Bibi, Barack, and my decades-old FBI record
In a world in which human law had even a modicum of sanity, it might seem foolish or perhaps ludicrous, or even criminal for a war resister to thank a war criminal. But in the Alice In Wonderland real world where war is peace and democracies often do not have the best intentions of humanity at heart, or even their own citizens best interests, it is entirely appropriate for me to thank Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel. I use Netanyahu’s nickname because a thank you demands informality.
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge resulted in the deaths of 2,200, with between 400 to 600 of those being children. Israel lost 66 soldiers and 5 civilians. But it’s not the kill ratio that has led me to thank Bibi. What has led me to extend my thanks to this murderer of children and those in the besieged Gaza Strip and West Bank? Through his violations of the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Charter regarding the rights of a hostage civilian population and the right to be free from military aggression, he has emancipated Jews of goodwill around the world to finally be free of the insane admonition against openly criticizing the ruthless militarism that drives both the government of Israel and a majority of its people. There are many people of goodwill in Israel who heroically demonstrated against the lethal actions of their government this past summer, but as important as the small opposition is in Israel, it cannot mount the kind of critical mass that is necessary to stop the blatantly vicious actions of its government, or even slowing those actions. And with every new aggression of Israel comes the hideous specter of hateful anti-Semitism around the world.
It is not hard to now recognize that a person can be Jewish and entirely divorce himself/herself of any need to buy into the completely nonsensical distortion of Jewish philosophy that one is a self-hating Jew if criticism of any serious kind is demonstrated or leveled against the Jewish state. The currents of peace, fair play, education, and respect for human life run deeper in Judaism, whether religious or secular, than can be imagined by the far-right warmongers in Israel.
And the neoliberal Obama? In 2008 what was left of the peace movement was decimated by the presidency of Barack Obama. After all, Obama was a man of peace who wanted to end the war in Iraq as soon as possible. Hope for the future was everywhere. But following the neoliberal script in projecting U.S. power and economic hegemony around the globe, Obama acted true to form. He escalated the war in Afghanistan (another lost cause…was it ever a found one?) and has now ramped up direct U.S. involvement in the refighting of the war in Iraq and in entering the war in Syria. New and dangerous terrorist enemies are “discovered” in this new war every day.
Trillions of dollars of national treasure that could be used to educate people, reduce hunger, spur job development, and fund the failing and aging infrastructure of the U.S. have been squandered in the schemes to project U.S. power and protect U.S. economic interests. Thousands of U.S. soldiers have died and untold numbers of those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere have been sacrificed to the neoliberal and the right-wing policies of both the Democrats and Republicans. And is there really any meaningful difference between the two parties that are the only show in town politically, so to speak?
Finally, I have to thank the outgoing Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, for letting me off the hook after 37 years. I realize that he has been a friend to corporate wrongdoers from the Great Recession, no friend to whistleblowers, and absent from duty when it came to protecting the right of privacy of millions of Americans. But, it was during his tenure as attorney general that my name was finally cleared from the files of the FBI for my resistance during the Vietnam War. Looking back at the case that I brought to the federal district court, I think my victory had more to do with a sympathetic prosecuting district attorney and the vagaries of what the legal department of the FBI happened to be doing during the days when it seemed as if I was going to be marked for life for my political activism and actually lose the case. There really was little in case law to fall back on to support or dismiss my case, and I could not find legal help from a number of organizations including the ACLU and the National Lawyers’ Guild, but I prevailed anyway and that may not have happened if the Justice Department was not somewhat liberal in matters such as the one that I brought before the federal court.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.