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Bush Pledges More Mayhem in the Middle East

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Asked recently about his position on Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions, President Bush said, “I made it clear, and I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel.”

This statement brought precisely zero reaction from the public and the media. Do the American people fully appreciate that this president is committed to sending their sons and daughters to kill and die — yet again — in a foreign country? Leaving aside the reigning political mythology, by what moral principle does he pledge other people’s lives without their consent? It is bad enough to die for “one’s own” country, which, let’s face it, in practice always means for the exploiting elite who head the government. Being sent to die for another country’s elite is obscene. Would some of those at risk like to speak up before it’s too late?

This has nothing to do with Israel per se. Young Americans are potential cannon fodder who have been pledged more or less by past presidents and the current one to South Korea, Taiwan, several former Soviet possessions, and the ever-growing list of NATO members. Of course, if those Americans are called on to die, it will no doubt be for democracy, human rights, and, yes, peace. President Bush and his neoconservative national-greatness propaganda machine have assured us of that, and the American people need no reminder of their spotless record for truthfulness.

Then again, we are talking about war, that glorious time when the bodies of innocent civilians as well as order-following soldiers are blown to bits or their lives are snuffed out entirely.

Although this American commitment to fight spans the world, the case of Israel is worth attention because it is so long-standing, explicit, and consequential. Why have American politicians ignored George Washington’s sound advice against close alliance with other states? Does no one read the Farewell Address anymore?

The open-ended and open-wallet commitment to Israel is closely related to the loss of American freedom that has occurred — as it must — as the U.S. empire has grown. The Israeli oppression of the Palestinians (which is recognized by many Israelis) has had the unflagging support of American regimes, a fact well known to every Arab and Muslim. As this policy has persisted it has helped keep the potential for open conflict alive. In response the U.S. government has restated its security commitment to Israel. But this is no mere verbal commitment. Words are matched by action: support for friendly dictators (such as Iran’s shah and Egypt’s Mubarak), endless taxpayer dollars for weapons, and regime change in Iraq, a chief beneficiary of which was the state of Israel.

Now the focus turns to Iran. At this point we know better than to believe what the Bush administration says about foreign threats. Yet if Iran were bent on acquiring a nuclear weapon, that would hardly justify another American war. Iran’s leaders are unlikely to be suicidal, which they would have to be to attack Israel or the United States.

Indeed, one can easily see defensive motives for an Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Would the Bush administration have changed the regime in Iraq if Saddam Hussein had had a nuclear weapon? Might Iran have learned that lesson? Would efforts to acquire a deterrent against the United States and Israel, after 30 years still the region’s nuclear monopolist, be so irrational?

Of course, the specter of 9/11 hovers over all such discussions. But the attacks of that day only reinforce the case against empire. Who can really take seriously the establishment line that the American people would have been targets of Arab and Muslin terrorism even if the U.S. government had minded its own business all along, setting an example of peace, freedom, and free trade for the world rather than behaving like a brutal empire and sowing anti-Americanism nearly everywhere? When will the American people realize that the private life is doomed in an empire, which always will claim priority over whatever lives and resources its missions require?

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.