SYNDICATED COLUMN: Clueless in Gaza – We Americans Support Democracy, But Only When the Elections Go Our Way

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“Rarely has a president been confronted with so many seemingly disparate foreign policy crises all at once,” The New York Times noted about Obama on July 23rd. What the paper didn’t/won’t/can’t say is: Rarely has a president caused so many of his own crises.

This summer, most of Obama’s problems follow from his unwillingness to respect democracy overseas.

The U.S. government supports democracy in other countries — but only if the elections go its way. If not, anything goes to obtain a favorable outcome: economic sabotage, backing violent coups d’état, installing dictators to replace democratically-elected leaders, even ginning up all-out war.

Three recent examples showcasing U.S. contempt for electoral democracy include Egypt, and two places making news this week, Palestine and Ukraine.

Egypt’s 2012 election, the first after the overthrow of U.S.-backed autocrat Hosni Mubarak, is a recent case of American perfidy that’s embarrassing going on tacky. Mohamed Morsi of the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, won the presidency in elections international observers called as fair and transparent as could be expected in a nascent democracy.

The thing to do, of course would have been to congratulate Morsi, the Brotherhood and the Egyptian people, and offer assistance upon request.

Rather than accept the results, however, the Obama Administration “channeled funding … [that] … vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt.” A year later, Morsi was overthrown by a coup that restored Mubarak’s military junta minus the ailing former tyrant. Ignoring American law, Obama continues to finance General Abdel Fata al-Sisi’s violent, oppressive regime, which many human rights groups describe as even more brutal than Mubarak’s. Morsi, a democratically-elected leader whom a principled American president should demand to be restored to power, rots in a prison whose jailers are paid by American taxpayers.

To add Orwellian insult to neocolonialist injury, Secretary of State John Kerry is still saying that Egypt’s post-Morsi junta is “transitioning to a democracy.” Kerry’s mouthfart came a day after al-Sisi sent three foreign journalists away for long prison terms.

Overshadowed by Israel’s latest brutal swat-a-fly-with-laser-guided-missiles invasion and bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip is the fact that, as in Egypt, the United States got the elections it demanded in Palestine, only to succumb to buyer’s remorse after the ballots were counted.

The Palestinian elections of 2006 are hardly the most thrilling story ever told, so I won’t be surprised if you decide to look at this story about the guy who sent his wife a spreadsheet detailing all the excuses she gave him for not having sex and never look back.

Still here? Here’s an abridged recounting of an episode that not only sheds some light on the current conflagration between Israel and Palestine, but reveals the methods used by Israel and its allies to undermine Palestinian self-governance — and belies America’s loudly proclaimed commitment to democracy to boot.

Israeli leaders like to complain that the Palestinian side doesn’t offer them a viable partner with whom to negotiate peace. Read the following, however, and Israel’s right-wing government’s real agenda becomes clear: to demoralize and divide the Palestinian people in order to sap their resistance to economic and military oppression.

In the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006, held both in the West Bank and Gaza in response to pressure from the United States, Hamas beat Fatah (Yasir Arafat’s more moderate party), 44.45% to 41.43%, entitling it to 74 seats in parliament over Fatah’s 45. (The current split, in which Hamas rules Gaza and Fatah has the West Bank, followed a later internal military clash.)

Israel’s interference with the 2006 elections began during campaign season, when it preemptively arrested and jailed 450 members of Hamas because they were involved in the elections as candidates or campaign workers. Despite this and other acts of sabotage, including trying to ban residents of East Jerusalem from voting, the elections went off well. The European Parliament’s spokesperson called the vote “extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence.”

The thing to do would have been to congratulate Hamas and the Palestinians, and offer assistance upon request.

Instead, the Bush Administration and its allies cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, ended diplomatic relations and imposed trade and other economic sanctions. Three months after Hamas formed its first government, in June 2006, Israel invaded Gaza and the West Bank, demolished and bombed civilian and government infrastructure, and arrested 25% of the members of parliament “because technically they were members of a terrorist organization although they may not be involved in terrorist acts themselves.” The U.S., which supplied the weapons used in the attacks, cited Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Hamas, U.S. government-controlled media frequently reminds readers and viewers, is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. So to people who don’t hold tickets to the Way Back A Decade Ago Machine, the actions of America, Israel and their allies vis-à-vis Hamas, which rules Gaza, seem reasonable. They’re terrorists! They shoot rockets at Israel! (Really lame rockets, but still.)

Hamas remains boxed in and desperate under Obama. Israel and Egypt’s al-Sisi regime, the two largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid military hardware, have shut the territory’s land crossings to Israel and Egypt and imposed a naval blockade on the Mediterranean coastline. Despite dozens of tunnels built to smuggle in goods, the West’s sanctions regime has been successful; Gaza’s economy has tanked, and unemployment among its 1.8 million people has risen to 38.5%. (The highest rate in the U.S. during the Great Depression of the 1930s was 25%.) Shooting rockets at civilians isn’t a great way to make friends — but desperation makes people do stupid things.

What the U.S. media doesn’t want you to know is: Hamas is popular. They won the last election, and they’d probably win again if one were held now. By pushing regime change in Gaza, therefore, the U.S. wants to replace a popular government with an unpopular one…in other words, subverting democracy.

Ukraine is yet another case of a democratically-elected ruler overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup.

Viktor Yanukovych won the Ukrainian presidency in 2010 elections that were widely believed to have conformed to international standards according to foreign observers. The thing to do would have been to congratulate him and the Ukrainian people on a fair election, and offer assistance upon request. But the U.S. was wary of Yanukovych, worried he might not easily be tamed. (Sample American punditry at the time: “The Ukrainians need to expand their relationship with the International Monetary Fund.”)

He didn’t. Finally, in November 2013, Yanukovych sealed his fate by siding with neighboring Russia over a pending EU association agreement — thus rejecting closer ties to the West and the United States. Street protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster in February 2014 were likely indigenous, but would almost certainly not have succeeded in driving the president into exile without the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in covert U.S. funding to the Maidan organizers.

Though more of a money-motivated oligarch than a creature of the far right, current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to accommodate right-wing factions, including neo-fascists, in Ukraine. Moreover, whatever you think of Poroshenko, he is not the legitimate ruler of the country. Nevertheless, President Obama has recognized him as such and offered economic and military hardware in his civil war against Russian-speaking separatists in the eastern part of the country.

I’ll close with a quote from Noam Chomsky: “For Washington, a consistent element is that democracy and the rule of law are acceptable if and only if they serve official strategic and economic objectives. But American public attitudes on Iraq and Israel/Palestine run counter to government policy, according to polls. Therefore the question presents itself whether a genuine democracy promotion might best begin within the United States.”

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Clueless in Gaza – We Americans Support Democracy, But Only When the Elections Go Our Way

  1. “For Washington, a consistent element is that democracy and the rule of law are acceptable if and only if they serve official strategic and economic objectives.”

    Wait … was this editorial about foreign policy or domestic policy?

  2. Pingback: Put the Outrage where it Belongs – Bridget Magnus and the World as Seen from 4'11"

  3. Ted,

    You leave out one crucial consideration. How many “terrorist” organizations do we end up, eventually, entering into full-blown normal dialogues with? 70 years ago, Japan and Germany were our mortal enemies. There were Germans in my house last year. Three very nice people. There are Japanese tourists all over New York City.

    45 years ago, we were at war with eventual-friend Vietnam. Remember that one?

    North Korea? Holy hell, first country in their with food is going to win the war in 30 seconds. Reunification of the Koreas will take place about 2 minutes later. Then we’ll all be friendly.

    Cuba? We’re all just waiting for Castro to drop dead so that we can turn the place into another tourist destination.

    The overwhelming tendency is for these enemies of ours to normalize into friends. Sure would cut down on a lot of loss of life to just cut to the “our friends the Germans/Japanese/Cubans/etc.” and be done with.

    • Trouble is – it goes the other way as well. France was our good buddy for years & years, then BushCo demonized them. Today, you can find very few conservatives who know who Lafayette was or where La liberté éclairant le monde originally came from.

      The Germans have recently learned just how far they can trust their buddies across the Atlantic. They just threw out our CIA section chief and are snuggling up to the Russians.

      We sure helped out those Afghans back in the eighties, right? They’re our BFFs! Iran & Iraq – okay THIS week, which one’s the friend and which one’s the enemy? I can’t keep track any more.

      In a few more years, the only friend we’ll have left will be Israel. One year after that, we’ll both be known as “the people who used to live in those radioactive craters.”

      • CrazyH,

        I take your point, but my point (I think) still holds. French tourists still come to New York. No one is picketing the French embassy demanding that they all be arrested and shot. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re still at war with them. Give it 20 years. The condition of war is perpetual, but the people we wage war against tend to cycle over to friends eventually. Sure, there are exceptions to this. …

        In 20 years, no matter how hard the oil people try, we will not be using oil by then. Oh, sure, for some things, oil is irreplaceable (at least with current tech — you need a relatively small amount of oil to make plastics, but as catalysts, so a little goes a long way), but in 20 years, the renewable energies will have taken over.

        Right now, Germany has 1/3 of its energy from renewables. As the California “drought” continues, a very large swatch of the southwest is going to become just a little too hot to handle. And it’ll become a vast field of solar collectors. You could set up desalination plants that use evaporation as well. And the windmills will go up off the coasts. And those insistent ecologists, the oil executives, who are screaming themselves hoarse about how windmills kill songbirds (as opposed to oil drilling, which destroys entire habitats) will simply not be able to compete, pricewise. The industry will go the way of the dinosaur.

        Germany’s at 1/3 right now. How much longer before it’s 1/2, 2/3, 95%, 99%? And once that happens, the entire Middle East is going to finally shit or get off the pot. Why? Because the U.S. isn’t going to continue subsidizing Israel’s victim-psychosis from what happened to its citizens 70 years ago. All the posturing will stop. Either the whole Middle East will turn into radioactive slag or Israel and Saudi Arabia and the rest are going to have to grow the hell up and act like adults if they want to continue sitting at the adults’ table.

        Wait til oil’s off the table. The entire world will collectively shrug its shoulders and say to the Middle East, “Look, guys, enough’s enough. We just don’t give a fuck anymore. We don’t need the oil. Either work it out or don’t, but please stop thinking any of us care what you’re bitching about anymore. We no longer have to pretend we give Fuck One.”

      • alex_the_tired –

        Absolutely. I wasn’t trying to refute your point, but rather build on it. We keep changing our minds about who are our friends and who are our enemies.

        Sooner or later, I suspect they’ll get tired of that little game. And there are always more of them then there are of us.