Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Send in the clowns

US think tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy are beating the drum for a US war against Iran in the interests of Israel, writes William Cook

Clowns befuddle a crowd. They appear to be a pretence of the normal but are caricatured to evoke laughter, surprise, at times derision, but always in a context where they absorb self-deprecation, become the butt of jokes, become the audience's self, a make-believe self, receiving the jibes, jests and buffoonery never allowed when one is alone.

Thus do they become vessels of deep-seated self-ridicule, inhibited expression, personal inadequacy, a self-conscious parody of the normal. They are used as images, commodities to be bought and sold for the purchaser's benefit, set amidst their fellows as manikins to be pinched and probed, facsimiles of all, but receivers of ridicule to protect their brethren.

Such is the figure of Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), as he appeared before his fellows seated silently in respectful adulation at WINEP's self-proclaimed international conference on Near East policy. He appeared as all clowns appear from the curtains, an Ichabod figure from US writer Washington Irving's legends -- lanky, thin, staccato, stepping towards the podium, a believer in mystical gods, historical covenants, justifications of actions found encrypted in the yellow-stained pages of ancient scrolls, called upon to deliver his sacred yet startling message to his colleagues.

They after all exist as children of the state of Israel, a direct issue of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a think tank of intellectuals created for the sole purpose of extolling Israel while condemning all who would question Israel's policies or people.

They are paid exorbitant salaries to praise and justify Israel's actions, a bastion of constant comment to blunt the cries of the world community to bring Israel to justice. They labour hard and long to cloak their owner's illicit behaviour, its illegal wars, deception and deceit, that it may continue with impunity. They like the clown garbs they use to hide their true purposes, and they create icons that mask their true intent -- lease a suite of offices in prestige towers in the heart of Washington, ride in chauffeur-driven limousines, dress in Italian-styled pinstriped suits, sit at mahogany desks behind sophisticated computers, and rest comfortably in cushioned chairs as the atmosphere is regulated to comfort levels.

All this splendour belies the reality, just as the raucous romp of clowns beneath a big top, surrounded by balloons and cotton candy and parade music, belies their function as the receptacle of their audiences' anxiety and frustrations.

Watch Clawson amble to the podium, nonchalantly glancing to his presumed peers who sit at either side awaiting his intervention and words of wisdom as they face a crisis: how to force the United States to attack Iran? US President Barack Obama's intransigence against an attack and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's absolute determination to attack necessitate a swift mental solution, a strategy heretofore not considered, one for the unencumbered mental concentration of their clown.

Send in the clown that he may perform before all the fools that incestuously congregate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

As he gathers his wits about him mumbling at the podium, Clawson notes the dilemma that confronts these masterminds of strategic planning, a stalled action plan against the Iranian people. How to solve it? Clawson acts like the trickster of Native Indian myths, the buffoon brought forth to unveil the truth behind the intellectual drivel that poured from the scholars as they pontificated on the "existential threat" to Israel of an impending Iranian atomic bomb, of the unfortunate limits to an Israeli unilateral response and the consequent need for the United States to step into the breach, an act, indeed, of moral significance.

Send in the clown to unmask the hidden agenda that lurks beneath the recorded time of this conference, the unstated purpose of holding forth for the public's benefit that the occupant of the White House might hear what his next step on behalf of the American people must be. After all, these intellectual presentations become tomorrow's news and their presenter tomorrow's expert guest on countless talk shows that all Americans might understand that they too are under existential threat, that their fear levels should be rising to red, that there is no solution but the one afforded by these brilliant minds.

Send in the clown to utter the obvious. "Be nasty," "after all people, we're in the game." It's time to jump start the war with Iran with a little imagination, follow the examples of prior American presidents, let Pearl Harbour happen, fix a Gulf of Tonkin attack, do something, anything, to force an American reaction in support of Israel. And, since we know the current president is not disposed to such actions, we need to take matters into our own hands. "After all people, we are in the game."

We are already undertaking clandestine actions in Iran, and we are doing this even though we are not appointed to be representing Americans, even though we do not engage ourselves in real action. No boots for us on the ground, we just type away at our computers, comfortable with our Starbucks coffee, a lunch with a cocktail, and an opera in the evening. "After all people, we are in the game." If we don't make it happen, it won't, and think how grateful the American people will be as they shoulder once more their responsibility to make the world "safe for democracy", shield their "only friend in the Middle East", and kill and slaughter yet another people that did nothing to them on behalf of Israel.

How cute the clown is as he raises his eyebrows and his head bobs forward to utter yet again, "after all people, we are in the game." His shoulders rise jerkily in step with his image of a submarine that just might not rise from the ocean depths. It happens, and "who would know why?" And that sophisticated audience of scholars titters and claps at the clever solution offered by their clown. So simple, so clever, so monstrous -- the diabolicalness is masked by the jovial mannerisms of the clown.

As he retreats from the podium, the viewer awakes to the inhumanity of this figure, this scholar, researcher, clown. Perhaps it is his lack of experience, his absenteeism from the battlefield, his life played out in college, in fraternities, in business classes that teach the value of loyalty to the company, in churches that teach devotion to a faith and the comfort it brings, even in economics where his expertise would recognise the necessity of success in the form of wealth and the means to acquire it.

Without such wealth, there is no "standard of living" like that provided in the US, and one's goal in life is self, self-gratification, self-determination with your peers, self-aggrandisement, an objectivism that drives roughshod over any and all who get in your way -- the American way of life that expunges from its mind anything that is nasty and excludes from concern the lives of anyone not part of one's personal club. Indeed, it is one's job not to worry about those kind of people. "After all people, we are in the game."

But what of the sailors on the submarine that disappeared, who left port believing their nation was not at war, but who become, at the ravings of a clown, victims of faceless men who have determined that they must be sacrificed to jump-start their war while innocent men and women are blamed for it, the virtues of impunity that attend "false flag" operations? Here lie the vanquished beneath the never-changing sea, lost in the darkness of its depths and the absolute darkness of this soulless clown who joked his brilliance before his peers, oblivious to the consequences of his jollity.

No thought here of the sailor's mother or father; no thought here of the children of this man or of his future snuffed out because this man vomited out of his mouth the way to move forward with his agenda and that of his peers. "After all people, we are in the game."

But the consequences are far greater than the lost sailors. "After all people," this act will propel the world into a catastrophic war, and we will "not be in a game." Put this in context: here's the clown, an appointed researcher for an exclusive think tank the purpose of which is to push the Israeli agenda in the United States. These non-appointed individuals draw up strategic plans for the US government, manoeuvre them into strategic places in the Pentagon, the Congress, the State Department, and into the executive branch of government in order to bring them to action.

This action is to force the US to go to war on behalf of Israel. That the people of the US do not favour such a war, that hundreds and thousands of their soldiers, the sons and daughters, the fathers and mothers of American families will be the fodder for WINEP's war is irrelevant to them, since they work for Israel and for AIPAC. The end purpose alone counts. That is what Patrick Clawson told us in that video, a video I suspect WINEP wishes never saw the light of day. The absolute arrogance of his presentation, the total commitment he uttered in his remarks, tell of a man incapable of human sympathy and oblivious to international law.

How does one contend with such affectation, such pedantry, such charlatanism posing as enlightenment? How brutally ugly is this suggestion to recommend the slaughter of those who have done nothing wrong, nothing to you or your family, who are to be pawns in the hands of ruthless men, men who hide themselves in the garb of others, forcing blame on the innocent while gaining impunity from dastardly crimes. How lacking in human sympathy are the acts designed by a nation willing and capable of carrying out such uncivilised acts while it touts in advertisements across this nation, "in a war of civilised men against savages, support the civilised men, support Israel."

How ironic that the clowns have become the savages beneath their huge floppy feet, their bulging bellies, their bulbous red noses, their rabbit-like protruding eyes, proclaiming to the world, this is what we really believe, deceive all, destroy all, for the sake of Israel. "After all people, we are in the game."

The writer is professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Decade of Deceit, 2002-2012: Reflections on Palestine, published in June this year.

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