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Of the People?

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Of the people
Pro-Israel lobby robs US democracy of meaning
by Paul J. Balles
 
Yesterday an Arab friend sent me an email full of photos of Americans holding up signs saying "We're sorry." These were people who felt guilty about what the American government has been doing around the world.

Presumably, their purpose was both to assuage their guilt and to let people outside of America know that not all Americans are warmongers. I also assume that my friend's purpose in sending the photo collection to me was to let me know that not all Arabs think all Americans are as bad as their government.
 
 
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke 
 
Considering what the Bush regime has accomplished in terms of its own carnage and that of its Israeli puppeteer, for my Arab friend to express a view often heard 35 years ago was - under current circumstances - quite generous.
Much too generous from this American critic's point of view.

Arabs tend to forget at times that America still lays claim to being a democracy, proud to have embraced Abraham Lincoln's reference to a government "of the people, for the people and by the people". It's no longer any of those things.

Joel S. Hirschborn recently asked, "When you can no longer trust the elected representatives what happens to American democracy?” His response: "It becomes an oxymoron." An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms, like “military justice" or a "just war".

Hirschborn added:

We have arrived at a delusional democracy. Delusional because Americans overwhelmingly cannot admit the painful truth that their limited democracy no longer works for the good of most citizens. Instead, through corruption and dishonesty, our representative democracy has morphed into a plutocracy that serves the wealthy, power elites and corporate masters that control the political system and through that the economic system.1

If the government is not "for the people", how did it become a plutocracy that serves "the wealthy, power elites and corporate masters"? Could that happen if the government was "of the people"?

It should be clear from the inaction of a Congress recently voted to represent the electorate's wishes to leave Iraq that the government is not of the people.

In "An Open Letter to the President… Four and a Half Years Later", Sean Penn wrote:

…because, in the absence of a competent or brave Congress, of a mobilized citizenry, that level of power lies in your hands, it is you who have misused it to become our country's and our constitution's most devastating enemy. You have broken our country and our hearts. The needless blood on your hands, and therefore, on our own, is drowning the freedom, the security, and the dream that America might have been, once healed of and awakened by, the tragedy of September 11, 2001.2

When 2 per cent of the American population controls the country, no one can claim that America has a democracy "by the people".
 

Is it democracy when 2 per cent of the population effectively controls the government and media? This is the democracy that the plutocrats in charge want to impose on other countries.

 
According to George Soros, in an article on "Israel, America and AIPAC,” it is a lobby "which strongly affects both the Democratic and the Republican parties. AIPAC's mission is to ensure American support for Israel but in recent years it has overreached itself."3 Later, Soros added, "Any politician who dares to expose AIPAC's influence would incur its wrath; so very few can be expected to do so."

In an earlier article, Juan Cole made it clear that the AIPAC influence on Congress has been ongoing:

With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a few allies have succeeded in imposing complete censorship on both houses of Congress. No Senator or Representative dares make a speech on the floor of his or her institution critical of Israeli policy, even though the Israeli government often violates international law and UN Security Council resolutions.4

If AIPAC, representing 2 per cent of the American public controls the American government, how can anyone claim that it's a government "by the people"?

Some still call it "democracy". Is it a democracy for, of, or by the people when a presidential candidate must humble himself/herself before an AIPAC that yields the power of life or death for his/her candidacy?

Photographs of ordinary citizens holding placards saying "we're sorry" to the offended, wherever else in the world they may be, achieves little, if anything, but a weak expression of guilt by a dozen or so peaceniks.

We need to do more. We need to encourage academics like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt whose study of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" exposes the influence of lobbyists who represent only a tiny percentage of the population.5

We need more media voices like Nicholas Kristof's. Recently, in a somewhat surprising article - "Talking about Israel" – in the New York Times,. Kristof bemoans the fact that "There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians." His explanation:

American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves. In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries, Howard Dean said he favoured an “even-handed role” for the U.S. - and was blasted for being hostile to Israel. Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say: “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”6

We need to ask our representatives and senators to address the issue of yielding to lobby pressures. We represent much more than the 2 per cent who are putting pressure on them. We need to let our representatives and senators know that we're tired of being sorry throughout much of the rest of the world.

 
We need to do more than tell the Arab world - or anyone else - that we’re sorry. We need to return the US government to the people. We need to do more than tell the Arab world - or anyone else - that we’re sorry. We need to return the US government to the people.



Notes
1. Hirschborn, Joel S, "Democracy Dreaming", Information Clearing House, 03/26/07

2. Penn, Sean, “An Open Letter to the President...Four and a Half Years Later”, The Huffington Post, 03/24/07

3. Soros, George, “Israel, America and AIPAC”, New York Review of Books, 04/12/07

4. Cole, Juan, "AIPAC's Overt and Covert Ops", AntiWar.com, 08/30/04

5. Mearsheimer & Walt, “The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy”, London Review of Books, 03/23/06

6. Kristof, Nicholas J, op ed, New York Times 03/18/07 

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