Saturday, June 26, 2004

The whole nation loves him...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

...because it feels safe in his hands, like a child in the arms of his mother.

Josef Goebbels was referring to Adolf Hitler when he imparted this gem of irony, though if the Republicans are to be believed, it could just as easily apply to our friend in the White House, Mr Bush. Terrorism is Bush's ace card - it feeds his campaign for re-election because his response to it is what sets him apart from other presidents, both past and potential. Terrorism breeds fear, Bush declares war on the evil-doers to convince the public their protection is his number one priority, the terrorists bite back and this gives rise to hysteria. Of course to quell this sense of impending doom, what is called for is an even tougher stance on terrorism. Vote for Bush and he'll keep on stoking the furnace on your behalf, and somehow this will miraculously allow you to sleep soundly in your bed at night, safe in the knowledge that the situation is entirely under control.

What Dubya and bin Laden have in common is that they both thrive on generous helpings of devastation of the terrorist variety; Bush to win votes and bin Laden to fuel his jihad against the western world. While it's true that bin Laden's ultimate, personal goal is to convert the whole of the western world to 'the one true religion', Islam, without sufficient provocation, he wouldn't have a hope in hell of convincing moderate Muslims that they must unite and rise up against the western invaders if they wish to protect their religion, holy lands and liberty.

The absolute worst thing we can do is fulfill his prophecies by playing the role of the imperialist barbarians as portrayed to his would-be freedom fighters. As long as ideological divergence exists between the people of the world there will be hatred and discrimination. Analogously, while there are extremists there will be terrorism; terrorism is here to stay it seems, but it is possible to subdue it to a manageable level. This should be our core objective - it's absurd to presume we can wage a war on an ill-defined concept, emerge victorious and then consider it a job well done and get on with our lives. We must bring terrorists to justice without engendering more, and to do this we must respect the rights of ordinary Muslims, who but for our intervention would have little incentive to wish us harm.

It is a natural reaction to want to stand firm against terrorists, to refuse to be swayed or to offer the merest hint of compromise, but is 'compromise' really the right word? Bin Laden has said on numerous occasions that one of his rudimentary goals is to rid the Arab world of American military personnel. His methods may make us sick to our stomachs, but we can all follow his logic if we choose to look beyond Bush's patronizing rhetoric.

After the Second World War ended, Franklin D. Roosevelt colluded with the founder of the modern Saudi Arabian kingdom, King Abel-Aziz ibn Saud, to secure a deal whereby the US would be granted unimpeded access to the largest oil reserves in the world if they promised to protect Saudi Arabia from its enemies. The opportunity to establish military bases throughout the Middle East for the purpose of exploiting the abundant natural resources found there, proved to be a temptation too potent to resist. However you dress up this genteel, mutual business relationship, the reality is that it has resulted in the stinking rich getting even richer and the poor people of Saudi Arabia being left to rot while sitting on a liquid gold mine. Surprisingly enough, the Arabs aren't exactly overjoyed with this arrangement.

Iran is another Middle Eastern country rich in oil reserves to have caught the eye of western imperialists. In this case, rather than strike a deal with Iran's democratically elected leader, Muhammad Mossadeq, in 1953 an Anglo-American coup was staged to oust and replace him with a much more obliging Shah, again to ensure easy access to copious oil supplies.

It was also no accident that following the breakdown of business negotiations between the US administration and the Taliban, Afghanistan was treated to a barrage of carpet bombs. With the Taliban safely out of the way, the US were free to commence with their original plan to install pipelines designed to channel oil from the reserves in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean where it could be exported.

Two years later, with Middle Eastern relations deteriorating, to reduce their dependance on Saudi Arabia and assure the uninterrupted flow of cheap oil, the US resolved to elevate Iraq to the top of their hit list. Iraq had long been an impediment to America's dominance of Middle Eastern oil owing to the imposition of sanctions and continuous aerial onslaught, which had severely stifled Hussein's ability to maintain optimum production levels. These containment strategies were thought beyond compromise so Hussein had to be toppled and substituted with a pro-American stooge. This puppet governor would render western oil companies free reign to plunder the country's natural resources and furnish the American invaders with a cosy platform to launch further attacks in Central Asia.

Contrary to the wisdom professed through the 'Dummy's Guide to Terrorism', it's not the west's penchant for movies, pop music and fast food which rubs Arabs up the wrong way, it's America's arrogant assumption that they are entitled to do whatever is necessary to sustain access to cheap natural resources. If striking a deal with a tyrannical despot makes this possible, then that's exactly what occurs. As long as those in power and their lascivious corporate backers (often these are one and the same thing!) are kept in the lifestyle they've become accustomed to, it is considered perfectly acceptable to prop up these repressive regimes, giving dictators the go-ahead to commit whimsical acts of genocide... that is until the relationship turns sour. Then we are forced to topple our uncooperative business partners using the pretext of humanitarian compassion to rouse support for such detrimental intervention. Whenever this becomes necessary there is an immediate shift in the nomenclature used to pigeon-hole such leaders; while our chum bin Laden was once a 'freedom fighter' or 'comrade', he is now a 'terrorist', 'enemy of the state' or the kingpin in the 'axis of evil'. Are we to believe bin Laden possesses an Incredible Hulk style persona capable of randomly rotating between the contrasting poles of malevolence and benevolence, or is the US government the capricious party in this duet?

Depraved, tyrannous regimes remain so whether they are pro-American or anti-American. One of bin Laden's objectives is to oust pro-American, exploitative governments because he feels they are not operating in the interests of the people they were theoretically established to serve. In this regard, bin Laden's aims align very neatly with the purported reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq. The distinction lies in the way the actions of these men are promoted and interpreted in the west - bin Laden is vilified as a cold-blooded murderer while Bush is hailed a hero... at least by those too shortsighted to see the man for what he really is. If there's one thing Saudi Arabia excels at, it's the abuse of human rights. Saudi citizens are imprisoned in the absence of just cause and are often 'disappeared' without fair trial. If deemed guilty of theft they can expect to have their limbs amputated, or be stoned to death, crucified or beheaded as punishment for more serious crimes. Being flogged for committing trivial faux pas is likely considered light relief by comparison. The Saudi proletariat have no say in the way their country is run and live in pitiful squalor because the ruling classes heedlessly fritter away their wealth. The Saudi regime is not far removed from that of Hussein's Iraqi dystopia, nevertheless, because Bush is on excellent terms with the Saudi royal family, their appalling conduct is given the official stamp of approval.

Shortly before the first Gulf War, the Saudi royal family gave their blessing for US troops to occupy their land, using it as a launch-pad for reclaiming Kuwait. Much Muslim resentment towards the Americans stems from their tendency to overstay their welcome - to this day approximately 5000 military personnel remain in Saudi Arabia. The indigenous population are outraged by this continued occupation as they consider Saudi Arabia to be the sacred holy land which gave rise to the birth of Islam. In the eyes of devout Muslims, Mecca and Medina, two of Islam's most sacrosanct holy grounds and the birthplace of Muhammad, are being trounced on a daily basis by disrespectful heathens. Imagine western churches being hijacked to host wild, drunken orgies and you'd have an inkling into the way these occupying forces are viewed by Arabs.

Bin Laden has made no secret of his grievances regarding Saudi Arabia...

"You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world."

"The ordinary man knows that [Saudi Arabia] is the largest oil producer in the world, yet at the same time he is suffering from taxes and bad services. Now the people understand the speeches of the ulemas in the mosques - that our country has become an American colony. They act decisively with every action to kick the Americans out of Saudi Arabia. What happened in Riyadh and [Dhahran] when 24 Americans were killed in two bombings is clear evidence of the huge anger of Saudi people against America. The Saudis now know their real enemy is America."

Bin Laden in his "Declaration of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders", further crystalized his grim indictment...

"For over seven years now the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorising its neighbours and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighbouring Muslim peoples."

Regrettably for the ordinary western civilians who bear the brunt of Al Qaeda's violent protests, the US government refuses to acknowledge bin Laden's reasonable requests to withdraw their troops. They refuse to do so because the US is so heavily dependent on the enormous oil reserves situated in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. The harvesting and distribution of this oil drives the US economy and therefore determines foreign policy. Oil is such a valuable commodity, the US government-corporate hybrid is willing to risk life and limb (not their own clearly) in order to procure bountiful supplies of this 'black gold', feathering their own nests in the process. In attacking the Pentagon and World Trade Centre, bin Laden couldn't have made his motivations any more transparent - the Pentagon represents the foisting of military bases throughout Arab lands and the World Trade Centre is the most notorious symbol of corporate greed, capitalism at the expense of human life to be more precise. The way to end the west's exploitation of Middle Eastern countries is to simultaneously develop alternative renewable energy sources and curtail our avaricious consumption of oil. While this is a workable solution, it won't happen overnight. Nevertheless, that is our problem; the lewd desire to secure access to cheap fuel hardly justifies the invasion and occupation of Middle Eastern countries.

Bin Laden's second aim is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no better word than 'terrorism' to describe the US-backed persecution of Palestinians in their own homes. There's no such thing as virtuous and evil terrorism, just terrorism. It must all be stamped out if we genuinely seek to bring peace and stability to the region. The US can get the ball rolling by terminating their seemingly boundless financial and military support for Israel.

Here are a few choice words on the topic from our friend-foe bin Laden...

"The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily."

"Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures."

Considering America is at the forefront of the movement to eradicate weapons of mass destruction from what have been identified as 'rogue nations', it should surprise us to discover that the US is the most prolific manufacturer and exporter of weapons of mass destruction and therefore terrorism. Since 1990 the US has sold more than $152 billion worth of weapons to all manner of rogue states and tin-pot tyrants throughout the world including Ariel Sharon and Saddam Hussein. If you want to prevent deranged lunatics from unleashing weapons of mass destruction, stop selling the damn things to them in the first place! While you're at it, be sure to join all the other civilized countries of the world in acceding to agreements which seek to limit the availability and use of weapons of mass destruction such as the Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would hardly constitute a generous compromise, it's a duty you owe to the future of the human race. The US should be working towards dismantling all weapons of mass destruction, not developing new ones and deciding who can and can't possess and parade them like a grotesque phallic symbol of macho potency.

Finally, bin Laden wants the coalition-backed UN to lift the sanctions imposed on almost exclusively Muslim countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Iran as these have been the cause of the death and misery of millions of innocent civilians. These sanctions are designed to keep in check the efficacy of tyrants to produce weapons of mass destruction. They have proved highly effective in doing so, but are themselves a weapon of mass destruction, albeit of a more stealthy nature than more traditional varieties. Suffering and chronic malnutrition caused by the scarcity of essential medical supplies, food and clean drinking water are not a case of unfortunate collateral damage. The infliction of hardship is precisely their aim - sanctions are a coercive tool designed to bring about regime change through oppression of innocent bystanders. It's true that much of the suffering which occurred in Iraq was actually brought about through Hussein's patent refusal to cooperate in bringing humanitarian aid to his people. Not only did he withhold crucial foreign aid from his citizens, he callously exploited their misery to bolster his media propaganda campaign. That said, when evidence of the severity of Iraqi civilian suffering first came to light, these sanctions should have been lifted without delay, and an alternative means of restricting Hussein's activities should have been sought. Sacrificing the lives of one race of people to avert the potential detriment of another is not a decision anyone has the right to make. Episodes such as this make a mockery of our newfangled, highly suspect shimmy towards compassionate liberation.

Bin Laden isn't impressed either...

"You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3,000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not sat down."

People need to be aware that Bush's version of events only tells half the story. Those of you who have studied the history of US interventionism should realize that atrocities such as 9/11 are not simply unprovoked attacks committed out of sheer lust for violence - they are calculated responses to many years of ruthless subjugation. In the words of bin Laden, "Why should fear, killing, destruction, displacement, orphaning, and widowing continue to be our lot, while security, stability and happiness be your lot? This is unfair. It is time that we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb". What should surprise us far more than the attacks of 9/11 is that acts of terrorism of a similar magnitude have not been brought to bear before now.

The prevalence of these conditions is certainly no justification for the monstrous carnage meted out to the many thousands of innocent civilians throughout the world who have perished at the hands of terrorists. They do however serve to shed light on the motivations of the terrorists responsible, and give us the opportunity to address the foreign policy decisions which have contributed to the nurture of their raging hatred. To eliminate terrorism we must first recognize that western governments are responsible for a significant portion of it, apologize for past mistakes and do all we can to ensure they are not repeated. Restoring good relations and trust with people living in less privileged regions of the world is a crucial first step. To do this we must act out of compassion for our fellow human beings and not self-interest, provide humanitarian aid and ask nothing in return and establish fair trade agreements with our economic allies whereby the wealth imbued is distributed evenly. Believe it or not it was bin Laden himself who said, "the road to safety starts with stopping aggression". Asking the question, "what is the root cause of terrorism?", and then dismissing the answer because it reflects badly on the governments we put in power is not progressive. Neither is repeating the question until we find someone as keen to deceive as we are to be deceived.


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