by Karen Kwiatkowski
Robert Scheer asks an important question: "Why Do So Few Speak Up for Gaza?" His focus is the lack of Western public outrage against Israeli military actions against Gaza —outrage that should have been apparent in newspapers and television long before the most recent spasm of bloodshed and destruction. When the wrong party won democratic elections in Gaza, democracy supporters in Tel Aviv and Washington responded with an economic embargo, supported by the US-subsidized socialist-dictatorship of Egypt.
That particular act of war was extremely successful in starving and angering the already frustrated Palestinians who live in Gaza on $2 a day, with an unemployment rate of 70%. The lawless yet far less deadly Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli targets in December are claimed to have "started" the latest phase of the Israeli military and political campaign against Gaza. However, one needs only to look at the death toll (one-sided), the difference in military capacities between Israel and Gaza (shocking) and the kind of arsenals employed by both sides to determine what is happening. We've seen it on the elementary school playground, but this version is played out with incredible destructive force, no supervision, no brave friends, and no justice.
The history of the policy in Gaza is important, even though average Americans are not experts on this history, and should not have to be. Those we do expect to understand this history apparently do not. Most mainstream pundits are either unfamiliar with the history, deny the facts, or choose to tell only the "winning" side, as AIPAC and the Israeli government would have it told. Thus Robert Scheer's question.
There are several answers to his question, beyond the obvious import of "The Lobby."
First, it is not in the least hypocritical for a country like the US to support what Israel is doing in Gaza. Washington talks the talk of freedom, but rarely walks the walk, especially when poor people in poorer countries stand in the way of the federal state's desires. The US has conducted or overseen much the same type of criminal activity against impoverished and unemployed civilians around the world, and in some cases, at home. Washington has, for decades, destroyed lives and livelihoods of Columbian farmers in the name of the "War on Drugs." Washington mishandles Mexican immigration and blatantly ignores the impoverished Mexicans in US border towns and elsewhere. Our pseudo-free-market government, with its predictable cycle of Cuban-cigar-smoking presidents, has for nearly 50 years maintained a punishing economic embargo on Cuba, hypocritically delaying that country's return to freedom and prosperity by decades. Of course, we tend to forget this current history — and consider the primary abuse by the US government today is that of poor Muslim populations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the people of Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia through Washington's financial support of their corrupt but US-compliant governments. Well, there is that.
Secondly, many intellectuals tend to be less talented than they imagine, and they tend to make less money than they think they deserve. Mises points this out in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, as does Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Hoppe's concise essay on this topic explains that intellectuals need external economic support, and that this support comes from natural elites, those with wealth, a.k.a. the entrepreneurial, the innovative, the skilled producers, the risk-takers. Hoppe explains the shift in this natural elite in the United States:
Rich men exist today, but more frequently than not they owe their fortunes directly or indirectly to the state. Hence, they are often more dependent on the state's continued favors than many people of far-lesser wealth. They are typically no longer the heads of long-established leading families, but "nouveaux riches." Their conduct is not characterized by virtue, wisdom, dignity, or taste, but is a reflection of the same proletarian mass-culture of present-orientation, opportunism, and hedonism that the rich and famous now share with everyone else. Consequently — and thank goodness — their opinions carry no more weight in public opinion than most other people's.
The twentieth century emergence of the predatory state as a new "natural" elite matters, even if the intellectual elite it subsidizes does not. Should we care about which wealth sector supports the intellectual class? Surely, intellectuals tell the truth, enlighten honestly, let chips fall where they may, regardless of monetary enticements? Isn't that what it means to be an intellectual? No, Virginia, that's what it means to be a moral intellectual. What we see in the mainstream today, and in all past episodes of statism throughout history, is the other kind. Many of these articulate and well-read advocates of "truth" are just plain sell-outs. Others are self-promoting, submissive, boot-licking sellouts. Words like mandarin apply, and thanks to Red Pill Radio and Bill Meyers for reminding me of the term.
But American statist mandarins do not wear the orange robes and peculiar headgear, and they do not sit in specially designed chairs. Instead, they pose as thoughtful independents, even when they are associated with this party or that lobby, there is often the essence of inquiring academicity about them. That's a shame, because not knowing they are mandarins of the state, chartered to support the state or starve, we don't know that the occasional or even constant lie to their audience is, for them, the lesser of two evils.
Thirdly, there is no outrage over Gaza because there is simply too much money being made. John Perkins has explained in his bestselling books on US economic practices around the world how the US is no different than other corrupt states in using diplomacy, espionage, and economic manipulation to enrich itself in the short term. Wars, particularly your own or those of your closest ally, when your country is the biggest arms exporter of them all, is likewise a good deal. When the most recent assault on Gaza has temporarily depleted Israel's stockpiled arms and ammunition, much of it manufactured in the US or by heavily US-invested companies, it's time to celebrate in the weapons supply sector, which goes beyond the well known military-industrial complex to include agricultural chemical companies like Dow Chemical headquartered in Midland, Michigan and United Phosphorus, Inc in Trenton, New Jersey. Immediate and urgent opportunities abound, like this one, to ship 3,000 tons of US ammunition to Israel from a port in Greece.
Few speak up for Gaza because it is small — 1.5 million people on 140 square miles. It has no oil, no water, and very little land, no ability to operate freely and trade with anyone. Gaza isn't buying high quality weaponry by the shipload, profiting a long supply chain than ends not in a US boardroom, but in the US Congress itself. Gaza meets the Michael Ledeen definition of a "crappy little country" that must sacrifice itself to a more powerful country, and her ideological allies. Unlike Tibet, there is no Hollywood love affair with a people cursed by proximity to military hegemons. Unlike the case of fuzzy orphaned kittens and sad-eyed puppies, prevention of cruelty to Gazans is a hard sell in the United States.
The United States has entangled itself abroad in so many ways, at so many levels and for so long, that the lies of the state, told and explained to us by state mandarins in print and on air, are decomposing on themselves. How they will sell this compost to an increasingly sensitized American people will require all of their talent, and significant state resources to support them. Meanwhile, Gaza smolders and dreams of justice, and revenge.
January 12, 2009
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.
Copyright © 2009 Karen Kwiatkowski