Tuesday, October 7, 2014

War and Righteous Christian Warriors. . . . .

Stephen Harper's motivations to have Canada get involved in the new war in Iraq are essentially two fold. On the one hand Harper is a religious fanatic who has, for many years, hungered to demonstrate his Christian righteousness in war with the 'barbarian heathens.' Harper's other motivation is a last ditch effort to get himself reelected through a portrayal of himself as a Putin-like strong-man. Because of the nature of these two motivating factors, they probably are not subject to reversal. On the one hand Harper's religious fanaticism is, though never talked about by the mainstream media, very real. He would take any genuine opportunity to simplify the world into the "good" and the "bad" and put himself in the place of a Christian warrior wielding the sword of god in the name of righteousness. On the other hand, it is clear to almost everyone (and maybe even to himself) that if things kept going the way they were, Harper had no chance for reelection, so he is deeply committed to any kind of war as a path to another stint in power.

The strategy, however, is not without glaring pitfalls. For a war to be a path to reelection within the context of modern Western democracies it requires two basic principles - it must be short and it must be successful. However, I have heard no credible military strategist (even the ones who are in favour of this war) who say it can be short. And they uniformly admit that to stop ISIS with a military effort will require a great deal more than simple airstrikes. In fact, only a couple weeks into this war and we are already seeing analysts saying that these bombing efforts are not having their desired effects and may even be making the situation worse. Furthermore, anyone who is actually honest and familiar with recent events knows that Western military efforts in the Middle East have only increased instability. Therefore, we can fairly easily conclude that Harper's involvement in this war will leave him with a troubling dilemma. As it becomes clear that bombing ISIS will not bring about the desired effect, the West will either have to abandon the effort or increase and widen the war. If Western nations like the UK and the US start putting "boots on the ground," Harper will either have to commit Canada to a similar effort or demonstrate a troubling hypocrisy. He has made such efforts to tell us that this is a "noble" (read Holy) war, and that Canada doesn't sit on the sidelines, that if he doesn't commit ground-troops with other nations his publicity strategy will be exposed as a fraud. And as sheep-like as the Canadian public can be, I think a troop commitment in Iraq will be a career-ending move by any politician.

And these are by no means the most troubling issues for Harper where this war is concerned. What if, as history demonstrates, this war dramatically increases the instability in the region? What if it strengthens al-Assad's power in Syria? What if Turkey gets drawn into the war in a significant way, making Western nations obliged to be more actively involved? And perhaps most dauntingly, what if this effort makes Canada a target of a successful and significant terrorist attack on home soil? This will make Harper's military efforts toward righteousness a significant political liability.

What seems clear to me is that history teaches us that this war will do nothing to reduce instability in the Middle East. Western military efforts in the region have done nothing but make the situation worse. This is because the narrative that Western leaders continually tell us about the Middle East  is simply false. Militant, Anti-Western Islam doesn't exist simply because "they" hate our democracy and our decadence. Oh, of course there are always crazy people out there in all religions who do all sorts of terrible things. But to create large, unified forces you need something more than a twisted religious fervor. At the risk of committing "sociology," it should be clear to anyone with common sense and even a mild familiarity with the situation that it is generations of injustice that has fed the ranks of militant, anti-western Islamic organizations. If men like Harper really wanted to solve these problems they wouldn't be screaming out a call to war. The solutions are fairly simple, support a just and equitable solution to the Palestine problem, give them their land back and give them a proper state and make them stake-holders in prosperity and peace in the Middle-East. Stop supporting dictators in countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, and compel those dictators to creating more democratic and equitable societies. Then take all the billions of dollars that you are spending on bombs and war planes and put it into development in the region (schools, hospitals etc.) These efforts will not solve all the problems immediately, but over time such solutions will rob the radical, violent groups of their constituency and give reasons to commit to a peaceful and just society rather than to a life and death in some kind of 'holy-war.'

Harper is surely betting on his war efforts to run fairly smoothly at least until the next election rolls along. Because Conservative strategists can't be stupid enough to think that they can register a huge an immediate military victory, they must be thinking that all that has to happen is that things don't go terribly wrong over the next 12 months and their leader will come out smelling like a rose while the opposition will look like terrorist enablers. And on the surface that must look like a good strategy. The so-called 'quagmire' problems that I have been talking about here could take a number of years to develop, and Harper only needs a relatively short window of renewed popularity to get reelected. However, once again there is a significant problem here. Everything running "smoothly" means the war not registering significantly in the public mind. The problem with that is that then the 'strongman' leader effect cannot play in the public mind. This means that the things that are leading to Harper's general unpopularity will still be there. Thus Harper's strategy runs the very real risk of being a zero sum game, and at worst (if things go horribly wrong) being a total political disaster for him.

Of course, with a man like Harper, most of this may not even register. His fanaticism might be trumping all these potential downfalls. Instead Harper may only be living in space in which he is a righteous Christian warrior doing God's work. We all know how well that worked for Tony Blair.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The War Cycle Continues. . .

Few things make my palms more sweaty than a political leader telling me that the war into which he wan't to lead us is "noble." They say that every war has its own excuse, but behind of every call to arms is some guy (usually a man in a suit nowadays) telling us that it is not only necessary but noble. If every act of war was as noble as the leaders tell us it is then we would be an awfully noble race. The problem is that there is something sick and twisted about the very idea that killing people can ever be a noble act. But that is the great lie that leaders must sell in order to rally people behind the flag.

There is one sense in which we can see war as a failure. Most wars seem to be a result of the failure of politicians and policy makers in one way or another. Many historians talk of WWII being a direct result of the shortcomings of the Treaties at Versailles. The past looms over us like a deathly shadow threatening to burst out again in another useless conflagration. Politicians beat the drums of the past to whip up the war-like sentiment of the people as the French leaders did at the beginning of WWI with Alsace-Lorraine. Or they use some supposed immanent threat which, upon examination, is actually the direct result of their own failings in the first place. This is the situation in which we now find ourselves. The existence of ISIS is a direct result of a century of outrageous, colonial-minded decisions on the part of the Western powers. More recently, it is the direct result of a series of unbelievable failures in Iraq and Syria. A long history of supporting dictatorships until it is no longer convenient and then completely ill-considered invasions with a dramatic lack of understanding of indigenous political issues. All this against the backdrop of a continually one-sided approach to the Palestine Question, an approach that is a never ending source of recruitment for radially anti-Western Islamic groups.

The West makes bad policy, supports dictators, sows discontent, and then through military adventurism it creates power vacuum that results in another threat or conflict. How many times are the leaders going to ask us to support another war that is the direct result of their failings?

But then there is another, perhaps more cynical (perhaps more accurate) view of these events. Perhaps these are not failures on the part of our leaders but successes. They might be viewed as such if one remembers the amount of profit that is made by large corporations each time another one of these military adventures comes along. Let us not forget that each time the US launches another Tomahawk Missile at ISIS, McDonnell Douglas makes another cool million. And let us also remember the trillions of dollars that was spent in the war in Iraq, some of it going to arms dealers and manufacturers, some to infrastructure builders, and a great deal of it now entirely untraceable. Perhaps behind their rhetoric of the nobility of war, the simple profit motive is the real success story here.

No, there is nothing noble in Harper's war, the war that he has been longing to get into for over a decade and the one that he hopes will get him reelected. None of us doubt that ISIS is a bunch of terrible people. But it is Western wars and militarism that brought them into a position of power in the first place. More war isn't going to solve the problem. It is less war and more peace and development that we need. This is just another white man in a suit who is diverting tax money to arms dealers in a never ending cycle of conflict while the real injustices that feed the conflict go unaddressed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Harper and the Elections Rumours. . .

The rumour mill has been working overtime predicting that Harper might call an early election. These rumours went into overdrive this week when an April date was set for the Duffy trial. The speculation of many of my esteemed peers in the blogosphere, goes like this - Harper seems to have run out of his political cache (as so many leaders do as the years go by), Trudeau continues to be very popular in spite of (or, indeed, maybe because of)  continual Conservative attacks on him, Harper has lost a number of important Supreme Court rulings and has set himself to lose more (with the prostitution bill and the Union disclosure bill), and as all his scandals gradually chip away at the Conservative credibility in general, and Harper's credibility in particular, the Duffy trial could could be the last nail in Harper's political coffin, particularly coming, as it will right before the election.

All of these facts are clear. However, I don't believe that they point to an early election, for a number of reasons. The first reason is simple: Harper is a deeply deluded and power-hungry individual and he is probably oblivious of his growing unpopularity. Harper, like many politicians with a dissociative disorder, is detached from much of what is actually going on in his own country. Furthermore, like other such leaders, Harper has surrounded himself with grovelling yes-men who don't dare point out the stark political realities to him. Harper's growing isolation, coupled with the fact that he won't want to face potentially negative news, means that he probably isn't even aware of the possible need for an early election. Reason two is this - if Harper is aware of the dire situation then he must know that calling an election a short time before a potentially devastating court battle would be perceived by everyone, even his base, as blatantly self-serving and could have a fatal effect on the electorate who already perceive him as too sneaky and partisan. (He did call an early election last time, but remember he was in a minority situation and there was no impending scandal.) The third issue that few seem to be considering is the fact that Harper doesn't actually need to have an election until may of 2016. Therefore, a more likely scenario in my mind than an early election is a late election. If Harper can avoid testifying in the Duffy case (or at least have his testimony covered by a publication ban), he can ride things out for another year, thus distancing the election from the events of the trial.


 The biggest reason that I don't believe that Harper will call an early election is that his real strategy  is now becoming clear. Like Thatcher in the early 80s or Bush in the early 90s, it seems that Harper is hoping to use a war-footing to get reelected. Perhaps aware that the Conservative record in almost every field is in tatters (poor economic record, poor environmental record, poor labour record, poor job record, poor legal record, etc), Harper is hoping to pull Canada into war in the Middle East and near war in the Ukraine because he knows that most populations, even Canada's, have a tough time not wrapping themselves in the flag. He also knows that the opposition parties don't have enough backbone to oppose his war agenda, and he can therefore make the opposition look compliant at best, weak at worst. (This worked very effectively for years with the Liberal Party that essentially rubber-stamped everything that Harper did, making their vocal opposition to him seem slightly ridiculous). I simply believe that Harper is hoping to have enough time to implement his war-footing strategy and believes that it will override his perceived unpopularity and continual scandals. Think about it, everyday on the news all we hear about now is Harper's international dealing concerning the Ukraine and the Middle East. And let's not forget that elections have been postponed beyond the five year rule in times of war before.


Stephen Harper's reign has been a kind of national nightmare for Canada. He has gradually eroded much of the good that this country represented and as taken us into what some people are calling a "post-democratic" era. He has made it clear that he doesn't like the constitution and walked all over it in his pursuit of power and his rightwing agenda. He has hired an army of communications staffers whose sole job is to spin all events in a pro-Conservative light, and has more or less turned the government of Canada into an arm of the Conservative Party, the guiding principle of which is to make money for the oil companies. He routinely has government spooks spying on anyone who opposes his agenda, and is using various arms of the government to shut down groups or silence individuals who might speak against him and his interests. Harper has so entrenched his party in power and held that power with such unscrupulous negativity, that it is not even clear that the Conservative would ever leave power voluntarily, even if they loose the next election.

Harper will do anything, absolutely anything, to stay in power and the best way to achieve that goal appears to be not to call an early election but to postpone it as long as possible to give his war strategy time to work or even to use a war to postpone an election beyond the normal constitutional limit.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Harper Tipping-point, Hope or Fear ?

I tend to agree with Heather Mallick in her recent interesting (and surprisingly forthright) article on why people like Trudeau over Harper. And I agree with what many commentators (and most of the polls) suggest, that we have finally reached the tipping point of Harper's political currency. Outside of conditions of extreme nationalism and social turmoil, it is very difficult for any politician to maintain power and popularity with a political persona of anger, hate, fear, and extreme secretiveness. Harper's zenith was inevitable and we now have a confluence of events which are dragging the Con's political machine ever downward. This confluence consists of typical voter weariness, growing evidence that economic and social inequality is drastically increasing, clear signs that Harper and his cabal are not simply strategic in their negative/secretive political style but that their nastiness is at the very core of their political identity, the rise of a very likeable opponent in the person of Trudeau (and let's face it, regardless of one's political stripes Trudeau is a likeable public persona), ominous signs that an over-emphasis on oil extraction is not only environmentally dangerous but economically short-sighted, and (perhaps most importantly) a slowly percolating mood in the country that we have been sleep-walking through a kind of collective nightmare of a government that is actually trying to destroy the positive aspects of democracy, good-will, hope, and peacefulness, that many once thought defined our country.

But even as we teeter at the tipping-point, there are stormy clouds ahead. For one thing it appears that, in the face of political disaster, Harper is intent of dragging this country further into the dark waters of hate, fear, and violence. Deep inside, I believe that Harper is desperately courting war in any arena, as a strategy to stay in power. In what we might call the Falkland Island gambit, Harper is increasingly ramping up his war rhetoric in every part of his foreign policy and, I believe, really hopes that the nationalism and rhetoric of a war will do for him what the Falkland Islands did for Thatcher.

Another disturbing political development is found in the fact that Harper has created a classic political vacuum around him. Harper has surrounded himself with yes-men, flunkies, and Ministers who he knows cannot pose any kind of national competition to his power. Men like Baird, Kenney, and James Moore, Oliver, and Fantino, are all (for different reasons) probably unelectable as party leaders. Not only is Harper's growing unpopularity potentially fatal political baggage for anyone who was part of his cabinet, I believe that Harper has consciously chosen ministers with their own kinds of political baggage so that they cannot challenge him in the way that, say, Martin did with Chretien. This kind of political vacuum may only be bad news for the Conservative Party, but such vacuums often create political chaos that can engulf entire nations. I would never put it past Harper and his flunkies attempting a coup in the face of an electoral defeat and with nothing but yes-men around him, people whose political careers essentially depend upon Harper himself, there may be no dissenting voices among his own.

Any kind of tipping point creates interesting events. But the curse of living in interesting times is a very real possibility now. The question is will the Harper years end with a bang or a whimper??

Monday, August 25, 2014

The "sociological phenomenon" of Herr Harper. . . .

Herr Harper's recent claim that the disappearance and murder of hundreds of Aboriginal women should not be viewed as a "sociological phenomenon" is an important reminder of what rightwing ideology is really all about. It has been central to rightwing ideology in the modern period to continually reduce society and human interactions to individual units. They see society only as individuals and are desperate to make others see it that way. There are a number of reasons for this act of reductionism but they all come down, in the end, to control. If you atomize society and isolate individuals they are significantly easier to control. Before the phrase 'civil society' took on the positive connotation that it has had in recent years, it was used by a number of sociologists and political thinkers to connote a war of all against all. And it is this war that the rightwing wants to promote. Cooperation among the general population is the death knell of rightwing ideology in the same way that when, say, Cape Buffalo in Africa stand united as a small herd the lions they can fend off attack.

To any vaguely rational person crime is, of course, always an individual and a sociological phenomenon at the same time. For example, African Americans in the US make up about 13 percent of the population, yet they make up somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of the US prison population. This statistic presents a remarkable dilemma for the rightwinger. If, as Harper would have us do, we are to treat individual crimes as just that, individual events rather than sociological phenomena, then we are essentially forced to make the radically racist assumption that African Americans are simply criminally minded while white people are more law abiding. Now, while some rightwingers do, in fact, believe this, no politician in his/her right mind would publicly acknowledge such a belief. However, I believe that most people (even slow-witted rightwingers) know that such a statement is clearly untrue and that, despite the words of King Harper, crime is, in fact, a sociological phenomenon. But the rightwing is desperate to dissuade the public from such sociological thinking because such thinking takes us down the path of a more cooperative social outlook. To put it plainly, when we acknowledge that trends in crime are not just individual acts but also indicative of social trends, social beliefs, and socioeconomic demographics we are embracing the idea that society is not simply a bunch of individuals acting in isolation but that our actions are significantly connected to our environment and the society in which we live. This belief, in turn, will make us realize that generations of neglect and oppression of a group, like, say, the Indigenous people of Canada, will result in a myriad of social problems such as poverty, violence, substance and sexual abuse, etc. This fact means, much to the chagrin of rightwingers, that we are collectively responsible for these problems and we cannot, as they are wont to do, reduce them to the individual choices and actions of the people involved. And here is the rub; if we are to adopt this kind of 'sociological thinking,' then the problems of Capitalism must also be seen in a social light, and this is what the rightwing really fears. If crime is party a result of our place in society and our social problems and biases, then the problems of capitalism (such as spiralling income inequality, debt rates, under performance in education, increasing student debt, rises in homelessness and various health problems, etc) are not simply a result of a bunch of poor choices made by individuals but are structurally related to political mismanagement, or perish the thought, to fundamental problems in Capitalism itself.

Marx wrote that people make history but not in circumstances of their own choosing. An easier way of looking at this idea is to say that people make choices that make sense to them in their particular time and place. But if they are raised in the midst of poverty, crime, violence, substance abuse, and in the middle of a society that continually gives them the message that they are worthless and will probably amount to nothing, then the choices that make sense to them will be very different from the ones that they might make if they are raised in a safe, nourishing environment of love and education. The problem is, of course, that people like Harper don't really want us to make good choices. A society with more cooperation, from unionized workplaces to better social healthcare, ultimately means less relative wealth and power for the five percent who control society and reap the benefits of skewed capitalism. And these are the people that Harper and the rightwing work for.

Harper will always resist calls for an inquiry into the murder and disappearance of aboriginal women for the simple reason that the results of such an inquiry will inevitably have sociological implications. It will remind people that certain groups of people in society are collectively seen as expendable, that generations of racism and legislative mismanagement result in violence and social oppression. It will help bring to the public eye the real conditions of aboriginal people in this country and the structural racism that infests our society. More importantly, it will remind people that there are social solutions to these problems, and if these problems are subject to social solutions then so are our other problems like economic and social inequality. And the rightwing doesn't want us to believe that. Rather, they want us to believe that our collective fate is in the hands of that bizarrely invisible phenomenon that they tell us so much about, a phenomenon that is nothing more than an aggregate of individual acts.

There is an ironic postscript to this story. Let us not forget that Harper was the first to embrace a sociological approach when it suited his purposes. In the wake of the so-called sponsorship scandal, Harper told us it was not a result of a few criminal individuals but was a direct result of a 'culture' of corruption which promoted such individual kinds of choices. Here, for all to see, is the smoking gun of Harper's hypocrisy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Moral Righteousness of the Harper Cabal. . . .

Understanding anyone's motivations is a notoriously complex matter. One must always deal with the question that sociologists would refer to as "dramaturgical sincerity." In other words, when someone talks about their actions, one can never be entirely sure to what degree the person is being honest about their motivations and to what degree they are simply "playing a role." This question becomes increasingly complex in the public sphere as people spin their actions for public consumption. Honesty and sincerity in politicians is a rare commodity and 'spin' is almost always a matter of course. However, if one is willing to be fairly non-partizan (another rare trait), much political spin is easy to see through. Much of the time one need merely ask the question cui bono to know what is really going on. But political spin becomes an even more murky business when the politicians in question live on the edge of significant mental disturbance. In recent North American history we need only to look back to the strange, sometime eerie, figure of Richard Nixon to see how bizarre and complex a mentally disturbed political leader can be. What drove a pathologically paranoid man like Nixon, for example, to undertake his remarkable diplomatic efforts in China, while at the same time, as we later found out, he was turning the White House into a nest of law-braking psychopaths who talked on tape about stringing people up with piano wire? These are deep waters that are by no means easy to plumb.

These questions bring us to our own paranoid PM and his little band of psychopaths, like John Baird and Jason Kenny. What really motives this groups of men in suits is often impossible to understand as they continually funnel their apparently narcissistic and dissociative disorders into various legislative channels. A great deal of speculation has been expended on, for example, the question of Harper's bizarre Millenrian-like, remarkably one-sided, support of Israel. Is he motivated by simple vote-grubbing, or by his evangelical beliefs, by a shockingly simplistic misunderstanding of historical events, or by a mentally disturbed desire to see complex issues in a completely black and white manner? Similar question revolve around Harper's reaction to the issue of the growing war in Ukraine. What, for example, leads a guy like Harper to cozy up to the Chinese regime, unquestionably one of the most brutal, human-rights violating, and dangerous governments in the world, while condemning the Russian government in such a simple, black and white way? I certainly believe that any explanation for this apparent dichotomy that appeals only to vote-hunting is totally inadequate.

One thing seems clear to me: Harper and his crew demonstrate their near psychopathic mind-set in dealing such as the Ukraine question. As Harper attempted, in what, on a world stage, looks like a rather sadly pathetic attempt, to wield the sword of Canadian power by enacting various sanctions on Russia, his mental simplicity and animal-like puffery has become increasingly apparent. But yesterday, the depth of Harper's instability became clear when Russia retaliated with sanctions of its own. As one listened to the words coming out of the Harper cabal, one got the distinct impression that they were genuinely surprised by Russia's retaliation. Their surprise is, perhaps, motivated by a child-like simplicity that expresses itself in the notion that when one is so sure that one is on the right side of an issue, one's opponents wouldn't dare retaliate. You can almost see Harper and his ministers thinking to themselves "how can Russia dare retaliate when they are so clearly in the wrong?" Like truly incompetent politicians, Harper and his henchmen seem to really believe that they simply have to wave their magic wand of moral righteousness and whatever problem is at hand will simply vanish in a puff of saintly rectitude. They revealed some of their simplicity and disingenuousness yesterday when they said that the Russian sanctions wouldn't hurt the Canadian economy and then, almost int he next breath, said that they can't only consider economic questions when making foreign policy.

The Harper regime's madness is of the kind that is notoriously dangerous when it comes to democracy. When people are suffering from a pathological narcissism and dissociative illness, they tend to go off the rails when the world fails to conform to their simplistic righteousness.  When things don't go their way, such people have a terrible time accepting that they interpreted things wrongly or that the people turned against them. Rather, like Nixon, they look for conspiracies and satanically-induced plots for their failure. This is the stuff that coups are made of. As the Veteran's Affairs Minister and the Employment Minister throw around wild accusations that de facto suggest that the leader of Liberal Party is knowingly consorting with Islamic "terrorists," one can really see the dangers of the unhinged cabal that is in control of our government. It is not an unreasonable jump from these actions to outright accusations of foreign influence in next October's elections. Given all that has occurred, it is easy to imagine a Harper regime so driven by their own sense of moral righteousness that they would attempt to avoid or overthrow an election loss through an action of martial law. If you don't believe such a thing is possible just listen carefully to how they speak and watch carefully how they act when the world doesn't conform to their simple black and white view of their own moral rectitude. It is ominous and speaks of deep-seated mental disturbance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Indigenous People, Palestine, and History's Judgements Part II. . . .

The concept of the so-called “manifest destiny” is a complex one. On the one hand it is steeped in fairly explicit racism and a brutal advocacy of the notion that might makes right. It is, one might argue, a complicated perversion of Christian moralism which perverts the very notion of Christianity, much like Catholicism did, into a sense of entitlement and superiority which was blatantly used to exterminate and murder large numbers of people and entire cultures. But despite the inherent racism that ran through American society during its period of conquest (and, of course, still runs through it today), the notion of manifest destiny was not universally accepted.

 Journalist John O’Sullivan first used the phrase Manifest Destiny in 1845 in an article in the New York Morning News. O’Sullivan was arguing that the States had a sort of divine right to conquer the Oregon Territory because of “our [American’s] manifest destiny to overspread and possess the whole of the continent which Providence was given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.” O’Sullivan’s statement was not only aggressively expansionist but it relied on a nascent racism for its moral justification much like so-called idea of the “white-man’s burden” (a phrase that didn’t exist until another racist, Rudyard Kipling used it some fifty years later in connection with Anlgo-imperialism). The idea that the continent was “given to us for the development of the great experiment of liberty,” implies both that it did not really belong to the people that were there and that somehow our goals were noble (ie., liberatory) and, by extension, those who had had possession of the land lacked our noble, liberating spirit.

However, despite the fact that American society was deeply racist, some recognized the idea of the Manifest Destiny for what it was. Speaker of the House, Robert Winthrop was one of the few that recognized that the idea of Manifest Destiny was a simple justification for a self-interested and chauvinistic policy of expansion. But despite any Whig resistance to Manifest Destiny, the forces of capitalism and imperialism were irresistible to most whites who were either eager to use any justification to expand westward, no matter how specious, or they were straight-up racists who truly believed what they saw as their noble, god-governed cause.

Over the decades of westward expansion, any resistance that the settlers (ie., the conquerors) were faced with was slotted into the context of the racist and imperialist program of the manifest destiny. Thus Sitting Bull and his Lakota warriors at the Little Bighorn River could not be viewed as resistance fighters struggling for their land and the continued existence of their culture, but had to be seen as little more than “savages and killers” who had to be properly dealt with by “noble” men such as George Armstrong Custer. Similarly, Geronimo and his Apache force had to be portrayed as little more than cutthroats by military men such as General George Crook. In other words, rather than being seen as a brutal military expansion, the conquering of the West could be seen, through the eyes of the Manifest Destiny, as a moral and (importantly) a defensive operation.

Fast forward a century or so and the work of men like Custer and Crook is more or less complete. Genocide is, for all intents and purposes, finished and a matter of historical record. But the truths are fairly clear. In the midst of the Manifest Destiny and the Westward expansion, there were no real acts of defense on the part of the Cavalry. Of course individual soldiers shot at individual natives as each attempted to kill the other. However, while some battles might have been defensive, the war was not. When General Custer stood on Calhoun Hill on the ridge above the Little Bighorn River he was, at that point, shooting at Lakota warriors to save his own skin. But it was also an act of imperialism. And if we are to look back now, it is obviously absurd to say that Geronimo and his small band of Apaches were a threat to the existence of the United States. They were a threat, however, to US interests and to the program of the Manifest Destiny.

Obviously, those who are familiar with my blog know where I am going with this. I believe that in historical terms we can see the gradual theft of Palestinian land as genocide much like the conquering of the West. And political Zionism is not just a little like the principle of the Manifest Destiny. When David Ben-Gurion wrote to his son that “we must expel Arabs and take their places,” he was writing about his own notion of manifest destiny. And to call Israeli militarist expansion “defensive” is just as absurd as talking about Custard’s Seventh Cavalry a “defensive force.”

Today there are relatively small groups of Indigenous North Americans attempting to create a new culture for themselves out of the ashes of the past. With the exception of a handful of extremists, Native Americans don’t question the Right of the US or Canada, for example, to ‘exist.’ The argument is obviously absurd. Instead, they fight for justice as well as they can within a context of a sadly successful Manifest destiny. The battle for Israel’s Manifest Destiny goes on apace and each year the State of Israel takes a little bit more land and exterminates a few more Palestinians. When the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1971, it made little difference, in the same way that it would have made little difference if Sitting Bull had recognized the US’s right to exist in, say, 1876 (the year of the Battle of the Little Bighorn). The settlement of the Montana Territory would have gone on either way. And the characterization of the Native Americans as “savage” continued to be the order of the day for generations to come. Today there are groups of Palestinians who, much like Sitting Bull or Geronimo, continue to fight back against a brutal and much better armed occupying force. To call them religious fanatics is, of course, a deeply misleading political tactic on the part of Israel and its supporters much like it was misleading to call Sitting Bull a heathen, anti-Christian, savage with no respect for life. When someone is taking your land and destroying your culture, their religion is really immaterial. Religion might be used as a convenient rallying cry but what is really at stake is your land and your culture.

General George Armstrong Custer was a graduate of West Point and undoubtedly a brutal and racist man. Crazy Horse, who drove Custer up the bluffs where he was massacred, was, I am sure, a frighteningly brutal man. Custer was a “Christian” and Crazy Horse followed his own Indigenous Religion. But as these men live now only in books and memory, these issues seem strangely irrelevant today to the larger question of the conquering of the West. What we see now is a group of white conquerors pushing ever westward against an ever-dwindling group of Natives who fought back, sometimes savagely, for their land and culture. But in the midst of that historical war, the “spin” was different as the Whites held on to their notion of being noble defenders of the cause of civilization and liberty.

History is repeating itself and the spin-doctors are as busy as ever.