FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Capital Strikes Back

by Hani Shukrallah

Berlusconi apologised; Bush forswore a Crusade (even in “the broad sense of the word”); the war in defence of “Western civilisation” was toned down to a war in defence of freedom for everybody; and Infinite Justice became Enduring Freedom. Sensible Muslim leaders applauded expressions of Western sensitivity to Muslim sensitivities, and such were the prerequisites of political expedience that Western political leaders began to sound like Azharite sheikhs, preaching to all and sundry the true meaning of Islam.

It’s not working. Bombs, after all, will be bombs. They kill and devastate; people die; families are shattered; homes are destroyed; lives and livelihoods, just as sure as limbs and bodies, are broken beyond repair — all of which is brutally, heartlessly concrete (“the proof of the pudding”).

And let’s not fool each other or ourselves. Nobody really believes the sudden sensitisation, in New York and London or in Islamabad and Cairo. Muslim rage is all the rage in the Western media. Meanwhile, every two-bit academic who has, with career- minded farsightedness and, often (overt and/ or covert) governmental connections, plagiarised other two-bit career-minded, etc. academics to write a PhD thesis, monograph or book on Islam, has become an “expert” in high demand.

It is a clear case of “white man speak with forked tongue,” sad to say. The leaders speak in easily decipherable code, at once swearing themselves blue in the face that the West is not at war with Islam — “Islam is a religion of peace”, etc. — while continuing to use the “trigger words” that incite the very feelings of cultural, religious and racial superiority, bigotry and hatred they claim to refute.

Huntington, all but consigned to well- deserved oblivion during the past few years, has been revived with a vengeance. Commentators vie to expound their particular take on the essential attributes of Islamic civilisation, culture, and contemporary world, and the “Clash of Civilizations” is back in fashion. Royalties are rolling in. Even Francis Fukuyama, a rival and equally prosaic prophet of post-Cold War capitalist triumphalism (and US policy-making circles), has jumped on the bandwagon of anti- Islamic rhetoric. His “end of history” thesis (all world societies have no option but to adopt Western democracy and market-based economy, proven to be the summit of human progress) has not been proven wrong, he asserted in an article in the Wall Street Journal. He goes on to concede, however, that “there does seem to be something about Islam, or at least the fundamentalist versions of Islam that have been dominant in recent years, that makes Muslim societies particularly resistant to modernity.”

For a fairly short piece, Fukuyama’s is a veritable mine of precious gems. “Of all contemporary cultural systems, the Islamic world has the fewest democracies,” he informs his readers. In fact, he goes on to clarify, only one Islamic country qualifies (as a democracy): Turkey. This latter assertion (apparently so self- evident it is made in parenthesis) is so fantastic as to lead one to the conclusion that Mr Fukuyama must base his writing on one of two assumptions: either his readers are utter ignoramuses or they are fully complicit in an entirely cynical and arbitrary definition of democracy. A democracy is simply what we say is a democracy — and let the Devil take care of the rest (including thousands of killed, tortured and imprisoned Kurds, banned political movements and parties, gagged journalists and writers and a state and society made hostage to the generals’ goodwill).

Fukuyama’s fundamental dilemma, however, lies elsewhere. Other non-Western people may be having problems in their progression towards the Western ideal (and, hence, history’s peak), but “there are no insuperable cultural barriers to prevent them from getting there.” It does seem, however, that such barriers may exist in the case of Muslims, suggests a troubled Fukuyama. After all, “Islam… is the only cultural system that seems regularly to produce people like Osama Bin Laden or the Taliban who reject modernity lock, stock and barrel.”

The well-connected Washington ideologue approves the Western leaders’ change of tone. Their assertions “that those sympathetic with the terrorists are a ‘tiny minority’ of Muslims [are] important… to prevent all Muslims from becoming targets of hatred” — and, we might add, to draw friendly Islamic states into the war- against-terrorism alliance, while maintaining as far as possible their fragile political stability. He readily admits, however, that such assertions are merely expedient. The real issue, Fukuyama tells us, is that “if the [Muslim] rejectionists are more than a lunatic fringe, then Huntington is right that we are in for a protracted conflict made dangerous by virtue of their technological empowerment.”

But what if it is? This, after all, is not a struggle between “equal cultures fighting amongst one another like the great powers of 19th- century Europe.” The West, and in particular, America, Fukuyama is confident, will ultimately prevail.

Fukuyama meets Huntington courtesy of Bin Laden — a synthesis of nonsense has been achieved.

There is tremendous irony in all of this. The expedient and transparent hypocrisy visible in the Western leaders’ change of tone provides inadequate tactical cover for the bigger (strategic) lie of the confrontation between the West and Islam, but in lying twice they actually point to the truth.

The secret buried beneath all the rubbish, both tactical and strategic, can be found in the shifting fortunes of Huntington and Fukuyama themselves. Their initial renown was a product of the “winds of change” that swept across Eastern Europe a little over a decade ago. Against the drumbeats of Western capitalist triumphalism, the US-led Gulf War slipped into the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over.

That did not last. In less than 10 years, the tunes of global capital’s victory march had dimmed to a distant murmur. Democracy was no longer a malleable propaganda instrument to be manipulated cynically by the US and its Western allies. Rather, it had become the battle cry of a growing resistance movement against capitalist globalisation. World Bank and IMF officials were scavenging for capitalism’s human face; spin had all but replaced politics; the WTO was in the process of replacing parliaments; America had an elected president who had lost the election and the global economy was slowly but surely sinking into recession. Fukuyama and Huntington were silent.

Now they’re back.

At its heart, the war of civilisations (or merely the West versus Islam) is no more than the fantastically fetishised expression of global capital’s battle against genuine (rather than Turkish-style) democracy — everywhere. Things, as everybody knows, are rarely ever what they seem.

Hani Shukrallah writes a weekly column for the Cairo-based al-Ahram newspaper.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail