allies and friends". Your countries will inevitably be implicated in U.S. military adventures. Your future is also in jeopardy.

You should make sure to say some nasty things about the U.S. That way, you can claim moral purity even as you benefit from the U.S. actions.

Many informed people both within and outside your governments are aware of the dangerous folly of the war path followed by the Bush administration. But few dare speak out honestly. They are intimidated by the various forms of retaliation that can be taken against "friends" and "allies" who fail to provide unquestioning support.

Hubert Vedrine, Chris Patten, Josep Pique, Jack Straw -- these guys have been silenced over the last seven months over fears of vicious, brutal reprisals from the Bush Administration and its cabal of amoral lackeys. Stop muzzling yourselves, guys, and tell the world what you really think.

They are afraid of being labeled "anti-American" -- the same label absurdly applied to Americans themselves who speak out against war policies and whose protests are easily drowned out in the chorus of chauvinism dominating the U.S. media.

If only the U.S. media were as unchauvinistic as that of, say, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or many of our friends throughout the Middle East. We know those countries' media are unchauvinistic because they bash the U.S. all the time.

A sane and frank European criticism of the Bush administration's war policy can help anti-war Americans make their voices heard.

Indeed. Because, as an apparently chauvinistic American who supports most of the Administration's recent foreign policy actions, but who is willing to listen to reasoned arguments on the other side, I am definitely likely to be swayed by the whinging of gaggles of people who sit in cafes wearing puffy sweaters and debating whether Europe would have been better off under the one-party rule of the Soviet Union rather than the current quasi-one-party cultural domination of the U.S. "Many Americans are uncomfortable with current policy? Well, that doesn't move me much. Wait -- Jose Bove disapproves? Well, in that case, I stand corrected!"

[Let's skip a bunch of not-too-interesting stuff...]

Supposedly in self-defense, the United States launched a war against Afghanistan. This was not an action specially designed to respond to the unique events of September 11. On the contrary, it was exactly what the United States was already doing, and had already planned to do, as outlined in Pentagon documents: bomb other countries, send military forces onto foreign soil and topple their governments. The United States is openly planning an all-out war -- not excluding use of nuclear weapons -- against Iraq, a country it has been bombing for a decade, with the proclaimed aim of replacing its government with leaders selected by Washington.

Indeed. The U.S. was planning to invade Afghanistan anyway; the September 11 attack merely created a fortuitous cover under which the U.S. could extend its imperial reach a bit further. This must be true, because the U.S. military had already considered how to fight wars in various parts of the world, and Lord knows nobody ever makes a contingency plan without secretly plotting to use it. That's why people who practice fire drills should be prime suspects for arson.

[More stuff excised...]

Intellectuals today have the choice of joining the chorus of those who celebrate brute force by rhetorically attaching it to "spiritual values", or taking up the more difficult and essential task of exposing the arrogant folly of power and working with the whole of humanity to create means of reasonable dialogue, fair economic relations and equal justice.

Ah, and so we reach the same point made so eloquently by Edward Said a few weeks ago, which boils down crudely to "real intellectuals are always against The Man."

And then we have the signatories: Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Gabriel "The Government is the Tool of the Corporations" Kolko, and my personal favorite, Marc Herold. All in all, about 135 signatories by my count. (Rumor has it that Marc Herold is about to release a rigorously researched study asserting that there are really more than 2,700 signatories -- but I think that's because he inadvertently visited the Web page 20 times.)
A good reason not to take that job at INSEAD. I'm doing my U.S. taxes this weekend. This is a lot more complex than usual, because I moved to Canada last July. I learned this morning from IRS publication 514 (page 7) that, although you can normally claim a foreign tax credit on foreign income (so that you don't pay tax in the U.S. on income that was already taxed abroad):

You can not claim a foreign tax credit for income taxes paid or accrued to any country if the income giving rise to the tax is for a period (the sancion period) during which 1) the Secretary of State has designated the country as one that repeatedly provides support for acts of international terrorrism....

The current list of such countries consists of the Axis of Evil plus Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba [Cuba is likely on for a slightly different reason -- because the U.S. doesn't recognize the Cuban government].

But based on events of the last 9 months, I am sure it's only a matter of time before Spain, Norway, and (of course) France are added to this list. To all you professors working at INSEAD in Fontainebleau: get ready for a double tax bite!

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