The reaction of the U.S. State Department to last year’s coup d’état against Honduran President Mel Zelaya provides an instructive example for governments worldwide who may wish to thwart democracy in their own backyards.
Interested parties are invited to internalize the following three simple steps:
- Spend as many months as possible debating whether the coup was really a coup or military in nature, and ignore cables from your embassy in the country in question stating that “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on [INSERT DATE] in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. [See WikiLeaks release regarding Honduras]
- Cause your ambassador to the country in question to forget his/her previous cable and to declare elections conducted under an illegal government “free, fair, and transparent”. Ignore fabrications of voter turnout and assassinations of local citizens who continue to regard the ousting of their president as illegal and unconstitutional.
- Restore any aid that might have been suspended while you were debating whether or not the coup was a coup, and plead to have the country in question reinstated to all regional organizations from which it was banished due to undemocratic behavior.
Today’s report on the Al Jazeera website entitled “Israel to build migrant centre” quotes Eyal Gabai, director-general of the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as declaring:
Israel is trying to fight a situation in which the state, its citizens, are vulnerable to infiltrators who enter with economic motives”.
The economically-motivated infiltrators threatening the Israeli state and its citizens might be more succinctly described as illegal immigrants. Arriving primarily from Africa, they now have a detention facility to look forward to, which according to Al Jazeera “is expected to be built at or near the site of a former prison camp for Palestinians”.
A copy of a 2009 U.S. Air Force Airman’s Manual has just fallen into my hands.
The manual offers instructions on what to do in a variety of hostile situations, as well as advice to airmen to change their socks daily, wash their hands after using the bathroom, and learn the word “halt” in the language of the country in which they are stationed.
Following are additional bits of advice regarding cultural adaptation:
Terrorists don’t discriminate! If you’re an American, you’re a potential terrorist target. Your dress, conduct, and mannerisms should not attract attention. Make an effort to blend in.” [No advice is offered as to how blend in in countries in which the majority of the local population does not wear camouflage.]
It’s normal to have feelings of uneasiness after you arrive at your deployment location. But, don’t become consumed by fear. Slowly adjust to your new surroundings, learn all you can from more experienced people, and follow your training.” [Judging from the accompanying photograph, new surroundings include McDonald’s establishments with turbaned and veiled clientele.]
[The incident] may provide inspiration for the scriptwriters of the popular Turkish television series ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’, which prompted a diplomatic skirmish with Israel in January  by portraying Israeli intelligence agents in a negative light. Following the portrayal, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister [Danny] Ayalon subjected the Turkish ambassador to Israel, Oğuz Çelikkol, to humiliating treatment such as being seated in a chair at the Foreign Ministry that was lower to the ground than those sat upon by his Israeli interlocutors. Israel was subsequently forced to apologize for its behavior.
Depending on how the current diplomatic crisis plays out, we may either see more Israeli apologies or new seating arrangements for Çelikkol at the Foreign Ministry, such as a hole in the ground.”
Sure enough, the Turkish film Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin—”Valley of the Wolves: Palestine“—is slated for release in January 2011. To my knowledge, no holes have yet been dug in Jerusalem to accommodate Turkish diplomatic personnel, although Israel has once again made Turkish news by denying a visa to Turkish citizen Vahap Fırat, reportedly because he is friends on Facebook with the wife of the film’s screenwriter.
I’ve just written an article for The Electronic Intifada, comparing the Palestinian film Salt of This Sea—in which the sea represents Palestinian dispossession—with the Israeli film Lebanon, in which Lebanon is represented by the interior of an invading Israeli tank.
Samuel Maoz, the director of Lebanon, was a tank gunner in the 1982 Israeli war on that country. The Observer conducted a lengthy interview with him in May of this year. The following is an excerpt from my article for EI:
According to the The Observer: ‘For Maoz, making his film turned out to be, cliched though this sounds, healing. As he wrote the script, he realized he was at last able to put some distance between himself and his past. … Physically, too, something changed. “Two days into the shoot, I developed an infection in my leg. It was so painful I could hardly walk. The doctor gave me antibiotics and I went to bed for a day. When I woke up, the pain was gone.” He looked down at his foot and, there beside it on the mattress, were five small pieces of shrapnel, rejected by his body after nearly three decades, evidence, he believes, of “the connection between body and soul.”’
According to an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz entitled “Iran, Venezuela plan to build rival to Panama Canal”, the current border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua—in which the former country has accused the latter of sending military troops into its territory along the San Juan River during a river dredging project—is a “trial balloon” for a new Iranian-funded “‘Nicaragua Canal’ linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans”. The article takes care to specify that Costa Rica is “a country without an army” but does not suggest whether the announcement earlier this year regarding U.S. naval militarization of the Central American nation might also have constituted a trial balloon for something.
While the article goes on to state that “[t]he plan has aroused concern in Washington, and the U.S. has started behind the scenes efforts to foil it”, this information is curiously juxtaposed with other details such as that “[a] U.S. State Department official told Haaretz’s Washington correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya on Wednesday that the U.S. is not aware of any plans to build a new canal in Latin America”.
In an August report for the global intelligence firm STRATFOR, analyst Scott Stewart writes:
When we [at STRATFOR] discuss threats along the U.S.-Mexico border with sources and customers, or when we write an analysis on topics such as violence and improvised explosive devices along the border, a certain topic inevitably pops up: Hezbollah.”
The hyperlink Stewart provides is to his report from the week before, in which Hezbollah does not pop up but Mexican government favoritism of certain drug cartels does. Hezbollah is also not generally a suspect when Mexican federal police shoot students peacefully protesting the militarization of Ciudad Juarez.
Stewart ultimately argues that Hezbollah is “radical but rational” and that it is currently choosing not to exercise its “transnational terrorism capabilities”. Instead, it limits its illicit operations to things like the sale of counterfeit Viagra in the U.S.