People are forgetful. What is worse is that people’s memories of events change over time, taking on biases, being colored by other later events, and in general completely muddling the past beyond recognition. This is why we make lists and invented post-it notes, and also why we have written records and history.
There is a war on, and the past is being twisted to justify heinous deeds. With that in mind, let’s look at the recent justifications for Osama Bin-Laden’s terror campaign and America’s involvement in the Middle East.
Kissing the Kaaba: US Forces in Saudi Arabia
This is Osama’s number one justification for blowing things up. So why are we there aside from the obvious ($1.50/gallon gas).
During the Summer of 1990 Iraq complained bitterly that Kuwait was flooding the market with oil in contravention of an OPEC agreement to limit production to boost prices. In July 1990, Iraq began a buildup of forces north of Kuwait and ordered Kuwait to stop drilling into an underground oil deposit shared by both nations. On the morning of August 2, 1990 Iraqi forces entered Kuwait. The following day Iraqi forces pursued escaping Kuwaiti forces into the neutral zone separating Saudi Arabia from its northern neighbors. During the first days after the invasion, it became clear that a military invasion of the desert kingdom was imminent. It was prevented after Saudi Arabia appealed to the USA for immediate help, which the US provided. Repeated requests for the nature of the invasion and warning against invading Saudi Arabia were issued by the US government to Iraq. Iraq responded saying that the invasion into Kuwait was temporary and its forces would be leaving within days. As US forces poured into bases in Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi regime clarified that it had no intention on invading that desert kingdom.
Iraqi forces did not leave Iraq until the following February when they were driven out by the American-lead invasion of Kuwait. It was later learned during the questioning of Iraqi commanders that Iraqi forces were intent on taking Saudi Arabia, and had expected no US interference until after the nation had been secured by Iraqi forces. Without the forward bases in Saudi Arabia, the US would not have been able to field a large force to dislodge Saddam from the captured territories, and Iraq would have had control over most of the world’s oil supply. This had been prevented by the unexpected swift response by US forces in the region.
For those of you with active imaginations, feel free to ponder what a Saudi Arabia ruled by Saddam Hussein would be like. It kind of puts a new spin on Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s recent remarks about the attacks – since he would have been one of the first forced into exile at the front of an advancing Iraqi tank column.
The 80’s: AIDS in USA, Vx gas in Northern Iraq
While we’re talking about Iraq, let’s recall one of the greatest instances where Muslims have shown they don’t need to kill Jews or other infidels. They do a pretty good job of killing each other.
Saddam Hussein invaded Iran on September 22, 1980 on the pretext of a territorial dispute over the Shatt al Arab, a waterway that empties into the Persian Gulf and forms the boundary between Iran and Iraq. Iranian resistance eventually kicked Iraqi forces out of Iran in 1982, but the Ayatollah Khomeini vowed to continue fighting until Saddam’s regime was toppled. The Iranian offensive was strong enough to force the Iraqis to use poison gas.
US and European participation in the war began in 1987 when Iran began attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf, damaging Iran’s reputation and making it harder to purchase arms.
Estimates of dead range upwards to 1.5 million but are generally figured to be around 500,000 the majority of which were Iranian. Contrast this with the casualties suffered during the invasion, occupation, and liberation of Kuwait:
|Iraq – military|
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Allied – civilian
Sides in the dispute:
Osama: Defender of Innocent Children
Osama claims that America’s suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the Iraqi children. While his sentiment may appear noble to some, it makes others wonder why a man with $300 million of his own personal wealth, as well as access to billions of dollars of others hasn’t done more to alleviate this suffering in more direct ways, say by building hospitals instead of filling them by blowing up people. After all, his own personal wealth would give the families of the half-million children UNICEF estimates died between 1991 – 1998 $600 – a huge sum in a desperately poor nation.
However there is little doubt that the sanctions meant to cage Iraq have backfired by providing a propaganda victory to Saddam and Osama. “(UNICEF Executive Director Carol) Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.” Source: UNICEF 1999 Press Release
The Economist magazine notes that sanctions are not completely to blame: “The true cause of those deaths is Saddam. Although sanctions contribute to his country’s impoverishment, it is he who has chosen to restrict the distribution of food and medicine that is permitted by them, and facilitated by an “oil-for-food” programme, both directly and by siphoning off some of the resources for himself.”( The Economist, October 4, 2001, “The Propaganda War”) Such resources include “Italian marble, videos, perfume, leather jackets,” (Source: then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes via Slate.com: “Are One Million Children Dying In Iraq?”, October 9, 2001) .
Support for the Palestinians
As the Economist notes, “In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against America, Israel ranks last—after America’s “occupation” of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war and its continuing attacks on Iraq—among the three causes he gives for his war against America. His first big atrocity, the bombing in 1998 of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, coincided with a time of unusual optimism in the Israel-Palestine peace process, well before the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada. He has shown scant interest in the Palestinians; and they, to their credit, have so far shown scant interest in him.”(The Economist, October 4, 2001, “The Unblessed Peacemaker”)
Much has been made by the Arab regimes and Western Leftists over American support for Israel. For a detailed look, visit this link. Little has been made about the fact that the Middle East isn’t a very nice place. There are no Canada’s, Great Britain’s, or even Mexico’s there which are steadfast, reliable allies. Most states within the region have checkered pasts or problems of one sort or another. Nevertheless America has to deal with the regimes which are friendly towards it, and try to minimize the danger presented by those regimes that aren’t. Israel is the closest thing to a normal democracy in the entire region, and it’s only natural that the world’s largest democracy would take an interest in one of the world’s smallest – regardless of the power wielded by the domestic Jewish constituency.
To protest American troops on Saudi sand, Osama blows up two embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing scores of impoverished Africans. In support of the dying Iraqi children he explodes planes carrying children into buildings where the parents of children are working. To help net the Palestinians a state he blows up a ship in Oman.
Doesn’t it seem that the real reason behind the attacks is that Osama likes to blow things up?
America and its allies must work quickly to “drain the swamp” that breeds terrorists and allows fundamentalists to hijack Islam. To do this it must back in its own history to see what has worked in the past. The current state of affairs resembles Weimar Germany in 1933. At that time America was completely disengaged from world affairs, and the globe was firmly on the path to war. The specter of fascism was rising but had not yet consolidated its hold on the imaginations of those it claimed to empower.
If America and its later allies had acted quickly to neutralize Hitler and the Nazi party before Germany had rearmed, and most importantly, before the Nazi Party had tightened its grip on the German mindset, the ensuing war could have been avoided. If this assassination of Hitler had been followed by The Marshall Plan to rebuild the world economy and rebuild the foundation of German democracy and identity, a prosperous Germany in the 1930s would have been the best bulwark against fascism and later, Communism in Europe.
Such is the case today. While destroying Osama and the Taliban we must rebuild a more prosperous Middle East. September 11 has shown America the results of the “benign neglect” it has practiced in the entire region, and there is no safe escape from a region P.J. O’Rourke has called “God’s monkey-house”. The only solution is to militarily obliterate our foes while employing the dreaded “nation-building” on a scale never seen before. We must begin by winning the war in the air, the war on the ground, and the war for the hearts and minds of those in the region.
MSNBC – “No Holy War Here: Refuting Osama’s big lie with evidence of America’s restraint” – Michael Moran