FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US Spin on Middle East Violence Must Change

Truly, US President Barack Obama’s recent call to address the root causes of violence, including that of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) and al-Qaeda was a step in the right direction, but still miles away from taking the least responsibility for the mayhem that has afflicted the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“The link is undeniable,” Obama said in a speech at the State Department on 19 February “When people are oppressed and human rights are denied – particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines – when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit.”

Of course, he is right. Every word. However, the underlying message is also clear: it’s everyone else’s fault but ours. Now, that’s hardly true, and Obama, once a strong critic of his predecessor’s war, knows it well.

Writing at MSNBC.com, Sarah Leah Whitson went a step further. In “Why the fight against ISIS is failing,” Whitson, criticised the anti-IS alliance for predicating its strategy on militarily defeating the group, without any redress of the grievances of oppressed Iraqi Sunnis, who, last year welcomed IS fighters as “liberators”.

“But let’s not forget how Iraq got to that point,” she wrote, “with the US-led Iraq war that displaced a dictator but resulted in an abusive occupation and destructive civil war, leaving more than a million dead.”

Spot on, well, almost. Whitson considered “displacing of a dictator,” as a plus for the US war, as if the whole military venture had anything to do with overcoming dictatorship. In fact, the “abusive occupation and destructive civil war” was very much part of the US strategy of divide and conquer. Many wrote about this to the extent that that the argument itself is in fact, history.

At least, however, both arguments are a significant departure from the pseudo-intellectualism that has occupied the larger share of mainstream media thinking about terrorism and violence. Not only does the conventional wisdom in US media blame the bloody exploits of IS on the region itself, as if the US and western interventionism are not, in anyway, factors, at least worth pondering. (In fact, for them US intervention is a force of good, rarely self-seeking and exploitative.) Worse, no matter how they unravel the argument, Islam somehow ends up being the root of all evil – a reductionist, silly and irresponsible argument, to say the least.

Also a dangerous one, for it infers the kind of conclusions that will constantly point the arrow to the direction of a self-destructive foreign policy, the kind that has set the Middle East ablaze in the first place.

But that is not your everyday diatribe. The constant injection of all sorts of bizarre arguments, like that of Graeme Wood’s recent piece in the Atlantic, is aimed at creating distractions, blaming religion and its zealots for their “apocalyptic” view of the world. Wood’s argument, designed to be a methodical and detached academic examination of the roots of IS is misconstrued at best, disingenuous at worst.

“That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfilment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succour if it stays true to the Prophetic model,” Wood concluded with the type of liberal positivism that has become as galling as religious zeal.

Mohamed Ghilan, an Islamic law scholar dissected Wood’s argument with integrity based on real, authentic knowledge of both Islam and the Middle East region. “An analysis of what ISIS is about and what it wants that looks to Islam as a causal source of their behaviour is not only misguided, but also harmful,” he wrote.

“It obscures the root causes for why we have an ISIS, an al-Qaeda, an Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and any of the other groups that have risen and continue to arise. It creates further confusion and contributes to a rising Islamophobic sentiment in the West. And when given the guise of academic rigor, it accomplishes all of this rather perniciously.”

Indeed, the age-old ailment of hallow, lacking writing about the complex and involved reality in the Middle East persists, even after 25 years of full American military engrossment in the region.

Since the first Iraq war (1990-91) until this day, America’s mainstream intellectuals and journalists refuse to accept the most prevalent truth about the roots of the current crisis; that military intervention is not a virtue, that war begets chaos and violence, that military invasion is not a harbingers of a stable democracy, but invite a desperately violent polices predicated on winning, regardless of the cost.

Nonetheless, that very admission came from former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who, by virtue of his previous position should indeed be able to assess the link between the US war on Iraq and the current upheaval. Although he rightly blamed regional powers for exasperating the conflict, he laid the blame where it surly belongs: the Iraq war, invasion and the way the occupation was handled afterwards. “I was against this invasion and my fears have been founded. The break-up of the Iraqi forces poured hundreds if not thousands of disgruntled soldiers and police officers onto the streets,” he said.

That was indeed the backbone of the initial home-grown resistance in Iraq, which forced the US to shift strategy by igniting the powder keg of sectarianism. The hope then was that the “disgruntled soldiers” of Iraqi resistance would be consumed in a civil war inferno involving Sunni-based resistance against Shiite-based militias, themselves working for or allied with the US and US-imposed Shiite government in Baghdad.

“The aim of creating democracy without the existing institutions ushered in corrupt sectarian governments,” Annan said. For Annan, the war and invasion come first, followed by the sectarian-mismanagement of Iraq, also by the Americans, an admission that is rarely echoed by US officials and media as demonstrated by the obstinately deficient media coverage.

One is rarely proposing to ignore existing fault lines in Middle Eastern societies, standing sectarianism, fundamentalism, brewing, unresolved conflicts, and of course the monster of authoritarianism and corruption. None of this should be unheeded, if indeed a peaceful future is to be made possible. On the other hand, the argument that desperately seeks every possible pretence – from blaming Islam and believers of some strange apocalypse to everyone else but the US and its allies – is a poor attempt at escaping a heavy moral, but also political responsibly.

The danger of that argument lies in the fact that its promoters don’t mind seeing yet another war, like the one that was visited upon the Middle East a decade or so ago, the one that wrought al-Qaeda to the region, and orchestrate

Ramzy Baroud – www.ramzybaroud.net – is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail