In politics, things are never what they appear to be. We cannot accept them at the face value.
Even though we live in a constantly changing world, we must look at the events from historic perspective. Amazingly, there is very little that is truly new. The characters of people shaping our destinies have occurred repeatedly through the millenia of human history. Probably, this is why the Bible has remained a living document for so long.
THE PORT GATE. For years our presidents have been playing “Catch Me If You Can” with the legislative branch of our government. The flap over the acquisition of the management rights of six major East Coast ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW) through the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O) might never have occurred had things been handled in an open fashion.
Thousands of “American” companies and a huge amount of real estate belong to British, French, Dutch, Arab and other investors. Many Canadian and Mexican companies are likewise owned by similar investors, able to deal in U.S. under the NAFTA. Nations like China and Japan own $ billions in our IOUs. Out of sight, out of mind…!
DPW has acquired the British P&O for the paltry sum of $6.8 billion, an average amount among routine corporate deals, let alone the cost of war in Iraq. The AT & T and Southern Bell merger was in the range of $67 billion! Has anyone thought of an American corporation buying P&O? Now DPW has magnanimously agreed to “transfer” the U.S. ports control to an American company. Unless Dubai or the like already owns part of it, a deal must be in the works…
Money and politics produce strange bedfellows. There is a German saying, “Dienst ist Dienst und Schnaps ist Schnaps” (duty is duty and booze is booze). In practical application, financiers and politicians, over centuries, have not lost sleep over ethical issues. There has been a persistent rumor, for example, that during World War II Allied and Nazi bankers remained “in touch” in Switzerland. Swiss banks accepted Nazi gold, but still enjoy great respect. It is a historic fact that, during WWII, the Soviets maintained “peace talks” with Germany in Sweden, separately from Western Allies. No hard feelings, never mind the slaughter on the front lines and the Holocaust.
Business is business.
Proving the point of a pragmatic approach is the fact that DPW has been given a clean bill of health by none other than ZIM, the largest Israeli shipping line. If anyone, the Israelis ought to know. As for feared damage to our other deals with Dubai, the Arab bankers, like any others, will probably judge them by profitability.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban had come to life with the blessings of our “friend” Pakistan, which then recognized the regime, as did our “friends” Dubai and Saudi Arabia. If my memory serves mecorrectly, the White House was so impressed by the Taliban’s Islam-based ban on opium poppy cultivation that we gave them $4 million. Incidentally, today Taliban is sneaking back into Afghanistan and “protecting” the poppy growers for profit.
SELLING DEMOCRACY TO MIDDLE EAST. Doing that is like pouring U.S. taxpayers’ dollars down a bottomless pit. The billions spent on Palestine have, so far, earned us a democratically elected Hamas terrorist dominated regime. OOPS! In Egypt the democracy is bound to produce an Islamist regime and so on. Are we headed for a “democratic” civil war in Iraq? If the White House keeps massaging the situation we may get that too. Maybe the White House ought to replace their crystal ball with a history book.
TERRORISM IN IRAQ. The name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (born Ahmed Fadeel Nazal al-Khalayleh), has been associated with some of the worst terrorist activities against the Iraqis and our troops there. Mr. Zarqawi, it appears, is not just a crazy anarchist, but the harbinger of a an emerging Islamic ultra radical movement called “SALAFISM”. I have not seen a definition of the term yet.
Salafism is, apparently, closely related to Wahhabism, prevalent in Saudi Arabia and promoted by the latter among Muslims all over the world. This Sunni reformist movement was originated by sheik Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703 – 1791) in what is now Saudi Arabia.. The evolving sect called for strict adherence to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, without any deviations or frills, as well as struggle against all “nonbelievers” (including Muslims of nonconforming views). The sheik proceeded with a jihad against other Arab tribes, gaining some territorial control. This did not sit right with Turkish sultans and the Wahhabis were eventually dispersed into the inner desert of the Arabian Peninsula.
The prominent Arab tribe embracing al-Wahhab’s teachings was that of Saud. The Saudis supported British struggle against the Turks during World War I (enter Lawrence of Arabia…) and, although the British had other designs, sheik ibn Saud eventually defeated or united all opposing tribes and created Saudi Arabia, crowning himself king. Then oil was discovered and the rest is history. In a typical paradox, the Saudi ruling class has reconciled their ascetic Wahhabi principles with corrupt luxury, probably by suppressing any vocal followers and exporting Wahhabism to Europe and some of the former Soviet republics, like Chechnya. Note that, among the Muslims of the Caucasus region, Wahhabism has been preached since the 19th century.
Salafism as applied to terrorism is based on the philosophy developed by an Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb born in 1906. He was a cultured individual, locally educated, who then studied in U.S. where he earned a master’s at the Colorado State College of Education in 1950. He eventually returned to Egypt, with a deep hate of the “American Way of Life” and Western civilization and honed his strict fundamentalist views on justifying the jihad. His activities and association with anti-government movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, got him repeatedly in jail and he was eventually executed by the Nasser regime in 1966.
Mr. Nir Rosen, in “Iraq’s Jordanian Jihadis” (New York Times Magazine of 2/19/2006), states, “Salafism emphasizes the rootlessness of faith. It despises local saints and mystical practices (like those of Sufism) and any other departures from the most rigid Sunnism. It despises Shiites. It commonly despises all other sects or practices that Salafis might consider ‘bida’ or ‘innovation’.
Given this intense preoccupation with purity, Salafis are constantly trying to identify and to expel the impure. This is called ‘takfir’, often translated as ‘excommunication’, an old, disused term that has found a new life in Salafism, which permits, even encourages, the killing of Muslims whom Salafis have expelled through takfir. Perhaps the most ferocious embodiment of takfiri Salafism today is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi”.
Judging by the slaughter in Iraq, it would seem that Zarqawi’s terrorists have found support among many local Sunnis opposed to American presence, allowing them to operate with impunity. It should be obvious, however, that Salafism sooner or later will confront the Sunni intelligentsia and clerics, most of whom do not meet the Salafi criteria on piety.
While on the surface Zarqawi may seem to work with Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida, I think they may part the ways. From my observation, Al Qaida will remain a danger to the West, but may balk at pushing the Muslim world thirteen centuries into the past. So far, Al Qaida has aimed their terrorism at the economic establishment of the West, while Zarqawi has aimed at total anarchy in the Middle East. The two may eventually clash. It would not get us out of hot water though, as long as our lot is tied to oil. Incidentally, all that talk about killing Osama bin Laden is so much nonsense; it would make him into a martyr in the eyes of millions of Muslims and, therefore, more dangerous than alive and aging in some cave with a bad case of rheumatism.
IRAQ’S MILITARY. By destroying the Iraqi infrastructure and being unable to provide security, our policy makers have created a massive unemployment situation in Iraq.
Desperate for work, Iraqis have flocked to the army and police recruitment stations, as the only game in town. In practice, this produces forces primarily concerned with personal survival. They are fractured from within by political, sectarian and tribal traditions and, obviously, are heavily infiltrated by terrorists and insurgents.
Among all Arab armies, the officer corps has traditionally been corrupt and despised by lower ranks, resulting in mutual contempt. This goes back to the times of Turkish occupation and has not changed in modern times. I doubt that our trainers will be able to change that.
The existence and numeric growth of these forces provides the White House with statistical material for assuaging the concerns of American public opinion. In reality, however, these forces will collapse without American backup. In the meantime, some of those trainees may even endanger the lives of our troops by providing our enemies with intelligence, if not shooting them in the back outright.
We have seen this happen in the final years of the war in Vietnam. Vietcong and North Vietnamese had no difficulty anticipating the moves of our troops. Then, as soon as our troops started reducing their presence, the South Vietnamese military started to collapse. If one listens carefully to the statements by our top commanders, one can feel an increasing concern about the same thing happening in Iraq.
PLACE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS. Americans must never forget that the situation in Iraq has developed in two stages – the military and the administrative. In the first stage , our military deserved, “Mission Accomplished!”, because they had done their job, which should have ended with the defeat of Saddam and his army. The White House screwed up royally by failing to devise even an excuse of a transitionary administrative stage. Our military have been saddled with it by default! Since the actual combat ended, thousands of our young men and women have been killed and wounded, while being forced to cover for a bunch of ignorant nincompoops stateside. Focus on that.
After the war in Vietnam, the White House artfully dodged the blame, leaving our military to face the wrath of public opinion. This should not be allowed to happen in the case of the Iraq misadventure. Place the blame on those who deserve it!