Uri Avnery

Bitter Rice

Some thoughts about the war:

# Beware of the Shiites. The troubles of the occupation
will start after the fighting is over. Here is a personal story
and its lessons:
On the forth day of the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon, I
crossed the border at a lone spot near Metulla and looked
for the front, which had already reached the outskirts of
Sidon. I was driving my private car, accompanied only by a
woman photographer. We passed a dozen Shiite villages
and were received everywhere with great joy. We
extracted ourselves only with great difficulty from
hundreds of villagers, each one insisting that we have
coffee at their home. On the previous days, they had
showered the soldiers with rice.
A few months later I joined an army convoy going in the
opposite direction, from Sidon to Metulla. The soldiers
were now wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, many
were on the verge of panic.
What had happened? The Shiites received the Israeli
soldiers as liberators. When they realized that they had
come to stay as occupiers, they started to kill them.
When the Israeli troops entered Lebanon, the Shiites
were a down-trodden, powerless community, held in
contempt by all the others. After a year of fighting the
occupiers, they became a political and military power. The
Shiite Hizbullah is the only military force in the Arab world
that has beaten the mighty Israeli army.
Sharon is the real father of the Shiite force in Lebanon.
Bush may well become the father of Shiite power in Iraq.
The Shiites, 60% of the Iraqi population, have been until
now down-trodden and powerless. When they will realize
that the Americans intend to stay, they will start a deadly
guerilla. Bush does not intend to leave Iraq, as Sharon did
not intend to leave Lebanon.
Then what? America will argue that Iran, the great Shiite
neighbor, is behind the Shiite guerilla. In Iran there is a lot
of oil. That’s the next target.

# Blood for Oil. George Bush is a primitive man, but the
people behind him are far from being stupid. They are the
oil barons and the arms industry giants. They want to do
what great powers have always done: use their military
might in order to acquire economic hegemony. In simple
words: to rob the poor peoples in order to enrich
themselves even more.
The military occupation of Iraq will last many years and
secure for America the control over the vast oil reserves of
Iraq, as well as the Caspian Sea reserves and all the Arab
oil. That will give it control over the world’s economy and
prevent the emergence of a competing, independent
European economic bloc. America is fighting against
Europe as much as against Iraq. That is part of the reason
for Europe’s angry response.

# Germany. Germany is against the war. Against any
war. In no other country was the anti-war outburst so
authentic, emanating from the innermost feelings of the
And who is furious about this? Israel, the country of the
Holocaust survivors. How do they dare, these damn
Germans, to object to the war?
A sad irony of history: all German TV stations show
citizens, intellectuals and ordinary folk, who pray for
peace, all Israeli TV screens show retired generals,
obviously enjoying themselves, discussing with great
relish how to employ giant bombs and other instruments
of death.

# Intoxication of power. This is the first war of the 21st
century, and it bodes ill.
This century has inherited from its predecessor a world
containing one sole super-power. America has no
competitors, no possible combination of other forces can
measure up to it. It can literally do what it wants, and now it
is doing just that openly and brutally.
When America won its cheap and easy victory in
Afghanistan, using smart bombs and suitcases filled with
cash, it was clear it could not stop itself anymore. A huge
machine like that wants to go on fighting and is searching
for an enemy. Now it’s Iraq. Who next? Iran? North Korea?
That is what happened to the Roman Empire. That is
what happened to Napoleon and Hitler. The intoxication of
power knows no boundaries. And no one of these was in
the situation of the United States now: alone in the world,
without enemies that can stand up to it.

# A Jewish War? The anti-Semites proclaim that this is
not a war for American interests, but for Israel. As proof,
they point to the group of American Jews that took a
leading part in initiating this war, people like Paul
Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith at the Defence
Department, Elliott Abrams at the National Security
Council (as well as Ari Fleisher at the White House and
even Dan Kerzer, the US ambassador in Tel-Aviv). These
people support haron and the extreme right in Israel, some
of them speak Hebrew, a group of them has acted as
advisors to Benyamin Netanyahu, when he became prime
Minister. Together with the two non-Jews, Cheney and
Rumsfield, they pushed Washington into the war. Thus
say the anti-Semites.
That is true by itself, but this is first and foremost a war
for American interests. However, Bush and Sharon believe
that American and Israeli interests are practically identical.
The Jewish war group in Washington acts in close
cooperation with the Christian fundamentalists, who now
control the Republican party and who have a hidden anti-
Semitic agenda.
The anti-Semites will point to another obvious fact:
Israel is the only country in the world where not one single
politician nor any part of the media has raised their voices
against the war. While millions march all over the world,
only one single anti-war demonstration, organized by
Gush Shalom and some other peace organizations, has
taken place in Israel. It attracted 2500 people.
In the struggle between Bush and world opinion, the
government of Israel has chosen chose Bush. On the face
of it, that seems sensible, since Bush has might on his
side and sides with Sharon. But in the long run, it may turn
out to be the wrong bet.

# The pope’s divisions. “How many divisions does the
pope have?” Stalin asked sarcastically when told that the
Holy Father objects to his actions. Today, the question is:
how many divisions does world public opinion command?
All over the world, the public opposes the war. There is
an immense majority against it even in countries whose
leaders have joined Bush’s “coalition”. For the first time,
there is something that can be called “world opinion”.
Only the future will tell if this constitutes a real force.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the fathers of American
democracy, once said that no country could conduct its
affairs without “a decent respect for world opinion.”
Perhaps the 21st century will witness a struggle
between the brute force of a mighty military-economic
super-power and world public opinion, assisted now by
modern technology.

# Mercenaries. This is a war fought by mercenaries.
The fighters are professional soldiers, the sons of the
poor, many of them black. Therefore it is easy for middle
class citizens, and especially the Republican voters, to
approve of the war. It is not their sons who will be killed.
In the past, the European left demanded the abolition of
the professional army and the introduction of general
conscription. At the time, that was a “progressive” idea.
When the left put on weight, it forgot all about it.
The Vietnam war was still fought by drafted soldiers.
Resistance to the war grew when the body bags started to
arrive. George W. Bush, who supported the war with all his
heart, took no part in the fighting. Father arranged a job for
him back home. He was just another shirker.

# Jefferson again: “Indeed, I tremble for my country
when I reflect that God is just.”