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<nettime> Media Watch 5
Ivo Skoric on Mon, 15 Oct 2001 07:59:26 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Media Watch 5


After a week of ferocious bombing campaign in Afghanistan, and alleged 
hundreds, maybe thousands of civilian death toll, and at least one cruise 
missile that hit the wrong target - as admitted on CNN - Al Qaeda 
spokespersons (they dispensed of their Taliban proxies by now) 
continue to submit their taped daily messages of hate to Al Jazeera TV 
office in Kabul. While the US and many Western networks do not, for 
obvious reasons, re-broadcast those tapes, there is no way around 
acknowledging their existence suggesting that Al Qaeda is indeed alive 
and unharmed.

Here we have a situation where not only bad guys hijacked the whole 
country, but the good guys so far focused on killing the hostages in 
order to storm their way through to the bad guys, which so far remained 
untouched. This situation is unacceptable both from the humanitarian 
and military point of view. On top of that, anthrax spores continue to 
appear sporadically at the US news media. And the US government 
rhetoric approaches the Taliban level: the 'evil one' is generated to 
match the 'great satan'. Also, the public support for military action was 
never that high in any country except for Israel and the US, and now it 
starts to dwindle.

So, there are the results of the first week:

1) Pakistan is nearly gone. One, maybe two more weeks like this and 
military and intelligence in Pakistan are going to split and start in-
fighting, just as it happened in (former) Yugoslavia ten years ago. And in 
ten years from now, maybe we are going to write about the former 
Pakistan.

2) US government was quick to recognize rights of Palestinians to a state 
- because that right does not affect the US, it affects just Israel. On the 
other hand on the issues of sanctions against Iraq and even more about 
the military presence in Saudi Arabia - where US interests are directly at 
stake - the US is rather silent. 

3) But, Saudi Arabia already turned around and disallowed US use of the 
military bases there to launch attacks against anybody. Again - both 
from political and from military standpoint, what sense does it make for 
the US to keep its military bases in a country where is clearly unwelcome 
by the majority of population, particularly if they cannot use those bases 
anyway? Isn't this a message to the US to leave Saudi Arabia and let the 
princes taste what French royalty had experienced in 1789? 

Historically, in a long term it was always less costly for the US to "lose" 
than to "win" - just check the costs of protecting the division of Korea, 
versus no costs of having good trade relations with modern Vietnam. Or 
check how much it cost to 'contain' Saddam Hussein's anger and 
ambitions of a betrayed former ally, versus how much it does not cost to 
slowly renew the cozy relations with mullah-run Iran.

Obviously, with a rather unsuccessful first week, extending the bombing 
campaign to other countries (Iraq? Al Jazeera TV in Qatar?) would be 
disastrous and perhaps lead to the end of the grand coalition. Actually, it 
would be good to stop even "the usual" bombing of Iraq right now. 
Otherwise, large number of Arab countries might be lost. Russia might 
become colder. European countries with exception of Britain might 
become much more cautious, slowly withdrawing their support. And 
China might renew its criticism of the US.

4) On the streets of Europe the citizens are already expressing their 
disapproval: the largest demonstrations in England since the cold war 
took place in London. Thousands demonstrated in Berlin and in Paris. 
More demonstrated in other large European cities. Just a week of 
bombing in Afghanistan and streets of Europe look like during the 
Pershing crisis in mid-eighties (when people demonstrated against the 
deployment of Soviet and American mid-range missiles in Europe - 
Pershing II, Cruise missiles on the Western side and SS-20 on the 
Eastern side). 

Of course, American TV networks did not show those demonstrations, 
but that's why God created BBC. There were also anti-war 
demonstrations in New York city, slightly smaller than their European 
counterparts, marching from the Washington Square to the Union 
Square. Of six American major TV news networks, one reported on them 
(FOX), even airing one protester saying how US foreign policy was 
largely to blame for what happened. Isn't Fox owned by that Australian 
dude, Murdoch? Is that why the Congress grilled him about taking over 
Fox - for the fear that one major TV network would slip under the spiritual 
guidance of the genuine American moneyed patrician class?

-/-

In his address to the world, after the first day of bombing, Osama Bin 
Laden mentioned "80 years of humiliation." So, I used Kinder and 
Hilgemann The Anchor Atlas of World History Volume II to track some 
of the past 80 years in the Arab world region, to try to see what did he 
mean by that sentence. In this cold war book countries leaning towards 
socialist model were labeled 'authoritarian republics' - while the 
countries accepting free markets (like Turkey) were labeled just 
'republics.' It is therefore possible to assume that such a book would not 
be biased to favor the Arab world point of view.

My impression is that British and French diplomats were doing with 
Arabs in the Middle East the same what their American soft-spoken 
counterparts were doing with American natives in the Mid-West. There 
is a series of promises and betrayals, treaties and re-treaties, that were 
designed to divide the region in a dozen fighting feudal 
entities/"reservations" following the collapse of the Ottoman rule, 
enabling Western powers to offer 'help' in return fort concessions - most 
obviously sought in connection with the oil exploration. After the 
second world war, considerable care was taken to prevent establishment 
of Arab Federation, which would threaten Western oil interests in the 
region. It seems that the very creation of the State of Israel was approved 
by the Western diplomats to create a wedge in the Arab world. In the 
other words,  Jews were given a state that was pre-destined to be 
engulfed in a constant struggle.

Nation state building in 19th century Europe was accompanied with Anti-
Semitism. The Anti-Semitism helped launch Zionist project as a reaction. 
Lord Balfour's pledge for establishment of a national home for Jews in 
Palestine was issued to address the Zionist struggle. It was 1917. It took 
31 years for Britain to deliver on that promise. Actually, in 1939, Britain 
issued a White Paper limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine, prompting 
a raise of Jewish terrorist organizations (Irgun Zwai Leumi). It took World 
War II, Hitler and holocaust, where Jews in Palestine obviously sided 
with Allies, while Arabs, then, also obviously, albeit unfortunately, sided 
with Axis, for Brits to deliver on their promise. And then it was done only 
in the service of the cold war interests - to prevent the formation of the 
Arab Federation among the states which had socialist leaning 
governments.

Merely a notion that Britain was able to give such promises means that 
Britain was in the position of power in the Arab world 80 years ago - not 
the local people, Arabs, but the British empire controlled the rights in the 
region. What now is called United Arab Emirates was then called Pirate 
Coast and was under protection of the British. In 1916 British high 
commissioner MaMahon made an agreement with Sherif Hussein of 
Mecca, king of Hejaz - sherif promised to help British against Ottomans 
and the commissioner promised independence for Hejaz. Guess who did 
not keep his promise. From 1924-1932 'the trouble out of Nejd' - 
Wahabbist family Ibn Saud - came and ousted Sherif Hussein, took 
control of both Mecca and Medina and established the kingdom of Saudi 
Arabia, with blessings first from Britain and then (and now) from the U.S.

Also in 1916: Britain and France agreed secretly (Sykes-Picot note) to 
divide Arab nations among themselves - almost as kids would divide 
imaginary properties in some Monopoli type game - with Mesopotamia, 
Jordan and Palestine going to Britain and Syria going to France. This 
was reiterated in San Remo conference 1920. The only problem left to 
resolve was sharing the rich petroleum fields of Iraq (Kuwait was already 
under British 'protection', as were Bahrain, Qatar, and the Pirate Coast). 
This was done by Treaty of Mosul in 1921 - Iraq Petroleum Co. was 
formed with 52.5% of British interest and 21-25% each for French and 
Americans. Local interests were not even considered as valid. It is as if 
locals did not exist. Note the percentage - suggesting who was still the 
super-power at that times.  The 1921 was also marked by the Treaty of 
Kabul, which indeed gave Afghanistan independence, which quickly 
descended to civil unrest and violence.

The conclusion shows the same pattern: Western powers imposed 
themselves with their superior technology and economy over the 
remnants of the dying, underdeveloped Ottoman empire. They invested 
only in things that were of interest to their economic prosperity, 
excluding majority of local population from the profits. In the process the 
local infrastructure did develop as a side effect and local rulers acquired 
riches. However, since they were initially excluded from the processes of 
dividing the riches between the foreign powers, those issues remained 
unresolved and subject to violent disputes among them. Also, the vast 
inequality became a constant source of instability and threat for the local 
rulers, who then developed a client relationship with foreign powers in 
order to stay in power. With the collapse of British power, most of its 
'mandate' was transferred to the U.S. With the end of the cold war, the 
US became overwhelmed with the region. The control of oil production is 
important for the US economy. But even the US can't sit at the same time 
on 5 or even more chairs. The US support of Zionism (one chair that they 
seemingly cannot leave) makes that even more difficult. Finally, it is not 
strange that Arabs would attack the US, it is strange that they did not do 
it earlier.

However, Al Qaeda is just riding on the wave of justified anger to 
achieve its own darker goals. Why attacks on the American soil? When 
it should have been obvious that this would provoke a larger conflict? 
Unless, of course, the larger conflict was precisely what was desired? 
Why would Al Qaeda invest in such monstrous attacks like the WTC 
disaster? What do they hope to achieve? One thing that pops up is that 
they may want to provoke the US into anti-Islamic reaction that would as 
a consequence provoke the Islamic fundamentalist uprisings in the large 
number of Arab states. Eventually, those groups would then capture 
control of some of those countries, pledging allegiance to Al Qaeda 
"confederation." This would put Osama and his pals in control of 
immense riches. Which would "justify" his horrendous WTC gambit (the 
word justify is here, obviously, used in a pure military/diplomatic "great 
game" sense). Al Qaeda may be won only by taking away its following, 
i.e. by turning the Islamic fundamentalist youth in Arab world away from 
them. Military victory, if achievable, would be just temporary, because it 
would not deal with the underlying problem of dissatisfaction. It is good 
that American government recognizes that in its rhetoric - it is bad, 
however, that it does not act upon this recognition, but rather following 
the 'standard procedure.'

Ivo Skoric

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