Monday, May 25, 2015

Foolish hands and foolish plans

One thing about the on-going crisis that is the Middle East is the lack of discussion of what will happen if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) actually succeeds in establishing itself as the “government” in Syria as well as Iraq. What threat could it pose to half-Christian Lebanon and eventually Israel? ISIS is obviously more dangerous and fanatical than Hezbollah and perhaps even Hamas. Human life to these “people” is cheaper than dirt—even that of their own people. 

Did it have to be this way? No. We were constantly told what a threat that Saddam Hussein was to the U.S., yet there was no evidence that he was that stupid; most of the bad press about him had to do with his heavy-handed efforts to maintain control over Iraq, in which he was accused of mass murder in some circumstances. But everything is “relative” in the Middle East—between “bad” to much worse, and it seems in retrospect that Saddam was merely “bad.”  The Bush administration had planned the Iraq war from the very beginning, to avenge “family honor” for the fake war that was the Gulf War.  George W. Bush and his puppetmasters, Cheney and Rumsfeld,  just needed an excuse, which is why they ignored warnings of a planned Al-Qaeda attack on U.S. soil, and why the FBI apparently ignored reports that suspicions persons were learning to fly airborne planes on simulators, but not how to takeoff or land them. That is why Bush looked so “surprised” when it was whispered in his ear what had happened while he was in that classroom patronizing minority children. Of course, Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11, but that was just a minor detail.  

Today, there are one or two on the Republican side who in an effort to distance themselves from the current crop of presidential hopefuls who admit that the Iraq adventure was a mistake. One is  Sen. Rand Paul, who claims that the taking down of Saddam only served to strengthen Iran by removing Iraq’s secular/Sunni-regime, destabilizing the country to the extent that blood-thirsty Islamic fanatics who give their religion a bad name, and with distinctly anti-West inclinations threaten the entire region; note that ISIS doesn’t even bother with a media “spokesperson” who attempts  to “explain” the extremist’s actions and ideology to the international community. 

The Obama administration has been accused of failure to act swiftly and with force to support opposition groups Syria, but Western support for anti-regime elements has been nothing if not self-destructive, given that Libya received the blanket air attack treatment leading to swift regime “change”—and to similarly disastrous effect on the ground. The West has absolutely no sense of the Middle East and its internal religious and ethnic divisions, or how they are kept in check, regardless if by dictatorship either secular or religious fundamentalist in nature. Death as a means of control is “glorified” either in the taking of or being the victim of. 

It is clear that whatever was the ultimate objective of the Bush administration was of toppling the Saddam regime, the situation on the ground has not only become worse, but the U.S.’ strategic interests in the region have become far worse. Only a permanent occupation of Iraq would have “stabilized” a situation that U.S. forces only succeeded in destabilizing, in which the cost in American lives would only have become a daily event.  The current Shiite regime has become little more than a puppet of Iran even as the Saudi Arabia and other countries “friendly” to the U.S.  “secretly” bankroll ISIS that seeks to topple the U.S.—supported regime. What sense does this make? 

The U.S. and the West should have kept their foolish hands out of Middle East “nation-building” adventures. Egypt is a case in point of what happens when you let countries figure out their own messes. Being the only organized opposition “party” in the country, the previously banned “Muslim Brotherhood” won the presidency and a majority in the national legislature. But the “constitution” they wrote appeared to contain wording that opened the way to an Iranian-style Islamic republic, in which the ultimate arbiter of law was the opinion of religious leaders. In a “revolution” that had largely been instigated by urban secularists but had seen religious fanatics take advantage of their influence with the less sophisticated rural majority to “hijack” it, it is not surprising that a second “revolution” was soon underway. With the increased attacks on the Christian minority and increased violence overall that seemed to be tacitly supported by the newly-elected president who was of the Muslim Brotherhood “party,” inevitably brought the still independent military and courts back into the picture to essentially launch a popularly-supported coup. There followed the election of a secularist president with ties to the Mubarak regime. For the interests of the West, it was essentially mission accomplish without involving themselves at all.

Ultimately for the U.S., the question is why did more than 4,000 American soldiers have to die, and many thousands more maimed either physically or emotionally for life? Personally, I’m not into this “hero” business. I was in the Army for seven years, and there was a reason you received free room and board and a little spending money on the side; it was in the contract: You had to do what Uncle Sam told you to do, even if you didn’t like or expect ever to do it. Looking at the Iraq War, these soldiers deserve more pity than worship; they were used by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to play out their own little game of revenge against Saddam, and it could be said they were just pawns in the war games of generals itching to have an opportunity to be big shots in the history books. 

That it all was a tremendous failure in the end only illuminates the arrogance and conceit of our leaders for human life, not just American life, but that of hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of civilian lives caught in the quagmire of sectarian violence. We might not have liked the dictators of Iraq, Libya and Syria, but were the alternatives better for either the West or their own people? Certainly the argument can be made that matters have been made far worse, given the utter failure of our “intelligence” to understand the reality on the ground—particularly the continued ignorance of the role that Islam plays in the lives of people for whom there is apparently nothing else, and use it to rationalize their own thirst for vengeance on the world by the “promise” of “paradise” in the next world.

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