b. traven, W.J. Astore, and Stuart Lyle
We at The Contrary Perspective believe in freewheeling debate. We recently had such a debate, largely behind the scenes, on the causes and larger meaning of America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. We offer this debate to our readers, unedited except for the addition of links and clarifications, and urge you to participate in the comments section.
The debate begins with traven asking Astore about the “first causes” of the Iraq War and U.S. meddling in the Middle East.
traven: Try this on for size. Aristotle looks for “first causes.” Does the first cause for our failures lie in the blind and short term vision of our leadership (as your article at TomDispatch tends to imply) or does it lie in our leadership’s dependence on Saudi oil and the illusion of Israel and Saudi Arabia* as the sources of stability in the Middle East? In my opinion this should be the focus of any analysis of our Middle East policies.
* The Saudi’s Wahhabism and money combined with Israel’s paranoia and expansionism into Palestinian lands are the cause. Our misplaced blind support of both, for a number of baseless reasons, is the “first cause” for our feckless policies.
Again, consider your comment (from your TomDispatch article) that:
“What arose in the minds of the Bush administration’s top officials instead was vengeance via a full-scale, global, and generational “war on terror.”
I disagree. What arose in the minds of the neo-conservative cabal was not “vengeance” (vengeance was just propaganda to appeal to the baser instincts of the American people) but rather AN OPPORTUNITY.
Aha! Here is our chance to gain control over Iraq’s oil. See Paul O’Neill’s comments on how this issue came up at his first cabinet meeting as Secretary of the Treasury, before 9/11, which astounded him. Along with control of Iraq’s oil was the goal of thwarting efforts by Russia or China to build a pipeline from the East Caucasus to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, hence our intervention in Afghanistan and its environs.
Once the U.S. stopped that option the Middle East became even more important to neo con plans for world domination.
Astore: I think Bush/Cheney and Crew did want vengeance. They had been humiliated by 9/11 (“defense” and foreign policy was supposed to be their strong suit). Bush also wanted vengeance against Saddam for targeting his father. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush looked weak. On that morning, he was reading a “goat” story to kids. He initially referred to the terrorists as “folks.” He even seemed to disappear as Cheney ran from jet to shelter, posturing that he was in charge. He and his handlers knew that Bush needed to assert himself, to become a “war president.” And so they turned him into one.
Bush/Cheney and Crew also saw opportunity: they wanted to strike at Iraq. Unsettled business from Desert Storm, plus, as you say, oil and Israel.
That’s why the invasion of Iraq was over-determined. Short of a total surrender by Saddam, it was going to happen no matter what. Bush needed a “great” victory to rehabilitate his image, hence the “Top Gun” moment on that aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” banner. And knocking off Iraq obviously pleased Israel and the Saudis, at least initially, while creating opportunities for various corporate cronies.
It’s all connected. Not one reason, but many.
Stuart Lyle: I disagree – I don’t think the Bush crew cared one whit about “vengeance.” You are just attributing simple human emotions to complex and power-hungry monsters. I buy the idea that “W” Bush wanted to avenge daddy even less. He never showed much respect for the elder and I can’t see him invading a country for him. The basics are clear. They were waiting for an opportunity to unleash the military on whoever had the temerity to stand up in the way of their misguided global ambitions. 9/11 was the opportunity and they drove their Humvees through it.
Astore: Perhaps so, Lyle. But why Iraq? After all, Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11. And was Iraq really standing in the way of Bush/Cheney and Crew’s global ambitions?
They had to be seen as striking back against al-Qaeda, hence the attacks on Afghanistan. Iraq was more complicated. Oil, yes. But also a settling of accounts with Saddam. Unfinished business. Vengeance. Whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t just about oil. If you want oil, you could strike the Saudis. Venezuela. Nigeria.
Iraq was about sending a message — as Henry Kissinger said, in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan wasn’t enough. Bush/Cheney had to bash a bigger target, and Iraq for so many reasons was the best option: Islamic, oil, history of using WMD, hated by the Saudis and the Israelis, and a “known” enemy that Bush/Cheney calculated would be easy to topple. And so it proved: easy to topple, now impossible to rule.
I’m arguing that a confluence of factors made the invasion of Iraq in 2003 inevitable when you consider the mindset of Bush/Cheney. Oil — yes. Saudi and Israeli influence — yes. Sending a message, especially to the Islamic world — yes. Rehabilitating Bush’s image — yes. Vengeance — yes, I’d say so. Look at Bush’s keeping of Saddam’s pistol as a trophy. The deck of cards he kept of Saddam’s henchmen. His “wanted — dead or alive” posturing. Immature machismo defined “W” Bush. And what do macho men do when they’re embarrassed by those they consider to be inferior? They seek vengeance.
I wouldn’t underestimate the personal in politics. LBJ didn’t want to be the first president to “lose” a war, so he persisted in folly. A wiser man, a more confident one, may have had the force of will to walk away in 1964.
Lyle: OK, you are pouring everything in as a “reason,” but that just avoids taking a stronger stand. Why Iraq? Primarily because it was, in their opinion and based on their very rudimentary understanding of the world, a “soft” target. They figured they could get away with it easily, without suffering a Vietnamization of the conflict. And I can easily envision them counting on their greedy little fingers the collateral benefits, as you mentioned, please the Saudis and Israelis, scare the Iranians, intimidate the Russians, maybe even the Chinese (!), and make their oil buddies very happy. And it would even make a nice story line that junior was avenging wrongs done to his pa. But I believe none of those were the primary goals.
Remember, these are the idiots who believe in “an American Century,” the 21st Century, that is, not the 20th. Part of that nutty vision was a “permanent” Republican majority. What better way to cement their superior standing than to show that they could bust up some bad guys around the world in a way the sissy Democrats never could. Afghanistan was a failed state to begin with, so blasting the Taliban back to the stone age, when they only existed in about the 8th century wasn’t going to impress anyone. So why not tilt the artillery a little to the left and blast Saddam. It’ll be a cakewalk and there will be icing to go around for everyone. And, the true idiots that they are, they believed – and still believe – that any blowback would only help them. And, given the sad state of the American electorate, I think they are probably right. The desert jihadist criminals and the American elite criminals thrive off one another.
traven (reply to Astore): You haven’t yet addressed my reference to Paul O’Neill and his experience as Bush’s first Secy of the Treasury. O’Neill had been the CEO of ALCOA and he was very specific in relating that, much to his surprise and astonishment,* the neo con group of fellow cabinet members with Cheney in their very first meeting weren’t interested in domestic economic matters at all. The entire meeting was spent discussing how they were going to distribute Iraq’s oil. This meeting took place months before 9/11.
That meeting had absolutely no vengeance but showed a mindset looking for OPPORTUNITY. 9/11 was that opportunity to be seized upon. Bush was always a minor player. And I am sure Cheney saw and managed that since Bush was still immersed in “My Pet Goat.”
The neo cons just trotted Bush out to make his ridiculous claims of being the “decider” look plausible when in actuality he was a pathetic player.
Many years ago I ran into a fellow who was in the same fraternity at Yale as “W” Bush and said he was a real wimp and the football team’s “cheerleader.”
*O’Neill resigned early, either under pressure because he wasn’t an ideologue, or because he didn’t want to be associated with that crowd. Maybe both.
Astore: Maybe so, traven. In some ways Cheney was the real “decider”; indeed, he chose himself to be Bush’s VP. Remember that? “W” put together a committee headed by Cheney to search for a VP, and Cheney found himself!
Like I said, I agree that Bush/Cheney and Crew wanted to knock over Iraq. I just think there were many reasons that combined to make it a certainty.
traven: Bill, I am sure you are familiar with the neo con policy paper called Project for the New American Century. This policy paper written with all of the pro-Israeli Jews like Paul Wolfowitz, and right wing Wasps like Cheney outlined years before they took power how the US should and could rule the world. The Bush administration merely took advantage of 9/11 to put that program in place. It was already at the top of the agenda at that first cabinet meeting that O’Neill attended and went into effect, under Cheney’s command in response to 9/11. To my mind it also raises to a higher level the possibility of that administration’s involvement at some level in 9/11. That really isn’t a far reach as subsequent events played out with them rushing the Bin Laden family out of the country after the attack.
A Final Comment by b. traven on the significance of this debate
Essentially this debate mimics the differences that exist in the Democratic left. Both sides don’t like what has happened to our country under the rule of the two parties but one side feels it is too dangerous to bell the cat and the other side wants to ring that bell loud and clear so the people hear.
The facts are there for all to see, and change will only come if those facts are brought forward directly and forcefully to the American people.
When you connect the dots starting with the neo con roadmap to “The New American Century” you realize that the Iraq invasion was merely a stepping stone to beat China and other rivals out of that oil, and also to show US determination at global domination. Iraq, in a sense, was our “atom bomb” example.
The recent Trans Pacific Trade deal is the end game that Obama has bought into our world. It is nothing less than a coup by multinational corporations to enslave the world’s peoples. The details of it will give corporations more power locally and nationally than even the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court.
That is the end game of the neo con “American Century.” The dominance of multinationals and the end of citizens’ rights. Welcome to a very American coup.
21 thoughts on “Welcome to a Very American Coup: A Debate on the Causes and Larger Meaning of the Iraq War”
With regard to the TPP, btraven’s last item, welcome to the world of “Rollerball.” There is a reason why the two most popular and well-reviewed shows on cable TV this summer are the two real science-fiction stories, “Mr. Robot” and “Humans,” both with a very dystopian view of both the present and the future. Art does follow reality, and to me the fact these shows got the “green lights” is due to the fact that just about everyone other than the top 1% is beginning to see this as reality.
As to the first causes of Iraq, I think you’re all right. Yes, they did decide to implement the PNAC, and yes they had all those “personal” reasons for doing so – ever notice that all criminals have great reasons for what they do? A very good writer-director I was privileged to know as an upcoming writer once told me that in creating the Villain, you had to remember that the Villain was The Hero (in his own eyes), he always had the very best reasons for doing what he did. A villain who simply acts out of villainy is pretty uninteresting, and certainly not accurate. Even a villain like Cheney, who doesn’t seem to mind being viewed as “Darth Cheney”, has himself convinced that his reasons for doing what he did were the best of reasons.
Beware the danger of certitude. Combine certitude with self-righteousness with greed and you get someone like Dick Cheney. He’d look really good running one of those corporate conglomerates in the original “Rollerball.”
Where’s James Caan when you need him?
The philosopher Epictetus: ” NO MAN KNOWINGLY DOES EVIL”.
Our politicians pull the cloak of patriotism close to their body as they do evil things to our citizenry. Citizens of this country must learn that.
“That is the end game of the neo con “American Century.” The dominance of multinationals and the end of citizens’ rights. Welcome to a very American coup.”
I get a sense from reading the comments on the article that the readers may not have fully understood b. traven’s statement above. My interpretation is that he is saying that OUR government and our Constitution have already been overthrown by a coup financed by our financial oligarchs. . The very fact that the two leading candidates for the 2016 Presidential election , Jeb and Hillary, represent the two families most instrumental in instituting the laws that have trashed the Constitution and the rule of law. Today both are receiving huge sums of money from the same oligarchical sources that financed the coup originally.
We are not “heading” towards an authoritarian state, we are there now.
Well put. If it’s Jeb versus Hillary in 2016 (very likely), your thesis will be confirmed.
I truly think all politicians should be required to wear bright labels of their corporate sponsors on their suits, just as NASCAR drivers do. If nothing else, it would provide a visual reminder that they’re bought and paid for. They’re not public servants; they’re corporate front men (and women).
Money corrupts. And huge sums of money corrupt hugely.
It’s time to declare our independence from America’s new breed of moneyed royalty.
To the best of my knowledge, we never uncovered the details of Dick Cheney’s “Energy Plan” and that was negotiated in secret with the Oil Industry. The reason: “Executive Privilege”. The planning sessions happened in the first months of the Bush Administration, before 9/11. Coincidentally, Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton before he appointed himself VP and got W. Bush to agree. Cheney knew much of Iraq’s oil resources and who were key players for 10% of the world’s known oil resources. He knew Hussein was blocking American exploitation of those resources. Cheney, the political science guy, had connections to the Pentagon, NSA, and the US Intelligence. To the best of my knowledge, he was not a STEM guy. Because of that, many would think Cheney was a strange appointment for the top oil executive of Halliburton. Cheney also played a major role at the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The neo conservative group advocated for Saddam Hussein’s removal since the mid 90’s, even as W, Clinton was president. There is a high probably Iraq oil was discussed in detail within Cheney’s planning sessions before 9/11. Hussein’s demise may have been part of that plan. I agree with Mr. Traven that 9/11 provided the OPPORTUNITY to justify a major political/military campaign and attack on Iraq. History shows how that opportunity was disingenuously hyped to the American people. The administration was not making it up as it went along. Cheney and the Iraq swamp neocons foisted on America has actually provided a sad but educational moment. We can never allow this corrupt process to happen again. Problem: will America’s voters really care.
That last question is telling. Most Americans don’t care because they’re ignorant and/or misinformed and kept insulated from the sacrifices required by perpetual war.
And tonight, July 16, CBS carries a story of an ex-US soldier volunteering with others to return to Iraq to fight ISIS. As way too many do, he claims Iraq is in chaos as a result of an early withdrawal. The American public does not seem remotely capable, or interested, in searching for the causes you gentlemen are discussing.
I’ll be stunningly brief: 1.) First Cause? US role as world’s number one fossil fuel addict, and yes, the Pentagon fully understood that Saddam had an army that couldn’t shoot straight; 2.) I am shocked if any adherent of TCP still has to speculate whether Cheney was really running the show under Dubya’s “presidency”; what could be more obvious?; 3.) those in the know understand that the 21st is the China Century. I go a little further in the realm of prophecy: it will also be the century of the undoing of what passes for human civilization, thanks to policies based on blind greed rather than respect for the natural world. Here end my cheerful comments.
I’m changing your name to “gloom and doom Greg” :-)
For readers new to our site, check out these articles that also delve into the Iraq War: Michael Murry, “The Iraq War: Why We Really Did It” https://contraryperspective.com/2014/03/08/the-iraq-war-it-was-about-israel-politicsreligion-power-and-oil/ and Astore, “Old Thoughts on the Iraq War” https://contraryperspective.com/2013/10/18/old-thoughts-on-the-iraq-war-and-its-aftermath/ and Astore, https://contraryperspective.com/2014/08/22/general-allens-revealing-article-on-iraq/
Another thought: Looking at Iraq as a “war” is too limiting. I’ve been guilty of this. Historians, whether now or in the future, will have to examine the economic/business aspects of this war. They will have to “follow the money.” We have some transparency on military events, but what’s been going on with oil contracts, etc., is not well known at all. The role of multinationals in profiting from the war as well as from Iraqi oil resources will require much analysis, but something tells me these corporations are quite good at keeping secrets.
It’s a telling anecdote that the only Iraqi ministry building U.S. forces protected in the aftermath of the invasion in 2003 was for oil. Otherwise, looting was allowed free rein. And the decision to demobilize the entire Iraqi military was a surefire recipe for chaos, but also one that eliminated any organized Iraqi resistance to the slicing and dicing of their oil reserves (you’ll recall that Bush described this oil as Iraq’s “patrimony,” even as it was being sliced and diced).
In sum, to focus on the U.S. military and the course of the war is to miss the real action that was occurring largely behind the scenes: action that focused on profit to be made, especially as related to the trillions of dollars in known oil reserves still beneath the sands of the Middle East.
Along these lines, see the article by Michael Schwartz, “The New Oil Wars in Iraq,” June 2014, at TomDispatch at this link: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175860/tomgram%3A_michael_schwartz%2C_the_new_oil_wars_in_iraq/
Wow! First causes? We really need to go back, way back. Here is my list of critical tipping points that set the stage for everything that came after:
1) Churchill’s fiasco at Gallipoli 1915-1916. The defeat at Gallipoli by the Ottoman Turks enraged Britain. The Brits would have their revenge, and it would result in a pyrrhic victory for at least a century.
2) 2 November 1917 The Balfour Declaration “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,…” Zionism is enshrined.
3) 1918-1922 Dismembering the Ottoman Empire. The British get their revenge, draw meaningless lines in the sands of the middle east, and destroy century’s old tribal allegiances, thereby guaranteeing forever instability throughout the entire region. Creation of the Palestine Mandate ensures greater Zionism and continuing Arab/Jewish conflicts.
4) Here come the American corporations. 3 March 1938 The California Arabian Standard Oil Company hit “Black Gold” at the Dammam #7 well in eastern Arabia. Eventually they find the Ghawar field, by far the biggest in the world. They, and the US Govt ensure the total control of the House of Saud and the sunni wahabi’s over the Arabian Peninsula. The Eastern Province, where all of the oil is located is largely populated by shiite arabs, so repression is guaranteed.
5) 1945-1948 The British Palestine Mandate collapses under intense international pressure led by the US, and continuous attacks by jewish fighters (terrorists?) in palestine. The brits call it a day and jewish holocaust survivors invade Palestine en-mass encouraged by universal western guilt. The result is civil war, the creation of Israel, and the palestinian “problem.”
6) “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, General Motors. Ok, the movie was in the 80’s, and the dismantling of America’s street car systems started in the 30’s, but it really got going in the 50’s. The street car rails got torn out, the Big 3 started hooking people on gas guzzlers, suburbia was born, and the shopping mall was created. America was on a roll, and it was all powered by oil, lots, and lots of oil.
7) August 1953 British intelligence? and the CIA engineer the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran for the benefit of British Petroleum. They install Mohammad Reza Shah as an emperor. The Shah was hated by most iranians, so he proceeded to kill a lot of them. Everyone in Iran accepts this as truth, but most Americans remain blissfully unaware.
The stage is now set. The first cause(s) all relate to oil, and Zionism. There have been a plethora of events since (Arab/Israeli wars, Iran/Iraq/Afgan on and on, terrorism, payback,etc.) that make for much confusion of the overall picture. But, if we are talking about first causes they were all about greed and fanaticism with huge doses of hubris slavered on top. Oil and Zionism.
I love this site.
Having very recently finished reading T.E. Lawrence’s memoir of the Arab Revolt he helped engineer against the Ottoman Empire, I can confirm the assertion that no such “national borders” defining “Iraq,” “Jordan,” “Syria” etc. as maps now display existed a century ago. The automobile and aviation industries were still in their childhoods, so capturing oil fields was not the objective. There is brief reference to a very minor Zionist presence in Palestine. I have not studied in depth the history of Zionism beyond that point, though I have seen a reproduction of a British Palestine Authority wanted poster for a terrorist named Menachem Begin, who of course would become a Prime Minister of the future Israeli state. I don’t question the accuracy of the causative timeline “dbmason” has laid out here, but I wish to “refine” or expand upon some of his/her statements: 1.) flight to Israel of Holocaust survivors “encouraged by universal western guilt”? How about WASP revulsion at the thought of tens of thousands of “unwashed” Jews, especially of the eastern European variety, arriving on US shores?!? Ah, now we reach the nub of the matter! Don’t forget that in 1947, when Greg Peck starred in “Gentleman’s Agreement,” social institutions like private clubs had “unwritten” (I suppose some of them actually WERE in writing) restrictions or outright prohibitions on accepting Jewish members. And naturally this didn’t instantly melt away within a week of the release of that motion picture; 2.) the armed-to-the-teeth modern state of Israel, with its (almost) universal required military service for citizens, serves as a razor at the throat of the Arab world. Israel humiliated Egypt and its allies in wars in 1967 and 1973. I don’t recall the US government at those times pledging complete military support to Israel like it does today, which just makes the Middle East powder keg that much more dangerous. I have made this point before here on TCP, against much resistance, but I again assert: if Israel didn’t serve the interests of the United States its very existence would be in genuine jeopardy. Israel serves the US, not the other way around. Tel Aviv does not bark orders to Wash., DC. Its lobbyists spread a lot of money around there, but Netanyahu does not tell the US government what to do. (Though he certainly loudly offers a lot of “advice”!) Thus, Zionism takes a seat way, way behind crude oil on the bus of significant factors in the Middle East region. (The bus of significant factors! Should I copyright that phrase?); 3.) all this brings us back to the present crisis facing the entire planet: addiction to the combustion of fossil fuels will bring Humankind to the brink of extinction, if not beyond. Some addicts will commit almost any crime to get their next fix. Some nations will commit any crime–war against Iraq, war against Syria (some of these are indirect, you see), war against Yemen, war against Iran, war against Russia (through Ukrainian soil), war against Afghanistan, war against Venezuela, even war against China (now taking shape in South China Sea), war by assassination drone–to get their next fix of crude oil and natural gas. Come on, America, send your sons and daughters off to enlist. What’s good for business is good for America!
Hi greglaxer, thanks for the thoughtful reply, I’m a guy, Dan Mason, glad to know you;
Actually the reason the Brits drew straight lines in the sands of the middle east was for the stated goal of destabilize various centers of power. They wanted to destabilize the middle east because they did not want to position large military forces there, and they believed that by cutting through the various tribal alliances they would be able to control the situation with less manpower. It worked, short term, but long term it made the middle east into a powder keg.
At that time oil was an issue, but a minor one. Oil seeps had been discovered in Iraq and Iran, but were not yet developed. The “Great War” had been the first mechanized war so the importance of oil was known.
Part of the treaty agreements provided for the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine. The protectorate of Palestine was created (more artificial lines in the sand), and Britain was to administer it. Only one protectorate was created, Palestine. Why? And why not the Hejaz, or Bahrain, or Kuwait. Well, the reason was The Balfour Declaration “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,…”
Were the holocaust survivors encouraged to flee Europe by western guilt? Yes, I’ll stand by that. Of course, they fled with good reason, and most of Europe actually wanted them out. But the west was on a guilt trip over the entire affair. Everybody felt guilty about the holocaust, they just didn’t want them in “my back yard.” Most Americans feel guilty about the way we treated Native American Indians, but we don’t really want them as neighbors, do we? Reservations are nice after all. So, yes the west did feel collective guilt, but also yes it was best to put them on a reservation. Other countries were proposed, but the jews wanted a homeland, and the palestinians drew the black card. The Brits actually tried to resist, but the US applied intense pressure on them, and by that time British soldiers were suffering constant attacks from the Irgun terrorists? with leaders like, yup, Menachem Begin. The Brits caved, the gates opened, and it hit the fan, and over, and over again.
I don’t know that it makes much difference whether the US calls the shots for Israel on a particular issue, or the other way around. I spent quite a few years in the middle east, and I can tell you with certainty that Israel is universally reviled, and the US is universally distrusted because of its blind support for Israel. It really makes no difference what the truth is, the perception is its own truth.
Very useful observations, Dan. Perhaps in coming days/weeks/months you can share with us some of your specific experiences in the Middle East…provided you’re “at liberty” to do so! By the way, if the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula as a whole are the “middle” East, where the hell is the NEAR East??? I’m not being facetious here. We are stuck with this archaic terminology, it seems. I always found the phrase “Third World” objectionable but that still surfaces from time to time. Forgive this digression, but here it comes: In the mid-1960s Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn composed and premiered their “Far East Suite,” inspired by tours they had done under aegis of US State Dept. But only one movement, “Ad Lib on Nippon,” concerned any place east of Persia! Very peculiar if I do say so myself (and I just did).
Dan.. really ‘cool’ take on Middle Eastern history. Appreciate your commentary. It’s truly a mess there now and if you ever have disturbed an underground nest of ‘yellow jacket’ bees you would know the relentless mess it presents with the bees chasing you .and the pain of getting stung. We have kicked the yellow jacket nest.
greglaxer, here goes:
Ok, uhm… define the middle east cartographically.
Arabia, Iraq, the levant? Sure.
But how about the turks? Go east from the Hellespont, include the kurds, and all of the former CIS countries, all the way to the Tien Shan mountains and the chinese border? Well, maybe.
How about Persia (Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan?) They are genetically more Indian than anything else.
Possibly from Egypt west to the Pillars of Hercules, or south to the Horn of Africa? Yikes, I dunno!
But, I can tell you this much for sure: when you see a straight line on the map of any of these countries it was either drawn by a complete idiot, or somebody with an ulterior motive.
The vast majority of people in these areas are either pastoral farmers or nomads. There are still quite a few nomads in North Africa and Arabia. The farmers, and especially the nomads (Bedouin, or Bedu in Arabia) don’t acknowledge invisible lines in the sand, and would fight to maintain their right to cross them whenever they feel like it.
Also, if you talk to a 40-year old Saudi engineer, who graduated from MIT, and wears a $1000 Armani suit, he will tell you about his Bedu grandfather who wandered the desert as a true freeman. Did they have rules? Yep, very strict rules about dress, customs, religion, where you can travel safely, where to avoid, etc. They were rules fine tuned by thousands of years in the desert. Obey the rules, or the desert will kill you.
Those are not our rules, not our history. It is impossible to understand the middle east in terms of our rules. So, I think we should not look at the middle east as a cartographer might show it. Look at it in terms of culture, and that includes Islam, a harsh religion of nomads.
Hi Dan: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. We’re always looking for new writers at the site, especially when they have a “contrary” perspective that’s soundly rooted in experience. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in contributing. If not, we hope you keep commenting, which is itself a contribution to the educated discourse we’re seeking to encourage.
During their invasion of Iraq the Bushies proudly proclaimed ” We create our own reality”. The epitome of national hubris!
I have had intense professional experiences in South Korea, Chile, Morocco, Jamaica, Mexico, & more and In each I have seen how differently their people look at life compared to Americans.views. We are all human and at that level yearn for the same things but each culture has its own distinct pattern. So when our leaders pursue policys to bring “free market” democracy and ” our way of life” to Iraq, etc. I shudder at the hubris and ignorance of our leaders and their bureaucratic minions in the State Dept., Army, etc. show.
Just a little reading of books by anthropologists and sociologists that are easily available would have shown our ‘leadrs’ what
Dan has described above.
But then again, even after thirteen years of direct experience they haven’t learned that simple fact.