1. The "Gulf War" in Retrospect
2. Deterring Iraqi Democracy
3. "The Best of all Worlds"
4. Marching Forward
5. The US versus the Peace Process
6. The Evolution of US Policy
7. Bush-Baker Diplomacy
8. Israel's Policy Spectrum
9. The Prospects
Hill & Wang
2nd edition, 1992
This book went to press just as the US and Britain were about to launch their bombing of Iraq in mid-January 1991. Events since well illustrate its major theses.
Given the US role as global enforcer, elites face the task of maintaining obedience not only at home, where the "ignorant and meddling outsiders" must be reduced to their spectator status, but also in the former colonial domains ("the South"). As discussed in the text, these themes have long been common coin among the educated classes.
Decline in the capacity to control the domestic enemy by force has led to reliance on other means. In the South, violence remains a feasible option. Few in the South would contest the judgment of the Times of India that in the Gulf crisis the traditional warrior states -- the US and UK -- sought a "regional Yalta where the powerful nations agree among themselves to a share of Arab spoils... [Their] conduct throughout this one month [January-February, 1991] has revealed the seamiest sides of Western civilisation: its unrestricted appetite for dominance, its morbid fascination for hi-tech military might, its insensitivity to `alien' cultures, its appalling jingoism...." The general mood was captured by Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who wrote that in the Arab countries "the rich sided with the US government while the millions of poor condemned this military aggression." Throughout the Third World, "there is hatred and fear: When will they decide to invade us," and on what pretext? 1
Within the US, the major issue remains the unraveling of the society under the impact of the Reagan-Bush social and economic programs. These reflected a broad elite consensus in favor of a welfare state for the rich even beyond the norm. Policy was designed to transfer resources to privileged sectors, with the costs to be borne by the general population and future generations. Given the narrow interests of its constituency, the Administration has no serious proposals to deal with the consequences of these policies.
It is therefore necessary to divert the public. Two classic devices are to inspire fear of terrible enemies and worship of our grand leaders, who rescue us just in the nick of time. The enemies may be domestic (criminal Blacks, uppity women, subversives undermining the tradition, etc.), but foreign demons have natural advantages. The Russians served the purpose for many years; their collapse has called for innovative and audacious devices. As the standard pretext vanished, the domestic population has been frightened -- with some success -- by images of Qaddafi's hordes of international terrorists, Sandinistas marching on Texas, Grenada interdicting sea lanes and threatening the homeland itself, Hispanic narcotraffickers directed by the arch-maniac Noriega, crazed Arabs generally, most recently, the Beast of Baghdad, after he underwent the usual conversion from favored friend to Attila the Hun after committing the one unforgivable crime, the crime of disobedience, on August 2, 1990.
The scenario requires Awe as well as Fear. There must, then, be foreign triumphs, domestic ones being beyond even the imagination of the cultural managers. Our noble leaders must courageously confront and miraculously defeat the barbarians at the gate, so that we can once again "stand tall" (the President's boast, after overcoming Grenada's threat to our existence) and march forward towards a New World Order of peace and justice. Since each foreign triumph is in fact a fiasco, the aftermath must be obscured as the government-media alliance turns to some new crusade.
The barbarians must be defenseless: it would be foolish to confront anyone who might fight back. Furthermore, the options have been limited by the notable rise in the moral and cultural level of the general population since the 1960s, including the unwillingness to tolerate atrocities and aggression, a grave disease called "the Vietnam syndrome." The problem was addressed in a National Security Policy Review from the first months of the Bush presidency, dealing with "third world threats." It reads: "In cases where the U.S. confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly." Any other outcome would be "embarrassing" and might "undercut political support," understood to be thin. 2 The intervention options are therefore restricted to clandestine terror (called "Low Intensity Conflict," etc., often assisted by mercenary states), or quick demolition of a "much weaker enemy." Disappearance of the Soviet deterrent enhances this second option: the US need no longer fight with "one hand tied," that is, with concern for the consequences to itself.
Two crucial events of 1991 were the final breakup of the Soviet empire and the Gulf conflict. With regard to the former, the US was largely an observer, with little idea what to do as the system lurched from one crisis to another. The media ritually laud George Bush's consummate skill as a statesman and crisis manager, but the exercise lacks spirit. The response to Saddam Hussein's aggression, in contrast, was a Washington operation throughout, with Britain loyally in tow.
Holding all the cards, the US naturally achieved its major aims, demonstrating that "What we say goes," as the President put it. The proclamation was directed to dictators and tyrants, but it is beyond dispute that the US has no problem with murderous thugs who serve US interests, and will attack and destroy committed democrats if they depart from their service function. It suffices to recall Bush's esteem for Marcos, Mobutu, Ceausescu, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and other favored friends, his actions in Central America, and the rest of the shabby record. 3 The correct reading of his words, clearly enough, is: "What we say goes, whoever you may be." The lesson is understood by the traditional victims, as noted.
With the US victory, jingoist rhetoric subsided, and it becomes possible to survey just what happened in the misnamed "Gulf War" -- misnamed, because there never was a war, at least, if the concept involves two sides in combat. That didn't happen in the Gulf.
The crisis began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, leaving hundreds killed according to Human Rights groups. That hardly qualifies as war. Rather, in terms of crimes against peace and against humanity, it falls roughly into the category of the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus, Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1978, or the US invasion of Panama. In these terms it falls well short of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and cannot remotely be compared with the near-genocidal Indonesian conquest of East Timor, to mention only two cases of aggression and atrocities that continue with the decisive support of those who most passionately professed their outrage over Iraq's invasion.
In subsequent months, Iraq was responsible for terrible crimes in Kuwait, with several thousand killed and many tortured. But that is not war either; rather, state terrorism, of the kind familiar among US clients.
The next phase of the conflict began with the US-led attack of January 16. Its first component targeted the civilian infrastructure, including power, sewage and water systems; that is, a form of biological warfare, having little relation to driving Iraq from Kuwait -- rather, designed for long-term US political ends. This too is not war, but rather state terrorism, on a colossal scale.
The second component of the attack was the slaughter of Iraqi soldiers in the desert, largely unwilling Shi'ite and Kurdish conscripts it appears, hiding in holes in the sand or fleeing for their lives -- a picture remote from the disinformation relayed by the press about colossal fortifications, artillery powerful beyond our imagining, vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons at the ready, and so on. Pentagon and other sources give estimates in the range of 100,000 defenseless victims killed. "This is not war; it is simply massacre and murderous butchery," to use the words of a British observer of the US conquest of the Philippines at the turn of the century, The desert slaughter was a "turkey shoot," as some US forces described it, borrowing the term used by their forebears butchering Filipinos4 -- one of those deeply-rooted themes of the culture that surface at appropriate moments, as if by reflex.
Months later, US Army officials revealed what the Pentagon expected: not war, but slaughter. The ground attack began with plows mounted on tanks and earthmovers to bulldoze live Iraqi soldiers into trenches in the desert, an "unprecedented tactic" that was "hidden from public view," Patrick Sloyan reported. The commander of one of the three Brigades involved said that thousands of Iraqis might have been killed; the other commanders refused estimates. "Not a single American was killed during the attack that made an Iraqi body count impossible," Sloyan continues. The report elicited little interest or comment. Nor did the "murderous butchery" generally. 5
The goal of the attack on the civilian society was no secret: the population was to be held hostage to induce the military to overthrow Saddam and wield the "iron fist" as he himself had done with US support before stepping out of line. Administration reasoning was outlined by New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent Thomas Friedman. If Iraqis suffered sufficient pain, some general might topple Mr. Hussein, "and then Washington would have the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein," a return to the happy days when Saddam's "iron fist...held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia," not to speak of the boss in Washington. 6
The operation of holding a civilian population hostage while tens of thousands die from starvation and disease raises only one problem: unreasonable soft-hearted folk may feel some discomfort at having "sat by and watched a country starve for political reasons," precisely what would happen, UNICEF director of public affairs Richard Reid predicted, unless Iraq were permitted to purchase "massive quantities of food" -- though it was already far too late, he reported, for the children under two, who had stopped growing since late 1990 because of severe malnutrition. But Bush's ex-pal helped the President out of this dilemma. The Wall Street Journal observed that Saddam's "clumsy attempt to hide nuclear-bomb-making equipment from the U.N. may be a blessing in disguise, U.S. officials say. It assures that the allies [read: US and UK] can keep economic sanctions in place to squeeze Saddam Hussein without mounting calls to end the penalties for humanitarian reasons." 7 The operation could thus proceed unhampered by the bleeding hearts.
In keeping with its fabled dedication to international law and morality, the US demanded that compensation to the victims of Iraq's crimes must have higher priority than any purchase of food that might be allowed -- under UN (meaning US) control, of course; a country that commits the crime of disobeying Washington has plainly lost any claim to sovereignty. While proclaiming this stern doctrine with suitable majesty, the Bush Administration kept pressure on Nicaragua to force these other miscreants, who had committed the same crime, to abandon their claims to reparations for a decade of US terror and illegal economic warfare as mandated by the International Court of Justice. Nicaragua finally succumbed, a capitulation scarcely noticed by the media, mesmerized by Washington's lofty rhetoric about Iraq's responsibilities to its victims. A few days later, the US cancelled Nicaragua's $260 million debt; the Times published the information in a Reuters dispatch, omitting the paragraph on Nicaragua's abandonment of its $17 billion claim, which had not been reported. The front pages, the same day, quoted a US official: "If you're going to build any kind of credibility for a new world order, you've got to make people accountable to legal procedures, and Saddam's flaunted every one." 8 Unlike us.
The final phase of the conflict began immediately after the cease-fire, as Iraqi elite units slaughtered first the Shi'ites of the South and then the Kurds of the North, with the tacit support of the Commander-in-Chief, who had called upon Iraqis to rebel when that suited his purposes, then went fishing when the "iron fist" struck.
Returning from a March 1991 fact-finding mission, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff member Peter Galbraith reported that the Administration did not even respond to Saudi proposals to assist Shi'ite and Kurdish rebels, and that the Iraqi military did not attack until it had "a clear indication that the United States did not want the popular rebellion to succeed." A BBC investigation found that "several Iraqi generals made contact with the United States to sound out the likely response if they moved against Saddam," but received no support, concluding that "Washington had no interest in supporting revolution; that it would prefer Saddam Hussein to continue in office, rather than see groups of unknown insurgents take power." An Iraqi general who escaped to Saudi Arabia told the BBC that "he and his men had repeatedly asked the American forces for weapons, ammunition and food to help them carry on the fight against Saddam's forces," only to be refused each time. As his men fell back towards US-UK positions, the Americans blew up an Iraqi arms dump to prevent them from obtaining arms, and then "disarmed the rebels." Reporting from northern Iraq, ABC correspondent Charles Glass described how "Republican Guards, supported by regular army brigades, mercilessly shelled Kurdish-held areas with Katyusha multiple rocket launchers, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery," while journalists observing the slaughter listened to Gen. Schwartzkopf boasting to his radio audience that "We had destroyed the Republican Guard as a militarily effective force" and eliminated the military use of helicopters. 9
Such truths are not quite the stuff of which heroes are fashioned, so the story was finessed at home, though it could not be totally ignored, particularly the attack on the Kurds, with their Aryan features and origins; the Shi'ites, who appear to have suffered even worse atrocities right under the gaze of Stormin' Norman, raised fewer problems, being mere Arabs.
In brief, from August 1990 there was little that could qualify as "war." Rather, there was a brutal Iraqi takeover of Kuwait followed by various forms of slaughter and state terrorism, the scale corresponding roughly to the means of violence in the hands of the perpetrators, and their impunity.
Washington's goals extended beyond Iraq itself. Saddam's indiscretion offered an opportunity to provide useful instruction to anyone who might have odd ideas about disobeying US orders. This is another standard policy; thus, in October 1991, Washington once again blocked European and Japanese efforts to call off the embargo that the US imposed on Vietnam 16 years ago after direct conquest failed. 10 The decision to renew the embargo was accompanied with much indignation about Vietnam's failure to meet its moral responsibility to Americans with regard to MIAs, the sole humanitarian issue that remains from US aggression that killed millions of people and destroyed three countries. The decision to extend the punishment of Vietnam was the only action commemorating the 30th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's escalation of the US war in South Vietnam from murderous terror to outright aggression, as he sent US Air Force units to bombard the countryside and authorized US advisers to take part in combat operations. It coincided with a vast display of outrage over Japan's failure to apologize for its attack on a military base in a US colony 50 years ago. This macabre spectacle passed virtually without awareness or comment, an achievement that could hardly be duplicated in a well-run totalitarian state.
Those who do not follow the rules must be severely punished, and others must learn these lessons -- but not the American public, who are to be regaled with tales about the nobility of our aspirations, the grand achievements of our leaders, and the moral depravity of others.
Iraqi opposition forces have always been given short shrift in Washington, hence ignored in the media. They were rebuffed by the Bush Administration in February 1990, when they sought support for a call for parliamentary democracy. The same was true in Britain. In mid-August, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani flew to Washington to seek support for guerrilla operations against Saddam's regime. Neither Pentagon nor State Department officials would speak to him; he was rebuffed again in March 1991. The likely reason was concern over the sensibilities of the Turkish "defender of civilized values," who looked askance at Kurdish resistance. 11
The Iraqi democratic opposition was scrupulously excluded from the mainstream media throughout the Gulf crisis, a fact readily explained when we hear what they had to say.
On the eve of the air war, the German press published a statement of the Iraqi Democratic Group reiterating its call for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein but also opposing "any foreign intervention in the Near East," criticizing US "policies of aggression" in the Third World and its intention to control Middle East oil, and rejecting UN resolutions "that had as their goal the starvation of our people." The statement called for the withdrawal of US-UK troops, withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, self-determination for the Kuwaiti people, "a peaceful settlement of the Kuwait problem, democracy for Iraq, and autonomy for Iraq-Kurdistan." A similar stand was taken by the Teheran-based Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (in a communiqué from Beirut); the Iraqi Communist Party; Mas'ud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; and other prominent opponents of the Iraqi regime, many of whom had suffered bitterly from Saddam's atrocities. Falih 'Abd al-Jabbar, an Iraqi journalist in exile in London, commented: "Although the Iraqi opposition parties have neither given up their demand for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait nor their hope of displacing Saddam some time in the future, they believe that they will lose the moral right to oppose the present regime if they do not side with Iraq against the war." "All the opposition parties are agreed in calling for an immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait," British journalist Edward Mortimer reported, "but most are very unhappy about the military onslaught by the US-led coalition" and preferred economic and political sanctions.
A delegation of the Kuwaiti democratic opposition in Amman in December 1990 had taken the same position. On British television, anti-Saddam Arab intellectuals, including the prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader Dr. Ahmed al-Khatib -- who had already, in October 1990, strenuously opposed military action -- were unanimous in calling for a cease-fire and for serious consideration of Saddam's February 15 withdrawal offer.
The silence here was deafening, and instructive. Unlike Bush and his associates, the international peace movement and Iraqi democratic opposition had always opposed Saddam Hussein. But they also opposed the quick resort to violence to undercut the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Such an outcome would have avoided the slaughter of tens of thousands of people, the destruction of two countries, harsh reprisals, an environmental catastrophe, further slaughter by the Iraqi government and the likely emergence of another murderous US-backed tyranny there. But it would not have taught the crucial lesson that "What we say goes."
With the mission accomplished, the disdain for Iraqi democrats continued unchanged. A European diplomat observed that "the Americans would prefer to have another Assad, or better yet, another Mubarak in Baghdad," referring to their "military-backed regimes," Assad's being particularly odious. A diplomat from the US-run coalition said that "we will accept Saddam in Baghdad in order to have Iraq as one state." A State Department official told a European envoy that the US would be satisfied with "an Iraqi Assad," "a reliable and predictable enemy."
In mid-March, Leith Kubba, head of the London-based Iraqi Democratic Reform Movement, alleged that the US insistence that "changes in the regime must come from within, from people already in power," amounted to a call for military dictatorship. Another leading activist, banker Ahmad Chalabi, observed that the US was "waiting for Saddam to butcher the insurgents in the hope that he can be overthrown later by a suitable officer," an attitude rooted in the US policy of "supporting dictatorships to maintain stability." Official US spokesmen confirmed that the Bush Administration would have no dealings with Iraqi opposition leaders: "We felt that political meetings with them...would not be appropriate for our policy at this time," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated on March 14, as Saddam's "iron fist" was decimating the opposition.
Kuwaiti democrats too discovered that Bush would lend them no support. The reason offered was the President's commitment to the principle of noninterference in internal affairs, so profound, officials explained, that he could not mention the word "democracy" even in private communications to the Emir. "You can't pick out one country to lean on over another," one official said. Surely we will never find the US "leaning on" Nicaragua or Cuba, for example, or moving beyond the narrowest interpretation of international law. As human rights abuses mounted in postwar Kuwait, Bush became "the foremost apologist for the perpetrators," observed Aryeh Neier, director of Human Rights Watch, noting that Bush's apologetics for repression were featured on the front page of the Kuwait government daily.
American democracy also took the usual licking. Polls a few days before the mid-January bombing showed about 2-1 support for a peaceful settlement based on Iraqi withdrawal along with an international conference on the Israel-Arab conflict. Few if any of those who expressed this position had heard any public advocacy of it; the media had been virtually uniform in following the President's lead, dismissing "linkage" as an unspeakable crime, in this unique case. It is unlikely that any knew that their views were shared by Iraqi democratic forces; or that an Iraqi proposal in the terms they advocated had been released a week earlier by US officials, who found it reasonable, and flatly rejected by Washington; or that an Iraqi withdrawal offer had been considered by the National Security Council as early as mid-August, but dismissed, and effectively suppressed, apparently because it was feared that it might "defuse the crisis," as the Times diplomatic correspondent reported Administration concerns. 12 Suppose that the crucial facts had reached the public and the issues had been honestly addressed. Then support for a diplomatic settlement would have been far higher, and it might have been possible to avoid the huge slaughter preferred by the Administration for its particular purposes: to establish the efficacy of violence and teach lessons in obedience, to secure the dominant role of the US in the Gulf, and to keep domestic problems in the shadow.
Despite its victory, Washington did not quite achieve "the best of all worlds," because no suitable clone of the Beast of Baghdad had yet been found. Needless to say, not everyone shared the Washington-media conception of "the best of all worlds." Well after hostilities ended, the Wall Street Journal broke ranks and offered space to an authentic representative of the Iraqi democratic opposition, Ahmad Chalabi. He described the outcome as "the worst of all possible worlds" for the Iraqi people, whose tragedy is "awesome." 13
The doctrinal system did face a problem as the Bush Administration lent its support to Saddam's crushing of the internal opposition. The task was the usual one: to portray Washington's stance in a favorable light, not easy after the months of tributes to our leader's magnificent show of principle and courage in confronting the rampaging Beast. But the transition was smooth and impressive. True, few can approach our devotion to the most august principles. But our moral purity is tempered with an understanding of the need for "pragmatism" and "stability," useful concepts that translate as "Doing what we choose."
In a typical example of the genre, Times Middle East correspondent Alan Cowell attributed the failure of the rebels to the fact that "very few people outside Iraq wanted them to win"; here the concept "people" is used in the conventional doctrinal sense, meaning people who count, not "meddling outsiders," quite a few of whom wanted the rebels to win. The "allied campaign against President Hussein brought the United States and its Arab coalition partners to a strikingly unanimous view," Cowell continued: "whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression." 14
This version of the facts, the standard one, merits a few questions. To begin with, who are these "Arab coalition partners"? Answer: six are family dictatorships, established by the Anglo-American settlement to manage Gulf oil riches in the interests of the foreign masters, what British imperial managers called an "Arab façade" for the real rulers. The seventh is Syria's Hafez el-Assad, a minority-based tyrant indistinguishable from Saddam Hussein. That these partners should share Washington's preference for Saddam Hussein's variety of "stability" is hardly a surprise.
The last of the "coalition partners," Egypt, is the only one that could be called "a country." Though a tyranny, it has a degree of internal freedom. We therefore turn to its semi-official press to assess the "strikingly unanimous view." The Times article is datelined Damascus, April 10. The day before, Deputy Editor Salaheddin Hafez of Egypt's leading daily, Al-Ahram, commented on Saddam's demolition of the rebels "under the umbrella of the Western alliance's forces." US support for Saddam Hussein proved what Egypt had been saying all along, Hafez wrote. American rhetoric about "the savage beast" was merely a cover for the true goals: to cut Iraq down to size and establish US hegemony in the region. The West turned out to be in total agreement with the beast on the need to "block any progress and abort all hopes, however dim, for freedom or equality and for progress towards democracy," working in "collusion with Saddam himself" if necessary.
Egypt's reaction is also no surprise. The "victory celebration" in Egypt had been "muted and totally official," correspondent Hani Shukrallah reported from Cairo. "Cairenes are identifying more with the vanquished `enemy' than the triumphant `allies'," particularly the poor and students, three of whom were killed by police in an anti-government demonstration. Post-cease fire developments seemed "to have intensifed the [popular] feelings of anger against the leading members of the anti-Iraq coalition," feelings exacerbated by Kuwait's atrocities against Egyptians. The Egyptian press also bitterly condemned the US conditions imposed on Iraq, a transparent effort to insure US-Israeli military dominance, Al-Ahram charged. "Not in over a decade have Egyptians felt and expressed so intently their hostility to the US, Israel and the West," political scientist Ahmad Abdallah observed.
It is true that there was some regional support for the US stance apart from the friendly club of Arab tyrants. Turkish President Turgut Ozal doubtless nodded his head in approval. He had made use of the opportunity offered by the Gulf crisis to step up attacks on his own Kurdish population, confident that the US media would judiciously refrain from reporting the bombings of Kurdish villages and the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to survive the cold winter in the mountains without aid or provisions. The reader of the European press, human rights reports, or exotic US sources (see note 1) could learn something of the Winter 1990-91 exploits of the man whom George Bush hailed as "a protector of peace" who joined all of us who "stand up for civilized values around the world." But the mass and prestige media shielded their audiences from such improper thoughts.
The US stance also received support in Israel, where many commentators agreed with retiring Chief-of-Staff Dan Shomron that it was preferable for Saddam Hussein to remain in power. "We are all with Saddam," one headline read, reporting the view of Labor dove Avraham Burg that "in the present circumstances Saddam Hussein is better than any alternative" and that "a Shi'ite empire" from Iran to the territories would be harmful to Israel. Another leading dove, Ran Cohen of Ratz, also wanted "Saddam to continue to rule, so that perhaps the hope for any internal order will be buried" and the Americans will stay in the region and impose a "compromise." Suppression of the Kurds was a welcome development, an influential commentator explained in the Jerusalem Post, because of "the latent ambition of Iran and Syria to exploit the Kurds and create a territorial, military, contiguity between Teheran and Damascus -- a contiguity which embodies danger for Israel." 15 None of this makes particularly good copy. Best to leave it in oblivion.
The "strikingly unanimous view" supporting US "pragmatism," then, included offices in Washington and New York, and US clients in the region, but left out a few others -- notably, Iraqi democrats in exile and the Arab population of the region. Respectable opinion in the United States could not care less.
The Times version kept to convention in approving US support for Hussein's terror in the name of "stability." One must, however, bear in mind the technical meaning of the term, explained in the internal record. Thus when Guatemala tried a brief experiment with capitalist democracy 40 years ago, the US was at first willing to stand back because President Arbenz seemed to have "no real sympathy for the lower classes." But when he carried out successful reforms, US policy changed and he was overthrown in favor of a murderous military regime that has been kept in power by regular US intervention ever since. The usual reasons were explained by a State Department official:
Guatemala has become an increasing threat to the stability of Honduras and El Salvador. Its agrarian reform is a powerful propaganda weapon; its broad social program of aiding the workers and peasants in a victorious struggle against the upper classes and large foreign enterprises has a strong appeal to the populations of Central American neighbors where similar conditions prevail.
In short, "stability" means security for "the upper classes and large foreign enterprises." It is therefore possible to destabilize in the name of stability, as explained by the editor of Foreign Affairs, James Chace: Nixon-Kissinger "efforts to destabilize a freely elected Marxist government in Chile" were undertaken because "we were determined to seek stability." Only the naive will sense a contradiction here. 16
Returning to the Gulf... by the summer of 1991, state priorities had shifted, but it would have been too much to allow the August 2 anniversary to pass without notice. A last-ditch effort was therefore necessary to portray the outcome as a Grand Victory. Even with the journalistic achievements of the preceding year, such as the suppression of the possibilities for a negotiated settlement and the rigorous exclusion of Iraqi democrats, it was no simple matter to chant the praises of the Bush-Baker-Schwartzkopf team in the light of the "awesome tragedy" they left in their wake. But even this task was not too onerous. On the anniversary, the New York Times editors dismissed the qualms of "the doubters," concluding that Mr. Bush had acted wisely: he "avoided the quagmire and preserved his two triumphs: the extraordinary cooperation among coalition members and the revived self-confidence of Americans," who felt "relief and pride -- relief at miraculously few US casualties and pride in the brilliant performance of the allied forces." 17
These are chilling words. One can readily understand the reaction of the non-people of the world.
Despite the "two triumphs," the images of the Gulf were too sordid to be left in the public memory: hundreds of thousands killed and the toll mounting as a long-term consequence of the terrorist attack on the civilian society; the Gulf tyrannies safeguarded from any democratic pressures; Saddam Hussein firmly in power, having demolished popular rebellions with tacit US support. We therefore turn to a new triumph: James Baker's brilliant pursuit of the "peace process," as he exploited the "historic window of opportunity" to advance the US goals of "territorial compromise," "land for peace," and "autonomy" for the Palestinians.
As Baker's conference opened in Madrid, its utility in obscuring Gulf realities was indicated obliquely by Times diplomatic correspondent R.W. Apple: "Critics have suggested that the United States achieved far too little in the war, because Saddam Hussein was not overthrown, Iran remained as hostile and Kuwait as undemocratic as ever, and Saudi Arabia shed neither its isolation nor its archaic ways." But the "remarkable tableau" in Madrid revealed "that a very great deal had changed," as "George Bush and the United States today plucked the fruits of victory in the Persian Gulf war," though we do not yet know "how sweet they will be."
To rephrase in more accurate terms, by limiting the options in the Gulf to violence, Washington was able to achieve its basic goals. But the public must not perceive that the outcome revealed the priorities of those who ran the show. The consequences of Washington's decisions must therefore be construed as a failure to achieve our noble goals, now to be compensated with "sweet" diplomatic triumphs.
In another paean to our leader's "vision of the future," Apple explained why Bush could now "dream such great dreams" about Middle East peace: there is no fear that "regional tensions" might lead to superpower confrontation, and "no longer must the United States contend with countries whose cantankerousness was reinforced by Moscow's interest in continuing unrest." 18 Translating again: with the Soviet deterrent gone, the US feels powerful enough to ram through its own traditional policies in defiance of its NATO allies, the nonaligned countries, the major Arab states, in fact, virtually the entire world -- unacceptable truths to which we return.
Such commentary was typical across a broad spectrum, including much of Europe, which has largely come to accept the extension of the Monroe Doctrine to the Middle East. The acclaim even extended to sectors of Palestinian opinion. Thus Middle East scholar Walid Khalidi, an adviser to the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation hailed "the personal commitment of the president of the U.S....to a just and comprehensive settlement." 19
A different picture was presented by a highly respected Israeli journalist, Danny Rubinstein, one of the most informed and acute observers of the occupied territories. The "autonomy" that the US and Israel are proposing, he wrote, is "autonomy as in a POW camp, where the prisoners are `autonomous' to cook their meals without interference and to organize cultural events." Palestinians are to be granted about what they already have: control over local services. He noted further that even advocates of Greater Israel have not called for literal annexation of the territories. The governing Likud party calls for extension of Israeli sovereignty, not annexation, which would require Israel to provide the "restricted services" available to Israel's second-class Arab citizens. Far preferable is the current system, to be continued under "autonomy": heavy taxation with little offered in return. 20 Rubinstein's interpretation appears quite realistic.
To understand the unfolding events, we must begin, as usual, by translating the rhetoric of political discourse into English. The term "peace process" refers to the process of achieving US goals, not efforts to reach peace. "Rejectionists" are those who reject the right to self-determination of Israeli Jews, or more broadly, those who reject US demands; those who reject the rights of Palestinians are "moderates" or "pragmatists." The terms "land for peace" and "territorial compromise" refer to the traditional position of the Israeli Labor Party (the Allon Plan), which grants Israel control over the desirable land and resources of the occupied territories but leaves the population stateless or under Jordanian administration, so that Israel does not have to face "the demographic problem." The latter is another term of art, referring to the problem of too many Arabs in the state defined by law as "the sovereign State of the Jewish people" in Israel or the diaspora, not the state of its citizens. Many Palestinians regard the Labor Party position as "much worse than the Likud's autonomy plan," Israeli dove Shmuel Toledano observes, agreeing with this judgment. 21 In fact, Likud occupation policies have often been less harsh than those of Labor, contrary to the standard picture of Labor doves versus Likud hawks.
The two major Israeli political groupings (Labor and Likud), with unfailing US support, agree that Palestinians cannot be permitted to control their own land and resources, as they would under meaningful autonomy. Israel relies heavily on West Bank water; control over water has also been a major factor in conflict over the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon. Some of the most favored suburbs are in the West Bank, including the vastly expanded area called "Jerusalem." Israel has also benefited from readily exploitable Palestinian labor and a controlled market for Israeli exports, though these needs will reduce if the Arab boycott becomes more permeable, and if Soviet Jews directed to Israel agree to do the dirty work assigned to Palestinians.
The issue is not security. As David Ben-Gurion observed in December 1948, "an Arab state [West of the Jordan] would be less dangerous than a state linked to Transjordan [now Jordan], and maybe tomorrow to Iraq." Labor government cabinet records (1967-77) reveal few security concerns linked to the territories. Nothing since has changed that assessment. The problem lies elsewhere: withdrawing from the conquered territories, Israel could not "exist according to the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies," as General Ezer Weizmann explained in justification of Israel's decision to attack Egypt in 1967, when he was one of the top military planners. 22
The U.S. has tended to favor Labor Party rejectionism. It is more rational than the Likud variety, which has no provision for the population of the occupied territories, except eventual "transfer" (expulsion). The US also objects to the brazen settlement programs of Likud, preferring Labor's technique of quietly "building facts" that will determine the final outcome -- for example, "thickening" existing settlements rather than marching out to found a new one the day James Baker lands in Tel Aviv. But the disagreements are narrow, more over method than goal. Labor, Likud and the US are all committed to "the autonomy of a POW camp."
Tactical disagreements have sometimes led to conflict, including the Bush-Shamir conflict of late 1991 over loan guarantees. These loans are designated for absorption of Soviet immigrants, thus freeing other funds for the accelerating Israeli settlement of the territories. The Bush-Shamir conflict was over timing, not principle. US agreement to provide financial support for immigrants/settlements would have made it impossible for the US Arab allies to attend the Madrid conference; a few months down the road, the matter can perhaps be handled without too much fanfare.
These disputes have been taken to signify a shift in US policy towards a neutral ("honest broker") or even pro-Arab position. These judgments reflect the success of the doctrinal system in establishing US rejectionism as the basis for any discussion. Within this sharply skewed framework, the Washington variety of rejectionism can be perceived as "pro-Arab," in that it conflicts with the even more extreme stand of Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon. In fact, the evidence suggests little departure from traditional policies.
For many years, the US has stood virtually alone in blocking a diplomatic settlement in the Middle East. The UN record brings out the facts and the issues clearly. The Security Council was eliminated as a forum years ago, thanks to the US veto. The General Assembly regularly passes resolutions calling for a conference on the Arab-Israel conflict, most recently, in December 1990 (144-2, US and Israel in opposition). In December 1989, the vote was 151-3, Dominica joining the two rejectionist states; a year earlier, 138-2; and so on. The US has also barred other initiatives. Given US power, its opposition amounts to a veto. Accordingly, the peace process has been effectively deterred.
The ideological system naturally presents the picture differently. We read constantly that the Middle East is "littered with American peace plans," 23 and that US efforts have run aground because of the fanaticism of Middle East extremists. Such descriptions conform to the conventions: the "peace process" is restricted to US government initiatives. It follows as a matter of logic that the US is always advancing the peace process, even as it bars efforts to achieve peace, in splendid isolation. It is all really quite simple, once the norms of political correctness are understood.
Departing from these norms, it is easy to understand the traditional US opposition to the peace process. The UN resolutions call for an international conference, and the US brooks no interference in what President Eisenhower described as the most "strategically important area in the world," with its enormous energy reserves. As Henry Kissinger explained in a private communication, one of his major policy goals was "to ensure that the Europeans and Japanese did not get involved in the diplomacy," a goal achieved at Camp David in 1978, and again today (the official "peace process"). Furthermore, UN and other initiatives endorse a Palestinian right of self-determination, which would entail Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. While there has been elite disagreement over the matter, the prevailing judgment has been that enhancement of Israeli power contributes to US domination of the region. For such reasons, the US has always blocked attempts at diplomatic resolution. 24
It should be noted that US hostility to diplomacy in the Middle East is nothing unusual. Southeast Asian and Central American conflicts provide examples familiar to people not confined by doctrinal constraints. The same has been true commonly with regard to arms control and other issues. These are natural concomitants of the role of global enforcer, committed to policies with little appeal to targeted populations but with ample force at the ready.
The basic terms of the international consensus on the Arab-Israel conflict were expressed in a resolution brought to the Security Council in January 1976, calling for a settlement on the pre-June 1967 borders (the Green Line) with "appropriate arrangements...to guarantee...the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries," including Israel and a new Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The resolution was backed by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the PLO -- in fact "prepared" by the PLO according to Israel's UN Ambassador Haim Herzog, now President. It was strenuously opposed by Israel and vetoed by the United States.
These facts are automatically out of history, along with others unacceptable to US power, including repeated PLO initiatives through the 1980s calling for negotiations with Israel leading to mutual recognition. The truth has been distorted beyond recognition, particularly by the Newspaper of Record. Its correspondent Thomas Friedman has shown particular dedication to the task. His effective suppression of the facts now permits him to spin wondrous tales about "the birth of a new pragmatism among the Palestinians" from the late 1980s, raised "another important notch" through Baker's benign influence at Madrid. Until Madrid, Friedman continues, "both sides have hidden behind [the] argument...that there is no one on the other side with whom to negotiate" -- Timesspeak for the fact that the PLO has for years been calling on Israel to negotiate, but Israel refuses. The Palestinians at Madrid called "explicitly for a two-state solution," Friedman writes admiringly -- so different from the despised PLO, which supported (or perhaps "prepared") the 1976 UN resolution and was calling for negotiations to this end through the 1980s. 25
Lying behind these gambits is the belief that US-backed Israeli violence has finally brought the Palestinians to heel. The great achievement of Madrid, we read, was "the Palestinian self-adjustment to the real world," Palestinian acceptance of "a period of autonomy under continued Israeli domination"; meanwhile, Israel can build the facts of its permanent domination with US aid. This willingness to follow US orders -- "the real world" -- has "tossed the negative stereotypes out the window," Times reporter Clyde Haberman continues, referring to the stereotypes invented and carefully cultivated by the Times and its colleagues for many years. With their "new pragmatism," Palestinians are at last willing "to talk to Israel, to set aside all-or-nothing demands, to accept half a loaf in the form of interim self-rule under Israeli domination." Richard C. Hottelet adds that the new leadership was granted the honor of sitting "at the table with the President of the United States" during "James Baker's masterpiece" because "they are not demanding all or nothing, as their predecssors did for 70 years." 26 Others chimed in with similar flights of fancy.
The PLO can be justly condemned for many crimes and stupidities. But it is beyond question that in the real real world, it has for years been calling for a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus, and for negotiations with Israel leading to mutual recognition. But reality has been effectively purged from the doctrinal system.
Over the years, the US has proceeded to implement its unilateral rejectionist program. The current circumstances afford an opportunity to carry the process further. Gorbachev's presence at Madrid was intended to provide a thin disguise for unilateral US control; he was acceptable as the powerless leader of a country fading into oblivion. The "peace process" is structured in accordance with US intentions. Palestinians are not permitted to select their own representatives, and those who pass US-Israel inspection are part of a Jordanian delegation. The US alone dictates the terms. The peace process that the world has sought for many years can be consigned to the ash heap of history.
The "peace process" is concerned with the consequences of the June 1967 war, which left Israel in control of Egypt's Sinai peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. Other issues are not under consideration. To mention only one, while Jordan's illegitimate occupation of the West Bank figures prominently in US-Israeli propaganda, the fact that the Palestinian state proposed in the 1947 UN resolution was partitioned between Jordan and Israel, with a measure of collusion, and that Egypt fought in the 1948 war in part to counter the ambitions of Britain's Jordanian client, is left to scholarly monographs. 27
Another settled issue is that negotiations are based on UN resolution 242, adopted by the Security Council in November 1967. This resolution keeps to interstate relations, avoiding the Palestinian issue, and is therefore acceptable to Washington, as distinct from UN resolutions dating back to December 1948 that endorse Palestinian rights that the US does not acknowledge (though in some cases, the US voted for the resolutions). Crucially not settled is what UN 242 means; it was left intentionally vague to assure at least formal acceptance by the states of the region.
UN 242 opens by "emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security." It calls 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..."
Two crucial questions of interpretation arise: First, what is the meaning of the phrase "from territories occupied" (all?, most? some?). Second, what is to be the fate of the indigenous population of the former Palestine, who are not a State and therefore do not fall under the resolution?
Both questions were addressed by the Security Council in January 1976, in the resolution discussed earlier, which incorporated the basic wording of UN 242. They were answered by the call for a two-state settlement on the Green Line. The US veto effectively terminated any UN role in the peace process. The two basic questions concerning UN 242 therefore remain unresolved. To be more precise, they will be resolved by force, that is, by the United States alone.
A different answer had been formulated by UN mediator Gunnar Jarring in a February 1971 proposal, accepted by President Sadat of Egypt, calling for a full peace treaty on the Green Line with nothing for the Palestinians. Israel recognized that Sadat had made a genuine peace offer, but rejected it with no counteroffer; the Labor Party was committed to broader territorial gains. The Israeli rejection again shows that the basic problem is not Palestinian rights per se, but rather the fact that recognizing them would end Israeli control over the territories.
The US backed Israel's rejection of the Sadat offer, adopting Kissinger's policy of "stalemate." The Jarring-Sadat peace proposal has thereby been barred from history, at least in the United States. In Israel, in contrast, even conservative Middle East specialists recognize that Israel may have "missed a historic opportunity" in 1971. 28
The Jarring-Sadat proposal was similar to the interpretation of UN 242 outside of Israel, as well as to official US policy (the Rogers Plan). That the US shared this understanding is also indicated by a secret State Department study of the negotiations leading to UN 242, leaked to US journalist and Middle East historian Donald Neff. 29 The study has been kept secret "so as not to embarrass Israel," Neff concludes. It quotes the chief American negotiator, Arthur Goldberg, who informed King Hussein of Jordan that the US "could not guarantee that everything would be returned to Jordan; some territorial adjustments would be required," but there must be "a mutuality in adjustments." Secretary of State Dean Rusk confirmed to Hussein that the US "would use its influence to obtain compensation to Jordan for any territory it was required to give up." Goldberg informed other Arab states "that the United States did not conceive of any substantial redrawing of the map." Israel's withdrawal would be "total except for minor adjustments," with compensation to Jordan for any such adjustments. Goldberg's assurances led the Arab states to agree to UN 242. Rusk confirmed to Neff that "We never contemplated any significant grant of territory to Israel as a result of the June 1967 war," but only "minor adjustments in the western frontier of the West Bank," "demilitarization measures in the Sinai and Golan Heights," and "a fresh look" at the status of Jerusalem. "Resolution 242 never contemplated the movement of any significant territories to Israel," Rusk stated.
It is commonly claimed that Goldberg and the US government rejected this interpretation of UN 242. Thus the New York Times alleges that the Israeli version, which permits Israel to incorporate unspecified parts of the conquered territories, is "supported" by Goldberg, citing later pro-Israel public statements, hardly relevant. 30
One of the most respected advocates of Israeli rejectionism, Yale Law professor and former government official Eugene Rostow, claims that he "helped produce" UN 242, and has repeatedly argued that it authorizes continued Israeli control over the territories. David Korn, former State Department office director for Israel and Arab-Israeli affairs, responded that "Professor Rostow may think he `helped produce' Resolution 242, but in fact he had little if anything to do with it." He was an "onlooker," like "many others who have claimed a hand in it." "It was U.S. policy at the time and for several years afterward," Korn continues, "that [any border] changes would be no more than minor." Korn confirms that "Both Mr. Goldberg and Secretary of State Dean Rusk told King Hussein that the United States would use its influence to obtain territorial compensation from Israel for any West Bank lands ceded by Jordan to Israel," and that Jordan's acquiescence was based on these promises. Rostow's evasive response contests none of these statements. 31
The available evidence indicates that the US kept to the international consensus until February 1971, when it rejected the Jarring-Sadat initiative. US isolation increased in the mid-1970s as the consensus shifted to recognition of a Palestinian right of self-determination. Coincidentally, it was in that month that George Bush became part of the executive apparatus as UN Ambassador. A compliant bureaucrat, Bush has adhered to US rejectionism throughout, and gives no indication of any departure today.
Kissinger's policy of "stalemate" led directly to the 1973 war. Sadat's repeated warnings that he would go to war if the US and Israel blocked his diplomatic initiatives were dismissed during this period of US-Israeli triumphalism, on the assumption that "war is not the Arab's game," as explained by Israeli Arabist and former director of military intelligence General Yehoshaphat Harkabi (now a dove). 32 On the same assumptions, the US rebuffed Sadat's offers to drop Soviet patronage and transform Egypt to a US client state.
The 1973 war shattered these illusions. It turned out to be a near thing, and Kissinger realized that policy must shift. The US then turned to the natural fall-back position, accepting Egypt as a US client and moving to exclude it from the conflict. This was the goal of Kissinger's "step-by-step" diplomacy, a process advanced by Sadat's 1977 trip to Jerusalem and consummated with the Camp David Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which returned the Sinai to Egypt and offered the Palestinians "autonomy" for an interim period.
The import of Camp David was evident at once. 33 With the major Arab deterrent removed and a huge increase in US aid, Israel would be free to accelerate its takeover of the occupied territories and to invade Lebanon, which it had subjected to devastating bombardment and other attack for years, as part of its terrorist interaction with the PLO. In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon, killing several thousand people, driving out hundreds of thousands more, and placing the southern zone under the rule of a murderous client force. Israel remains in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 425 (March 1978) ordering it to withdraw from Lebanon immediately and unconditionally. In 1982 Israel invaded again after a year of Israeli terror attacks intended (in vain) to elicit a PLO response that would serve as a pretext for its plan to destroy the PLO as a political force and place Lebanon under Israeli suzerainty. Integration of the occupied territories meanwhile continued apace, with lavish US funding.
These consequences of US policies are sometimes called "ironic," a technical term that refers to predictable consequences of policy that blatantly contradict professed ideals. In Israel, again, the facts are frankly acknowledged. Strategic analyst Avner Yaniv writes that by removing Egypt from the conflict, the Camp David agreement left Israel "free to sustain military operations against the PLO in Lebanon as well as settlement activity on the West Bank." Expressing a broad consensus, he adds that the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was intended to "undermine the position of the moderates within [the PLO] ranks" and thus to block "the PLO `peace offensive'" and "to halt [the PLO's] rise to political respectability." It should be called "the war to safeguard the occupation of the West Bank," General Harkabi observed, having been motivated by Begin's "fear of the momentum of the peace process." The US backed Israel's aggression, presumably for the same reasons. 34
Sadat's 1977 peace proposal was less acceptable from the US-Israel perspective than his 1971 offer, because it called for Palestinian self-determination. Nevertheless, Sadat is hailed as one of the grand figures of the age for his 1977 efforts, while the 1971 proposal has been excised from history. The reasons are those just reviewed. In 1971, the US backed Israel's rejection of his peace initiative; by 1977, Washington had agreed to accept Egypt as a client state. While dismissing Sadat's proposals, the US could proceed with its own rejectionist project, with Sadat playing his assigned role, thereby achieving heroic stature. As is often the case, history is a tale dictated by the powerful to their servants.
The US mediator at Camp David, Sol Linowitz, commented that Palestinians rejected "autonomy" because it would preclude authentic self-government. Prime Minister Menahem Begin favored the autonomy proposal, Times correspondent Sabra Chatrand added, "because the idea seemed to resolve the Palestinian issue while leaving Israel in fundamental control of West Bank and Gaza." Both Linowitz and the Times regard Palestinian discontent with this outcome as entirely unreasonable. It reveals only that Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," in the oft-repeated formula of Israeli diplomat Abba Eban.
Chatrand observes that "after years of conflict with Israel, uncounted deaths, and even more hardship, Palestinians have abandoned their earlier conditions" -- yet another demonstration of the "salutary efficacy" of terror. She also reports that the United States "tried and failed to get Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories," while vastly increasing US aid for their construction. 35 The convention is that the US is a helpless victim, unable to influence the projects it lavishly funds, another "irony."
Until 1988, the US and Israel were satisfied with the status quo, content merely to rebuff Arab and other peace initiatives while Israel extended its harsh rule over the territories with US aid. Problems arose, however, with the outbreak of the Intifada and the increased Israeli repression, which created negative images and other unwanted costs. Furthermore, PLO insistence on a political settlement was becoming more difficult to suppress. The problem was getting serious by late 1988, when the US refused to permit Yasser Arafat to address the UN in New York, causing it to convene in Geneva. By then, Secretary of State George Schultz and domestic commentators were becoming an international laughing stock with their frantic cries that Arafat had failed to repeat the "magic words" dictated to him by Washington. The wise decision was made to resort to a familiar diplomatic device, the "Trollope ploy": to pretend that Arafat had accepted US demands, welcome his invented capitulation, then impose upon him the US terms. It was assumed correctly that the media and intellectual opinion would reflexively adopt Washington's concoctions, ignoring the fact -- transparent to any literate person -- that Arafat's positions remained as far from Washington's as before, and that no Palestinian spokesperson could possibly accept the US terms. The farce was played perfectly, and entered history. 36
The PLO's reward for its invented capitulation was a low-level "dialogue" to divert world attention while Israel turned to harsher measures to suppress the Intifada. Predictably, the PLO leadership played along, contributing to the success of the repression. The transcript of the first meeting was leaked and published prominently in Egypt and Israel. The US stated two conditions for "dialogue." There will be no international conference, and the PLO must call off the "riots, which we view as terrorist acts against Israel" (the Intifada). Thus Palestinians must accept the previous conditions of brutal repression and steady dispossession. The working assumptions were explained by Labor's Defense Secretary, Yitzhak Rabin, who informed Peace Now leaders in February 1989 that he welcomed the meaningless dialogue, which would offer Israel time to employ "harsh military and economic pressure"; "In the end they will be broken," and will accept Israel's terms. These plans were implemented, with much success.
In particular, the threat of democracy was overcome. The Intifada had raised a serious challenge to the quasi-feudal structure of Palestinian society, 37 but the new popular committees and other initiatives of the rascal multitude were weakened and perhaps demolished by US-backed Israeli violence.
Meanwhile, Israel and the US initiated their own diplomatic track, to deflect the risk of an authentic peace process. The Likud-Labor coalition government proposed the "Shamir Plan" in May 1989, more accurately the Shamir-Peres Plan. 38 The plan's "Basic Premises" are: (1) there can be no "additional Palestinian state in the Gaza district and in the area between Israel and Jordan"; (2) "Israel will not conduct negotiations with the PLO"; (3) "There will be no change in the status of Judea, Samaria and Gaza other than in accordance with the basic guidelines of the Government" of Israel, which reject Palestinian self-determination. The phrase "additional Palestinian state" reflects the US-Israel position that there already is a Palestinian state, namely, Jordan. Hence the issue of self-determination for Palestinians does not arise, contrary to what is believed by those "whose cantankerousness was reinforced by Moscow": Jordanians, Palestinians, Europeans, and others similarly misguided. The Basic Premises incorporate the "Four No's" of the official Labor Party program: No return to the 1967 borders, No removal of settlements, No negotiations with the PLO, No Palestinian state. The plan then calls for "free and democratic elections" under Israeli military occupation with the PLO excluded and the unacceptable leadership interned in Israeli prison camps.
The US endorsed this forthcoming proposal. James Baker explained that "Our goal all along has been to try to assist in the implementation of the Shamir initiative. There is no other proposal or initiative that we are working with." In December 1989, the Department of State released the Baker Plan, which stipulated that Israel would attend a "dialogue" in Cairo with Egypt and acceptable Palestinians, who would be permitted to discuss implementation of the Shamir Plan, but nothing else. 39
All of this took place long before the Gulf War, and while the US-PLO "dialogue" was spinning along in its intentionally pointless way. Standard doctrine is that Arafat lost his place at the table "as a result of his support for Iraq in the gulf war," and that "the principal causes of the PLO's weakness" are PLO support for Saddam Hussein and failure to expel the perpetrators of a thwarted terrorist action in May 1990. 40 This version is without merit, as inspection of dates and documents clearly demonstrates; it merely offers new pretexts for old policies.
The official "peace process" includes Camp David and Madrid, and various fables about forthcoming Israeli offers, but not the essential history, tucked safely away in the memory hole. After Camp David, mainstream US discussion has ranged between the hawks, who hold that Palestinians deserve nothing, and the doves, like Times Middle East specialist Thomas Friedman, who argue that this stand is not in Israel's interest: "only if you give the Palestinians something to lose is there a hope that they will agree to moderate their demands," Friedman observes, abandoning their hope for mutual recognition in a two-state settlement -- a "demand" that he refused to report and regularly denied while producing the "balanced and informed coverage" that won him a Pulitzer prize. "I believe that as soon as Ahmed has a seat on the bus, he will limit his demands," Friedman added. He advised Israel to run the territories on the model of South Lebanon, controlled by Israeli troops and a terrorist surrogate army, with a hideous torture chamber in Khiam where hundreds are held hostage to ensure that the population submits, and regular bombardment beyond Israeli-occupied Lebanon to prevent resistance -- called "terrorism." 41
One might ask what the reaction would be if some commentator were to advise South African whites that it would be in their interest to give Sambo a seat on the bus, or to advise Syria that they should run what is now Israel as they do the Bekaa valley, though they should give Hymie a seat on the bus so that he will limit his demands. The comparison provides no little insight into Western culture.
As noted, the US has tended to prefer the policies of the Israeli Labor Party. Its current head, Shimon Peres, is portrayed as "moderate" and "pragmatic," as are earlier leaders, and the Founding Fathers, David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann. To understand US policy and ideology, it is therefore important to recognize just what their positions have been.
Traditional Labor Party doctrine was expressed by Prime Minister Golda Meir in addressing new Soviet immigrants on the Golan Heights in September 1971: "the borders are determined by where Jews live, not where there is a line on a map." Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan emphasized that Israeli rule over the territories is "permanent": "the settlements are forever, and the future borders will include these settlements as part of Israel." Dayan's advice was that Israel should tell the Palestinian refugees in the territories "that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave -- and we will see where this process leads... In five years we may have 200,000 less people -- and that is a matter of enormous importance." Shimon Peres objected to the advice that Israel become "like Rhodesia," arguing that Israel's international image and prospects for immigration would be harmed. Dayan responded that any "moral aspect" is contrary to Zionist principles. Dayan's 200,000 would be in addition to the 200,000 shepherded across the Allenby Bridge to Jordan by Labor dove Haim Herzog, commander of the conquered West Bank after the 1967 war -- "willingly," he adds, as proven by documents with their fingerprints; many "agreeing" after being kicked and clubbed with rifle butts by paratroopers and border guards, then fleeing in panic to Jordan, according to the soldier who spent four months placing their "willing" prints on the documents at the Bridge where Herzog's buses deposited them. 42
Ben-Gurion's views were similar during the period of his political influence. Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk observed that "every child in Israel knows one of the most famous expressions of the founder of the Jewish state, David Ben-Gurion: `It is not important what the Gentiles say, what matters is what the Jews do'." Ben-Gurion wrote that "a Jewish state...will serve as an important and decisive stage in the realization of Zionism," but only a stage: the borders of the state "will not be fixed for eternity," but will expand either by agreement with the Arabs "or by some other way," once "we have force at our disposal" in a Jewish State. His long-term vision included Jordan and beyond, sometimes even "the Land of Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates. During the 1948 war, he held that "To the Arabs of the Land of Israel only one function remains -- to run away." The perspective is traditional. Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel and the most revered Zionist figure, remarked that the British had informed him that in Palestine "there are a few hundred thousand Negroes, but that is a matter of no significance." Weizmann had in turn informed Lord Balfour after World War I that "the issue known as the Arab problem in Palestine will be of merely local character and, in effect, anyone cognizant of the situation does not consider it a highly significant factor." Hence displacement of the inhabitants by Jewish settlement raises no moral issue. The current President, Haim Herzog, expressed the basic guidelines in 1972: "I do not deny the Palestinians any place or stand or opinion on every matter. But certainly I am not prepared to consider them as partners in any respect in a land that has been consecrated in the hands of our nation for thousands of years. For the Jews of this land there cannot be any partner." 43
Labor controlled the political system until 1977. The government's first policy decision after the June 1967 war was taken on June 19, when a divided (11-10) cabinet proposed a settlement with Syria and Egypt on the Green Line (with Israel keeping Gaza), but no mention of Jordan and the West Bank. This proposal is described by Abba Eban as "the most dramatic initiative that the government of Israel ever took before or since." It was kept secret, though transmitted to Washington, to be passed on to Arab states.
In September 1967, Shimon Peres presented a settlement plan based on the principle that "Israel's new map will be determined by its policies of settlement and new land-taking." He therefore called for "urgent efforts" to establish settlements not only in East Jerusalem, but also "to the north, south and east," including Hebron, Gush-Etzion, etc.; the Jordan valley; "the central region of the mountains of Shechem [Nablus]"; the Golan Heights, the El-Arish region in the Sinai and the Red Sea access. 44 The policies adopted were even more extreme, including the expulsion of thousands of Beduins into the desert, their homes, mosques and graveyards destroyed to clear the lands for the all-Jewish city of Yamit in northeastern Sinai, steps that led directly to the 1973 war.
In 1968, the Allon Plan became official Labor policy, and remains so, varying with contingencies, until this day. Its basic content has been sketched above: Israel will take the land and resources it wants, but not responsibility for the Arab population. Likud's position is that Israel will extend its sovereignty over the territories with "autonomy" for the Palestinians. US discussion is largely limited to this narrow spectrum.
For Washington's purposes, it is not of great moment that the "peace process" succeed. If it does, the US will have imposed its traditional rejectionist program, demonstrating anew our high-minded benevolence and virtue and the grandeur of our leaders. If the "peace process" fails, we will read of "a classic cultural clash between American and Middle Eastern instincts," a conflict between Middle Eastern fanaticism and Baker's "quintessentially American view of the world: that with just a little bit of reasonableness these people should be able to see that they have a shared interest in peace that overrides their historical antipathies." 45 In the short term, it's a win-win situation for US power.
As already discussed, US diplomacy is guided by a strategic conception that has changed little over the years (pp. 53f., 179-85, above). The primary concern is the energy resources of the region, to be managed by the "Arab façade" in the interests of the US and its British lieutenant. The family dictatorships must be protected from indigenous nationalism by regional enforcers, with US-British muscle in reserve. There has long been a tacit alliance between the Arab façade and the regional gendarmes. 46 It is coming closer to the surface now that Arab nationalism has been dealt another crushing blow, thanks to the murderous gangster who disobeyed orders and PLO tactics of more than the usual incompetence. The family dictatorships therefore have less need than before to make pro-Palestinian gestures. Accordingly, the prospects for US rejectionism have improved.
Regional actors are granted rights insofar as they contribute to "stability," in the technical sense. Israel has been considered a barrier to Arab nationalism since the 1960s, and has also served US interests worldwide, carrying out tasks that the US had to delegate to others because of domestic opposition or for other reasons, and cooperating in intelligence matters and weapons production and testing. The Palestinians offer neither wealth nor power. Accordingly, they have no rights, by the most elementary principles of statecraft. The Israeli lobby, with its political clout and its finely-honed techniques of slander and intimidation, has helped to contain discussion largely within the framework of US-Israeli rejectionism. No significant domestic force calls for Palestinian rights.
Basic assumptions have hardly changed since 1948 (pp. 55-7, above). The operative principles were well expressed by New Republic editor Martin Peretz, just as Israel was about to invade Lebanon in 1982. He advised Israel to administer to the PLO a "lasting military defeat" that "will clarify to the Palestinians in the West Bank that their struggle for an independent state has suffered a setback of many years." Then "the Palestinians will be turned into just another crushed nation, like the Kurds or the Afghans," and the Palestinian problem -- which "is beginning to be boring" -- will be resolved. 47 His timing may have been off, but basic principles are resilient in states with unchallenged power. From Chaim Weizmann to Yitzhak Rabin today, it is assumed that with sufficient force and resolve, the "insignificant Negroes" will be "crushed" and "broken"; they will "die" or "turn into human dust and the waste of society." Peretz's attitude towards the Kurds also captures US policy succinctly, as we have recently seen once again.
Control over Middle East energy provides leverage in world affairs and guarantees a substantial flow of capital to the economies of the United States and Britain. The system of regional management has changed over time, but the operative principles have not. The course of diplomacy is understandable in these terms.
From the US perspective, a preferred outcome of the current diplomatic maneuvers would include an agreement enabling Israel to extend its control over the territories ("autonomy"); extension of commercial and diplomatic relations between Israel and the Gulf rulers; moves towards a Golan Heights settlement that would ensure Israeli control of the water resources while satisfying Syrian nationalism, at least symbolically. If its rejectionist program is not advanced, the US will win a propaganda victory by placing the blame on Middle East fanatics who have again disrupted Washington's noble intentions. Traditional policies can then be pursued in other ways.
If US interests are reassessed and Washington decides to permit a genuine political settlement, Israel does have options, despite its dependency on the United States. In the 1950s, Prime Minister Moshe Sharett privately deplored the "preaching" of high-level Labor party officials "in favor of acts of madness" and "the diabolical lesson of how to set the Middle East on fire" with "acts of despair and suicide" that will terrify the world as "we go crazy," if crossed, an early expression of the "Samson complex." After the Lebanon invasion, Aryeh (Lova) Eliav, one of Israel's best-known doves, deplored the attitude of "those who brought the `Samson complex' here, according to which we shall kill and bury all the Gentiles around us while we ourselves shall die with them." Others too have regarded the greatest danger facing Israel as the "collective version" of Samson's revenge against the Philistines. Israel's nuclear armaments, well-known to US authorities for many years, render such thinking more than empty threats. Writing in 1982, three Israeli strategic analysts observed that Israel's nuclear-armed missiles were able to reach "many targets in southern USSR," a threat -- real or pretended -- that may well have been aimed at the United States, putting US planners on notice that pressures on Israel to accept a political settlement could lead to an international conflagration. The reasoning was explained further in the Labor party journal Davar, reporting Israel's reaction to the Saudi peace plan of August 1981, with its "signs of open-mindedness and moderation" that the government of Israel regarded as a serious threat. Israel's response was to send jets over the oil fields, a warning to the West of Israel's capacity to cause immense destruction to the world's major energy reserves if pressed towards an unwanted peace, Davar reported. 48 The world has changed since, but Israel's "Samson option," as Seymour Hersh calls it in a recent book, remains alive.
Israeli analysts today express much concern over what may lie ahead. Lieutenant-Colonel Ron Ben-Yishai, a leading military commentator, observed on the eve of the Madrid conference that "This might be the last chance we have to make peace." He expected the current diplomatic efforts to fail, a broad consensus. The result will be a war that will last "a minimum of three to four weeks," a "conventional war" with some surface-to-surface missiles, with uncertain prospects and surely grim consequences. 49 There have been a rash of similar predictions, referring to a war with Syria, perhaps Iran, that Israel might initiate with a preemptive strike, with use of nuclear weapons not unlikely. The US will surely do what it can to prevent that, but even US power reaches only so far.
If the US keeps to its rejectionist stand, Israel will continue to integrate the territories, the core local conflict will remain unresolved, turbulence and antagonisms will fester and intermittently explode, and a stable regional settlement -- let alone a just one -- is most unlikely.
Meanwhile, new and more imaginative ways will have to be found to "put the public in its place," and to deter the dread threat of democracy and freedom.
1 On Third World reactions, see my articles in Z magazine, May, October 1991, and in Cynthia Peters, ed., Collateral Damage (South End, 1992).
2 Maureen Dowd, NYT, Feb. 23, 1991.
3 See references of note 1.
4 Luzviminda Francisco and Jonathan Fast, Conspiracy for Empire (Quezon City, 1985), 302, 191.
5 Newsday, Sept. 12, 1991, p. 1. The Boston Globe gave the story a few lines on p. 79, Sept. 13. The Times ran a tepid account a few days later; Eric Schmitt, NYT, Sept. 15.
6 NYT, July 7, 1991.
7 Kathy Blair, Toronto Globe and Mail, June 17, 1991; WSJ, July 5, 1991.
8 Andrew Rosenthal, NYT, Sept. 26; Reuters, NYT, Sept. 26; Reuters, BG, Sept. 26, 1991. On US pressures, see above, p. 315.
9 John Simpson, Spectator (London), Aug. 10; Glass, ibid., April 13, 1991.
10 Mary Kay Magistad, BG, Oct. 20, 1991.
11 See references of note 1 for further details and sources, here and below.
12 See 190f., 203f., above; and references of note 1 for more recent information.
13 WSJ, April 8, 1991.
14 NYT, April 11, 1991.
15 Ron Ben-Yishai, Ha'aretz, March 29; Shalom Yerushalmi, Kol Ha'ir, April 4; Moshe Zak, editor of Ma'ariv, JP. April 4, 1991.
16 Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope (Princeton, 1991), 125, 365. Chace, NYT Magazine, May 22, 1977.
17 Editorial, NYT, Aug. 2, 1991.
18 Apple, NYT, Oct. 30, Sept. 22, 1991.
19 J. of Palestine Studies, Autumn 1991.
20 Rubinstein, Ha'aretz, Oct. 23, 24, 1991.
21 Ha'aretz, March 8, 1991.
22 Avi Shlaim, Collusion across the Jordan, 364. Cabinet records, Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud (Revivim, 1985). Weizmann, Ha'aretz, March 20, 1972. On Israel's decision for war, see Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Dangerous Liaison (Harper Collins, 1991).
23 Editorial, Boston Globe, Oct. 20, 1991.
24 Eisenhower, Steven Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chicago, 1985, 51); Kissinger, Towards a New Cold War, 457n.
25 Friedman, NYT, Nov. 4, 1991. On his remarkable record, see Necessary Illusions, particularly
26 Haberman, NYT, Nov. 10, 17; Hottelet, Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 25, 1991.
27 See particularly Shlaim, op. cit. Also Itamar Rabinovitch, The Road Not Taken (Oxford, 1991), 171.
28 Rabinovitch (Ibid., 108), asking whether Israel also missed such an opportunity when a Syrian proposal was rejected in 1949.
29 Noring and Smith, The Withdrawal Clause in UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, Feb. 1978; Neff, Middle East International, 13 Sept. 1991.
30 Sabra Chatrand, NYT, Oct. 29, 1991.
31 Rostow, Korn, New Republic, Oct. 21, Nov. 18, Nov. 25, 1991.
32 Kapeliouk, op. cit., 281. See my Peace in the Middle East? (Pantheon, 1974), chap. 4.
33 For an ongoing review, see Towards a New Cold War and my articles cited there.
34 Necessary Illusions, 174f., 276. See also Fateful Triangle and Pirates and Emperors.
35 Chartrand, NYT, Nov. 5, 1991.
36 For specifics, here and below, see my articles in Z magazine, March 1989, Jan. 1990, and Necessary Illusions.
37 For discussion from Israeli sources, see my article in Z magazine, July 1988.
38 Israeli Government Election Plan, Jerusalem, 14 May 1989, Embassy of Israel.
39 Thomas Friedman, NYT, Oct. 19, 1989; U.S. Department of State press release, Dec 6, 1989.
40 Friedman, NYT, Nov. 4; Editorial, BG, Oct. 6, 1991.
41 Friedman, Yediot Ahronot, April 7; Hotam, April 15, 1988.
42 Amnon Kapeliouk, Israel: la fin des mythes (Albin Michel, 1975), 21, 29; Beilin op. cit., 42-3; "Herzog's transfer," Kol Ha'ir, Nov. 8; No'omi Cohen-David, Kol Ha'ir, Nov. 15, 1991.
43 Kapeliouk, op. cit., 220; Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs (Oxford, 1985), 187f., and Benny Morris, review of Teveth, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 1985; see also Fateful Triangle, 161f. Weizmann, Yosef Heller, The Struggle for the State: Zionist Diplomacy of the years 1936-48 (Jerusalem 1985, Jewish Agency protocols, Hebrew); Yosef Gorny, Zionism and the Arabs (Oxford, 1985), 110. Beilin, op. cit., 47.
44 Ibid., 15f., 43.
45 Thomas Friedman, NYT, May 19, 17, 1991.
46 See Towards a New Cold War, Fateful Triangle; Cockburn & Cockburn, Dangerous Liaison.
47 Interview in Ha'aretz, June 4, 1982; see Fateful Triangle, 199. On the racist effusions of Peretz and others, see Necessary Illusions, 315.
48 See Fateful Triangle, 464ff.
49 "Elazar," Jerusalem Post Magazine. Oct. 4; Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 15, 1991.