Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Looking at occupations

I've been thinking about the occupations in Iraq and the Palestinian territories lately. It's a funny thing how occupiers always think they are helping the people they go to occupy, while those under occupation think quite differently.

This is part of the discourse of domination and occupation. Occupiers always say they are not enemies of the people they plan to occupy, only the governments, as if the two could be somehow kept completely seperate from each other. For every dictator or "undesirable" government that exists, there are thousands of teachers, health workers, and other kinds of civil servents who have little to do with the foriegn policies of these countries, but who are really just trying to put food on the table.

A friend recently told me about the situation at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem. The Augusta Victoria hospital is supported by funds from the Palestinian Authority. The hospital has had to lay off workers, close its emergency room and cut other services to people because of Israeli, American and European efforts to "isolate Hamas". Why is it that when the west doesn't like a certain government, it ends up hurting and killing the people "who are not its enemies?"

US policy makers know that the funds they are withholding will have no impact on the policies of the governments they don't like. They know full well how much harm will come to ordinary people. As Madeline Albright said about sanctions in Iraq, it is a calculation that such policy makers, sitting in their comfortably dull offices in Washington and other western capitals, think are "worth it".

Whether you like Hamas or not, you have to admit they were elected. So again we are in the business of collapsing democratically elected governments we don't like. And yet the cornerstone of American foriegn policy in the Middle East is "democratization." And when the stupid talking heads of American TV ask why support for the US is at an all time low, they blame the Arab media, instead of the immorality and hypocrisy of our own policies. The US government now spends millions of dollars on bad radio stations, slick magazines and irrelevant Arabic language news shows to fool Americans into thinking that it is actually trying to improve our image abroad. Americans ask why countries in the Middle East don't democratize, when western governments have been aborting democracy in the region for the past 150 years. No wonder people are skeptical of our motives here.

In Iraq and Palestine the west has willfully created disasters and then pointed to the destroyed communities with a pointed finger and a disparaging tsk tsk look on their face, as if people here wanted to live in collapsed states and societies, or as if it is just the natural state of Arabs. Yes governments in the region are corrupt, venal and often brutal to their own people. But maybe, just maybe, these disasters also have something to do with war, conflict and occupation.

I hate to rant, but when you step back for a second and look at what's happening here, and even worse at what's coming, it's hard to not get really depressed.


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