To say that New York City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) is a disgrace to the institution in which he serves would be incorrect; after last week, the City Council can no longer be disgraced.
Barron is a former Black Panther. He was elected from the predominantly black 42nd District in Brooklyn, swept into office on a straightforward let’s-stick-it-to-whitey vote, and he spent his first day on the job petitioning to remove a painting of Thomas Jefferson from City Hall and replace it with one of Malcolm X. “We’re bringing the ‘hood to the hall,” Barron declared.
That performance was followed by his little pep talk at the Reparations March in Washington, D.C. last summer. Barron told the cheering crowd, “I want to go up to the closest white person and say ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing’ and then slap him, just for my mental health.”
Barron’s most recent bit of badder-than-thou minstrelsy came during last week’s ludicrous debate over the council’s resolution opposing war with Iraq. (Why a city council needs a foreign policy is unclear.) The resolution passed 31-17, so the city that witnessed the terrorist murder of 3,000 souls is now on record in its opposition to the next step of the war on terrorism.
Even amidst those shameful proceedings, Barron managed to lower the rhetorical bar and then limbo underneath it. First he stated, “This threat of war is about oil, and we’re not spilling our blood for oil.” The suggestion that Bush’s Iraqi strategy is determined by oil interests is nonsensical; no one who understands market economics believes it; even Susan Sontag, an unwavering Bush-detractor, has called the antiwar movement’s No-Blood-For-Oil sloganeering “stupid.”
But Barron didn’t end there. Even as he insisted that the war is really about oil, he also insisted that the war “is about protecting a single ally” — by which he meant Israel. So the looming war, according to Barron, is being driven by a conspiracy of Big Oil … except when it’s being driven by a conspiracy of Big Jews.
The problem, of course, is that the two conspiracies are virtually irreconcilable. If our foreign policy is set by oil companies, why would we ally ourselves with a country sitting on the single postage stamp of land in the entire Middle East with no oil reserves? If our foreign policy is set by Jewish interests, why are we going after the scummy regime in Iraq rather than, say, the scummy regime in Syria — which poses a more immediate threat to Israel?
It’s possible, perhaps, to reconcile the two conspiracies by imagining that the United States is confronting Iraq in order to conquer the entire Middle East and turn over its oil fields to Israel. This is just the sort of paranoid delusion that percolates on the so-called “Arab Street.” The fact that a New York City Councilman cannot see through it calls into question not only his own sanity but also the collective sanity of the district that voted him into office.