Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World

WALTER L. HIXSON

Canadian folk and rock musician Neil Young sitting on the bumper of a 1950s Cadillac in 1988. “Rockin’ in the Free World” from his Freedom album, released in 1989, became one of Young’s signature songs and a live favorite. The song was used over the final credits of Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which criticized the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. (AARON RAPOPORT/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2022, pp. 24-25

History’s Shadows

By Walter L. Hixson

SHOWING THAT WHEN it comes to foreign policy there is little fundamental difference between the two main American political parties, as this issue of the Washington Report comes out, President Joe Biden is scheduled to be smiling, shaking hands, and doling out billions in new “defense” dollars to Israel and weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other Middle Eastern regimes.

No matter what happens concerning the presidential state visits, you can be sure that U.S. “military assistance” will continue to flow throughout the world. It’s what we do.

Under the cover of an emergency relief package for Ukraine, Washington has authorized millions more beyond the $3.8 billion dispensed annually to Israel as it goes about the routine business of killing, repressing and displacing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the latter of which has now been locked in a brutal Israeli stranglehold for 15 years and counting. Some of the new money goes to the Iron Dome, under the Orwellian guise that Israel—which has repeatedly subjected Gaza to indiscriminate bombardment and war crimes—needs help to defend itself from Hamas. Oh, and there is new funding for aged victims of the Nazi genocide, but none for Palestinians, including children, killed or maimed by the Israeli “defense” forces. Wait, there’s more! New millions are also being provided in support of the two-state “peace process,” which remains a cruel joke enabling Israel’s proliferation of illegal Jewish only settlements in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, over in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the two Arab regimes continue to spend billions of their dollars to purchase American weapons. Since 2015 the United States has administered more than $60 billion to the two Gulf states under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, including helicopters, missiles, bombs, and training and advisory services. 

U.S. military intelligence support fuels the horrific Saudi-led war in Yemen. As of mid-June, that war has killed some 380,000 people and displaced millions more in Yemen. Conveniently, according to the Government Accountability Office, the State and Defense Departments “have not fully determined the extent to which U.S. military support has contributed to civilian harm in Yemen,” as required by law. (See the full GAO report on the impact of U.S. aid on Yemen civilians at https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105988).

Other than naming a street for him outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, the United States has done little in response to the monarch-ordered assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At least that’s more than has been done over the Israeli assassination of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but that’s because the United States routinely ignores, even as it funds, the slaughter of Palestinians.

GWOT STILL GOING STRONG

While Russia is demonized daily for the path of destruction it has laid down in Ukraine, there is little mention these days of the venerable “Global War on Terror,” which nonetheless continues in some 85 countries across the globe to which the United States sends military aid. According to the “Costs of War” analysis at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, more than 929,000 people have been killed in the post-9/11 wars, more than 387,000 of them civilians, and some 38 million war refugees and displaced persons have been driven from their homes. The United States has spent about $8 trillion on the GWOT.

While billions are routinely doled out on the GWOT and to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other repressive regimes such as the one in Cairo, some 37 million Americans, about 11 percent of the population, continue to live below the official federal poverty line. That figure obscures the many more millions who live check-to-check on the edge of poverty even as billionaires enjoy tax shelters and lord over the American political process. A handful of super-rich donors continues to fuel the Israel lobby, which prompts Congress to send billions to the apartheid regime even as it uses the money to become ever more militaristic and repressive.

It seems we have re-ensconced the old Cold War paradigm of trumpeting Russia as the center of all evil while glossing over our own militarism, the continuous funding of repressive regimes, as well as the failure to meaningfully confront sweeping domestic problems, let alone the existential global threats of nuclear proliferation, climate change, disease control, and the wiping out of animal and plant species.

We desperately need a seismic shift in both domestic and foreign policies. It will surely come, although no one can say when, how, or at what cost the transformation will take place. But until that new day dawns, you can count on the American national security state, as Neil Young sardonically put it in the classic tune, to “Keep on rockin’ in the free world.”


History’s Shadows, a regular column by contributing editor Walter L. Hixson, seeks to place various aspects of Middle East politics and diplomacy in historical perspective. Hixson is the author of Architects of Repression: How Israel and Its Lobby Put Racism, Violence and Injustice at the Center of US Middle East Policy and Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict (available from Middle East Books andMore), along with several other books and journal articles. He was a professor of history for 36 years, achieving the rank of distinguished professor.

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