On this day, Dec 11th, 100 years ago, 1917, General Allenby entered Jerusalem. In doing so he became the first Christian to take effective control of the city since Bailan of Ibelin surrendered the city to Saladin in 1187. (Excluding a limited negotiated return by Frederick II in the 6th crusade 1229-1244).
Allenby clearly understood the deep significance of his arrival in the holy city. For this reason he elected not to enter in triumph as a conqueror. Instead he entered as a pilgrim. He walked in via the Jaffa gate in what was a low key affair, as depicted by the photo above.
I contrast this with the recent decision by Donald Trump to overturn decades of US foreign policy and order the removal of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump has done exactly what Allenby sought to avoid. He made a clear political statement favouring one community over all others.
The result of Donald Trump’s announcement is widespread rioting in the Middle East, not only in Palestine but also extending into neighbouring countries. The usual flag burning is taking place outside US embassies all over the muslim world.
This manic and destructive act neatly focuses US media attention away from his tax bill, which rewards the super-rich at the expense of the middle class and poor Americans. So what if a few muslim youths are shot, buildings torched and the people of Israel face a violent backlash? The important thing is that US Oligarchs can look forward to even greater expansion of their wealth. And let’s not forget, Trump is one of them.
Yesterday the USA dropped the largest ever non-nuclear weapon ever used, the GBU-43/B. They dropped this massive piece of ordnance in a cave system in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan. The stated intent was to deny a system of caves and tunnels to ISIS fighters. A truer intention is Donald Trump flexing his muscles for the Russians and the Chinese to show he is a serious military threat. But that too is secondary, because his primary audience is the American people. I’m sure the people of the USA feel a little bit safer today knowing that several miles of caves in Afghanistan have been destroyed. (That last sentence is called sarcasm)
Today I have three images for you, all stolen from the Guardian photos of the day. Image 1 is of US troops marching in step at a NATO rally in Poland. Hey Mr Putin, look at those gung ho young American boys, marching in neat lines. We have big bombs too. Boo Yah!
The second photograph is from further east, in the city of Mosul, Iraq. The smart uniforms and the neat lines of troops give way to the true face of war. A man pushing his daughter through a blasted landscape in a wheelchair. It is pathetic. As you sit down to your Easter Sunday dinner spare a thought for what awaits this family on their table. What did he do to deserve this fate?
The final image is of a pretty girl taking a selfie in a field of flowers. It could almost be in Holland, with the bright blossoms in neat lines, except for the fact that the girl in question has a machine gun on her back. Nir Yitzhak is a kibbutz on the border of Israel with the Gaza strip. If ever there was an image of the absurdity of war this is it. Page down to a war poem by Yeats!
On being asked for a War Poem : By William Butler Yeats
I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.
On this Presidential inauguration day I am reminded for some reason of Marilyn Monroe, who had a relationship with a previous president. She famously sang “Happy birthday Mr. President” to JFK. Rumour has it that their intimacy ran far deeper. No wonder he had a bad back.
From this I jump to my favourite of her films, “Some Like it hot”.
That reminds me that Billy Wilder stuck in two of three parts of the joke into that movie. He puts in the beginning, which has a great hook. Later on he puts in the end, which sounds like a good punchline. But he leaves us without the context, the narrative that makes the beginning fit to the end.
I suspect the Trump presidency will be a lot like that joke. All flash at the beginning, explosive at the end, but with nothing to show for it all. Lots of pizzazz and no sustenance.
So what is this great joke anyway?
Have you heard the one about the girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey?
So the one-legged jockey says, ‘Don’t worry about me, baby. I ride sidesaddle.’
Currently reading Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale”. It is oddly prophetic in describing how the USA is subverted by Christian Fundamentalist Military who suspend the constitution and replace democracy with a police state. The events set out by Atwood involve a rise in Islamic fundamentalism (remember this was written back in the 1980’s before anyone ever heard of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.)
An assassination of the President of the USA and an attack on the Capitol wipes out the Government in one fell swoop. The question is of course who instigated the attack? Was it the Islamic fundamentalists or was it the Christian fundamentalist right wing? The events are a mirror of what happened in Germany in the 1930’s. Hitler did not have enough seats in the parliament to form a government. He began by eliminating his main rivals, the Communists. The Reichstag building was burned down and the event was blamed on the communists who were eliminated from parliament. Hitler then cut a deal with the Catholic right wing to suspend government by passing the Enablement Act. Stormtroopers prevented Social Democrat moderates from entering the parliament building for the vote. Democracy was destroyed by a minority group of bullies.
Atwood uses this as a model for her own military takeover of the USA. Does it sound plausible that the hard right wing could suspend democracy? Just look at the rise of the Tea Party republicans! The rise in Islamic fundamentalism has generated a polarising influence in US politics. The result is a candidate like Donald Trump who speaks of banning muslims from entry to the USA and building a wall across the Mexican border. In times of fear and uncertainty voters seek simple answers from strong leaders. What they get are demagogues and dictators.
The 9/11 attacks targeted the world trade centre, the Pentagon and the White House. What would have happened if the President had been killed? US democracy is in a precarious position. The Handmaid’s Tale is like a manual for suspension of democracy. It seems to me that some of the hard right have been studying up on it. No wonder they want the book removed from required reading lists in US schools.
Maybe allowing the US population to own all those guns is not such a bad idea? What do you think?