Tuesday, November 17, 2009

J’Accuse!: The Frame-Up of Captain Israel by Major Dictatorships

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By Barry Rubin

The affair began in a most unusual way. A low level spy—in fact, the cleaning woman at the foreign embassy—uncovered an important document in a waste-basket. It showed that someone was violating human rights, acting aggressively, and murdering civilians indiscriminately.

The document ended up on the desk of the officer in charge of counter-intelligence. Who could be the culprit, the traitorous spy to all that was right in the world? The officer, Major Oppressive Dictatorships, of course, already had a bias. He hated Jews and wanted to destroy them. He barely had to look down the roll of countries to know that there was only one Jew on that list: Captain Israel. Yes, he must be the one.

But Major Dictatorships had a problem. True, Israel had access to having an army, force, and the instruments of war. Yet the document did not resemble Israel’s handwriting or general behavior. Of course, that was no problem for him. He knew Israel was at fault. It had no right being on the roll of nations any way. And so it did not bother his conscience at all to forge documents proving what he already believed: Israel was the spy.

The documents were taken to the armed forces commander, General Assembly. He, too, suspected that all was not in order but it didn’t matter to him either. Deciding that Israel was guilty suited his purposes as well. And so he endorsed the prosecution. Captain Israel was court-martialed and quickly convicted. No one listened to his protestations of innocence.

It was a dramatic ceremony. Before all the countries drawn up in the large hall, Israel was stripped of his sword. His buttons were cut off, the insignia identifying him as an officer and gentleman were torn away. The mob howled for blood. But instead Captain Israel was sent to Devil’s Island for life.

Naturally, Israel’s community protested, but few others joined it. Gradually, though, the idea grew among a minority that Captain Israel had been framed. A few wrote in protest: the army was covering up, the government was complicit.

But most responded: What? Can General Assembly and all the others have lied? Ridiculous! Of course you are only saying he's innocent because you are on his side. The documents were persuasive; the newspapers proclaimed his guilt in great detail. The hierarchy of an entire religion insisted on his guilt. A whole wing of the political spectrum condemned him as a monster. Everyone agreed. Only Captain Israel could have betrayed the secrets of human rights and proportional response to the enemy.

There matters would have rested, with Captain Israel rotting away forever on Devil’s Island. But the turmoil grew. And most miraculously of all, a courageous officer replaced Major Dictatorships as head of counter-intelligence.

[Let me dispense with satire and give his real name, as a monument should be built in his honor: Lieutenant Colonel Marie Georges Picquart. In addition, there is no one who fits that role today. Lieutenant Colonel Europe? No, he mostly abstained. Lieutenant Colonel Intelligentsia? Largely the one leading on the mob. Lieutenant Colonel America? The best choice but not so unambiguous. And where is Picquart now that we need him? Where are the heroic intellectuals who will stand up for truth no matter what the personal cost?]

Re-examining the case documents, Picquart was shocked. It was obvious that Captain Israel was totally innocent. The actual traitor was Major Libya Syria Iran. The documents were in his handwriting, L.S. Iran was known for his reckless behavior. He had every motive to betray democracy and human rights. But because of his background, he had too many friends in high places willing to excuse his behavior.

No, it was even worse! Once General Assembly, Major Dictatorships, and the others realized that Major Iran was the one who was the real threat they engineered a cover-up, even calling Major Iran as a witness in the case to testify as to Israel’s guilt, since the real culprit was one of the main people who hated Captain Israel and wanted to see him executed.

Thus, the guilty were exalted; the innocent derided and punished.

Picquart was a man of incredible courage and honesty. He tried to tell everyone the truth even if it destroyed his career. But instead of listening, the high command transferred him to a far-flung post in a war zone where they might hope he would be killed.

Nevertheless, Picquart’s words were heard and heeded by a few who also had the courage to speak out, showing logically how everything presented at the trial had been a lie. They demanded justice and the punishment of the real criminals.

So five years after being convicted, Captain Israel was brought back from Devil’s island and given a new trial. And guess what? Despite all the evidence that he was innocent, the court-martial again convicted him. Indeed, it took ten years for Captain Israel to be completely exonerated.

Major Dictatorships, despite all General Assembly’s efforts to shield him, was dishonored and committed suicide. General Assembly was disgraced. Major Iran had to flee into exile. Lt. Colonel Piquart was restored, honored, promoted to general, and even later became minister of war.

Of course, this is only a story. But cannot one learn from it to struggle and never give up hope, believing that truth will out and justice will triumph? In the meantime, of course, lies triumph and villains prosper. Yet truth will not be denied forever.

Oh, sorry, did I say, Captain Israel? I meant Captain Dreyfus, Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

Note: The story above, with minor alterations to relate it to contemporary events, is an accurate depiction of the Dreyfus affair, which shook the politics of France between 1894 and 1904.

In 1894, Dreyfus was falsely accused of passing French secrets to Germany. J’accuse (I Accuse) was the title of the single most important article, by the novelist Emile Zola in 1898, written in defense of Dreyfus. Major Dictatorships is based on Major, later Colonel, Hubert-Joseph Henry; General Assembly, on French minister of war General Auguste Mercier; Major L.S. Iran, on Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy.

The religious group insisting on Dreyfus's guilt was the Catholic Church. The political wing condemning Dreyfus was the right-wing. In both cases, there are different actors playing those roles today.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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