Bibi Plays Bill Maher for a fool

Photo by humberto chavez on Unsplash

Not sure that anyone else has noticed, but in the last couple of years Bill Maher (Real Time, HBO) has been working overtime to give both pot and old age a bad reputation. From claiming that Covid 19 was no threat to people with healthy immune systems to dumping on public health measures and vaccines, he seems to be conducting a campaign to convince people that the bud really does rot your brain. The producers of “Reefer madness” would be so pleased.

As to the age thing, I’ve got a couple years on him and so I appreciate his denunciations of ageism in politics…now if he would only show that his own thought processes aren’t calcifying I would appreciate it.

His first guest last Friday was Israel’s ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, casually known as “Bibi”. Despite the fact that the former Israeli Prime Minister was facing corruption charges while running to reclaim that position, despite the fact that Bibi was a close trump ally who meddled in both U.S. elections and government, Maher tossed him one softball question after another.

Maher seemed willing to swallow whole the Netanyahu claim that his deals with the “Arab” nations, deals joined by our former president, were simply steps towards regional peace. It apparently never occurred to Maher that there might be a deeper game being played when Bibi teed up Iran as the ultimate regional threat. Forgetfulness is supposedly an expected consequence of entering your 7th decade, and Maher seems to have forgotten a lot.

Certainly, Maher seemed unaware that there are different kinds of “Arabs” playing roles in the decades of Middle Eastern conflict, though to be fair he may never have actually looked into the history before sitting down with Netanyahu. Like the fumbling W. Bush administration, it’s possible he has never known that Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has been conducting hot and cold proxy wars with Shia Iran, the one powerful protector of minority Shia Muslim populations in the region.

As a weekly commenter on politics, economics, and apparently public health however, it’s Maher’s JOB to understand these topics, and a serious job performance review might find him out of a job.

Another Friday guest, scientist and science author/promoter Neil DeGrasse Tyson found himself in the awkward position of trying to explain to Maher how difficult it is to make public health policy in the face of a novel and deadly pandemic, not to mention how easy it is to Monday morning quarterback the life and death decisions that actually got made. Unfortunately, there was nobody present to explain to Maher the cynical game being played by Netanyahu and his ultra-conservative backers.

Nearly every serious conflict now in the Middle East is rooted in the 800 year old Sunni/Shia split. In Yemen, Shia Houthis, supported by Shia Iran, drove the Sunni dominated government out of the capitol, Sanaa, and the civil war between the two has raged ever since. The Sunni Saudis have come heavily down on the side of the deposed Sunni regime.

In Syria, the Alawite/Shia Assad government has hammered away at a largely Sunni rebellion, one that drew in Sunni militants from the region and spawned the Sunni ISIS “califate”. In Iraq, the minority Sunni Saddam ruling faction had long oppressed the country’s Shia majority, and when the U.S. evicted Saddam the civil war was on between the two ethno/religious populations, a brutal and deadly conflict that pinned down U.S. forces for years.

How does this relate to Netanyahu, his right-wing Likud Party, and the so called “peace deals”. The answer is as old as the real Middle East conflict; “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Bibi has led Israel into an unholy alliance with the Sunni nations of the region, nations that outnumber in population the local Shias by nearly ten to one. No doubt from Israel’s perspective it’s better to side with the majority of former enemies in their real battle, to keep those two combatants at each other’s throats, than to face their united front.

It’s also dangerous for the rest of the globe to back Iran into a corner.

Iran’s religious government knows that Israel is a nuclear state, that Israel’s most powerful ally, the U.S. is the premier nuclear state; it’s probable that Iran’s Mullahs see a nuclear force of their own as their only possible defense.

Maher seems particularly concerned with the nuclear threat posed by Russia, concerned to the point that he seems to be willing to leave Ukraine to putin’s tender mercies. Maybe he should consider how an 800 year old ultra-violent conflict will play out if it goes nuclear. Certainly he should pay attention to the background of his guests…softballs are fine in the backyard with the kids, not so much with hard right leaders.

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John Griswold

Master carpenter, watercolor artist and beat up old jock…owned by Black Lab Bo who considers two tennis balls a minimum mouthful