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Repentance

This is a conversation I had with Doga a few days ago concerning war in the Middle East, America’s moral responsibilty for it, and how this might play out in the 2008 elections.

eatbees: I notice that Sarkozy, like Bush, wants to attack Iran.

doga: You mean he’s encouraging Bush to attack Iran?

eatbees: I should have said he warned Iran to to give up their nuclear ambitions if they don’t want to be attacked. He said that if diplomacy fails, there will either be a nuclear Iran or a bombed Iran, and a nuclear Iran is unacceptable.

doga: The journalists say he’s the new Tony Blair for Bush.

eatbees: I think he’s more independent than Blair. He’s looking out for French interests, and of course for his own interests. Did you know that fifteen years ago, when he was the mayor of a small city, he went into a school by himself to talk to a crazy man who was wearing an explosive vest? He saved the children who were hostages by convincing the crazy man to let them go. Later, police shot the man dead. Today Bush is the crazy man, and we’re the children. Can Sarkozy save us?

doga: When he was Minister of the Interior, he called the residents of the suburbs “cannibals,” as if they weren’t even human.

eatbees: I thought he said “racaille.” It means something like “scum.”

doga: I’m translating from Arabic. I don’t know the exact word.

eatbees: I don’t want to defend Sarkozy, but he chose an Arab woman to be Minister of Justice, and a Socialist to be Foreign Minister. So he’s complex. He’s ambitious, he wants to make a mark, and he’s a political risk-taker. If there’s an attack on Iran, we’ll see what he does. After that, I’ll be able to judge him.

doga: I know he’s ambitious, but political risk taking can have some bizarre effects, given the current state of affairs in the world.

eatbees: You don’t like the idea of throwing gasoline on the fire?

doga: If the world is already suffering from problems of war and terrorism, a “hard” style of politics can make things worse.

eatbees: So you prefer a calmer style. But how can we calm a situation that is so overheated?

doga: We need to look for the opposite of Bush.

eatbees: You mean the Dalai Lama? We know that Ahmadinejad or Chavez isn’t the opposite of Bush. In fact, they’re a lot like him. They want to stir things up. So who do you want as the next American president? Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards? Do you think one of them can regain the world’s trust?

doga: I want to throw everything into question. We should be asking if it’s a problem of one party versus another, or rather, the illegal ambitions of an entire country.

eatbees: I agree the ambitons are illegal. But which of the three candidates is most likely to bring an end to them? Which ones would continue the same crimes with a different face? Frankly, I’m afraid that choosing a so-called progressive leader won’t change much.

doga: I don’t think there’s any intention of bringing an end to them.

eatbees: Obama is too ambitious for my taste. I think he has too much confidence in himself, a bit like Bush, though obviously his character and judgment are a lot better. But what do you mean by “throwing everything into question”? Who will be the judge, and in what court?

doga: What’s needed is self-criticism.

eatbees: Fine, but we still need to choose a president next year. I hope we can find someone who will lead us in that period of self-criticism, or at least allow it to happen. You said once that you wanted Bush to attack Iran because it would make the U.S. fall from its position of dominance that much more quickly.

doga: I didn’t say that.

eatbees: Yes you did, in a moment of anger. I sometimes feel the same way—that it would be better to get the disaster over with than drag it out for another twenty years. I just don’t want to see the result.

doga: I was trying to send you a message. Too much injustice can provoke an explosion.

eatbees: Exactly. And it’s clear that Cheney hasn’t understood that, or maybe he could care less about human beings because he’s possessed by a demon. I’m afraid none of our current leaders has learned the lesson. Cheney will never give up. He’s dangerous to the whole world, because fanning the flames is his personal mission. I think he’s made a vow to attack Iran before leaving office. In that context, it’s hard to imagine a future U.S. leader brilliant enough to restore our sense of justice.

doga: It’s possible that the Bush administration is playing its last hand, because they see that quite a few other nations are starting to revolt, especially in Latin America. The European Union is getting stronger, and the Musilm countries see America as a blood-sucker stealing their wealth. That’s why controlling the world by force and dominating the richest region of the world are the only solutions they can think of.

eatbees: They’re unable to trust, they only understand dominance. But such a solution isn’t stable. It’s sad to think that what we could have had with the hand of friendship, we’ll never win even after millions of deaths. There is only one option, changing course as quickly as possible. Repentance, taubah. I’m hoping a leader will emerge who can explain this to a population “spoiled” by chaos and a taste for dominance.

doga: Taubah—confessing one’s guilt, vowing never to do it again.

eatbees: Exactly.

doga: I’m afraid that what you hope for will never happen. Things are too controlled economically, so there is no room for human sentiment.

eatbees: If we have Clinton, Obama or Edwards as president, I think any one of them will be better than Bush. Even power can demonstrate compassion when we have leaders who see clearly, who realize that excessive ambition is a form of suicide. At their core, even economic interests are no more than the collective interests of humanity. So where does injustice come from?

doga: The worst kind of injustice is the one that is done voluntarily.

eatbees: What do you mean?

doga: I mean the U.S. has chosen to practice unjust policies. It hasn’t fallen into injustice blindly.

eatbees: Our population isn’t unjust.

doga: I’m talking about the administration.

eatbees: Then it’s up to us, the population, to demand justice. If not, we are also guilty. When you say the administration has chosen unjust policies, I think that’s obvious to you and me. In fact, all progressives in the U.S. would agree with you, and even sincere conservatives whose moral compass takes precedence over their ambitions.

doga: Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful evolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

eatbees: I’ve heard that quote before, but I’d forgotten it. Thanks for reminding me. What we need is a learning process, because the population has been badly educated in recent years. Do you think the Americans understand things well enough, given our present condition, to choose a new administration to start the learning process? I think everyone knows we need to change direction. It’s too obvious.

doga: I think the Americans already understand, but I don’t know if they have the will to let destiny do its work.

eatbees: We’re afraid of revenge. We think we’re trapped. We know we’ve done wrong, and we need to keep fighting to avoid revenge.

doga: Do you think like that too?

eatbees: Of course not! I know the world doesn’t hate us, even today. In fact, the tolerance is amazing. But the majority of my fellow citizens are fearful. You talk of “destiny” and that means losing our position of unique dominance.

doga: If the Americans change their policies willingly, and engage in self-criticism and repentance like you said, then the whole world will be proud of you. But at the same time, you need to understand that the moment for repentance won’t last forever. It needs to be seized at the right time.

eatbees: If Cheney has decided to attack Iran, then it may be too late afterward to “seize the moment.”

doga: It’s always possible to choose the right moment when you’re sitting down and using your brains.

eatbees: We need to do better than sit on our butts in this case! Maybe a general in the Pentagon will refuse Cheney’s orders, or Congress will move into action to control the abuse of power. We need to be effective if we want to prevent the worst. The next few months will be dangerous, because they’re playing their last hand, like you said.

doga: I didn’t say sit on your butts. When I said “sitting down,” I meant prudent thinking.

eatbees: It’s like the hadith that talks about the Last Days. “There will be a period of turmoil in which the one who sits will be better than one who stands and the one who stands will be better than one who walks and the one who walks will be better than one who runs.”

— • —

UPDATE: About the pending attack on Iran, go read this post by journalist Chris Floyd, “Countdown to Midnight in Persia,” which offers the scariest collection of omens I’ve seen yet. This is a serious and respected blog, with links to other serious and respected blogs. The post, written two days ago, claims that the Bush administration stands ready to launch “the complete destruction of the Iranian state in an aerial blitzkrieg aimed at up to 10,000 targets inside Iran.” There are plenty of links to other sources of information. The post begins this way:

    Day after day, almost hour by hour, fresh confirmation comes of the impending American attack on Iran. Yet the same surreal malaise that hung over public affairs before the war of aggression against Iraq has descended again. Everyone knows the war is coming and nothing will stop it….

It ends this way:

    This is murder. And all those who do not speak out against it—and against all those in high places who do nothing to stop it—are fully complicit in this abomination. No excuses, no mitigation, not this time. Speak out—or be damned with the criminals who thrive on your silence.

I have spoken out, many times, but it’s not enough. As Doga wrote on this blog just two weeks ago, “It isn’t enough to distance ourselves from the abuses we see, we must do whatever it takes to cure them.” So tell me, dear readers, what can we do?

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