At the reception desk of the War-Against-Terror Coalition, there lies an application form for new partners. After stating his name, country and function (king / president / emir / dictator / tyrant), the applicant is invited to answer the question: “Do you have local opponents that you wish to have branded as terrorists and dealt with accordingly?”
Nearly all the applicants so far have answered this question with great enthusiasm. Vladimir Putin designated the Chechnyian rebels, Spain mentioned the Basque ETA, Turkey the Kurds, India the Kashmiris, just to mention a few of a long list. In short, every potentate, big and small, pointed a finger at the people he oppresses, hoping that the United States will help him get rid of their war of liberation. “Send in the big bombers,” they beg, “and blow these miserable terrorist bandits sky-high!”
All this might remind students of history of events nearly 200 years ago. After the downfall of Napoleon, the tyrant who promoted liberty throughout Europe, the rulers of the continent decided to set up an insurmountable wall to any further aspirations of national and social liberation. “All this nonsense about democracy, freedom, equality and constitutions has to stop once and for all,” they told each other.
And so in 1815 the Czar of all the Russians, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia signed an agreement, which they called the Holy Alliance, to institute the rule of God in Europe. Abusing the name of the mild and vaguely socialist rabbi from Nazareth, they created in reality a international mafia of the Iron Fist. Wherever an oppressed people dared to raise its head in rebellion, all the rulers of Europe would band together, one for all and all for one, to help their threatened colleague. The Russians, for example, sent troops to squash the Hungarian and Italian rebellions against Austria; the secret services of all cooperated against the socialists and anarchists.
Almost all the rulers of the continent joined the Alliance, as did England in practice, without doing so formally. The Pope, vicar of Christ, did not, and neither did the Ottoman Sultan, who, not being a devout Christian, had to oppress his many peoples without outside help.
Henry Kissinger, one of the modern admirers of the alliance and its major statesman, the Austrian Prince Metternich, credits it with maintaining order in Europe for many decades. Less morally-handicapped historians might point out that this unholy coming-together of reactionary princes held up the progress of Europe throughout the 19th century, denying liberty to many peoples and allowing narrow-minded kings and aristocrats to hold on to their privileges against far more productive and forward looking social forces. Nothing very holy about that.
Under the umbrella of the War Against Terror, a new Holy Alliance is in the making. George W. Bush is now the supreme judge who decides who is a terrorist and who is not, as once a mayor of Vienna decided who is a Jew. (Karl Lueger, who was elected in 1897 on an anti-Semitic platform, once cheered a Viennese team at a football match against Hungarians. Told that the Viennese team is Jewish, he answered: “What the hell, it’s I who decides who is a Jew!”).
The inherent danger of this development is that the new alliance will hold up the most needed reform of the 21st century: the narrowing of the gap between North and South, the rich and the poor nations. The abominable outrages of Osama bin Laden and his ilk may be seen, in times to come, as the first manifestation of the coming fight of the teeming billions of deprived and oppressed members of mankind against the privileged few, who almost literally drown in their own fat. The timely recognition of this problem and a determined efforts to deal with it, while there still is time, may prevent an imminent world-wide disaster. Fighting for the unlimited Western hegemony and monopoly of the world’s riches, camouflaged as anti-terrorism, will lead to a world-wide catastrophe in the future.
In the meantime, George W. and his advisors, female and male, will have to decide whether Arafat is a terrorist or an ally in the new equation. Ariel Sharon, an unofficial (“Don’t call me, I’ll call you”) member of the coalition, insists that he, like Putin, has the right to call his enemies terrorists, so that he can bomb the Palestinians back to the stone-age and lock them up in some disconnected Bantustans.
The Pentagon and Condoleeza Rice agree, the State Department doesn’t. The national interests of the United States clearly point to the recognition of Palestine as a corner-stone of peace and stability in the Middle East. Domestic politics points in the opposite direction.
It remains to be seen whether Kissinger’s dictum that “Israel has no foreign policy, only a domestic one” applies to the United States, too.