A tuned out and marginalized nation

The eruption of violence in the Middle East is not easy to understand; there is not one easy answer or cause.  There are indeed many explanations and reasons; all of the reasons currently being given depend on what the person making the explanation holds as a core belief about the United States, Islam and politics in the Middle East.

In no particular order, here are some of the explanations that are being given: Al-Qaeda has called for more attacks on U.S. and western institutions and has claimed credit for the attacks in Libya. Al-Qaeda has said the attacks are revenge for American drone attacks that killed one of their leaders.  Libya is accepting that claim and has arrested 50 people; Libya is blaming outsiders and Al-Qaeda for the violence.  The American ambassador to the United Nations says the violence in Libya was spontaneous reaction to the video.  In the first few hours, the anti-Mohammed video was seen as the central cause for the civil unrest in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.  And at least on the surface, the national response in the United States is to the video; we are very concerned with the creator of the video and his intent.  All of our government officials have condemned the video, anti-religious activities and they have condemned the violence.  In my mind, the video is a false trail.  But, not without its value; a bill is being introduced in Egypt that makes it a crime to denigrate the prophet and message, the prophets, the first caliphs and the first community.  Probably not one of the intents of the creator of the video.

Al-Qaeda said the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in revenge for the killing of the network’s number two Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, SITE Intelligence Group reported Saturday, as Libyan authorities have identified 50 people who were involved in the attack. “The killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya only increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mokhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet,” al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in a statement, quoted by the U.S.-based monitoring group, according to AFP. Al-Arabiya, 9-17-12

The Al Qaeda statement said; ‘Whoever comes across America’s ambassadors or emissaries should follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar’s descendants (Libyans), who killed the American ambassador,’ the group said, referring to Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Daily Mail, 9-16-12

The video, Innocence of Muslims, was and is a flash point for many of the demonstrations in the past few days.  Press TV from Iran has interview online with an American political analyst who explains for Iranians the origin of the video.  According to Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley the video is part of a Zionist-CIA conspiracy – a conspiracy dedicated to electing Mitt Romney as president of the U.S.  Tarpley says there is a Mormon mafia within the CIA seeking to elect a Mormon president.  The Mormon mafia conspired with Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu to elect Netanyahu’s friend Romney to the White House.  In the conspiracy are also two professional Islamophobes  and for good luck Tarpley threw in the Saudis into the plot.

The analyst said that the second component consists of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud party and “a group of neocons who have attached themselves to the Romney campaign”.

“I would identify two or perhaps three components, the first is a Mormon mafia inside the CIA, the group of Mormon high officials of the CIA who want Romney to become president and they think that by having the kinds of events that we are seeing, they can make Obama look bad in front of the American public.”

Dr. Tarpley also mentioned a series of figures including anti-Islam movie promoter Steve Klein, “Terry Jones, the infamous Qur’an burner”, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes, accusing them of promoting Islamophobia and unrest in the world by supporting such films. Press TV, 9-16-17

However, increasingly the debate is not about the video, but about the organizations taking advantage of an opportunity – two actually, 9/11 and the Innocence of Muslims. An Arabic commentator postulated that the Salafists are using the opportunity to strengthen their organizations by giving people an outlet for their anger.  Others also see the continued social anger as a fundamental cause. Violence in Egypt has spread and is not focused on Americans, but rather on the Egyptian interior ministry.  Analysts are speculating that under the surface there is still a great deal of anger in Egypt at the police, the army and the government. In that view the anger that has built up over the last 50 years or more is still simmering and tends to burst out at any opportunity.

Violent protests across the Arab world triggered by a film insulting Islam could reflect the growing strength of Salafist groups that benefit from a widening freedom in Arab Spring countries, analysts say. The Salafists, a group of Sunni Muslims who promote a strict lifestyle based on the traditions of early “pious ancestors”, have made a surprising surge in their influence, mainly in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Middle East Online, 9-17-12

Many of new protesters struggled to pinpoint the exact reasons for clashing with the Central Security Forces (CSF) when asked by the media, with the battle seemingly taking a new twist that has little to do with the US Embassy and much more with latent grievances against the interior ministry itself as clashes raged on in Tahrir, the cradle of last year’s revolution that toppled autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Egypt Daily News, 9-17-12

They have the “desire to create a balance of power in the street using the excuse of fighting the ‘violations of the sacred’,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a lecturer at Paris’ Science Po university. Religious television channels broadcasting from Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Salafism, are seen as the force behind augmenting the numbers of Salafists across the Arab World over the past 20 years. Middle East Online, 9-17-12

Many are reading the events as a result of American’s long-term Middle East policy and of Obama’s failed attempt to reduce tension between the United States and the Islamic world. America’s shift from supporting strong military dictatorships to support of the Arab Spring and new forms of government in the region is also being blamed.  Some of those expressing that opinion are using the events to further vilify the United States and all of its policies; on the top of that list are the Russians and Chinese, but they are not alone.

“US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy is in ruins. Like no president before him, he tried to win over the Arab world. After some initial hesitation, he came out clearly on the side of the democratic revolutions. … In this context, he must accept the fact that he has snubbed old close allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military. And now parts of the freed societies are turning against the country which helped bring them into being. Anti-Americanism in the Arab world has even increased to levels greater than in the Bush era. It’s a bitter outcome for Obama.” Die Welt

I have no opinion on the true root causes, it is as the line from the Song of Music has it, “beyond my ken.”   Still I believe we have to rethink our policies and attitudes toward much of the rest of the world.  I would like to suggest that our underlying belief system is from the 18th century.  Our system of government was designed to deal with the issues of importance in the 17th and 18th century.  The evolving belief systems and systems of government in the Middle East are in response to issues of the late 20th century and beginning of the 21st century.  Our values resonant with us, but not with most of the rest of the world.  Most of the world is choosing a secure society over personal freedoms, religious expression over philosophical expression, predictable and stable  governments over uncertainty and constant change.  Our foreign policy is going to have to evolve to encompass those ideas if it is to be successful.

If not, we are likely to be sitting around for years to come, stunned by the latest events and repeating our cliched solutions to unique problems.  The only time people listen to us is when they are waiting for the check to arrive, once the check is in-hand they tune us out.  We are marginalizing ourselves by our insistence that we know what is right at all times and passing out checks to anyone who pretends to for the moment to agree with us.

The violence in the Middle East is not about us; we are just a convenient focal point for every angry person and every organization with an agenda.  It is not about us, but it is on us the rhetorical anger is focused.  We must ask ourselves why Russia, India, China and other world powers do not engender such anger.  Something about our policy is not working and we will not get to the answer by blaming others for not believing what we believe.


4 Responses to “A tuned out and marginalized nation”

  1. 1 rexdstock1 September 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    One cannot invade countries under false pretenses, kill tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thousands), and openly lie repeatedly about everything under the sun and expect to be loved and revered… And then there is all that bluster and blunder that comes from the right, always trying to incite something. Our history in the region smells just as it does in Chile, San Salvador, and every other place we have tried to inject our will (under the pretense of “freedom”), when it is so evident that the real agenda is always about controlling oil and making money for big corporations.


  2. 2 Ken Adams September 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

    You may be right about the invasions – but it is not so simple; if you want an answer that simple, choose Israel. The existence of Israel and American support for Israel has been used to incite hatred and violence since it founding.

  3. 3 Bill Hanigan September 20, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Ah ! Rex, I just love your anger. Don’t you think it’s a little bit simplistic to blame it all on “big oil” ?

  4. 4 Ken Adams September 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Indeed, that is the question, is it not a bit simplistic to blame it all on any single cause?

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