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March 27, 2001
Free Speech is Expensive

By Ahmed Amr.


The debate on campaign finance reform is getting interesting. Every Senator is up at the mike raising hell about the corruption of our political process. Some of them have managed to spend their whole career in the middle of the muck and now they raise eloquent voices deriding the sordid methods used to buy and hold a Senate seat. Perhap the Mark Rich affair and the other Clinton and Gore shenanigans were a bit over the edge. Senator Byrd of West Virginia had these choice words to describe the current state of affairs: “Rotten. Putrid. It stinks.” Even corporate leaders are getting sick and tired of these lavish campaigns which have become a stand-alone industry and a cash cow for the media moguls.

The corruption of our political process is clearly evident in our Middle East foreign policy, a policy tailor made to pander to the Israeli Lobby in this country. This lobby is powerful, overloads the collection plates and also has a strong presence in the corporate media. Like other Americans, the Israel Firsters are entitled to have access to our government. But they seem to have acquired a monopoly on dictating the details of American Foreign Policy in the region. They have created a bizarre entitlement plan to bully our government into subsidizing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. We would not pay to have our own troops occupy and repress the Palestinians or any other people. Why do we continue to support Israel’s real-estate fantasies? Well, it all comes down to campaign finance dollars and it helps to control the press.

America has been forced to pay for campaign financing with a political currency that insists on creating adversaries abroad. The media barons, many of them card carrying members of the Jewish lobby, have a compulsive focused fury against the people of the region. In many ways their anti-Arab chauvinism rivals Israel’s contempt for the native people of Palestine and the Middle East. The constant Anti-Arab racist rage that comes off the pages of the American press are the essential backdrop that allows for a policy that avidly supports every Israeli crime and denigrates every Palestinian aspiration. Moreover, it allows our government to prop up corrupt absolute monarchies that have been ripping off their people on a scale that would make Macros and Suharto blush.

For four decades, since America shoved aside the British and the French, we have supported military dictatorships in the name of 'stability in the region'. Many ‘friendly’ Arab governments retain control of their people by using SAVAK like police organizations. And yet our government applauded the recent orderly transition of dictatorial power in Jordan, Morroco and Syria. Where else on the planet, does America support tyrannies and oppressive foreign occupations?

There has not been a single change of Arab governments in the last thiry years, except after the death of a president or a monarch. After Franco died, America orchestrated a major campaign to promote democracy in Spain. When will we ever see an American Administration promoting democracy, human rights and freedom in the Middle East? The ‘racist’ code language used in America to justify this policy is 'stability'. What they really mean is that they are content with the political stagnation of the region. As Kissinger pointed out, it is easier for America to have its way with dictators and tyrants. They can deliver without concern for public sentiments. In this case, they deliver oil and subservience to every Israeli whim.

America’s long term interests are in fostering a harmonious relationship with the people in the region. Alas, American politicians are not above putting their political career ambitions above our national interests. The only reason campaign finance is being discussed is because things have gotten way out of hand and even political prostitutes have tiny reservoirs of patriotism.

America deserves a foreign policy designed to make friends around the world. To the average man on the Arab Street out policies appear to be motivated by bigotry and racism. Most Americans would not throw a cigarette butt on your front lawn and yet our politicians have our government extending a warm hand to a serial ax murderer like Ariel Sharon. We send a third of our foreign aid budget to support a government that callously shoots kids and has a long history of brutalizing the people of the region.

My point is that these pro-Israeli groups have not only damaged our relationship with three generations of Middle Easterners, they have done it by fully participating in the corruption of our politicians. Indeed, In Washington DC, AIPAC sets the standard for how to manipulate our parliament of whores.

As might be imagined, both the Israeli Lobby and the Media titans are not jumping for joy at the prospects of campaign finance reform. Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and a vicious Arab-basher, wrote an ominous article titled “The fearful price of campaign reform” (Seattle Times, 3/26/2001).

In his article he points out the obvious “ There are three basic ways to conduct effective political speech: own a printing press; buy a small piece of space, say, 30 seconds on TV or a page in a newspaper; or bypass the media and directly support a political actor - candidate, leader, party - whose views reflect yours.” His objections center on infringements on free speech.

Well, all the three options mentioned by Krauthammer require a substantial balance sheet. Campaign finance reform is about restricting extremely ‘expensive’ speech that can only be uttered by our wealthiest citizens. It is a form of speech that allows the rich and powerful to drown out other citizens who also need access to the political process. It is speech reserved for the elite and stuffed down our throats with no opportunity for a rebuttal. It is the kind of speech that allows our mass media to sanitize a butcher like Sharon and pass him off as a reasonable chap. In short it is a license to conduct campaigns of deception on any subject matter that is dear to the hearts of the entrenched interest groups.

Again the Middle East is instructive. It is an issue important to two groups of Americans, Arabs and Jews. Yet our government consults only American Jewish groups when formulating these policies. Arab-Americans are completely and deliberately ignored, mostly because they can’t afford the price of political access, they don’t own the printing press and they can’t hope to compete with multi-million dollar donations from the Israeli Lobby. Is it any wonder that the Israel Firsters want to keep the price so artificially high?