The Middle East
The Natural Order– ISIS–
A MARTIN J. RYAN VIEWPOINT: From Rome, Alexander, Jesus, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, T. E. Laurence and the Arabs in WWl; to Bush/Cheney and ISIS.
My interpretation: The natural order of things is unfeeling calculation. It is a lion’s cost benefit analysis while observing a wildebeest. It is derived from Nature. Our planet may be on the verge of rebelling, but the cosmos, or Nature, as a whole, doesn’t care. It is not evil. It just is. It is a moral vacuum into which evil can be inserted; into which honesty, integrity and honor can be inserted, as well, though maintained against great odds. Every president, dictator, warlord and corporate CEO understands the natural order; which is where, for the cleverest lions, lip service comes into play.
ISIS? Big Surprise? Shouldn’t be.
Regarding the Middle East, if given enough thought it might amaze one how easily and often we thoroughly paper over recent history. Mostly the result, I know, of our corporate/contractor-owned politicians, but also the result of our seemingly walking-dead media. See them leap willy-nilly from story to story, careless or willful—take your pick–while effectively disconnecting significant dots and preventing what should be a rather simple understanding of how we got from the proverbial there to here. Yes, I know about the Twin Towers followed by Iraq and the WMDs scam; and I’ll get to that. But first one has to come to grips with, and accept, the existence of the natural order of things. Meaning that underlying social interaction, national or global, is the eternal truth of predator and prey. A natural order as glaringly simple as that old fashioned children’s book: “See Spot Jump.” But before recent history:
18 years ago the 9,000 year-old skeleton of a man was found in the shallows of the state of Washington’s Columbia River. He had five broken ribs, several dents in his head and a spear was lodged deep into his hip. Tells you something. No?
Yes, tells you men ate to live and killed to eat. Empathy was rationed. Still, when they were satiated and there was enough to go round they shared for the common good and became a tribe. Okay, tribe number one hunted and warily parried with tribe number two with whom, after a period of guarded trust, it traded goods. But when envy and greed inevitably went beyond need, and tribe number one coveted two’s new fangled spears, it simply attacked two and took their spears as well as their women, beads and pots. And later, a bit more enterprising, they would take a few worker slaves as well, making them the first economic entrepreneurs. Simple as “See Spot Jump.” The natural order.
Today, of course, we kill for things like oil.
Okay, passing over a few million ancient facts: the tribes became countries and continued their rampaging ways. Being neither brilliant, nor historian, bear with my kid’s simplicity as I de-romanticize and cherry pick my way from there to here by time traveling forward 6700 years–from the guy with the dented head to more sophisticated empires that were so mired in convoluted political intrigues, I will glide the historical surface and stick to simple is as simple does.
(General & President “Ike” Eisenhower said, “There is no glory in war.” No, but plenty of booty.)
The Roman Empire. Feeling its greedy oats it began hacking its way beyond Italy during the third century BC, taking control of territory in Europe, Africa and Asia, consisting of about 70 million people. While western Rome was invaded and sacked and came apart, Eastern Rome lasted about 1000 back-stabbing years of civil unrest. (Like today’s Mid East?) Rome gave us culture, religion, architecture, philosophers, a republic, a dictatorship, some great statues and a few thousand suffocating crucifixions. That is, until the 15th century when the Ottoman Turks–merely their turn in the natural order–decided they wanted Rome’s women, beads and pots.
Bush and Cheney depleted a good portion of our beads and pots, and women will have to speak for themselves.
Speaking of crucifixions, around 30 AD, one of its victims, according to religious and secular scholarship, was a Jewish rabbi from Galilee named Jesus. Having been baptized by the firey John the Baptist, who was a thumb in the eye of Rome’s puppet, King Herod, Jesus became radicalized and much less than ordinary. Stepping into John’s shoes when King Herod decided to take John’s head, a charismatic Jesus was seen by followers as healer, social reformer, and even the Messiah. Which didn’t sit well with the Roman prefect, Pilate, who saw him as a zealot who was blowing the whistle on corruption, and believed him dangerous enough to crucify him. (Something like today’s intimidation of whistleblowers).
Anyway, a big mistake for Pagans when one observes the growth of Christianity and little annoyances like the Borgia popes, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials and ecclesiastical pedophilia. Not to mention, too bad for Muslims, considering in 1095 Pope Urban kicked off the first Crusade, with knights hacking their way to Islam in the name of–guess who? This was followed in the next few hundred years by about ten more bloody Crusades. Christians and Muslims never seemed to tire of slaughtering each other over the Holy Land and the holy grail of women, beads and pots. Catholicism (from whence I came) seems never to understand, Jesus saw himself as a Jew ‘til he died on the cross. Christianity, as religion, developed in increments following his death. Anyway, what would Jesus think?
Okay, a step back to that same third century BC I mentioned above, when there emerged the legendary Alexander of Macedon (“The Great” a matter of opinion). King at the ripe age of 20, he and his enormous ego rampaged over the next ten years for his own women, beads and pots. Along the way he defeated Persia (Iran) and created an empire extending from Greece to Egypt and Northwest India, where he named a lot of cities after himself. (Wouldn’t you?) Following his death there were more great statues, the usual back-stabbing civil wars, and the decline of his empire; which later submitted to Rome. While revered as a classical hero in the style of Achilles (who was a childish pain in the ass), one should keep in mind that Alexander, not having gunpowder, achieved all this reverence by hacking off arms, legs and heads on his way to glory and myth. Imagine if today’s contractors had the big-bucks deal for the spears, swords, battleaxes and body armor? The natural order, and so it goes.
Next, the one that knocked off Rome was the greediest of all—the Ottoman Dynasty, founded by a guy named Osman 1. In 1453 an Ottoman sultan conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) and the rampage continued until its apex under a major ego called Suleiman “The Magificent” (matter of opinion). These Turks invaded, took over, occupied, at one time or another, a whopping 37 countries, which I will not enter here. Just imagine hacking their way to the women, beads and pots in the nations comprising the Middle East, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, and Russia.
But like all empires that wreaked havoc on their way to glory, they slowly declined until 465 years later, when they were knocked over by the Allies during the 1918 “war to end all wars” in Arabia and Europe. At which time, in Europe, a bunch of self-important, downright stupid generals, also known as “butchers,” sent hundreds of thousands of men “over the top” to their deaths. Perfectly exampled by the moronic frontal assaults on the Turks in Gallipoli in 1915, which earned a quarter million casualties. And this time it was gunpowder—thanks to the inventive 9th century
Chinese–that bloodied, de-limbed, and vaporized the millions of brave but terror-stricken guys with their muddy boots on the ground. Total, a staggering 37,466,904 casualties, with 8,528,831 killed. (That’s millions.) For what? Who benefits? Maybe most ministers and kings and generals were ignorant ego-driven freaks, but I’m certain a few of them, along with every maker of machine-guns, tanks and canons, were cool-as-ice lions.
The same war, the Middle East, far from the muddy trenches of the western front, there were two lions who didn’t belong there ( British and French) who wanted a piece of the Arab territories. Predators and prey. The natural order.
The Ottoman Turks had ruled with an iron hand over the unhappy tribal Arabs, who at this juncture began to rebel. Turkey had sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary, and as enemies of Britain it suited the British General, Edmund Allenby, to encourage and back his new Arab allies. Emir Hussein, ruler of central Arabia, did his part by capturing Mecca, but the Turks still remained in control of the Arabian interior and threatened to crush Hussein. The British knew, in order to succeed, they would have to mobilize the remaining Arab tribes.
In 1911 there was a rather odd Oxford student, a young man of 22 named T.E. Lawrence, who stood all of 5-foot-4 inches tall. Lawrence decided to write his thesis on Crusader castles, and apparently having a strong masochistic bent, instead of sticking pins under his fingernails he successfully walked 1200 miles to study these castles; a walk, to the dismay of his mentors, that took him, village to village, through the arid deserts of Syria during the brutal Middle East summer.
After graduation he joined an archeological expedition back to the Middle East, and this and his earlier experience gave him a profound understanding of the Arab culture.
Forward to the war:
Lawrence had returned to England, but in 1914 the onset of WW1 propelled him back, this time to Cairo, Egypt, as a bored 2nd lieutenant in intelligence; until two years later when he would find what he was destined to be. (While Lawrence played a dramatic role, it was just one part of a much larger conflict).
Speaking Arabic and having a profound understanding of tribal society and its negotiating culture, he meshed easily into the Arab cause to become the British liaison to Hussein’s son, Faisal, who made Lawrence one of his most trusted advisors, and later allowed him principal roles in desert combat. Lawrence, the Arabs’ greatest admirer, passionately envisioned a greater unified Arab nation and inspired his Arab followers. Becoming an intrepid guerrilla fighter, his vision drove him to take near suicidal risks, executing ferocious attacks on the Turks’ important railway, and commanding a nearly impossible Arab trek across an unforgiving desert to the Red Sea to secure the port of Aqaba.
In 1917 General Allenby having put together a powerful force of British, Australian and New Zealand troops, advanced through the Judean Hills and entered the Jaffa Gate as the 34th conqueror of Jerusalem.
One might say, the first Christian conqueror since the Crusades.
In short, while the Turks and Germans were ultimately beaten back by the Brits (and the French in a minor role), everything Lawrence had promised his Arab friends had turned to ash. Was he so naive? Didn’t he know he was fronting for imperialist countries? The natural order?
Again, no surprise: There had been secret back room arrangements resembling what followed here in 9/11. While in 9/11the deals were oil, defense contracts, and occupation, the deals in Arabia were to carve it up into new colonial parcels. Predators and prey: While Britain planned to annex the oil-rich Iraq for itself, Greater Syria would be divided into four entities: Palestine and Transjordan (to become Jordan) for the British; and Lebanon and Syria for the French. Faisal and his brother Abdullah were moved like chess pieces: Faisal on the throne of Iraq; Abdullah on the throne of Jordan; all controlled by the Brits. Lawrence despaired, and so it goes.
In 1920 a betrayed and enraged Arab world found the Ottoman Turk oppressors replaced by the British and French imperialists and erupted into a major revolt, causing the deaths of thousands on either side. The British Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, rehired the Arab expert, Lawrence, to help right a few of the lesser wrongs, but this accomplished little and it’s been a mess ever since. Sound familiar?
Interesting to note about Churchill in the 1940s. His wonderful oratory helped carry the day against the Nazis and made him one of the most respected leaders of the 2nd World War. But Churchill, when quite young, had taken part in one of the last charges of the legendary Bengal Lancers. Yes, he actually rode a horse and wielded a sword, which sounds romantic, I suppose; but what he was doing was laying waste to Pakistan and the Sudan, while referring to the enemy as “savages and Wogs” because they disapproved of his colonial presence. I believe Wog is equal to the N word. (I wonder what Cheney called them?)
And so it went in South Asia and the Middle East. Not much different from the Europeans who earlier came to America, imported African slaves and laid waste to the Native Americans. The natural order.
One would hope the simplified full-of-holes history I’ve just outlined, would teach some of us that the acts of imposing ourselves on and into other sovereign nations might present current and future problems. Well, I suppose for the well-connected power brokers said problems have little effect, and they don’t care, whereas for those of us carrying the water it might present a more painful result. You think we’d learn? Well, I guess not, considering the conspicuous pols we unthinkingly elect to office over and over, too often appear to serve a group far less visible than us—a nest of lions.
Finally, September 11, 2001. The horrific attack on The Towers with its terrible loss of life, when our nation came together as one. While Bush made his dramatic bullhorn speech in the Towers’ awful ruins, the persnickety French, of all people, said of themselves, in solidarity with us: “We are all Americans.” (That didn’t last).
Of the 19 al-Qaeda terrorists that took command of the airliners on the morning of September 11, 15 were Saudi Arabians. The remainder were from Lebanon, Egypt and United Arab Emirates. Several days following 9/11 about 14 members of our oil-soaked Saudi Royal “allies” (infamous for funding terrorists) fled the United States, approved and aided by U.S. authorities.
Of course, while we hoped with patriotic fervor to go after Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, our oil barons and defense contractors began to salivate, figuring in the cost benefit analysis of the natural order that every crisis is an opportunity for profit. Did that sound too cynical? Sorry. A more current example: In 2013, in its anticipation (and hoped for?) future wars, the billion dollar deals given out by the Defense Department were awarded to the world’s biggest, and most politically influential, contractors: Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and United Tech. To avoid shaking with anger, try not to imagine the size of their dark money “contributions” to the legislators (I know, I’m repeating myself) who are theoretically representing you and me, while thoroughly corrupting the democratic process.
Today, Bush is just a good ol’ boy from Texas, buddy-buddy with Clinton while writing about big daddy and clapping hands over his very own museum; but in a step back to the predatory days of Bush/Cheney in Iraq, now so well papered over, I’m compelled to insert excerpts of two articles of mine, from that period, that were published under “Politics” in Blogcritics. My editor was conservative, yet he made no changes:
December 2006, I wrote: “Last summer it was Bush’s “Operation Forward Together.“ …..whatever name you give it, no matter how it is accomplished, the Iraq Study Group‘s “The Way Forward” is merely the way out. The group took 9 months to tell us what we already knew: “The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.“ One of the ISG members, Vernon Jordan, said, “We didn’t talk about how we got here,“ which must have been exceedingly difficult, considering the majority of Americans can hardly think about anything else. Which means, from the ISG point of view, we must not look back. We must only look ahead, away from the negative. Away from wire tapping. Away from American dissenters accused of being traitors. Away from Cheney lying again and again about Saddam’s connection with Al-Qaeda. Away from Cheney’s secret energy meetings and his no-bid contracts to cronies. Away from torture and the loss of habeas corpus, and away from America’s loss of its moral high ground in the eyes of the world. No, don’t look at all that. Forget how imperfectly better we were before the toxic Bush Administration came into power. Forget that Bush, with his usual total disrespect for the rest of us, said, “We’re absolutely winning,“ and in his mean-spirited way told us that a vote for Democrats is a vote for terrorists, just before the mid-term elections.
“President Bush has presented us with a wobbly central government in what now amounts to a non-country that is totally unfamiliar with democratic principals; and with no firm united will of the people at his disposal, one should not be surprised by Prime Minister al-Maliki’s inability to exact control over an ethnically fractured society unraveling daily in civil war. Bush would like us to recall that Iraq was a patched together country under the heel of Saddam Hussein, a dictator who directed a ruthless minority to dominate and subjugate a majority through intimidation and torture. So very true. But Bush would like us to forget that under Saddam’s Baath Party there was structure and infrastructure, that secular nationalism strongly advocated women’s rights. Women dressed as they pleased, drove their cars, and were encouraged to secure an education and to enter the workforce. Whereas today they hardly leave their homes, and when they do they fear being raped or killed, and are harassed if they are not thoroughly covered with a confining clothing. Ironic and sad, this echo of the Taliban, after so many spent lives. Not to mention the total destabilization of the Middle East.
(Inserted today: It should be noted that Iraq has been known as the “Cradle Of civilization,” and in the late 4th millennium BC Iraq was host to the world’s first writing system and recorded history. It was the first to harness the wheel, create city-states and provide a record of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, written law, medicine and organized religion. Not bad. And it should be noted that in the year 2001 Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11).
Back to 2006, I also wrote: “You may recall the 2002 Brit Downing Street Memo, which expressed concern the U.S. — ‘was determined to invade Iraq and that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy by the Bush administration to fit it’s desire to go to war.’
“Most recently reported: On December 15, 2006 a Mr. Came Ross, Britain’s key negotiator at the UN, gave testimony referring to a previously suppressed document which made clear that PM Tony Blair knew Saddam Hussein did not possess dangerous WMDs; that while he, Ross, was posted to the UN, ‘At no time did Her Majesty’s government assess that Iraq’s WMDs posed a threat to the UK or its interests.’ Ross further stated ‘…we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that regime change was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.’”
Chaos,crisis,opportunity,contracts,money.Perfect. The natural order.
Sept 2007, when I wrote: “The lies, the deception formulated in the oval office as part of the policy of the preemptive invasion of Iraq; to grab the oil, to own a part of the Middle East, and to use this as a stepping stone into Iran. A corporate war in the guise of our national interests, directed away from the will of the people which had morally invested itself in the fight in Afghanistan. A war cynically wrapped in religion and the American flag and supported by both Republicans and weak-willed Democrats. An immoral policy created secretly by intellectual neo-con sneaks like Messrs Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle. Men who crept away after the miserable failures of their think-tank orgies, afraid to suffer the same public humiliation of a wrong-headed Donald Rumsfeld. The man who brushed off Mid East scholars warning of post invasion chaos, and who referred with contempt to ‘Old Europe’ because European leaders saw through the fantasies of ‘WMDs,’ ‘Mushroom Clouds,’ ‘The Plan For Victory,’ ‘Mission Accomplished’ and ‘Operation Forward together.’ All of which has continued because it was allowed to happen by both political parties.”
So it went, and so it goes.
Bush said, “We have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here.” Sound familiar? Like today’s hawks yearning to put more than “advisory boots” on the ground against ISIS?
Today, Turkey remains a democracy while a dictatorial Syria is ripped by a civil war. On the edge of a Turkish town called Karkamis, a place that would be quite familiar to T. E. Lawrence, there is a wall dividing the two countries. On the Syrian side ISIS loudspeakers issue a call to jihad.
Prior to ISIS:
A step back to the Cold War, to “Containment:” An unrelenting and deeply implanted point of view in American policy, which was to contain the Soviet Union at all costs. Adherence to Containment and Domino Theory ultimately led to US intervention in Vietnam, as well as in Central America and Grenada. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, this was seen by the CIA as an opportunity to frustrate them and deplete their treasure, so “Operation Cyclone” was created to fund resistance.
Skipping the current mind numbing, and seemingly endless, breakdown complexities of the political, religious, tribal and geographical warlord factions, and who partners with whom (and who can keep up?) I present the simplest facts of the beginning, into which we stuck our Western noses:
The Pashtun Taliban originated from the Madrasa schools and formed as a group to resist the Soviets. “al-Qaeda” translated, means “The Base,” pertaining to the military training base in Afghanistan where al-Qaeda was formed in 1988, with ideology derived in part from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Primarily a rejection of Western ideas and an expansion of Sharia Law. (Similar to our rejection and fear of communism?) Some training was provided by China And Pakistan. Some support from Iran. Billions of dollars were provided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and so on. Oh, and President Reagan authorized a thousand surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Soviet aircraft; and in the end that pretty much did it for the Soviets. Wiped out, a depletion of human and material treasure, a screwed economy.
And then we left al-Qaeda and the Taliban to ferment in their own juices until 9/11; at which point Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld returned with American boots on the ground. Trouble is, they didn’t stay long enough, in force, to bring down the alleged target, Osama Bin laden. Instead they shifted west, passing over Iran, and engaged in Shock And Awe, bombing the shit out of the Iraqi people who had nothing to do with 9/11. Following this we engaged in the abuse of our ultimately traumatized troops with endless redeployments. Fine young men, a mere one percent of our population, returning home and having to depend on charity, mind you; some of whom kill themselves on a daily basis while waiting for help, hearing: “Thank you for your service” from mealy-mouth politicians who represent the other one percent so comfortably removed from the blood and guts of combat.
In every mind-fucking war there are atrocities on both sides, including ours. But it is today’s American soldiers, above all, who have inserted honesty, integrity and honor into the moral vacuum
The Iraq war? Greed-driven unfeeling calculation creating: Chaos, crisis, opportunity, contracts, money. Perfect.
These quotes are from the mouths of government experts on Pentagon/contractor crime:
In his book, “The Pentagon Wars,” 1993, whistleblower James G. Burton, Air Force colonel retired, scrutinized weapons purchases while posted inside the Pentagon. He said moral and ethical corruption, incompetence and overweening ambition characterized the process. The pentagon’s spending of public money is a dirty business, has nothing to do with national defense. Deception and secrecy are valuable currency. “Sadly, I have seen program managers lie to high level review boards, generals lie to civilians, civilians lie to generals, and both lie to Congress and the American Public.” He witnessed extraordinary fraud. “…buying weapons…in the Pentagon is …corrupt—ethically and morally…top to bottom…few checks and balances….” The Pentagon tried to shoot the messenger but the colonel kept on talking, exposing, before ultimately retiring in disgust. Click the following URL to watch the 1998 HBO movie, a satirical interpretation of the Colonel’s book. http://rahulabhyankar.com/2012/08/20/the-pentagon-wars-a-product-management-disaster/
Next: Whistleblower Earnest Fitzgerald, ex U.S. Navy, and an engineer, served in U.S. government from 1965 to 2006. A member of the Senior Executive Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air force for Financial Management and Comptroller: management controls, cost effectiveness, statistical programs and analysis, etc., etc.—too long a list. Quoting Fitzgerald: “Government officials, from the majestic office of the president to the lowest, sleaziest procurement office, lie routinely and with impunity in defense of the system,” and “the combination of loose procurement rules and government acquiescence in rip-offs leaves many a crook untouched.” In 1968 he testified in congress about a 2.3 billion cost overrun in the Lockheed C-5 aircraft program, and others too numerous for this text. President Nixon told aides to “get rid of that son of a bitch.” A Lockheed employee told Fitzgerald: “The government doesn’t really need this stuff. It’s just a way to get rich quick.” Fitzgerald said, “A defense contract is just a license to steal.”
So this is the ongoing natural order, from Rome to Iraq, today’s brand of evil inserted so completely into the moral vacuum, it has nearly overwhelmed the honor of our soldiers’ dedication to duty. Pentagon-loving Bush/Cheney bribed by defense contractors, sucked the monetary juices out of Iraq and the American taxpayers, while creating a seismic fracture that reversed the tribal/religious poles of Suni/Shia, thereby releasing through the ensuing fissures a host of dangerously vengeful religious factions, not only bent on killing each other, but especially all infidel Americans. They then proceeded to put in place an incompetent, extremely partisan leader, and trained an Iraqi Army with soldiers that couldn’t believe in their own government–throwing down their weapons when faced with the latest committed enemy: ISIS.
Yes, ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Formed in 2013, originally a jihadi extremist franchise of al-Qaeda, it is violently anti-West, anti anything and anyone that opposes it’s fundamentalist beliefs; and in case we didn’t understand this, in addition to killing men, women and children, it employs the cutting off heads to prove it. A virulent rage and madness so extreme it was disowned by al-Qaeda; and that’s saying something. It is axiomatic, that when a country is overwhelmed in a disaster, and bereft of law and order, the biggest threat to society becomes the rise of the most extreme elements: those immune to authority who are not afraid to use violence to achieve whatever ends they have in mind. ISIS.
President Obama is faced with the crazy-making no-win insanity of side-switching merges of terrorist groups, (think ISIS and al-Qaeda) and bombing or not bombing murderous enemies who become the enemy of our enemies, while suffering the support of oil-soaked allies who fund some of the terror groups that are plaguing the West. No matter what the President decides he will be targeted by the usual far-right loudmouth hawks whose souls are the mere playthings of lions.
So Obama wants to stop ISIS with air strikes, sensibly wants to avoid inserting troops, beyond advisory boots on the ground. But pressure will mount from generals to send thousands, perhaps fifty to a hundred-thousand, to do the job; and I don’t doubt the truth of that need. Trouble is, in that fractured part of the world, the need has now become eternal. A need if filled that will continually drain America’s treasure while filling the coffers of the Pentagon’s friends. The truth is, whether we send troops or not, if ISIS wants to send terrorists, or encourage maddened homegrown lone wolves—they will.
Remember how President Kennedy tried to heed his predecessor, President Eisenhower, who warned him of the military industrial complex? No? To remind you–when Kennedy infuriated the military by not sending aircraft to support the Bay Of Pigs ops, back-channel negotiated with Khrushchev to avoid a nuclear apocalypse, tried to avoid sending more than advisory troops to Viet Nam–where did that get him? Dead. And so it goes.
The natural order of things.
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Martin J. Ryan
OTHER WRITING: http://www.MartinJRyan.com