Why should Americans care about the Middle East?

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On July 15, the Saturday after Israeli forces attacked Lebanon, there ran a small article in the Star Tribune (Newspaper of the Twin Cities!). The article came from the McClatchy News Service. The McClatchy Company owns the Star Tribune.

This article, presented in a “question-and-answer” format, was one of several articles about the Israeli attack, and it ran under the headline “How the Turmoil Could Affect Americans.”

Here is the first question, and the first answer, in its entirety:

“Q: Israel and its neighbors are fighting again. Why should Americans care?

“A: The most obvious reason is the economy. The latest fighting, which began after Hezbollah militants crossed the Lebanese border and took two Israeli soldiers hostage on Wednesday, already has driven global oil prices to record highs, and they’re likely to go even higher. That could kick the U.S. economy, and the world’s, into a recession. That would mean that Americans would lose jobs, businesses would lose profits, and companies and their stockholders would lose money.”

Exactly one week later, on Saturday, July 22, the New York Times broke a story that went like this:

“The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon . . . . The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration. . . . [This gives] the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.”

And, finally, from the July 24 Star Tribune—this is also a McClatchy story — comes this remark about Lebanon, under the headline “Amid Crisis, Anger Toward U.S. Surges:”

“Across the [Middle East] from Damascus’ historic district to the deserted cafes of bombed-out Beirut and the crowded marketplaces of Cairo, the Bush administration’s unconditional support for Israel’s 13-day bombardment of Hezbollah militants is hardening anti-American sentiment among moderates and hard-liners alike.”

As of this writing, some 300 Lebanese and 30-some Israelis have been killed, the Lebanese infrastructure has been devastated, and at least 700,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced. Israel will receive $2.28 billion in military aid from the United States this year.

And the Star Tribune has the — What? Nerve? Towering insensitivity? Lack of a moral compass? — to publish a story that asks “Why should Americans care?” AND to tell its readers that “The most obvious reason” — in fact, the only reason offered — “is the economy.”

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