March 25, 2002
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"Belief is not required. Once you know this story, you'll hear it
everywhere in your culture, and you'll be astonished that the people
around you don't hear it as well but merely take it in."
"First definition: story. A story is a scenario interrelating man, the world, and the gods."
"Second definition: to enact. To enact a story is to live so as to make the story a reality....to enact a story is to strive to make it come true."
"Third definition: culture. A culture is a people enacting a story." "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn; copyright 1992, Bantam Books.
Armageddon, n. (LL. Armagedon; Gr. Armageddon, Harmagedon; from Heb. har, mountain, and megiddon, the plain of Megiddo, proverbial scene of decisive battles.)
1. in the Bible, the place where the last, decisive battle between the forces of good and evil will be fought before the Day of Judgment: Rev. xvi. 16
2. any great, decisive battle
Throughout the ages, humanity has been engaged in the 'war to end all wars' and has developed more and more powerful armaments, weapons of mass extinction, with an eye toward ensuring the end of all war. In the story of Armageddon, everyone will finally agree that the ultimate victor may never be challenged again, that disagreement must never arise, that there is only one way to live and dissent cannot be tolerated. Never again will people have individual beliefs and opinions that differ from accepted norms. One government, one religion, one GOD; whose ultimate authority will dominate all things physical and spiritual, and bring clarity to our historical existence. Or else!
This ancient story may seem impossibly myopic to some of us, but indications are that mankind is well on the way to writing the final chapter and closing the book.
In an earnest effort to cloak the nakedness of both justice and law, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has covered two twelve foot statues in the atrium of a Justice Department building. The female figure, Spirit of Justice, is bare-breasted and her partner, Majesty of Law, is short on toga. In Ashcroft's mind, both are indecent and unchristian.
St. Ashcroft should know, in the manner of King David of Old Testament Israel, whenever Ashcroft is sworn in to political office he is anointed with salad oil. When he entered the Senate, his father, a senior minister of a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church and specialist of speaking in tongues, performed the duty. When he ascended to the throne of attorney general, the great apostle had Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas drizzle the oil.
I'm sure 'the war on evil' Bush is thankful he has found such a mighty prophet in our midst, to whom he may entrust enforcement of the Patriot Act. That the Anointed One offers invaluable assistance in discernment of evil was noted last November by Democratic Party treasurer and a financial writer Andrew Tobias. According to Tobias, advance teams for an Ashcroft visit to the US embassy in The Hague asked anxiously if there were calico cats on the premises. Apparently, the Attorney General believes that calico cats are signs of the devil.
Venerable Ashcroft is not alone in Washington's sanctuary of religiosity.
The senior Democrat on the national security subcommittee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, recently observed that the Bush administration has a "theological fascination with missile defense. People are playing with the apocalypse." Said Kucinich, "These are doomsday scenarios ... [and] it needs to be challenged." Kucinich was referring to the Bush communicants' obsession with missiles and argues that a terrorist is more likely to attack by truck or by boat. Delivery would be cheaper and more reliable and it could not be traced easily to those responsible.
That terrorists could deliver a nuclear device is not inconceivable or an unrealistic scenario. Last August, international researchers at Stanford University's Institute for International Studies announced the world's most complete database of lost, stolen and misplaced nuclear material. The Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Theft and Orphan Radiation Sources is intended to help governments and international agencies track radioactive material worldwide and supplement existing national programs that often fail to share information.
Those researchers found that over the past 10 years, at least 88 pounds (40 kg) of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium had been stolen from nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union. While most of this material was subsequently retrieved, at least 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of highly enriched uranium stolen from a reactor in Georgia remains missing.
A visiting researcher from the Kazakhstan National Nuclear Center, Lyudmila Zaitseva, told Reuters, "It truly is frightening. I think this is the tip of the iceberg." She added that while in many cases those behind nuclear thefts can be identified, the ultimate destination of the nuclear material has remained a mystery. "We haven't found a single occasion in which the actual end users have been caught."
She speculated that the underground market for nuclear material is likely to grow, noting that a U.S.-sponsored program to secure nuclear components in the former Soviet Union thus far had only confined about a third of an estimated 600 tons of weapons-usable material. "It's just not protected," she said. "This is hot stuff. If you steal 20 kilograms of that material, you can build a nuclear weapon."
Representative Kucinich has also called recent administration comments that the U.S. might use a nuclear weapon in a first strike the "height of immorality ... to throw that stuff around as if it were casual locker-room banter." Here he refers to the Nuclear Posture Review provided to Congress on January 8th. Disciples of Bush have directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya and to build new smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations, "against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons;" or "in the event of surprising military developments." Recently, Bush accused Iran, Iraq and North Korea of forming an "axis of evil."
Meanwhile, in the Holy Land, the story of Armageddon draws near its conclusion.
As of March 4th, in 17 months of violence, 1,043 people have died on the Palestinian side and 312 people on the Israeli side. The Palestinian figure includes 40 suicide bombers, several suspected informers for Israel killed by Palestinian militants, 13 Israeli Arabs killed in pro-Palestinian riots and a German resident of the West Bank. The Israeli figure includes four non-Jews killed in Israeli army uniform, a worker from the Philippines killed in a suicide bomb attack, two Romanian workers killed in a border explosion and a Greek monk killed in a roadside shooting. Killings have become a daily occurrence:
February 18th - Palestinian sets off explosives at an Israeli roadblock, kills himself and Israeli police officer. In Gaza, a Palestinian, later killed, opens fire on a civilian car and on soldiers.
February 19th - Palestinians kill Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint near Ramallah. In other incidents, nine Palestinians are killed, including a suicide bomber.
February 20th - Palestinians are killed in Israeli retaliations and military operations.
February 21st - Palestinians are killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
February 25th - Palestinian gunman opens fire in Jewish neighborhood in disputed part of Jerusalem, killing a police officer.
February 27th - Palestinian woman blows herself up at Israeli checkpoint, killing herself and wounding two police officers.
February 28th - Israeli forces move into two West Bank Palestinian refugee camps, battling gunmen and searching for suspects and weapons.
March 1st - Israeli and Palestinians killed in Jenin camp.
March 2nd - Palestinian suicide bomber sets off explosives in Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem.
March 3rd - Palestinian sniper kills seven Israeli soldiers and three civilians at West Bank checkpoint.
March 4th - Israeli forces kill Palestinians at Jenin camp, at Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, and in the West Bank. A Palestinian gunman kills three Israelis at a Tel Aviv restaurant.
The total number of people killed from February 18th through March 4th was 72 Palestinians and 35 Israelis.
On March 8th, Israel raided Palestinian towns and refugee camps and killed at least 36 Palestinians on the deadliest day in 17 months of fighting. Palestinians killed five Israeli teen-agers and a soldier.
On March 12th, as Israeli ground forces and helicopter gunships killed 31 Palestinians, United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan told Israel that "you must end the illegal occupation" of Palestinian lands. In a statement to the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Annan appealed to both sides to "lead your peoples away from disaster." He condemned Palestinian terror attacks on innocent civilians as "morally repugnant."
"To the Israelis I say: you have the right to live in peace and security within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must end the illegal occupation," he said. "More urgently, you must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians."
"To the Palestinians I say: you have the inalienable right to a viable state within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings. It is doing immense harm to your cause, by weakening international support and making Israelis believe that it is their existence as a state, and not the occupation, that is being opposed." Annan said that the situation was the "worst in 10 years," a reference to the period of the Oslo peace process.
Most Palestinians believe the United States conspired with Israel, withholding 'peace envoy' General Zinni until Israel completed its raids. Yasir Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian minister of information asks, "Was it an American-Israeli deal in order to give the Israelis the chance for a few days to occupy Ramallah?"
Palestinians also suspect that the Bush administration was again appearing to intervene in this conflict only to build support for an invasion of Iraq, just as it did before the invasion of Afghanistan. Tony Blair and George Bush are to hold a specially convened summit in April to finalize details of military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
However, at Boeing's bomb factory in St. Charles, Mo., three shifts are working 24/7 to replenish depleted Air Force and Navy inventories of smart bombs and other arms stocks. Recent demands on ships and aircraft and on active duty and reserve forces, and the need to obtain regional basing and command center agreements have imposed an inconveniently long timeline for conventional military actions in Iraq. If the use of 'tactical' nuclear arms is deemed appropriate, and the international community is complacent, the war on evil could visit Iraq sooner.
Why Iraq? Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter says Iraq is America's phantom menace. "If the US attacks, it will be the result of a flawed policy by the West against Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration has foregone any debate on whether Iraq represents a big enough threat to America for it to go to war. The focus has shifted away from whether we should attack Iraq to how and when we will fight."
"So let's consider America's obsession that Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. An 'engineer' who worked on Saddam's palaces spoke of underground tunnels and secreted documents. Inspectors found only a drainage tunnel and no documents. But Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi persuaded his American sponsors that the tunnels existed. When the Americans needed a link between Iraq and September 11, Chalabi trotted out a list of 'defectors' who claimed that would-be hijackers were being secretly trained in the town of Salman Pak."
"But America's thinking is flawed on two counts."
"Iraq has sought to embrace the Western model of economics and society."
"And Hussein and Osama bin Laden are complete opposites in terms of ideology and motivation. They are natural enemies as opposed to secret allies. When George Bush recently told Iraq to let in UN weapons inspectors or 'suffer the consequences,' Chalabi conveniently produced another 'defector.' He alleged that Saddam planned to hide biological and chemical weapons."
"I spent more than six years investigating the organizations the defector claimed to work for. Elements of his story ring true, but the details used to embellish his tale of weapons of mass destruction are either impossible to pin down or just plain wrong. The UN stopped using Chalabi's information as the tenuous nature of his sources and his dubious motivations became clear. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the US."
"The reality is that most of Iraq's biological agents, along with its production facilities, have been destroyed. America claims that Iraq lied to inspectors and still has deadly stockpiles. But the Bush administration has shown little interest in sending the inspectors back. It has used their absence to hype the threat of a re-armed Iraq. In any event, America would find another war against Iraq much tougher than the last. Troops could face conflict as bitter as Normandy in 1944."
Virtually every country in the Middle East has publicly opposed another military 'intervention' in Iraq, but the Bush congregation apparently believes that more conflict is essential to the Armageddon story. How might those of us who are living the other story influence the outcome of this chapter in Armageddon and open our book to the rest of the world?
Last August, I videotaped an interesting discussion by Dr. Stephen Zunes, an associate professor of Politics and chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. He offered some rare and valuable insight regarding the turmoil in the Middle East and has since shared some post- 9/11 thoughts:
"For years, progressive voices in this country called for the withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East, a more even-handed position between the Israelis and Palestinians, a cessation of support for repressive governments, an end to the punitive sanctions against the people of Iraq, and a halt to the massive arms shipments that already have overly militarized region. If those in power had heeded these demands, it would have likely prevented the rise of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East; thousands of Americans and others killed on September 11 would still be alive today. It is ironic, then, that the very militarists whose policies led to the current crisis have successfully manipulated the threat they helped create to their own political advantage while marginalizing the prophetic progressive voices who warned that such consequences might be forthcoming if such misguided policies continued."
"Perhaps the greatest contribution progressives can make to the current situation in the short- to medium-term is exposing how the Bush administration is using the crisis to advance its right-wing ideological agenda....those opposing further U.S. military intervention must emphasize that the struggle against terrorism is too important to be sabotaged by ideologues wishing to settle old scores."
"Another example regards the enormous increase in military spending advocated by the Bush administration, with apparent support from leading congressional Democrats, that has been justified as necessary to fund the war on terrorism. However, the vast majority of the proposed spending is for weapons systems and other expenditures having nothing to do with counterterrorism; indeed, many were originally designed to counter Soviet weapons that no longer exist."
"From fiscal policy to civil liberties to trade issues to environmental concerns, the entire agenda of the political right is being advanced in the name of fighting terrorism....antiterrorism has become what anticommunism was during the cold war: the manipulation of an outside threat to pursue a right-wing agenda, including the suppression of legitimate dissent."
"At the same time, few things make people angrier than being taken advantage of in time of genuine need. Progressives must acknowledge the reality of the terrorist threat and the necessity of a strong and effective response from our government, while at the same time exposing the perfidy of the Bush administration in cynically manipulating our genuine need for security for the sake of its rigid ideological constructs and its wealthy financial supporters."
"Whatever the most appropriate U.S. response may be in the short term, the most important thing the United States can do to prevent future terrorism is to change its policies toward the Middle East... peace activists should demand an end to the unconditional U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israel's rightist government and its occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- not only because it fuels the fires of anti-American extremism but also because it is wrong to support any government that violates basic principles of international law and human rights."
"The emphasis on a largely military response to the threat of terrorism ignores the fact that it has been the dramatic militarization of the Middle East in recent decades, encouraged by successive U.S. administrations, that has helped create this violent anti-American backlash. Indeed, the more the U.S. has militarized the region, the less secure the American people have become. All the sophisticated weaponry, brave fighting men and women, and brilliant military leadership the United States may possess will do little good if there are hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East and beyond who hate us."
"Many Americans actually believe their government's rhetoric that the United States actually supports democracy, international law, demilitarization, economic development, and Israeli-Palestinian peace. The challenge for the American peace movement is to expose the real nature of U.S. policy. Once this is done, the popular support for such a movement will already be there to mobilize the kind of resistance that has forced a change toward a more ethical foreign policy in previous conflicts. The threat from terrorism has in certain ways made this more difficult, as so many Americans have become angry and defensive about critiques of U.S. policy in the face of such violence and rage from foreign extremists. In other ways, however, the very seriousness of the threat has opened people up to learn more about the Middle East, why so many people in that part of the world might hate us, and what might be in the real security interests of the nation."
...and the rest of the world
I don't agree with Daniel Quinn's entire hypothesis in "Ishmael," but I do believe he is right about stories. If humanity continues to wage war to end all war, as in the Armageddon story, it will eventually doom itself to extinction and may extinguish all life on this Earth, our home.
End of story.
Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, second edition
Reuters News Service, August 3, 2001, "World Awash In Stolen Nuclear Material" by Andrew Quinn
Foreign Policy In Focus, February 12, 2002, "A New Path to Peace" by Stephen Zunes, http://www.fpif.org/
The Washington Post, February 24, 2002, "Anti-Iraq Rhetoric Outpaces Reality" by Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung
Guardian Unlimited, Monday March 4, 2002, "Staff Cry Poetic Injustice" by Julian Borger
Associated Press in The New York Times, March 12, 2002, "Theological Fascination With Missile Defense" by Shays-Kucinich
The Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2002, "A Deadly Cycle of Retaliation in Israel" by Mary Curtius
Associated Press in The New York Times, March 8, 2002, "Mideast Death Toll Hits 17 Month High"
The Los Angeles Times, March 9, 2002, "Pentagon Broadens Nuclear Strategy | Bush Lists 7 Nations as Potential Targets" by Paul Richter
The New York Times, March 13, 2002, "U.N. Chief Tells Israel It Must End 'Illegal Occupation'" by James Bennet
The Mirror, March 15, 2002, "Blinkered Bush Has Got It All Wrong" by American former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter
"Turns Out It's Not the Black Cats You Have to Watch Our For" by Andrew Tobias, http://www.andrewtobias.com/
"Biocracy" by Michael W. Stowell
"Palestine and Israel" by Michael W. Stowell
"This Round's On You, Again" by Michael W. Stowell
Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Arcata Library in Arcata, CA. He is the producer/editor/videographer of numerous public access television programs; he is a naturalist, a gardener, a bicyclist and a Swans' columnist.
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work on the Web without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Michael W. Stowell 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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