Creating people's geographies
ICH 29 July 2006 “The East is to-day the place of change – of changes so great and swift that in comparison with it our Europe is standing still. We have been much engaged lately, making wars and peaces, looking at our own hurts, and trying to restore the balance of the times, and so we have not always been able to spare attention to what Asia is doing or thinking. We have tried to deal with her on the old traditional lines, and to our dismay she has not reacted properly. There have been outbreaks, unrest, protestations, and we, lacking the knowledge of movements there, have missed the sequence and find ourselves reduced to force, as our last remedy and restoration.”
These are apt words spoken not by a diplomat in New York, Paris or London, but by the legendary T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1920. It seems that once again the West is ignoring the signs of change, relying on old traditional lines.
The recent support of the US government for the death and destruction in Lebanon does not come as a surprise. Nor is it a surprise to see the silence of the European governments (especially UK). What is surprising, however, is the belief that the Arab streets still do not matter. According to US officials “whatever the outrage on the Arab streets, Washington believes it has strong behind-the-scenes support among key Arab leaders also nervous about the populist militants — with a tacit agreement that the timing is right to strike.”
Where does the US think the Al Qaeda fighters and supporters come from? From the country of Al Qaeda-istan? US, after three years of warfare and spending hundreds of billions of dollars, is still fighting those who have come from the Arab streets. It is a very big mistake to simply dismiss the Arab opinion. The Arab streets matter now more than ever. Afghanistan, Iraq and now Lebanon are good examples of the limits of the military power.
It is also a folly to rely on Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to keep the people under control. These countries’ rulers are part of the problem rather than the solution. In Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud rules like an old feudal lord. In Egypt, the President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak crushes all dissent and is planning to install his son in power. In Jordan, King Abdullah II appoints and dismisses prime ministers and ministers.
The people in these countries are fed-up with totalitarian and corrupt regimes. It is no wonder that Al Qaeda’s money, leadership and top lieutenants come mainly from these three countries. The people, rightly or wrongly, see the US support of these regimes as the source of their problems and constant humiliation.
They are angry at the US and Israel. But they should realise that as long as there are horses, there will be riders. Simply put, the Arabs should understand that although Israel and US are responsible for some of the disasters that have befallen them; it is their leaders that are mainly responsible for most of the humiliations that the Arabs have suffered. One should not expect an Israeli prime minister to work for the Arab cause. His job is to look after Israel’s interests. Israel will try to take as much and give as little as possible. And in time of war, they kill as many Arabs as possible. They have shown time and again that they can act with impunity and get away with it. Saddam Hussein gassed both Iranians and Kurds and got away with it. It was only after he got into a fight with the US that people started to talk about his atrocities. It may sound callous, but that is how the new world order functions. Power talks and the weak walks; preferably to somebody else’s refugee camp.
The point is that it is the job of Arab leaders to protect Arab interests. It is their job to make sure that other countries do not treat Arabs as sub-humans. It is their job to stand-up for Arab respect and dignity. Arabs have never lacked courage, but nearly always lacked leadership; and in today’s world leadership is what counts. But dictators seldom provide good leadership. They are always much more concerned with their own survival than the welfare of their people.
For example, the House of Saud, the group that rules Saudi Arabia, has harmed Arabs and Muslims much much more than Israel or US ever has. Just look at some of their actions in the past half a century:
– Financed the attempted assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abd al-Nasser (1954).
– Supported and financed Idi Amin of Uganda (1970s).
– Financed the coup that overthrew the Pakistan’s democratically elected president Zulfikar Ali Butto (1977).
– Supported despotic Siad Barre in Somalia which led to the breakdown of the country (1980s).
– Provided support for the Christian Phalange against the pan-Arabist Mourabitoun and the Shias of Amal and Hezbollah (1980s).
– Promised $10 million bribe to Iranian Air Force Colonel Raed Rokmi to stage a coup (1981).
– Encouraged and financed Saddam Hussein to invade Iran. The war resulted in 1 million dead and hundreds of Billions of dollars in damages (1980-1988).
– Financed the assassination attempts against Hassan Al-Turabi, Sudan’s religious leader (1990s).
– Financed the construction and running of thousands of fundamentalist Wahabi Madrassas (Wahabi religious schools) in Pakistan.
– Financed the creation of the Taliban (1994).
– Facilitated, participated and partly financed the invasion of Iraq by US (Gulf War I – 1991).
– Helped with intelligence in the invasion of Iraq (Gulf War II – 2003).
And a lot more (read the “Coup attempt that started a war”). But why do Saudi rulers do such things? It is because the House of Saud lacks legitimacy. They rely on the Wahabi religious establishment and the army to stay in power. The king’s title is “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”. Imagine that in Italy they call the prime minister, “The Custodian of the Holy Vatican”. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But if you take the “Custodian” title away, you are left with the title of the king, who incidentally can trace the foundation of his kingdom to the British finance and military help.
The King’s religious title is his only claim to legitimacy; take that away and the House of Saud will collapse. The Saudis know this as well, and that is why the successive governments have tried to oppose and undermine anyone or anything that challenges their religious credentials.
But lacking courage (read the article: Saudi Arabia and Military Expenditure); the House of Saud relies on its money to solve its problems. This is a “rent a solution” strategy that has so far worked with devastating results against the Muslims in the region. They pay others to fight on their behalf. When the fighting is over, they pay someone else to confront the new challenger and so on and so forth. This, naturally, has made them extremely unpopular in the Muslim world. Despite the official propaganda, the Arab streets despise the House of Saud; they are despised even in those Muslim countries that they have invested heavily. This is because they are shown to not only lack legitimacy, but also to be such hypocrites. While they chop-off hands and heads in the name of Islam, the off-springs of the “House of Saud” spend their young and not so young lives enjoy every conceivable pleasure that the so called “infidel” West has to offer.