A Lost Poem by Dylan Thomas

 

Palestine

Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into Zion’s night,

The people must resist at close of day;

Rage, rage against the killing of the light.

Since wise men in their hearts know what is right,

Because their homes are ruined by soldiers they

Do not go gentle into Zion’s night.

Good men, in Palestine, crying how bright

Their land might have been and gay,

Rage, rage against the killing of the light.

Brave men, who fought and put the Jews to flight,

And learn, too late, the children have to pay,

Do not go gentle into Zion’s night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

The U.S. has the wealth and pays the way,

Rage, rage against the killing of the light.

And you, my country, there on the feared height

Curse, cease support and shame, I prey.

Do not go gentle into Zion’s night

Rage, rage against the killing of the light.

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H.R. 4133: the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation and Screw the Taxpayer Act

On May 9 the House of Representatives passed a bill that could have a dramatic impact on America’s foreign policy and will certainly cost us a lot of money, but since any news of this legislation was virtually absent from the mainstream media, very few Americans are aware of it existence.  H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was slipped through the House under a rules suspension that allowed a quick vote with virtually no debate.  The bill had bipartisan backing, being introduced by Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer and two particularly loathsome Republicans, who seem to owe their primary allegiance to Israel, Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.  (Actually, the bill had “tripartisan” backing, since the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Tel Aviv’s powerful instrument in America, helped write it.)  The vote was 411-2, only Ron Paul (R) and John Dingell (D) voting against.  How odd that our increasingly dysfunctional and divided government could achieve virtually unanimity on a bill, one that most Americans will never hear of.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence and honesty already knows what actions counter to our interests Israel’s stranglehold on Washington has forced upon us, but this bill represents a mind-numbing escalation of commitment to a state whose foreign and domestic policies are at odds with what this country presumes to stand for.  In essence the bill is a blank check from the American taxpayer, who will now be obliged to support Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over all its neighbors combined, of course leaving it to Israel and its Congressional supporters (which is to say, almost all of Congress) to decide exactly what that vague phrase means.  Certainly, one thing it means is that we will be sending more of our money out of the country in order to support activities of extremely questionable legality and morality.

The legislation also affirms our commitment to the “security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”  This is an interesting development in our “passionate attachment” (G. Washington) to Israel.  We have of course spent decades squandering our money and international credibility on an “ally” whose value to American security and interests (apart from domestic politics) is not at all clear and which continually violates the international law we are pledged to uphold and the basic values that we trumpet to the world.  But now we have pledged (for the first time in our history, I believe) to guarantee the religious/cultural nature of a foreign country.

One might legitimately ask why we should care, unless it was to criticize an oppressive government, which we cannot do anyway in the case of Israel, but more than that, what exactly does this mean?  When the Muslim minority in Israel’s citizen body becomes the majority, as it inevitably will, will the US have to intervene?  When Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are formally incorporated into Eretz Yisrael will we have to help enforce apartheid or deport all those Palestinians?  If a majority of Israeli citizens voted to declare Israel a secular state, would we have to prop up a minority government?  And exactly what is a “Jewish state,” especially when the majority of inhabitants of the state in question do not practice Judaism?

The legislation requires the US to supply all sorts of equipment for the “defense” of Israel.  Of course, Israel has always been able to utterly smash its enemies, requiring only resupply from a compliant Uncle Sam, and the only potentially threatening neighbor whose military might be improving is Egypt, whose major supplier, America, is hardly likely to provide her an edge.  Included in the list are refueling tankers and bunker-busting bombs, which are obviously offensive weapons, unless of course your definition of defense includes preemptive strikes against other countries, which it does in the eyes of Israel – and increasingly the United States.  What are now called “preemptive strikes” were traditionally labeled “wars of aggression.”  I wonder if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor can be called a preemptive strike?  After all, American naval power was a threat to the continued existence of the Japanese Empire.

One particularly frightening part of the bill is the expressed desire for Israel to play an increased role in NATO, included a presence at NATO headquarters and involvement in NATO exercises.  The clear intention is that Israel ultimately become a member of NATO, thus dragging the entire European alliance into her wars and making it complicit in her continued violation of international law.  With that Israel could attack Iran or any other country with impunity, because if the victim dare fight back, the United States and the rest of NATO would be required to come to her aid.  This would be placing an assault rifle in the hands of an ill disciplined child.  But it is hard to imagine Turkey signing on to this plan, and one hopes the majority of European members would also object.  Of course, then Congress would begin looking at an actual treaty with Israel, though given the utter subservience of our politicians to Israeli interests, it would hardly be necessary.

One final slap in our face.  Washington has agreed to put up an additional $680 million (beyond the $3.1 billion we pay every year) to help Israel pay for her Iron Dome anti-missile system and the new F-35 fighter.  Israel has also requested another $168 million for security measures, while the Obama administration has asked for $99.9 million on top of that.  And to make sure poor Israel does not run out of American money the Iron Dome Support Act, introduced by Berman and the ever vigilant Ross-Lehtinen, would require our Treasury to keep shelling out the money.  And here is the joke on us: Israel has this year cut its defense budget by 5% and intends to do the same next year!  Oh, there is a second joke: the United States has absolutely no rights to the technology being developed for the Iron Dome system, which will be marketed to the world by Israel.  Perhaps we can get a special deal.

We have become a silly nation.

A Lost Poem by Rudyard Kipling

The U.S. Burden

Rudyard Kipling

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

Send forth the best ye breed –

Go bind your sons to exile

To serve all corporate greed;

To wait in heavy harness

In Kuwait and Kabul,

To transform Arab culture

And send Islam to school.

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

In patience to abide

To veil the threat of terror

And check Islamic pride;

By opaque speech, not simple,

And never quite made plain,

To seek all corporate profit

And Haliburton’s gain.

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

The savage wars of oil –

Fill full the maws of tankers

And make the people toil;

And when your goal is nearest

The peace the world has sought,

Watch Banks and Wall Street Folly

Bring all your hope to nought.

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

No tawdry rule of law,

But drones and Hellfire missiles

Shall hold them all in awe.

The news ye shall not publish,

The facts ye shall not spread,

Go send abroad your living,

And bring them back as dead!

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

And reap the butcher’s bill:

The blame of those ye batter,

The hate of those ye kill –

The cry of hosts ye shepherd

Unto the western light: –

“Why brought ye us from bondage,

Our loved Islamic night?”

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

And dare to stoop to less –

And call again on Freedom

To cloak your greediness;

By all ye cry or whisper,

By all ye leave or do,

The peoples of the planet

Shall weigh your God and you.

 

Take up the U.S. burden –

Have done with truthful days –

The worldwide admiration,

The European praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through these new fascist years,

Hard-edged with higher wisdom,

The judgment of your peers!

We Bad: American Exceptionalism

“American exceptionalism” is a phrase dear to the hearts of all politicians but most especially Republicans, who, however, never bother to specify exactly what it means.  Presumably they are thinking of the America of the 19th century, when we were the only serious power with a fully functioning democracy and without any traditional class distinctions.  Ours was the society that rewarded hard work and cleverness and afforded the individual the greatest opportunity to improve his condition, regardless of his background.  Of course it was also a society that accepted a high level of individual violence and lagged behind western Europe in abolishing slavery and establishing mechanisms of social welfare, but it was nevertheless exceptional, as Tocqueville recognized.

But this is the now the 21st century and virtually all the industrial democracies display the characteristics that once made us exceptional.  Yet one can still speak, as the conservatives do, about an American exceptionalism.  The problem is that we are now exceptional in ways that one might be reluctant to brag about.

We are of course still the richest nation on earth, but we now lead the industrial democracies in income inequality, that is, our rich-poor gap is wider and becoming more so.  In roughly the last 30 years the income of the top 1% has increased by 275%, that of the next 19% by only 62%, the next 60% by 40% and the bottom 20% by a mere 18%.  We are #50 in income distribution, with 30.5% of all income going to the top 10%; Russia is the only European country below us in this category.

But we sure know what to do with all that wealth.  We are #1 in spending ($4271 per capita per year), #1 in military expenditure (but only #3 in military personnel), #1 in energy use (equivalent of 8.35 tons of oil per capita per year), #2 in coal use (1.06 million short tons per year; China edges us out, whereas #3 India uses only .339 million), #1 in carbon dioxide emissions (5.7 million metric tons per year), but alas, only #2 in biggest environmental footprint (the UAE is #1).

We are #1 in per capita health care expenditure ($6096) and #1 in health care expenditure as a percentage of GDP (15.4%).  Yet, for all that money we are #44 in doctors per 1000 people (2.67; little commie Cuba is #2 with 6.4), #14 in nurses and midwives per 1000 people (9.8), #77 in hospital beds per 1000 people (3.1) and #1 in obesity (30.6% of the population) but only #49 in life expectancy (78.37 years).  And this is a health care system that does not include some 30 million citizens, unlike the total population coverage present in every other industrialized democracy.  Sure, we have the best health care system in world, as conservatives like to say – if you can afford it.

We are #37 in percentage of GDP spent on education (5.7%), but that is of course a big number in dollars.  Still, we are #12 in years of adult schooling and #18 in math literacy.  On the other hand, we are #1 in teen pregnancy (22% of all 20 year old women), so they are doing something in school.

Incidentally, most Republicans like to think of the US as a “Christian” nation, even though most of the Founding Fathers were not Christian.  Well, as the teen pregnancy indicates, some of us are not engaged in very Christian behavior.  Further, we also have the #1 divorce rate (4.95 per 1000 people) and #1 incarceration rate (715 per 1000 people; #2 Russia has 584).  In 2007 we were #7 in executions (42), up in the top ten with such enlightened countries as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Considering our firearm policies, we were only a disappointing #4 in homicides with guns.  On the other hand, we are #1 in motor vehicle deaths (15.5 per 1000 people); the death toll from 9/11 in fact represents a slow month on America’s highways.

But I suspect most Americans are completely unaware of our new exceptionalism.  They are too busy: we are after all #1 in TV viewing (28 hours per week).

(The statistics are mostly from the last decade and from the UN via nationmaster.com.)