Our support for Israel is proof that our own religious zealotry is worse than “theirs”

ISIS and other religious extremist sects around the world fill us with a sense of intellectual superiority – a feeling of being fortunate that we aren’t so backward as to be ones to entertain dogma with any seriousness, let alone base any serious decisions upon it. “We might say we believe in God, but we don’t take that too literally. We’re more advanced than to allow ourselves to let doctrine compel us into any kind of meaningful action”.

Or so we tell ourselves.

But no matter what we tell ourselves, the world around us knows better, especially in the Middle East. Case in point: Israel, the country we helped found, supported vehemently, continue to forgive every time it crosses moral lines, and turn a blind eye to its constant atrocities. An officially apartheid state which was founded using terrorism and genocide, which subjugates an entire population according to ethnic/religious distinctions, and which is drifting more toward extreme forms of racism and bigotry in its public opinion polls.

Moreover, supporting Israel has not come cheap one bit. We spend billions of dollars every year to keep Israel viable. To help stabilize Israel, we had to cut up the neighboring Arab area into bogus “countries” and install a bunch of dictators over them and support them as their despotic regimes fostered despair and extremism. We had to help squelch the Arab spring that attempted to overthrow these rulers because, among other reasons, overthrowing them scared Israel. The death toll from all this maelstrom that we helped create is in the millions of Muslim civilians in the Middle East since 1948. That, having to live in constant fear of terrorism, and the perpetual strain on our collective Western economies because of the war on terror can all be tied to the cingular act of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

So why, you may ask, do we put ourselves through all of this for Israel? The most confessed answer that we don’t spend much time even trying to deny is that we simply believe that God gave the land of Palestine to Jews 3000 years ago. That’s why. That’s why we helped Zionists from Europe exterminate an entire population and confiscate their homes and lands, why we continue to place the security of the entire world in peril, and why we are content watching millions of civilians die and millions of others live under oppression: because we believe God gave that land to the Jews.

Who then, pray tell, is the real religious zealot in this picture?

The real reason why we owe Syrian refugees help

The real reason why we ought to help Syrian refugees, whether by welcoming them here in the West (especially in the US) or by pressuring Arab Gulf countries to accept them, is that we are responsible for most of their sorrow. The Syrian crisis is mainly a story of our own refusal to allow a Third World country (especially a Muslim-majority country) to be truly free.

We (American policy makers and the Obama Administration) saw how the Syrian revolution started. We knew it began peacefully. We knew it was about freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Yet, as we always do, we panicked. We panicked at the prospect of an independent government in the Third World that might adopt a system that may not be perfectly in line with our interests. In case you don’t know, maintaining dictatorships in Third World countries has been prototypical US foreign policy for almost a century. And the thought of a potentially Islamically-inclined government in Syria bordering Israel was just too risky for us, even if that’s what the Syrian people wanted.

Here’s our thought process in a nutshell when it comes to dealing with people in the Middle East: “We give these people democracy and they will vote for Islamists. We can’t have that”. This “can’t have that” mentality will prove to be the deadliest mindbug in human history. We are willing to go to amazing lengths of war, tragedy, creating enemies, and perpetual destruction just because we will not entertain the thought of having mature, diplomatic relations with people of different philisophies.

Subsequently, we consciously and calculatedly chose to stand back and watch as Assad butchered his people mercilessly. We knew all about his henchmen’s massacres, about the barrel bombs and the chemical weapons. We knew about the systematic rape and the mass kidnappings. We knew about the children chopped with machetes and the prisoners starved to death. We knew about the thousands of deaths. But to us, risking a new Syrian government that is truly independent and chosen by its people was not worth ending the carnage. We are hopelessly unable to learn from our foreign policy mistakes.

Then we watched as the rebels became more and more radicalized and we made that into a reverse-style excuse for not helping the revolution, even though this radicalization could have been thwarted had we supported the revolt earlier. When we finally decided to offer some help after realizing the mess we helped create, we repeatedly tried to coerce the rebels into working strictly on our agenda, pitting the rebel factions against one another in the process and weakening the revolution, thereby extending the carnage and prolonging the conflict.

Then we watched as ISIS took over many areas in Syria and declared itself the enemy of all other rebel factions. We let that happen. We stood back and allowed ISIS to weaken the revolution and enhance Assad’s stance and we were perfectly content watching the continuing onslaught so long as there was no decisive end to the war and all parties remained in a stalemate.

We also watched as Iran and Hizbollah aided Assad’s forces and infiltrated Syria. We even forged a treaty with Iran to help ease sanctions instead of focusing on stopping Iran’s support for Assad. Our drones targeted everyone except Assad’s strongholds.

Then we let Russia blatantly send troops and jet fighters to bomb all rebel-controlled civilian areas, whether under ISIS or other factions, essentially and intentionally bolstering Assad in the process. 

We’re good with all of that. In fact, we’d rather watch the world burn many times over than allow a Third World country be free and act according to its own interests. Similarly, we were perfectly fine watching Egypt’s coup leader Sisi kill thousands of democracy-demanding protesters in cold blood in the wake of his coup against democratically elected Morsi.

We acted according to our interests because we can do so, albeit in a very shortsighted manner. But for the mayhem that we continue to let happen in Syria, the least we can do is help Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom are not fleeing the brutality of rebel factions, but that of Assad-Iran-Russia – the brutality we evidently approve through our inaction.

Everything but compassion

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks a few nights ago, we heard talking heads discuss who did it, why they did it, what to do about it, what not to do, how this is an “act of war”, that this signals a “clash of civilizations”, why we need to stop the Syrian refugee influx, how our foreign policies have lead to this, that we failed to take ISIS seriously, that we should not have invaded Iraq, that Muslims are cheering the attacks, that Muslims are not cheering, who masterminded the attacks, who may have helped the mastermind, whose passport was found on scene, what ISIS is trying to accomplish, what Anonymous has said to ISIS, what ISIS said back, how we should protect ourselves, that we should be vigilant, that we should perhaps own more guns, that we shouldn’t, that we should respond with utter ruthlessness..

.. and a heapload of more self centered arrogance: It’s all about us. We’re the only people on this planet.

No one will say this next paragraph, so I will say it and pretend I’m hearing it from someone else, just for comfort:

“People where ISIS comes from have been experiencing this death and destruction, mostly due to our own foreign policy decisions, almost daily for over a decade. Now I understand how it truly sucks to go through what they’ve been going through. Now I see their suffering better than ever before. Now I can begin to take their lives more seriously because I realize that I can die from a bullet just like they can – that we share the same biology and belong to the same species, that they have emotions and experience loss just as much as I do. Now I get how serious it is to wage war. Now I can think many times before agreeing to have my tax money go to killing people far away.”

The both-sides-in-Syria-are-bad heresy

And so it’s becoming fashionable among journalists nowadays to describe both sides of the Syrian conflict (the regime and rebel factions) as equally bad for Syria. The premise is that whichever side wins will be just as bad as the other.

The main, and perhaps only, doubtfully legitimate reason for such a premise is the widely circulated incidences of excessive violence perpetrated by rebel factions against regime troops/henchmen and against other rebel groups. While these violent events are miniscule in number and intensity when compared to regime atrocities, they are heavily capitalized by both rebel groups (for propaganda reasons) and by the media who generally has better access into rebel-controlled areas than regime-controlled ones.

But apparently these reactionary acts of excessive violence are the perfect excuse for the international community to keep turning its back while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter and expel its own citizens. Shame on those rebels.

One has to wonder what rebel groups need to be like in order to be good enough for us. Are rebels expected to act with perfect morals as they watch the regime’s henchmen literally butcher children and rape women on a daily basis? Are rebels, down to every last lay soldier at the bottom of the chain of command, supposed to reject all kinds of violence as the Syrian regime bombs residential neighborhoods with barrels of TNT and shrapnel? How easily it is that we forget that even organized armies of superpowers don’t act with the purity we are demanding of Syrian rebels.

More importantly, what drove the rebels to these violent acts? Did they begin the violence simultaneously with the Syrian regime? If I remember correctly, the Syrian revolution was non violent for several months before it finally had no choice but to adopt weaponized defense. These first few months of non violent protests saw some of the worst crimes imaginable perpetrated by the regime, from kidnapping children en masse and returning them as mutilated corpses to their parents to raping women in front of their families to machete attacks on neighborhoods.. the gruesome list is quite long.

How full of crap do we have to be to pretend that human beings should all react to such barbarism with perfect manners?

And how, pray tell, can a neophyte group of rebels trying to overthrow a regime be considered as bad as the regime that has proven to be hopelessly corrupt, limitlessly oppressive, and astonishingly blood thirsty over many decades? On what basis are we judging the rebels other than the way they react under the immense stress of months of war, starvation, lack of means, and zero international support?

Why are we allowing ourselves to be so myopic?

Alcohol is terrible, so let’s legalize cannabis

If you think marijuana’s bad, just look at alcohol!

This has been a main hinge for arguments in favor of legalizing the use of cannabis. All of a sudden, we acknowledge that alcohol is bad – very bad. We know the thousands killed on the roads every year from drunk driving. We know that even the celebrated one glass of wine a day will raise the risk of certain cancers by a percentage half of which is sufficient for a drug to be recalled from the market.

So we come to the only natural thing to do: We seek to legalize another intoxicant because, you know, God forbid we have to rethink alcohol.

Strangely enough, one cannot smell lobbying power here. The alcohol industry doesn’t seem to be straining to push for the utter negligence we are practicing toward alcohol. Instead, alcohol seems to automatically drive itself deeper into our culture. That is, we have reached such a degree of adoration for boos that we can look it in the eye, acknowledge that it’s killing us by the thousands, yet proceed to pull it in for another embrace.

Ok, maybe not entirely “automatically”. There are the hardly inconspicuous billboards for heavy liquor on hi-ways for kids to see. There are the movies, TV shows, and music videos teeming with product placement for boos. Vodka ads litter every TV and Youtube station there is. Regardless of who’s to blame, though, our acceptance of alcohol as a general public is alarming.

Alcohol is like the ubiquitous lobbyist who has a connection with everyone who matters. Lawmakers use it (liberal and conservative), celebrities cherish it, and doctors and even religious leaders drink it. Writers and pundits of all persuasions – from far right Tea Partiers to Occupy Wall street activists to Green Party liberals – will scramble to defend it at the slightest hint of prohibition. Its stronghold is truly legendary and its novelty never seems to wane.

But facts are: It’s deadlier than all illicit drugs and it’s a known carcinogen – among its many other known health hazards. And next time you hear that someone took their own life, ask if they had alcohol in their blood. There’s a 1 out of 3 chance they did.

Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves: Is alcohol worth its cons? Is “having a good time” worth all the violent tirades, the broken households, the dead sons and daughters, the orphaned children, and the bar fight injuries?

Isn’t it time for a serious debate about alcohol?

Ugly Time

I happened upon Time magazine’s 12/30 edition today, with a “Year in Photos” feature on the cover. A quick look through these summarizing photos was interrupted by a 2-page dramatic photo of the anti-government summer demonstrations in Taksim, Turkey. 5 people were killed in these demonstrations. Of course, Time made sure to mention that these demonstrations were against the “pro-Islamist” government of R.T. Erdogan.

But something was missing from this photo gallery. Something big. Photos of dead Syrian children from the chemical attack on Damascus suburbs launched by pro-Assad forces, killing over 450 people – an event that sparked a worldwide effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Instead, they had a photo of an execution undertaken by an “Al Qaeda-linked ISIS militia”, who are fighting against the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, millions of Syrian refugees suffer through winter in tents after fleeing a regime that killed hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen. They ran away from mass murder, random arrests, and torture. They also ran away from Iranian and Lebanese Hizbollah militias who were turning their villages into slaughterhouses and killing their children in cold blood. With knives.

Why is that not worthy of a photo?

World leaders have turned their backs to the Syrian cause of seeking freedom from a totalitarian regime similar to the one ruling over North Korea. Politicians are like that, and we shouldn’t expect any more. But for Time to join in this obtuse negligence is simply asinine.

Some manners, Time!

The irony of the NSA spying fiasco

Yes, there is deep irony here. For someone who lived under dictatorships, wiretapping, home bugging, and internet tracking came as a given. Walls had ears, cars had GPS trackers (and ears), and every other person could be a government snoop, including your own brother.

So when that person comes to the US and starts to hear about government surveillance, they’re not surprised one bit. Moreover, they expect that the NSA has been recording all communications in full for a long time and that it probably will continue to do so, with or without corrective measures from Congress, namely the USA Freedom Act.

The irony for us here is this: we’ve been supporting dictatorships that have invaded their peoples’ privacies for decades, and now we’re having our privacies invaded by our own government. Let’s just hope that other aspects of dictatorship rule don’t come around to us like surveillance did.

The USA Freedom Act can only do so much. The internal intelligence apparatus has grown to become a monster beyond control. It employs thousands of Americans and now has its own agendas, interests, and lobbies. It has vast buildings filled with advanced technology and it’s not going away any time soon. What will likely happen is an outward “restructuring” of activities, while inward operations will stay largely the same, monitoring and recording all communications of all kinds, but finding clever ways of keeping itself secret.

Meanwhile, we will keep supporting foreign dictatorships whose job is to keep their peoples under a watch to protect us from them, and think that the universal law of “what goes around comes around” does not apply to us.