Monday, May 14, 2007

As "conquerors" Israeli leaders are no Genghis Khans or Napoleons

Reporting yesterday on the Jordanian king's scheduled visit to the West Bank to discuss peace efforts with the Palestinians, the New York Times noted that Jordan ruled that region from 1948-49 until 1967, "when Israel conquered the area, which it still occupies."

Perhaps I'm a nit-picker, but I have always resented the simplistic and common use of the word "conquer" to explain how Israel acquired control of the West Bank. I recognize that the dictionary defines the word: "to gain control by the use of force." But as I see it, the implication is that a "conqueror" is one who launches an aggressive attack to deliberately acquire land. Israel did not do that in the West Bank--or in other Arab territory in Sinai, Gaza and the Golan.

In each of these cases, Israel reacted to aggression by the Arabs. The distinction is significant. Exaggerating Israel's role as a "conqueror" has become a standard term in the Israel-bashing vocabulary.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, for example, Israel was engaged in a war against Egypt and Syria. The war was provoked by the two countries' open mobilization to invade Israel and by Egypt's blockage of Israeli access to the Red Sea. Israel warned Jordan to stay out of the war.

Under the false belief that Israel had been virtually defeated, however, Jordan foolishly disregarded Israel's warning and began to bombard Israeli territory in West Jerusalem. Only in reaction to Jordan's unprovoked attack did Israeli forces move into what had been Jordanian-ruled Palestinian territory. There had been no preemptive Israeli plan to invade the area.

I was so annoyed by the Times' failure to put the situation into perspective that I have written a letter to the editor to complain. Considering the enormous number of letters-to-the-editor that the Times receives daily, I doubt whether mine will be published. But now I have this blog to vent my frustration over the issue.

Four decades later, it seems to have been forgotten that the Israelis quickly offered to return the West Bank to Arab rule. (It had already returned the Sinai to Egypt; subsequently a chunk of the Golan was given back to Syria and Gaza was returned to the Palestinians.)

The response to the Israeli offer to return the West Bank to Arab rule was the historic Sept. 1, 1947 resolution of the Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum, Sudan. It read: "No negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel."

Israel's leaders do not easily fit the description of "conquerors." Genghis Khans or Napoleons, they're not.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An old grouch reacts to Queen Elizabeth II's visit

Now that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her entourage have returned to their palaces, castles and estates back home, I feel more comfortable as an old grouch telling how repelled I was by all the hoopla that attended the royal visit here.

I wasn't bothered by her visit to Jamestown, the original English settlement in Virginia. That was conventional tourism with some historical significance. But I was disgusted by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the White House's formal, white-tie dinner for the Queen and her husband, Prince what's-his-name.

I regarded it as a circus that did not deserve the extraordinary public attention it enjoyed. Maybe it's because I'm a fervent republican (please note the lower-case "r"), but I am dismayed that so many Americans seem to go ga-ga at the sight of royalty. I am offended when our political establishment and the public at large bows and scrapes the way they do when a foreign royal deigns to visit our country.

I consider royal families an anachronism that no longer serves a useful political or social purpose. It is presumptuous, of course, for me to criticize a foreign country that wants to preserve its monarchy. I find it tasteless, however, when Americans play along as enthusiastic fans or participants in a costly and useless institution.

I was aghast that some 7,000 people with precious tickets (awarded only to those lucky enough to have important Beltway connections) started lining up at 7 a.m. on the White House's south lawn to get a peek at the Queen's formal arrival later that day at the Presidential mansion. Watching C-SPAN's telecast of the state dinner that evening and the preparations before hand, I was dismayed by the huge numbers of our armed forces involved in the festivities.

It seemed that there was enough military personnel on hand to man a battalion that might serve more vital needs in manpower-short Iraq. I wonder whether many troops who volunteered for military service expected to wind up as White House doormen and as escorts for old ladies at Presidential social events. (I would like to think that the assignments were a form of rest-and-rehabilitation following arduous overseas wartime duty.)

My vehement anti-royal views were probably reinforced by a World War II experience when I was a soldier stationed in India. A handful of buddies and I had been invited to a party at a British Army sergeants club to celebrate the Japanese surrender that ended the war on Aug. 15, 1945.

The club was located only a few miles away from our own base in Bengal Province. Not surprisingly, the party turned into a rowdy, inebriated affair. As I got to know to know them, it was obvious that our hosts were largely men with working-class British backgrounds. I do not remember anyone with an Oxford or Cambridge accent.

As the party grew more boisterous, our hosts began to loudly sing what the American guests thought were patriotic songs. I will never forget being shocked by one ditty, which ended with the words: "God save the King and f--k the Queen." (George VI, Queen Elizabeth II's father, was still on the throne.) The words were repeatedly sung, accompanied by riotous laughter.

I was stunned by the British soldiers' scurrilous reference to their royal sovereigns. Recalling that experience, however, I am more comfortable about making this expression of sour grapes toward the current occupant of their throne.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do we really have to "defend" Poland and the Czechs against Iran?

After the tragic fiasco of the war in Iraq, we may have another bizarre military adventure in the making. The U.S. has asked Poland and the Czech Republic to base defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles in their countries. The request was explained as a prudent hedge against Iran. We also regard it as a demonstration that European security is linked to our own missile defense system, which is now being deployed in Alaska and California despite serious questions about its capability.

Both interceptor anti-missiles and radar are involved in the proposed project. The concept of radar to track incoming missiles presumably aimed directly at the U.S. appears logical. But a plan to deploy interceptors suggests that Washington actually believes that Iran is a legitimate threat to Poland and the Czech Republic.

That raises the question of the strategic wisdom of those who have proposed the project: either the Pentagon's military professionals or the Bush Administration's civilian national security experts. In either case, it reflects the same kind of unrealistic reasoning that led to the stupidity and incompetence displayed in the Iraq invasion and occupation.

It is inconceivable that Poland and the Czech Republic feel seriously threatened by Iran. It is laughable to think that Iran considers the two as enemy countries. They could be willing to accept the U.S. deployment on their soil, however, simply to underscore their desire to be American allies. But the two countries' parliaments have yet to approve the proposed plan.

Not surprisingly, Russia has furiously objected to still another American military deployment so close to its borders. The project is another example of the Bush Administration's inept diplomatic endeavors that have alienated so many foreign countries. In terms of relations with Russia, the Administration almost seems eager to restore the cold war. This is not to suggest that Russia, under the increasingly autocratic Putin regime, has encouraged warmer relations with the U.S.

Still, deploying missile defenses against Iran in Poland and the Czech Republic makes about as much sense as invading Iraq because of WMDs and 9/11 and turning the country into a major terrorist breeding ground.

Labels: , , ,

Blog Flux Suggest - Find and Search Blogs
Web Traffic Statistics Coupon