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.

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Kristin Kolb
The Greatest Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail