An artist’s collage juxtaposes the real-life conditions Palestinian workers face in the occupied West Bank with Scarlett Johansson’s role as SodaStream spokesmodel. (Courtesy Electronic Intifada)
Outside the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, activists demonstrate against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his peace proposal, Jan. 29, 2014. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
A Jewish settler (unseen at left) places the Israeli flag on a road sign as Israeli troops encircle Palestinian villagers protesting the army’s cutting branches off olive trees on a road leading to the illegal Jewish settlement of Tekoa, south of Bethlehe
Dr. Eyad El Serraj at a 1993 press conference in East Jerusalem denouncing Israel’s use of torture. (Ruben Bittermann/Photofile)
U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (l) and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Jan. 22 press conference closing the Geneva II peace talks on Syria. (Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2009, page 32
Outside the Beltway
If You Find Yourself in a Hole, Stop Digging
By James G. Abourezk
Wherever I first heard that hackneyed phrase, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” it applies more today than at any time I can remember. What I don’t understand is, when our government has spent billions on bank bailouts (not a good idea), and on bailing out the stupidity of the automobile executives (a better idea, because it saves jobs for working people), why are members of Congress and the drug and insurance lobbies feeding this fairy tale that we cannot afford single-payer health care?
Virtually every industrialized country in the world has a health care system that is paid for by tax revenues, making sure that it is available to everyone. Even Syria, which is not a rich country, sends medical students to medical school, then requires them, upon graduation, to serve in a village clinic at a very low salary. Medical care is provided for every Syrian citizen, although there is a private medical system for those who want to pay.
Neither, we are told, can we afford a national passenger rail system that would do a great deal to decrease pollution, cut down on the use of oil, and move people to every part of our country, just like it’s done in Europe and in Japan.
But we can’t afford either of these common sense projects, even though we are digging our financial hole deeper and deeper with other projects that we should bring to a close.
Israel comes (frequently) to mind. We are still shoveling money out the door of our national treasury, giving Israel all the money it needs to finance its brutal occupation of the Palestinians, plus giving it one of the highest living standards in the world. The last time I checked with the Library of Congress, Israel had drained our treasury (money from American taxpayers) to well over $100 billion.
And what have we received in return? Well, I am currently reading Attack on the Liberty (available from the AET Book Club), written by James Scott, a journalist whose father was an ensign on board the Liberty when Israel tried to destroy the U.S. Navy ship during the 1967 Middle East war it launched. Whenever I feel like having my blood boil, I pick up the book and read another chapter describing the deliberate attack on our ship, which killed over 30 American sailors and wounded another 170. As bad as the attack was, the continuing cover-up both by Israel and the U.S. government is an ongoing outrage.
The latest episode of Israeli spying is notable for the speed with which the U.S. Justice Department dismissed the charges.
Add to that, the unknown number of Israeli spies who are burrowing into our government to learn our secrets. Jonathan Pollard, for example, was paid by Israel to unload what authorities have described as “a truckload of secret documents” to Israel’s agents in this country. The latest episode of Israeli spying is notable for the speed with which the U.S. Justice Department dismissed the charges against the two pro-Israel spies. Judge T.S. Ellis then drastically reduced—to probation and 10 months of “community confinement,” or a halfway house, along with 100 hours of community service—the 12-year sentence of Larry Franklin, the Pentagon official who pleaded guilty to handing the documents over to the spies.
Other things we can do without include the manned space program. The shuttle program, which costs American taxpayers several billion dollars a year, would look better viewed from the rear-view mirror. Several Nobel laureate scientists, as well as this writer, have advocated an unmanned program for space exploration instead of the much costlier manned program. First of all, the manned program cannot go as far into space as an unmanned program can, and secondly, it is vastly cheaper yet more rewarding. But it’s difficult to stop the bleeding of taxpayers’ money once it starts.
We have the same trouble financing our NATO involvement. Now, NATO was designed during the Cold War to protect Europe from the nasty Soviets. Now that the Soviets are no longer around, who does NATO protect? Only the arms manufacturers, who benefit from weapons sales both to the U.S. and to NATO members.
I don’t think a lot of explanation is needed for reasons to get the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, I include Afghanistan in my exit strategy, mostly for the reason that we shouldn’t need the second kick of a mule to learn to stay away from the mule. We all witnessed the Soviets, who were almost destroyed by their adventure in Afghanistan, and we should have learned that American troops are a natural target in places like that country. The only logical conclusion is to get our troops out of there, leaving it to the Taliban and the warlords and the Pakistanis to deal with that quagmire.
Although the pro-Israeli Zionists do not like to hear it, a lot of our Middle East woes derive from the brutality of the continuing occupation of Palestine by the Israelis. What is unfortunate is that the American press spends its time and its talents trying to avoid discussing what Israel is doing in the Middle East.
I watched NBC’s David Gregory interview Bibi Netanyahu on “Meet the Press.” Discussing Iran, Netanyahu said that true democracies such as Israel would never commit violence against protesters. Gregory let that one go right past him, going on to the next puffball question to Bibi, which again he knocked over the fence. If I recall, it was another bit of hypocrisy meted out by the slick-talking Israeli prime minister.
But that’s the state of our media today. There is 40 times the coverage of Michael Jackson’s heart attack than there was of the slaughter of 1,300 Gazans during Israel’s invasion last year. At times I feel sad about the death of America’s newspapers, but after seeing how they behave, and how they fail in their job of watching the government for the rest of us, maybe it’s for the best to let them all go under. They contribute little more than crossword puzzles and sports scores (which are for the betting public anyway).
We’ve reached the place in the hole we’re digging which might make us think about stopping.
James G. Abourezk is a former U.S. senator (D-SD) and founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He currently practices law in Sioux Falls, SD.