I've been watching and reading the news from south Lebanon with the sick fascination I get from one of those "Faces of Death" videos.
WTF are Dubya and his office wife thinking, that they can ride this tiger and not get themselves and the 140,000 hostages - sorry, troops - trapped in the Iraq Project eaten alive when Sadr forces Sistani's hand the the Shiites in the south and center rise?
The thing that I keep coming back to, the thing that none of the TV talking heads seems to want to open up about, is how much off ALL the misadventures America has been drawn into in the Middle East circle around the drain that is my country's Pavlovian devotion to the nation of Israel.
It seems to come back to the idea that the Arab neighbors of Israel have a problem with Israel's "right to exist". We - ths country - seem to think that this notion is automatically crazy, and that if you think it you are automatically some sort of caveman whose further ideas can be safely discarded.
So I thought...what if you looked at it in a slightly different light.
What if, lets say, and why not, that you are part of a gay couple living in a Victorian house in the NW 23rd Street district of Portland. It's not much to look at now, because the neighborhood has fallen a long way since it's glory days. The former owner was kind of a jerk, but he was kicked out and you've been dealing with the property management company ever since. They're not that easy to deal with, either, but you've been promised that they'll be gone, soon, and you can buy the place yourself.
But you and your boyfriend have tried your best to keep it nice, and you are hopeful, because some nice little boutiques are opening on 23rd, and you've heard rumors that Crate and Barrel (Crate and Barrel!!) may be coming to the old vacant hardware store on the corner of Flanders and 21st...
Then one day you come home to find your partner on the street, distraught. There's strangers in the house, he says, I'm scared. You go inside and, sure enough, there's a couple of rough-trade looking guys with mullets sitting in your kitchen with their tattooed girlfriends.
Well, that's that! You get out, whip out your cell and call the cops.
Imagine your surprise when the cops get there and they inform you that these intruders are refugees. That your property manager has made them promises and signed deals with them promising them part of your house, because a long time ago their great-great-great-grandfathers homesteaded there. And that your house is going to be divided, and that they will live there. And that there was nothing you could do about it.
Well! The hell you say! You get on the phone to your ex, the leather queen, and a couple of his friends, and you all get together to give these dirty white trash invaders the bums rush.
That didn't work out. And neither did your next try. Your cousin managed to kick 'em out of the loggia, but here you are, almost sixty year later, still locked out of much of what you consider your house. The squatters have done some really nice upgrades to their part, while you and your boyfriends pretty much sit around bitching in the torn-up mess that is your bedroom, the family room and part of the hall about what a bunch of assholes the squatters are. Friends have told you to "get over it" and "move on". But your head aches every time you think about what those sons of bitches have done to you. Just wait, you think, just wait...
Do you think if this was your situation, that you would give much consideration to what you consider the squatters' "right to exist" in your house?
Okay, then. So how do you think you'd feel about the rich uncle who helped keep these squatters in beer, cigarettes and rolling papers? Who helped them beat you up, time after time, saying it was because of what the uncle's Hillsboro relatives had done to the squatters?
This is the "unsayable" thing that colors everything we do in the Middle East. It's because the bottom line is that there really IS no "right" for Israel to exist. It was carved out of another people's land by the strong arms of it's founders. Its "right" to exist is the same as the "right" of Montana to exist as a United State, rather than as the Lakotah nation - because the residents of Montana - and Israel - killed or drove away the original inhabitants. Like the Lakotah, those inhabitants weren't cute fuzzy bunnies - they got their kicks, among other things, trying to kill the Jews who were trying to live among them. But the lethality of the residents doesn't make the incomers heroes any more than our mulletheads are any better than the cute gay couple. They're two groups that hate each other, and they both have nasty pasts...
So all I wanted to suggest is that if we really WANT to look away from the Middle East's "Faces of Death" video, we will have to find a way to begin - not by repudiating Israel - but by accepting that BOTH sides are "bloody handed villians" and forcing them to sit at the table and talk, talk, talk. And then put our muscle behind the agreement, if it means putting American troops in the Golan or using the 10th Mountain to tear out every West Bank settlement root and branch.
Will this work any better than anything ELSE that's been tried? I don't know. It may not. We may, eventually, have to just give up and try to "exterminate the brutes". But would that be any worse than our present mealy-mouthed hypocrisy, claiming we want the best for both sides when truly helping only one?