by Bill Kassel 3/5/15
Do the Prime Minister’s Words Portend a Grim Future? • I once had a neighbor who was an Ethiopian princess. Belonging to the Makonnen royal family, she was a relative of the late Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. She had studied at Hillsdale College, met and married an American, and settled in Michigan. Her kids used to play in our yard sometimes.
That former neighbor — or more properly, her illustrious ancestor — came to mind while I was watching Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress Tuesday. I couldn’t help thinking of how Haile Selassie had passionately addressed the League of Nations in 1936 to condemn fascist Italian aggression against Ethiopia.
The emperor had specific charges about horrors being unleashed upon his people, in particular Italy’s use of chemical weapons. Begging for international assistance, he declared to the ambassadors assembled in Geneva…
“God and history will remember your judgment.”
History remembers that the League of Nations did nothing. But Haile Selassie’s speech, a cri de coeur in the truest sense, is now recalled as prophetic. It was, in essence, a warning to the world of greater horrors yet to come.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address had a similar prophetic ring. In 1936 the world’s peoples, and their governments, wanted desperately to believe that Italian (and German) militarism didn’t mean world war was inevitable.
The attitude being shown toward Iran by our current administration is eerily similar.
President Obama and his minions are bumbling along a path of blind hope that agreements and carrots and sticks and wishful thinking will yield an Iran that hasn’t the slightest thought of applying all that uranium it’s been enriching to any but the most peaceful of purposes.
Netanyahu’s candid, passionate remarks went a long way toward revealing this expectation as the folly it is. Why would anyone want to make a deal with the Iranians under the terms proposed? he asked rhetorically…
“Because they hope that Iran will change for the better in the coming years, or they believe that the alternative to this deal is worse?
“Well, I disagree. I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal. This regime has been in power for 36 years, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year. This deal would only wet Iran’s appetite for more.”
And he ticked off a litany of Iranian-sponsored aggressive acts, including some against the United States, to underscore his point.
James Oliphant, Washington Correspondent for National Journal, observes that the address, facilitated by House Speaker John Boehner and pulled off in spite of much administration huffing and puffing…
“was, at heart, a propaganda piece, one carefully orchestrated by Obama’s adversaries. But that didn’t make it any less effective. And it was one whose aftereffects this White House could be feeling for a long time.”
Oliphant insisted that…
“Netanyahu accomplished everything Republicans wanted and the White House feared. Polls show that the American public is skeptical of Iran’s motives in striking a deal, and the Israeli prime minister stoked those suspicions. Obama has taken a large — and likely a legacy-defining — risk in advocating for the talks [with Iran]. And Netanyahu reminded the world of just how large a risk it is.”
But Netanyahu did something else as well. I detected in his words aHaile Selassie-esque prophetic stance. He set the particular threats posed by Iran in the larger perspective of global religious radicalism. And he did it by using a word that would never escape Obama’s lips in such a context: Islam.
“Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam,” Netanyahu said. “One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.”
There is ongoing debate over how much today’s Islamist radicalism — either the Sunni/ISIS variety or the Shiite/Iranian variety — reflects the true nature of Islam. But as I observed about ISIS in my post of September 8, 2014…
“…those who have attached themselves to the Islamic State are acting on some understanding of Muslim doctrine, even if it’s an incorrect reading. And clearly, their methods reflect principles set forth explicitly in the Qu’ran and other sacred writings of Islamic tradition…”
The same can, of course, be said for the radical, militarist regime of the Iranian mullas — which has made no secret of its religiously motivated ambitions for Middle East dominance and global conquest since the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979.
Obama tried to dismiss Netanyahu’s speech by complaining that the Prime Minister had offered no “viable alternatives” to the current U.S. plan. And Obama is right. Netanyahu offered no viable alternatives.
I fear there aren’t any — at least none we like thinking about. And I suspect Netanyahu understands that.
As the words of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (and the string of failed appeasement efforts that followed) were a portent of World War II, this address by the Prime Minister of Israel contained a warning of long and difficult struggles to come.
Are we looking at World War III?
I don’t know.
I pray not. But many unsettling parallels are all too apparent.
We have now heard prophetic words from the leader — perhaps the only true statesman on the world scene at this disquieting moment in history — who is standing right at what is Ground-Zero in the current Middle East conflicts.
And it looks like he’s the only one willing to speak the truth.
Bill Kassel is a writer, communications consultant, and media producer based in Michigan. His essays and random rants can be found online at www.billkassel.com.