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Ramzy Baroud: Blame The Culture Of War For Chaos

Blame the Culture of War for the Chaos in the Middle East

By Ramzy Baroud

Those who predicted chaos throughout the Middle East in the case of an American war on Iraq were not the least mistaken. Their bleak prediction is coming to life.

Unlike any other region in the world, the Middle East has managed to maintain a collective character, despite the carving up of the area into many small countries. A war in one country can quickly involve a few others, and chaos in one part could lead to chaos elsewhere.

Of course there are reasons for that. The Middle East is predominantly Muslim. Those who don’t identify with Islamic values, find themselves part of another compelling force, that of Arab nationalism (or other forms of nationalism, i.e. Kurdish, Persian, etc). Even though there is no such collective political character that embodies such forces, it is almost innate in most Arabs and/or Muslims.

There is no way on earth, despite the lack of cohesiveness of Arab leaders, that you can convince the average Egyptian, for example, that the invasion of Iraq was not a violation of his own space and values. While the understandable despising of Saddam Hussein by many Iraqis explains the cheers of joyous crowds upon his toppling, the Arab street elsewhere was disheartened by the news. It was not simply the admiration of Saddam that harbored such bitterness, but the indescribable loathing of occupation.

Washington’s neoconservatives were, and remain well aware of this truth. It is no wonder that their master design in the Middle East doesn’t end in Baghdad, but, theoretically at least, spills into other countries, including Syria and Iran. ‘Taming’ the Muslims and Arabs, in their view, is not confined to seemingly superficial borders that, while dividing Arabs and Muslims in many ways, failed to divide them in spirit.

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But there are other reasons, apart from the intangible, that makes the Iraqi experience, equally an Arab and a Muslim experience. There are serious fears that Washington’s fanatics are adamant in their intent to take on other countries, namely Syria (for its refusal to ‘compromise’ on its territorial rights violated by Israel), and Iran (for its oil wealth and strategic location between the Gulf and the gas-rich Caspian).

As a result, and it is no longer a secret, there are unpublicized attempts by many to maintain the statue quo of disorder in Iraq, to ensure complete American failure in stabilizing the country for the sole purpose of controlling its wealth. A ‘clean break’ in Iraq equals an invitation to Washington’s war advocates to tout for a regime change in other ‘rogue’ Middle East capitals.

Furthermore, there is Turkey and Israel, now heavily involved in Iraq, both lurking in the northern part of the country, each for its own interests.

Turkey, an opponent of the Iraqi Kurds aspiration for any form of independence or autonomy (for it shall empower the Turkish Kurds demands for their long denied rights by the Turkish state), seeks to defuse the Kurds political clout in Iraq, gained by the Kurds backing of the US war.

Israel on the other hand, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, wishes to counter the Iranian role in molding Iraq’s future. “It’s Realpolitik. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” One former Israeli intelligence officer told Hersh.

Moreover, Israel long sought economic interests in northern Iraq (which were made public just days after the fall of Baghdad) is a good enough reason for the Israeli intelligence’s dangerous expeditions throughout the country.

But there is more to this Middle East chaos theory than meets the eye. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has given rise to militancy on a regional level.

Not that violence is a stranger to the Middle East. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been grinding on for decades, but was somehow contained, at least in recent years within the borders of the Occupied Territory (unless Israel wishes otherwise).

Despite the open backing of Israel by the US- support essential enough to maintain a bloody crackdown on a national quest for freedom, radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic, have been wise enough not to retaliate against US interests. Despite the insanity of war, the prudent decision of Palestinian factions was meant to deny a pretext for American military intervention on behalf of Israel, which the latter has worked hard to attain (especially after the attacks of 9/11).

While Palestinian factions have adhered to their principals, the US invasion of Iraq has given rise to a regional form of militancy that is proven costly to Islam, Muslims and to US interests.

The US government’s insistence of an Iraqi-Al-Qaeda link — now proved a sheer fantasy according to the 9/11 committee investigating the terrorist attacks on the US — was one of several pretences laid out by the government and its neoconservative ilk for invading Iraq. While such a claim was wrong then, the presence of groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq is no longer a government lie.

The absence of Saddam has created a vacuum that many are offering to fill, or at least to ensure that Iraq’s future will not be shaped at their expense. Militants claiming to represent the soul of Islam and its teachings are sharpening their swords throughout the region.

The end result is the beheading of several people in the region, gruesome acts that are, unfortunately, being explained on the basis of cultural and religious values.

While, in the opinion of many linear thinkers in the West, Islam is to blame for fostering such militancy, many in the Muslim world see the invasion of Iraq and the incomprehensible murder of thousands (needless to say the utter disregard of the dignity of Arabs and Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere) can only be explained on similar grounds: religious and cultural.

Those who warned of chaos in the region as a result of war soon upgraded their warning to ‘hell will break loose’ if the voice of reason concedes to the neocons’ hawkish mentality and Washington’s gun diplomacy.

Hell is indeed breaking loose and the Iraq inferno shall victimize more than the traditional victims of Iraqis but whoever dares to get involved.

And since sanity is a causality of war, very few are those who are analyzing the reasons behind the chaos and bringing those responsible to account. Neoconservatives are still touting the same old tired dogmas of an ‘uncivilized’ ‘Arab mind’, ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’, which subsequently makes America’s war on behalf of Western civilization and modernity.

Equally correct, the US war is giving rise to those who fail to see the strategic and economic component of America’s military venture, but fathom the latter on the basis of a Christian crusade against Islam. The rise of militancy is of course proven hurtful to Muslims than to any other. Alas, the ‘my God can beat your God’ mantra, adopted by top US government officials is hardly helping the gloomy situation.

Those who tortured Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, thinking ‘it was funny’ have more in common with those who beheaded Paul M. Johnson, the former American hostage in Saudi Arabia, than both parties have with ordinary Arabs and Americans. Their culture is neither Christian nor Islamic. It’s the culture of war, espoused by the US in Iraq and earlier in Afghanistan.

As long as the culture of war prevails over that of reason and sensibility, chaos and all that it entails shall define the future of the Middle East for generations.


(Ramzy Baroud is an Arab-American journalist and head of research at English)

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