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one woman, remembering june

by the stormy present Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 10:32:16 AM EST

The TV is full of old video today.  They are marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Over and over, we're seeing old battle footage, and over and over we hear Nasser's booming voice.

It can get a bit over-the-top; Al Jazeera English has been doing live reports from various cities and borders all day, panning from their correspondents over to the horizon as if they expect to see Arab and Israeli tanks still fighting it out over there.  At one point, they said something like this:  "We'll be right back with more of our ongoing coverage of the 1967 War."

As if it were a live event.  As if it were still happening.

Well, in a way, it never stopped happening.  The Arab world has never really gotten over it.

One of my friends, who was a young girl in 1967, was describing to me today the shock and humiliation that the whole nation felt at losing so much territory in five days, and the lingering effects of that loss that are apparent even today.

Arabs call the Six-Day War "the June War," or just naksa, which means "setback."  And it was, a tremendous one, but not just for the military.  In many ways, it set back Arab society, or froze it and stagnated it.  Or opened the door to its freezing and stagnation.

A newspaper columnist, Abdullah Iskander in Al-Hayat, this morning wrote that the military loss had been used as an excuse by Arab regimes to justify despotism and authoritarianism, and choking off Arab civil society.

"Forty years ago," he wrote, "our options were a military regime or a pluralistic, democratic one.  Now, the options have become a despotic ruler, fundamentalism, or civil wars."

I won't write much more.  I'll just share this blog post, which the writer posted this time last year.

I remember the sounds of planes going over our heads. My brother and I crawl under the bed but the sounds are still loud.

At night we are sent to sleep in the neighbor's basement. We don't understand why, but we think it is great fun. It was the only sleep over I ever had as a kid.

Then we march.

I actually started this post meaning to write about nothing but the blogger's recollection, hence the title.  But I guess it became a little more than that.

Here's another interesting quote, from an AP story:

Trying to minimize the shock and pain of the defeat, Arabs have long called the Six Day War the "naksa" -- or "setback" in Arabic -- but its impact remains a deep wound.

So much, says Egyptian columnist Wael Abdel Fattah in the Al-Fagr Weekly, that Arabs today blame that defeat of 1967 for "everything" -- from "price hikes, dictatorship, religious extremism, sectarian strife, even sexual impotence."

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 10:42:45 AM EST
Required reading at Salon for those still interested in What Happened That Day:

Israeli and U.S. historians and commentators describe the surprise attack as necessary, and the war as inevitable, the result of Nasser's fearsome war machine that had closed the Straits of Tiran, evicted United Nations peacekeeping troops, taunted the traumatized Israeli public, and churned toward the Jewish state's border with 100,000 troops. "The morning of 5 June 1967," wrote Israel's warrior-turned-historian, Chaim Herzog, "found Israel's armed forces facing the massed Arab armies around her frontiers." Attack or be annihilated: The choice was clear.

Or was it? Little-noticed details in declassified documents from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, indicate that top officials in the Johnson administration -- including Johnson's most pro-Israeli Cabinet members -- did not believe war between Israel and its neighbors was necessary or inevitable, at least until the final hour. In these documents, Israel emerges as a vastly superior military power, its opponents far weaker than the menacing threat Israel portrayed, and war itself something that Nasser, for all his saber-rattling, tried to avoid until the moment his air force went up in smoke.

Hat tip to Laila Lalami for pointing it out.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:15:10 AM EST
I'm curious about LBJs attitude because the positioning of the USS Liberty would have made no sense if he felt nothing was going to happen.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 03:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh?  Not that I can call up LBJ and ask him, but I don't see what's terribly remarkable about getting a spy ship to the Sinai coast by the third day of the war.  It could have been anywhere in the Mediterranean when the war began and still have made it there by then.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 05:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Helen is transcendent and oblivious.

Obviously in a trance, channeling LBJ.

Can't remember the facts on this event.

Perhaps you could provide more information.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 09:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting Salon article for those thoroughly indoctrinated to Neocon regime change, I guess.

Where in it is anything written about what happened to the USS Liberty. Or did you perhaps post the wrong link?

Gee. Bashir, Mubarak, Saudis, Gulf States, Hez,Israel, etc. play the the Great Game British or French Colonial, Version 1.0, or are adapting to the more sophisticated Kissinger/Brezenski Version 1.2, and this style of play offends or surprises the sophisticated European or American observer. The chillin is learnin'.
Imagine that.

Don't eat any bad hummus or fall of your camel:).

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 11:55:31 PM EST
It is indeed the wrong link.  The right one is here.

But there's nothing in there about the USS Liberty either.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 04:06:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. I'll read it tomorrow, or later today, your time.

Internet lag is a bitch.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 04:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that the Arabs have never had a democratic government since they came out of the desert in the 7th century AD. They had been until relatively recent times time tribal and authoritarian. Only in the 19th century did they come in contact with European conquerors.

The author of the Salon article, a 1st world educated intellectual, expects rather too much of his less educated brothers, I think, as do most intellectuals in the region.

Democratic institutions in that region will take another 200+ years, probably, and attempting to force the issue costs more money and lives than it's worth.

On camels and gravity, I cite a new book out on Gertrude Bell:


In the picture, the colonial secretary, Mr. Churchill, has just been thrown from his camel to the amusement of all. He's likely hamming it up a bit with his all-martial camel-jockey posture.

On bad hummus and the crippling intestinal effect it had on a first-world jornalist, I can't find the link.
But it was a hummerous shocker.

Take Care.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:21:11 AM EST
The problem is that the Arabs have never had a democratic government since they came out of the desert in the 7th century AD.

Gee that was true until recently of, say, 80% of European countries, too...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 03:06:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And this could be a subject for interesting discussion.

In US:


Slaves Freed:1865

Women Can Vote:1920

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 04:03:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The decendants of slaves can vote: 1965

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 09:34:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that the Arabs have never had a democratic government since they came out of the desert in the 7th century AD.


Democratic institutions in that region will take another 200+ years, probably, and attempting to force the issue costs more money and lives than it's worth.

Let's see, democracy in Arab countries...

Constant revolting by the Egyptian people throughout the country led Great Britain to issue a unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence on February 22, 1922.

The new Egyptian government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly-elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924, and in 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded. However, continued instability in the government due to remaining British control and increasing involvement by the King in politics led to the eventual toppling of the monarchy and the dissolution of the parliament through a coup d'état by a group of army officers that came to be known as the 1952 Revolution.

Politics of Jordan takes place in a framework of a parliamentary monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister of Jordan is head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on January 8, 1952.
Lebanon has a Republic government parliamentary democracy within the overall framework of confessionalism, in which the highest offices are proportionately reserved for representatives from certain religious communities. The constitution grants the people the right to change their government. However, from the mid-1970s until the parliamentary elections in 1992, civil war precluded the exercise of political rights
Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s was marked by upheaval. Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions. In 1948, Syria was involved in the Arab-Israeli War. The Syrian army was pressed out of most of the Israel area, but fortified their strongholds on the Golan Heights and managed to keep their old borders and some additional territory. A series of military coups, begun in 1949, undermined civilian rule and led to army colonel Adib Shishakli's seizure of power in 1951. After the overthrow of President Shishakli in a 1954 coup, continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military eventually brought Arab nationalist and socialist elements to power.
North Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and became a republic in 1962. In 1839, the British occupied the port of Aden and established it as a colony in September of that year. They also set up a zone of loose alliances (known as protectorates) around Aden to act as a protective buffer. In 1967, the British withdrew and gave back Aden to Yemen due to extreme pressure of battles with the North and Egyptian allies. After the British withdrawal, this area became known as South Yemen. The two countries were formally united as the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.


Yemen is a republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected president, an elected 301-seat House of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament; the prime minister is appointed by the president. The presidential term of office is seven years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is six years. Suffrage is universal over 18 years of age.

On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On December 24, 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris.

The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled one of the world's poorest nations to establish an extremely wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's finances, popular resentment began to build over the increased concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris and the national elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise of Nasserism and Arab nationalism throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 28-year-old army officer Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi staged a coup d'état against King Idris.

Political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997. Morocco was granted Major non-NATO ally status in June 2004 and signed free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.
Independence from France was achieved on March 20, 1956, as a constitutional monarchy with the Bey of Tunis, Muhammad VIII al-Amin Bey, as the king of Tunisia. Prime Minister Habib Bourguiba abolished the monarchy in 1957 and established a strict state under the Neo-Destour (New Constitution) party.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy and has the oldest directly elected parliament of the Persian Gulf Arab countries. Chief of state is the Amir (Amir), a hereditary title. The Amir also known as Sheikh appoints the prime minister, who until recently was also the crown prince. A council of ministers aids the prime minister in his task as head of government which must contain at least one of elected members of the parliament. The number of ministers must not exceed ⅓ of the elected members of the parliament.

The parliament has the power to dismiss the prime minister or anyone of his cabinet through a series of constitutional procedures. According to the constitution, nomination of a new crown prince or head of state (Emir) by the ruling family has to be confirmed by the National Assembly. If he does not win the votes of an absolute majority of the assembly, the Emir (or the royal family members) must submit the names of three candidates to the National Assembly, and the Assembly must select one of these to be the new crown prince. The parliament known as the Majlis Al-Umma (National Assembly), consists of elected fifty members, who are chosen in elections held every four years. Government ministers, according to the Constitution of the State, are given automatic membership in the parliament, and can number up to fifteen.

Mass protests from both camps in autumn 1988 forced Benjedid to concede the end of one-party rule. Elections were planned to happen in 1991. In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of the country's first multi-party elections. Following pressure from western governemnts, the military then intervened and cancelled the second round, forced then-president Bendjedid to resign, and banned the Islamic Salvation Front. It then became a question of "the ballot or the bullet" and the ensuing conflict engulfed Algeria in the violent Algerian Civil War.
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; the head of government is the Prime Minister, Shaykh Khalīfa bin Salman al Khalifa, who presides over a cabinet of twenty-three members . Bahrain has a bicameral legislature with a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage and the upper house, the Shura Council, appointed by the King. Both houses have forty members. The inaugural elections were held in 2002, with parliamentarians serving four year terms; the first round of voting in the 2006 parliamentary election took place on 25 November 2006, and second round run-offs were decided on 2 December 2006.
Since 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has ruled Qatar, seizing control of the country from his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani while the latter vacationed in Switzerland. Under Emir Hamad, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalization, including the enfranchisement of women, a new constitution, and the launch of Al Jazeera, the controversial Arabic language satellite television news channel. Qatar ranks as the eleventh richest country in the world per capita.
Politics of the Union of the Comoros takes place in a framework of a federal presidential republic, whereby the President of the Comoros is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. The Constitution of the Union of the Comoros was ratified by referendum on December 23, 2001, and the islands' constitutions and executives were elected in the following months. It had previously been considered a military dictatorship, and the transfer of power from Azali Assoumani to Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi in May 2006 was the first peaceful transfer in Comorian history.
Okay, so it's not the US. But to imply that democracy is "an issue" that needs to be "forced" from outside is an unfair characterisation, and self-serving as to the role of the US.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 05:40:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good post.  Thanks for that, I don't have time to deal with it today.

I will note, however, that "western" interference in the Middle East has traditionally been a far more antidemocratic force than a democratizing one.  France and Britain carved up the region like a turkey at Christmas dinner.  The monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt were all either put in place or heavily bolstered by "Western" governments; while it's not an Arab country, Iran's attempts at parliamentary democracy were thwarted by outside powers twice, once by Russia and Britain, and again by the US and Britain.

So I find it somewhat rich to hear "western" leaders talk about "promoting democracy" in the Middle East, given that virtually the entire history of "western" relations with the region has involved discouraging it.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 06:41:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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