And the crusades go forward…

There are two articles in Salon which should almost be required reading for anyone interested in the current Middle East disasters. The first, Rage and Despair, talks about how Bush’s radical departure from American policy and his giving Sharon the green light to annex the West Bank and his willingness to see Palestinians herded into concentration camps for the crime of being Arabic may be the touchstone that ignites the Arabic world into full fledged war on both Israel and the United States.

Bush said that there would be no return to the 1967 borders and that Israel’s policy of annexing occupied territory and planting large settlements on it — actions forbidden by the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949, which forbid permanently acquiring territory by war — had now received the stamp of approval from Washington. Moreover, Sharon was authorized to take further steps unilaterally, without negotiating with the Palestinians.

The second article, Turning into Israel?, is a continuation of the theme, but discusses how the American neocons have been working to link the Iraq and the Israeli situations, and how back in 1996, neocons who are part of the Bush administration had proposed a plan to invade Iraq, topple Saddam, and move the Palestinians from their land into Iraq. Here’s a copy of the report, authored by Richard Perle and other neocons who currently wield much power within the current regime.

Combined with the American military assault on Fallujah, Bush’s embrace of Sharon’s position succeeded in making America, in Arab eyes, virtually indistinguishable from Israel. The Egyptian daily al-Jumhuriyyah spoke for many Arabs when it observed in the wake of the Bush-Sharon accord, “the victims being killed daily in Palestine and Iraq are due to the continuation of the occupation … Violence and extremism have increased as a natural response to the brutality of the occupation.”

The upshot: In many minds, there are now two major occupations of Arab land by outside powers, the West Bank and Iraq. This perception is a very dangerous development for Americans seeking legitimacy in Iraq and the Muslim world. A former colleague of mine, Rahul Mahajan, is on the ground in Iraq. His reports about what’s happening there, and how the Iraqis feel about the US after the firefights in Fallujah are telling…and very, very frightening.

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