Sunday, January 29, 2017

American Intifada

Intifada: from the Dictionary of Modern Arabic; a "tremor, shudder, or a shiver." Derived from the Arabic root nafada, which means to shake, shake out, dust off, to shake off one's laziness, to have reached the end of, to be finished, to rid oneself of something, to refuse to have anything to do with something, to break with someone." 

There's a whole lot of shaking going on these days. Judging from the mass protests erupting in the first post-inaugural week, millions of people are refusing to have anything to do with the new president. They want to break up with Donald Trump, and with good reason.

Of course, if Barack Obama had instituted a temporary ban on immigration from five out of the seven countries that he's bombed over the past eight years, there probably would have been very few grumblings from liberals. I doubt that protesters in the thousands would have stormed the airports on Saturday, bearing handwritten signs condemning the presidential decree and putting out their own welcome mat for Muslims. I can almost guarantee that this never would have happened, given the liberal apathy over his eight years of both open and secret war on countries with predominately Muslim populations.

For one thing, influential Islamophobic liberal comedian Bill Maher would not have tolerated it. He would have praised Obama for his pragmatism. Elected Democrats would have soothed that it's unfortunately sometimes necessary for scapegoated Others to give up some of their human rights in order that we Americans may feel safe and secure. For another thing, the calculating and nuanced Obama brain trust would have ensured that any protests would be immediately squelched by Homeland Security and local police forces operating out of the same Fusion Centers which tore down the Occupy camps and kept all manner of protests against NATO, corporate party conventions, police brutality and oil pipelines kettled or otherwise contained.

That thousands of people did storm the airports on Saturday in reaction to Donald Trump's now partially stayed draconian travel ban for Muslim refugees, students, workers and immigrants is testament to his own congenital inability to hide his bigotry. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Trump might be just the catalyst we need to start all kinds of protests against wars and presidential drone kill lists. His subtlety, planning skills and propaganda leave a lot to be desired. He doesn't do his atrocious thing behind closed doors, as previous administrations have done with their Friday night news dumps, their secret legal opinions and their secret FISA Court rubber stamps. He doesn't deliver glib, silver-tongued platitudinous speeches. Trump can do nothing but brag and bray about his perfidy, even inviting the media that he purports to loathe into his inner sanctum for atrocity photo-ops. How idiotically proud he looked holding up his executive order banning human beings from entering the US based solely upon their religious beliefs. His signature is as super-sized as his ego.

Trump is not original or smart enough to have to have issued his unconstitutional order right out of the clear blue sky. His action is only the most extreme outcome of decades of cruel American foreign policy toward countries with majority Muslim populations.

Ironically, though, Trump does seem intelligent enough to give credence to the theory of "blowback." By banning travelers from seven countries which the United States has both physically and economically terrorized in recent years, he tacitly admits that their citizens might be feeling a bit irate, especially if one of Obama's predator drones or bombs had vaporized one of their family members - simply because they were acceptable collateral damage, or belonged to Obama's invisible "Disposition Matrix." 

As a matter of fact, Trump was drawing directly upon the Obama Administration's own selection of the countries to be subject to travel restrictions. In 2015, the former president signed into law the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which required more stringent vetting of travelers from the same seven countries now being singled out by Trump: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.

Denigrating the Muslim faith has been an American media tradition for many, many decades. As Edward Said noted in Covering Islam, when Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh, a lapsed Catholic, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Muslim terrorism was immediately seized upon by TV networks and newspapers as the likely culprit. 

McVeigh himself had perfected his pathological violence four years earlier, when he'd helped massacre a group of trapped Iraqi soldiers, and taken photographs of their corpses for his own personal collecting pleasure.

After September 11, of course, Muslims became even fairer game. Few people objected when George W. Bush invaded Iraq based not only on the false reports of weapons of mass destruction, but on the widespread false belief that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks on our soil. But neither had people objected when, pre-9/11, Bill Clinton bombed a baby formula factory in Somalia and Madeline Albright crowed that 500,000 Iraqi children dying as result of American sanctions was "worth it."

Islamophobia has been drilled into Donald Trump's skull by the media he now pretends to despise every bit as effectively as it has been drilled into the heads of much of the Western news-consuming public. We have been taught to believe that Islam is one all-encompassing culture which regulates every nation in which it is the predominate faith. But just as there is no such thing as a Christian country, there is no such thing a "Muslim country." 

Edward Said wrote of media coverage:
Looming over their work is the slippery concept, to which they constantly allude, of "fundamentalism," a word that has come to be associated almost automatically with Islam, although it has a flourishing, usually elided, relationship with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. The deliberately created associations between Islam and fundamentalism ensure that the average reader comes to see Islam and fundamentalism as essentially the same thing.
Rarely is "radical Islam" ever even defined in media accounts. If few people realize that Wahhabism is the most right-wing form of Islam, can it be any surprise that a voracious news consumer like Donald Trump would also be so unaware? Can it be any surprise that oil-rich American trading partner and arms purchaser Saudi Arabia, which harbors the largest concentration of Wahhabists, was not on Trump's banned list? After all, Obama brokered the sale of $115 billion worth of arms and training to the Saudis, who are now using them to slaughter those newly-banned and impoverished Yemeni immigrants and refugees. Obama completed 42 separate deals with murderous Saudi autocrats. And suddenly, newly-enraged liberals are out there protesting our new autocratic deal-maker of a president. It's a miracle.

 As far as Trump and many millions of Americans are concerned, Islam is a perfectly acceptable and natural enemy when it resides in Middle East locales which are either lacking in oil resources or are not willing to deal with or kowtow to American power. Islam became the go-to scapegoat and new casus belli for the money-hungry military-industrial complex once the Soviet Union collapsed -- ironically enough, because of its occupation of Afghanistan and the ensuing campaign by CIA-backed jihadists in what non-church-going Ronald Reagan himself called a "holy war."

As chronicled by Karen Armstrong in Fields of Blood, Reagan told a conference of evangelical Christians in 1983 that the Soviet Union was the evil empire, and that Osama bin Laden's mujahadin fighters were the good guys.

Fast forward a decade, post-Soviet collapse, and as Edward Said wrote,"Small surprise that the Sunday New York Times 'Week in Review" headlined January 21, 1996 issue with 'The Red Menace is Gone. Here's Islam.'"

Fast forward two more decades, and the Obama administration began its open secret of an assassination-by-drone crusade against Muslims. It was all done secretly, surgically and politically correctly, because Obama nobly refused to stoop to Trump's level and utter the words "Islamic extremism."

Meanwhile, relentless and unconstitutional police surveillance of Muslims in Trump's Real Estate Empire (the New York metropolitan area) was being staunchly defended by the some of the same liberals who now decry Trump's racist executive order.  Long before Trump goose-stepped into the White House, the FBI was entrapping innocent people of Middle Eastern descent and accusing them, without evidence or with planted evidence, of Islamic terroristic plots.

Obama didn't need to sign an executive order banning a religion. He merely selectively obliterated some of that religion's adherents, with a lot of collaterally-damaged dead women and children on the side. And after he so  graciously bequeathed his killing powers to Trump, the damned orange-haired psychopath had to go and ruin it all with a stupid decree making the longstanding war on Muslims an official act of utter hatred and depravity.

And as Purdue University anthropologist Suad Abdal Khabeer insightfully writes in an Al-Jazeera op-ed, Trump rolled out his anti-Muslim ban to keep his supporters on board while he screws them economically, as well as to scapegoat his predecessors, and to hypocritically deflect attention from his own serial misogyny and the fact that one out of every 20 American women is a victim of domestic partner abuse. Right-wing fundamentalist politicians like Vice President Mike Pence have long opposed the Violence Against Women Act. So Trump dutifully doubled down on the myth of the Arab male as sexual predator:
 Violence against women, honour killings in particular, is cited two times in the draft as something from which the US government is obliged to protect Americans. This specific practice of violence against women has been sutured to Arabs and Muslims in popular conversation. It builds on a broader narrative that Muslim women are oppressed by the men in their lives, their families and the religion they follow, and they need saving - by the US.
So much hypocrisy in Exceptional America. It runs the entire gamut from Democrat to Republican, all the Dorothy Parker-ish way from A to B.
Now that American citizens have gotten shaken up and developed a taste for protesting Trump's illegal banning of refugees among other horrors, and are so incensed at Trump's sexism, maybe they can join the resistance movement at the hideously-named Family Detention Centers. The Obama administration, which  deported far more people than in all previous administrations combined, also began locking migrants up in privatized prisons. More than a score of mother and child refugees from Central America remain illegally detained at one substandard private facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, despite their court-ordered release. Immigration officials recently threatened hunger-striking mothers with removal of their children if they persisted in their own protest. 

They need our help, but most of all they need our solidarity. 

Civil dissent must go far beyond the person of Donald Trump and far beyond one political party, if our democracy has even a chance of survival. 


Anonymous said...

Your blog is most sustaining--much appreciated.
Regarding Timothy McVeigh, please read Gore Vidal's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace if you haven't already.

Pearl said...

Karen: A very accurate (unfortunately) summing up of the hypocrisy that permeates our country, especially those in office.

One thing though disturbs me and that is the effect of religious belief which creates the excuse for destructive behavior pitting people against each other.
I deplore the behavior of hateful attitudes to anything Muslim preventing people from being welcome and living in peace. However, religious aspects of people everywhere of differing religions, regardless of the morality spelled out still divides by the belief that their God, their religious behavior, accompanying their often actual squelching of thinking outside the box is clearly defined. I worry about the effect of Islamic religious thought on others accompanying refugees living in different countries as well as their attitudes to women's place in society. And Israel is a divided country for those following the extremist Zionist philosophy of being the chosen people that should own all the land mentioned in the Holy writings. True Judaism is the other side of the coin but still has its regulatory laws. And it holds true for all the other religions holding sway in other countries.

As long as religion is a requirement for acceptance, we will always remain divided.
The constant emphasis by the Trump regime on conservative Christianity with contempt for others is now ruling the roost and who knows what thought process in that area fills Trump's delusional brain. Every celebration involves vast amounts of religious emphasis and it has been always thus politically. This is a strong power existing in everything that happens socially and would have to be eliminated to truly free mankind. Too many people who feel otherwise are secretive about their thoughts so we never get the fallout of the role religion plays in our lives.

And as for Democrats lousing up efforts for change, I am especially disappointed in liberal/progressives who should know better, backing off from making commitments to those who have the courage to speak up and out and put their reputations on the line. Among other items I refer to the trashing of Bernie despite his ongoing efforts for change that he is still fighting for.

annenigma said...

Well said, Karen. So true.

Jay–Ottawa said...

"Civil dissent must go far beyond the person of Donald Trump and far beyond one political party, if our democracy has even a chance of survival."

Therein lies the design for an Intifada worthy of the name.

Notice how the MSM does nothing more lately than cover Trump, whether on the "news" pages or in the opinion section. He is not the main problem. Targeting so much criticism on Trump is too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. He's an orange herring. Nothing will come of it but pearl clutching and swearing. Go ahead, replace him; nothing will change.

The real mess is in the space around the barrel that holds the strange fish. Our institutional mess preceded Trump and the institutional mess will remain after he is gone. Our failed systems must be what we're aiming to beat down with the sticks and stones of an American Intifada.

In some ways, the dark state is us. Our neglect of democracy made us complicit in its takeover by rotten elites, or whatever you want to call the few who hijacked the republic.

It appears the left, right and center are finally paying attention. They are on the march in both red and blue states. As Karen reminds us, it’s not Trump or the parties, it's the institutions, the systems, the whole damn machinery under the stage that needs correction.

Rust belt voters in the red states were smarter in a way. They voted against the system that screwed them by voting against Hillary. The blues were voting against Trump, apparently unaware the system was the problem.

The blues would do well to stop bashing Trump. He's just the face of the system, just as Hillary was. Next, the blues must find ways to work with the reds, the rustbelt people, to establish common goals in addressing money issues.

While Trump flails around, the system––government at all levels––continues to remain solidly under the control of the rotten elites––the superrich and their muscle, i.e., the Pentagon, militarized police and unbounded surveillance. If reform ever comes about, it will be because, somehow, the American Intifada faced its real oppressors and, somehow, after years of hard work, took back control of government at every level. It's the class war, darlings. Trump is a distraction from the class war; he's the elites' fool. Corner the elites and tear into them.

voice-in-wilderness said...

While recognizing the evils delivered by neoliberalism as applied inside the Beltway, I can't help but be impressed by how well it works in achieving its ends. At least in the short run. In the long run there will be planet-wide disasters, which is why the New Yorker recently wrote about the plans of some of the super-rich and their plans for hideouts.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Here's the concluding sentence of Glenn Greenwald's latest post, which chimes in with Karen's analysis of the root problem. Trump is merely the last of an "odious continuum" that goes back at least as far as Reagan and which was further strengthened on the eight years of Obama's watch.

"It’s not just Trump but this mentality and framework that needs vehement opposition."

annenigma said...

Talk about red/orange herrings! Oh, oh, I feel a rant coming on.

Every time the media and Democrats start harping on how we all want to see Trump's tax returns, I want to scream "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about his damned tax returns!" And the gotcha game with his lies is needless. We've long known he's full of it, but they get their jollies trying to prove it day in and day out over trivialities. News flash to media - there's actually news happening that you aren't covering!

What I demand to see is that audit of the Pentagon we've been waiting for since forever. How much are they blowing on blowing up people, including the civilians they deny killing? How much are they stealing from essential needs of our country through the Killing Machine, and the waste, fraud, and abuse that could be spent on our infrastructure instead of privatizing it? How much does it cost for over 1000 military facilities in over 100 countries? How much harm vs. benefit are the Special Ops forces doing while they're waging secret wars in 135 countries? The media and the Democrats never mention those. I guess they consider them 'alternative facts'. Sadly, even Bernie avoided those issues like the plague.

I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed by these protesters, I'm sickened by them because their main objection is 'It's Not Who We Are'. Where have these people been for the past umpteen years of war? Millions abroad were made homeless when we bombed their cities and homes to ashes over the past 15 years. Did they worry about Who We Are back then? We created millions of homeless who have been clinging to life, barely able to feed their own children. They're the ones who have never had plane fare to go anywhere.

Do the protesters realize that the wretched refuse of our wars never made it to Lady Liberty? They were forced to live in the ruins or make the desperate, difficult trudge to Europe on foot and by boat where, if they survived the trek, they get to live in tents. They've suffered for a long time, not merely inconvenienced at the airport. What we're seeing now coming in is the cream of the crop, relatively and generally speaking - the educated, English speaking, well-connected, aspiring to the American Dream.

Do protesters think those 7 countries Trump named have nothing to do with Obama bombing them? I realize that Obama said it's not war unless there are combat boots standing on the ground, and it's not war unless someone is actually shooting back at our high-flying drones (we only shoot fish in a barrel), but haven't they realized yet that the media has been full of fake/alternative facts and fake news and narrative for years? It's called propaganda and We are NOT exceptional! Obama wore his exceptional Peace Prize medal as a protective shield and the media kept it polished to a blinding shine.

Trump's ban is disturbing the delusional self-image of exceptional greatness. The fact is, when you go around the world killing civilians and denying it, and bombing functional countries into non-functioning ruins, and brazenly lying about it all to the entire world, there's a price. The security screening at airports, the watch lists, the privacy invasions, the ubiquitous surveillance and violations of our constitutional rights have all been implemented for the SAME reason as this ban, yet no mass protests ensued. Apparently those actions didn't threaten our delusional self-image.

Military imperialism is the lethal disease threatening us all, but it's still 'Bombs Away' because Americans are lost in the 'fog of war'.

annenigma said...

With our h2b visas, we're effectively harvesting the brightest, most successful people from these countries, hollowing them out and setting them up to become and remain failed states.

annenigma said...

Oops, I meant the h1b visa.

Jamie said...

I think liberals are like superheros. When a president with a 'D' next to their name is in office, liberals are oblivious to the arming of Nazi's in the Ukraine, jihadists in Syria, the bombing into the stone age of Libya and Syria, the enabling of the Saudi invasion of Yemen, the mass deportations of millions, and the constant drone strikes in Muslim nations.

Yet magically, when a politician with an 'R' next to their name takes power, Liberals develop a class-consciousness that even I, as a Marxist, envy. What is their trick, do they step into a phone booth?

annenigma said...

Was it just a coincidence that Trump's initiation into the Kill Club included the 8-year old daughter and sister of the two American citizens assassinated by Obama? The mission was reportedly teed up by Obama but delayed so Trump could be the one to take the deadly swing.

Jay–Ottawa said...

CJ Hopkins just brought a pin to our revolutionary balloon party.