Peace in the Middle East

POEBefore the tragedy in Ferguson became the story du jour, I found it sadly amusing to see conservative pundits clamoring to claim that if the Barack Obama hadn’t pulled our troops out of Iraq, we wouldn’t have to deal with these ISIS douche bags. Well, if George W. Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq – under false pretense, mind you – we wouldn’t be dealing with these ISIS douche bags either. Heck, if Bush’s flunkies hadn’t disbanded the Iraqi Army after that illegal invasion, we wouldn’t be dealing with these ISIS douche bags either. And let’s not forget the 4,500 American lives lost – along with the nearly 80,000 wounded or injured – thanks to both of those stupid decisions by the Bush administration.

More sad than amusing is the fact that these are the same fucktards who whine about government spending. According to Reuters, the Iraq fiasco cost U.S. taxpayers $2,190,000,000 (that’s $2.19 trillion) as of 2012, with an additional $6 trillion projected over the next 40 years to support the veterans sent to fight there. And, again, let’s not forget the horrific human cost I mentioned above. You’d think those conservative cranks would be grateful to Obama for stemming the bleeding – both fiscally and literally.

And as bad as it was, Saddam Hussein’s psychotic rule, and the size and power of his military, kept Islamic fundamentalists like ISIS out of Iraq. In fact, they also kept countries that foster such douche bags (yeah, I’m talking about you, Iran) relatively in check.

Of course, these right-wing pundits aren’t concerned with things like logic, reason, reality, etc. All they care about is attacking the opposition party, which happens to be in power. It’s attack and destroy politics, as opposed to consideration and compromise, and it’s tearing this country apart.

And speaking of attack and destroy, and tearing things apart, I have a ludicrous suggestion for peace in the Middle East. It’s not exactly practical, let alone moral. But it might set the kind of example that would make these radicals think twice about reaching for a weapon instead of an olive branch.

I’m turning 50 next year, and as far back as I can remember, my government – the United States – has been using my tax dollars to try and broker some sort of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our government has tried hard, investing countless hours, dollars, and other resources into solving this issue. Heck, the entire world has been bending over backwards trying to get these two sides to learn how to live together, to no avail. No fewer than 30 peace proposals have been negotiated between the Palestinians and Israelis in the past 65 years!

I know that neither side has always been acting in good faith. And the US doesn’t exactly have clean hands either. Not to mention the frightening fact that the Religious Right, who have the support of many Republican politicians (George W. Bush included), actually want to provoke a war in the Middle East because they believe it will hasten the end of the world and thereby accelerate their own personal trip to heaven – or some bullshit prophecy along those lines. And let’s face it, that’s about as ridiculous as blowing up a bus full of innocents to expedite your trip to heaven and a champagne party with 40 virgins. Lunacy!

So what to do? I’m at wit’s end. My government is at wit’s end. Arguably the world is as wit’s end. Perhaps this time we should all say, “Folks, you’re on your own now.” And then tell them they have 12 months to sort things out amongst themselves, or we – the world – will sort it out for ourselves. In other words, sort your shit, or someone else will sort it for you.

And if they fail to find their own peace after a year’s time? We’ll assemble a massive international fleet of military aircraft and surprise them all one night with a carpet-bombing campaign that begins at Israel’s southern border on the Sinai and destroys everything between the Jordan River and the sea – Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank – all the way up through Lebanon (like you bastards have been any better) and then fans out over all of Syria (because you motherfuckers are the real reason we’ve all got to deal with these ISIS douche bags) before pulling up just short of the Turkish border. We’ll level it all, with wave after wave of bunker busters followed by incendiaries. Scorched Earth 101.

LeMayHolePractical? No. Moral? No. Effective? Well, we’ve tried being diplomatic – for nearly 65 years – and things haven’t improved one bit. That’s a lot of time, energy, and money that could have been spent elsewhere, preferably (though, if we’re being honest, highly unlikely) bettering mankind. Plus, as I said earlier, it would send a message to other hot spots around the world that they better sort their shit out – quietly, and fast – because the rest of the world is tired of this bullshit. Where’s Gen. Curtis LeMay when ya need him?

Seriously, though. Peace in the Middle East? We deserve it. But – after all of this fighting, the countless deals that have fallen through, the decades of bickering and bloodshed, the hatred and horrific acts of violence – do they really deserve it?

OK, everyone deserves to live in peace. But my patience is wearing thin. With the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as with the pundits and preachers. And while I loathe the likes of LeMay, even a punk like Putin would think twice about being such an international asshole if he knew we had a nutjob like LeMay roaming the halls of the Pentagon, pushing for ludicrous plans like the one I have proposed here.

Purity of essence, my friends. Purity of essence.

A Personal Statement on Human Rights

“If you want Peace, work for Justice.”

Many people attribute that quote to Pope Paul VI. Others have traced it back to Henry Louis Mencken, an American journalist and humorist of the early 20th Century. Frankly, given some of the other views expressed by each of these individuals, I’m not all that eager to credit either of them.

peeseBut the sentiment struck a chord with me when I first came across it, as a 15-year-old activist protesting nuclear proliferation. And I remember my father telling me that it was also a slogan they had used during the Civil Rights movement, in which he proudly participated. This expression has remained with me over the years, helping foster and reinforce the belief that societies cannot truly succeed and prosper until they provide their citizens with the basic human rights – on paper and in practice.

The importance of human rights was once again thrust to the forefront of my thinking in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Having just taken some well-deserved time off, I started to follow the news more closely then, and I was able to do a lot more reading than ever before.

As I became more aware of what was going on in our country and around the world, I noticed an emerging trend that I found particularly disturbing. There has been a growing willingness to abandon freedoms – the rights of the individual – under the presumption that this somehow protects those very same rights. Fear and faith have long been the tools used by tyrants to subvert the rights of the people under the false pretense of safeguarding the public.

This can be seen in the many “illiberal” democracies abroad – such as Russia and Iran – where “democratic” elections are held but there is little or no guarantee of civil liberties. And while faux democracies are hardly new, their acceptance has become increasingly tolerated.

AmeriflagOne of the reasons for this is that we, as a nation, have made democracy – not human rights – the end game of our foreign policy. Not only does this open the door for the compromising of what we have come to know as true, liberal democracy, but it also misses the point. Democracy is a human right – the right to participate in one’s own government – so we should be pursuing a policy of promoting human rights rather than simply focusing one specific right.

And one does not have to look abroad to see the negative effects of this trend. There is a disturbing drift towards the emergence of an illiberal democracy right here in America. The signs are abundant: the rise in religious intolerance, certain clauses of the PATRIOT Act, a number of recent judicial decisions, several practices in the treatment of detainees, sweeping actions against US citizens by organizations like the NSA, and numerous statements by top government officials that are shamelessly biased.

I am deeply troubled by the injustices that are going on around the globe – particularly throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East – often by regimes our government considers “friendly” or even “democratic.” But I’m even more disturbed by the backsliding we are seeing here in the United States.

Our government seems to think it has been given a mandate to operate under the rule of war instead of the rule of law, while declaring that this war – against enemies who it claims are “classified” – may last indefinitely. In addition, for the first time since prohibition, we are considering Constitutional amendments that will limit our freedoms instead of expanding them. And while we battle Islamic fundamentalism overseas, many – including a significant number of our leaders – are aggressively embracing Christian fundamentalism here at home.

It is essential that the United States lives up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. Not just for the future of America, but for the advancement of these ideals around the world. And our failure to do so only serves to encourage those who do not support the universal rights of all – whether they are a global terrorist organization or a former Soviet state.

justessSo if we want peace here in America, and throughout the world, we first need to address the injustices that are occurring around the globe. We can no longer turn away and pretend that it does not concern us. That’s a lesson we should have learned on September 11, 2001.

And if we are to seek justice throughout the world, to defend the basic human rights of all people, we must first begin at home. There is still plenty of injustice here in America, and we need to overcome this if we hope to inspire others to do the same.

That is why the protection of human rights has become such an important cause for me. Not only does it reflect a passion ingrained in my youth, but it is also the key to a better, more peaceful world – America included.

If we want peace, we must work for justice. And until all humans are afforded basic rights – on paper and in practice – there will be no justice.