You see Dr. King, he was a real pro-war advocate, he really spoke out against all those radical anti-war anti-Vietnam activists.
What's the matter, don't you remember it that way?
Neither do I.
Funny how all of a sudden Dr. King supports
whatever anyone wants him to.
Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 this month. His assassination occurred nearly 43 years ago. As we get further and further from that time, memories get fuzzy and a kind of collective amnesia sets in, some of it deliberately promoted.
In 1968 he took a brave stance against the war in Vietnam, in a speech in New York City’s Riverside Church, that cost him some of his liberal supporters.
He criticized the injustices of capitalism: persistent poverty, inadequate aid to workers and the poor, and growing wealth disparity. Let us remember he died demanding not simply integration, but labor rights for striking sanitation workers in Memphis.
Remembering King’s legacy is remembering the dangers of political repression and vitriolic persecution. Recent events in Tucson come to mind.
King lived under a constant fear of assassination because his visibility and outspokenness made him a target. But something else made him a target, too.
The way in which his critics vilified him, attributed sinister motives to his actions, called him un-American and a danger to the traditional values of our nation.
Those people are called extremists now, but they weren't seen as outliers in King’s time. They were politicians and editors, civic leaders and sheriffs.
The violent rampage that left six people dead in Arizona last week and many others injured was carried out by one troubled man.
However, he chose a political event and targeted a politician. And he did so in a climate where that same politician had been a literal bulls-eye on political hit list. When violent metaphors are used to “target” opponents we should not be surprised when one disturbed person takes the bait.
But here is a sad and troubling irony: Tea party organizers can bring guns to rallies and put their political rivals under bulls-eyes on websites and have that accepted as legitimate political activity, while non-violent activists who criticize government policy are under attack by the FBI.
That refers to the Supreme Court decision in June against the Humanitarian Law Project, which essentially criminalized their efforts to offer conflict resolution training to people immersed in violent conflicts around the world.
This decision made it a crime to provide “material support” to any organization the government designates a terrorist group, but established a ridiculously broad definition of support.
The ruling has been the basis of FBI raids on the homes of activists who support Palestinian rights and oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The people the FBI is targeting do not advocate the use of guns or even own them; they advocate peace and justice.
King, too, was a peace activist who supported anti-colonial struggles and was under constant FBI surveillance. His phone was tapped, his mail was opened, he was followed and watched. People he trusted were enlisted to spy on him. Government agents plotted how to undermine his leadership, especially as he moved more toward the left.
The Youth of Gaza
"Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!
"We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in...
"We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.
"There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.
"We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the Earth. During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.
"ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"
The New York Times' lengthy explanation of why it decided to publish the WikiLeaks Cables leaves out one important consideration. What on earth would the State Department have done if a major US paper had not "interpreted" the information dump for the American masses?
Someone had to take on the "national responsibility" of "crafting" the leaks into supporting US policy initiatives, after all.
The Wikileaks Cables are plump with evidence of US doublespeak, proof that "conspiracy-minded" Middle Easterners are, well, correct on most counts.
Iran Was Right
Here is a startling September 2009 Cable from the US Embassy in London summarizing a high level US-UK meeting that included British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher. Discussing the upcoming P5+1 talks on Iran's nuclear program, the principals agree to push through an unrealistically short time frame for negotiations, and initiate plans for sanctions almost immediately.
One can hardly fault the Iranians for believing that the US was never serious about negotiations, and the Cable is a reminder of the days before our invasion of Iraq, when Baghdad complained that every time they tried to make concessions on IAEA inspections, "the goalposts were moved."
Arabs Vs Iran -- The New York Times Refrain
Instead of honing in on significant disclosures that shed some light on the many Middle East policy failures that have marked US decision making in the region for decades, the US press went with "silly" and "sully." Those much-touted Cables reporting the acidic -- and not very diplomatic -- barbs of Arab leaders against Iran do not represent any "new" thinking, and need instead to be examined in context:
Firstly, these rulers have never recovered from their 1979 "bogeyman" fear of a Shia-majority, non-Arab, Islamist regional hegemon on their doorstep -- one that continued to thrive even after the predominantly Sunni, Arab Persian-Gulf nations, Egypt, Jordan and others misguidedly backed Saddam Hussein's hostile 1980 invasion of Iranian territory.
Secondly, many of these rulers are viewed - internally and throughout the Arab world -- as corrupt, often illegitimate and beholden to foreign interests. These heads of state are bitterly resentful that, by comparison, leaders like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria's Bashar al Assad are viewed vastly more favorably by populations throughout the Mideast and Muslim world.
In fact, when asked in a July 2010 Brookings poll about the prospects of a "nuclear" Iran, 57% of the populations of the same Arab nations whose leaders were caught in this Wikileaks pants-down-moment supported a nuclearized Iran. Why? Because only 10% of the Arab public view Iran as a threat, as opposed to their leaders. Instead, 88% of Arabs views Israel as their main threat, followed closely by 77% who worry about the United States.
To be honest, the "real" story is that this many Arab nations had secret dealings with Israel, which they bash very publicly for domestic and regional consumption. I suppose the theme here is Iran-in-secret, Israel-in-public.
Wikileaks "Beef" -- Some Random, Informative Analysis
The Wikileaks Cables do disclose some very telling snippets of information that provide critical information on a changing Middle East. I research shifting centers of influence in the region, and have long pointed out that we are erroneously lumping Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas together as a exclusive club of four. This grouping -- often referred to as the "Resistance Bloc" -- is perhaps the ground zero of a new and fast-growing "Worldview" emanating from the Mideast, but there are other important participants, namely Qatar, Turkey, maybe Oman, Iraq, and more.
This worldview -- put simply -- reflects a "desire to act in their own self-interest," and its adherents, who come from varying backgrounds, place "opportunism" ahead of "ideology" which has led to new and unexpected political and economic alliances, both regionally and internationally.
A revealing March 2009 Cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv shows that we are aware of these subtleties, but obviously choose not to assign importance to the regional shifts in influence and alliances. They simply and inconveniently do not "fit" our own worldview.
In a July 2007 Cable, Israel's Mossad Chief Meir Dagan characterizes Qatar as "a real problem," and accused its Emir Sheikh Hamad of "annoying everyone." The Cable continues: "In his view, Qatar is trying to play all sides -- Syria, Iran, Hamas -- in an effort to achieve security and some degree of independence."
Bingo. There is your New Middle East right there.
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for the Middle East Yacov Hadas provides a March 2009 briefing for US political counselors along the same lines, stressing "that he thought Qatar's policies were not a matter of a shift in ideology toward the radical camp, but linked to their rivalry with the Saudis and, by extension, with Egypt. "
We’ve heard outlandish allegations of Islamophobia sweeping America. Not getting nearly as much attention is the bloody persecution of Christians in parts of the Muslim world.
Every report of an Islamist terrorist plot is accompanied by a chorus of warnings against Americans hating or attacking Muslim Americans. Yet, that much-ballyhooed bigotry almost never seems to arise. The latest FBI hate crime statistics, for 2009, found that 8.4 percent of the 1,575 victims of anti-religious crimes were attacked because of anti-Islamic bias. In contrast, 71.9 percent of the victims were Jews.
No doubt acts of intolerance against Muslims can be found, and they should be condemned. But Muslims aren’t fleeing America in fear of their lives like Christians are leaving some Islamic nations.
Open Doors, an organization supporting persecuted Christian churches, asserts 100 million Christians worldwide are targeted for their faith. It found that eight of the top 10 countries that are the most dangerous for Christians to practice their religion are nations with Islamic majorities, including Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Topping the list was communist North Korea.
New on this year’s Open Doors list is Iraq, to the shame of that nation’s new leadership and of its biggest backer, the United States. More than half of Iraq’s Christian population, numbering 800,000 to 1.4 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion, have fled the country, according to the New York Times.
As the U.S. military footprint has receded, violence against Iraqi Christians has surged. The worst recent attack was an Oct. 31 siege of the Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad that killed 51 worshipers and two priests. More carnage followed in a wave of bombings and killings aimed at Christians. In one ghastly case, a Christian woman who survived the Baghdad church attack was murdered in her bed.
In another mass attack against Christians, a suicide bomber detonated at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, last weekend, killing 21. Compounding an act of Christianity hate with a dose of anti-Semitism, Egypt blamed Israel’s Mossad spy agency for the attack. Israel is one country in the Middle East that has seen its Christian population grow, with Palestinian Christians fleeing persecution in the West Bank ruled by the Palestinian Authority.
Anti-Christian atrocities are far from uncommon. The State Department this week said it is “deeply concerned” by increasing attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa, citing Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria. Christmas Eve church attacks and explosions in Nigeria killed 38 people. In Afghanistan, a prosecutor threatened the death penalty against two Afghans who converted to Christianity. Islamic organizations are blamed for multiple attacks on churches in Indonesia. A Somali teenager was murdered last month for converting to Christianity. The Taliban kidnapped and killed three Christian relief workers in Pakistan last summer.
Just being tolerant of Christianity can make you a marked man. A prominent Pakistani governor was assassinated Tuesday by his bodyguard. His crime: Working to repeal blasphemy laws used to persecute minorities and standing up for a Christian woman sentenced to death under those laws. An influential group of more than 500 Muslim clerics and scholars paid tribute to the killer. This organization represents Pakistan’s majority Barelvi sect, which according to the AP, “follows a brand of Islam considered moderate.”
Can anyone imagine the Catholic College of Cardinals justifying murder of non-Christians? Islamist terrorism is more than a bunch of thugs killing people. It’s enabled by radical theology from influential clerics, authoritarian governments using hate of “the other” to manipulate restive populations, and too much silence, or worse, acquiescence in the Muslim world.