Sunday, February 26, 2006

in the empire of bubbles

From the NYT Week in Review:

“Iraq is less a nation than an artificial entity drawn created by the British. In recent years, only the brutality of Saddam Hussein held its parts together.”

1. Actually, all parts of the Ottoman empire, after it collapsed, were artificial entities. Followed in the order of history by the artificial entity of Israel. Saudi Arabia is an artifice created by the brute force of the Saud family. Lebanon and Syria were created, jointly, by the French and the British, but the easy overflow of Syria into Lebanon did not prompt any such recollective comments by the NYT. The most ‘natural’ entity in the Middle East is Iran – and in 1991, we saved the most artificial entity in the entire area, Kuwait.

2. The brutality of Saddam Hussein actually tore things asunder instead of holding things together. Under Iraq’s king, and the military that overthrew the king, and the Baathists that succeeded that military, Iraq endured and actually prospered, in spite of the Sunni dominance. It was only when Hussein decided to rule using his tribe and persecuting to the utmost the Shi’ites and the Kurds that Iraq fell apart. This is the kind of reversal of history that we’ve just grown used to in the American press. They can’t get it right even when they try to repair what they couldn’t get right before.

3. It might be that Iraq will come apart, no matter what, after Saddam Hussein seeded grievances over the whole Mesopotamian landscape. But that the U.S. invaders participate in this will only blow up in American faces.

4. U.S. should be discussing timetables for transporting the troops out like next month.

5. Because that won’t happen, and because, by a mysterious spiritual law, the incompetence of this White House doubles every six months – bring the popcorn for 06’s hurricane season - the next couple months will lock the Americans in even more, with both parties complicit in this crime against the national interest, as – of course – the allies of Al Qaeda become even more powerful in Pakistan and Bangladesh, due to the “war against the terrorism and not against actual terrorists” policies of the Rumsfeld era. Of course, what is actually happening is what empires do when they confront problems they don’t understand – the U.S. has basically being paying tribute to Pakistan since 9/11, and that is, indirectly, tribute to Osama bin Laden. Tribute won’t solve this problem forever.
6. Nobody seems to want to talk about opportunity costs. That doesn't mean there aren't opportunity costs.

From Ahmed Rashid's article in the WAPO about Pakistan:
“Bin Laden's new friendship zone stretches nearly 2,000 miles along Pakistan's Pashtun belt -- from Chitral in the Northern Areas near the Chinese border, south through the troubled tribal agencies including Waziristan, down to Zhob on the Balochistan border, then to the provincial capital Quetta and southwest to the Iranian border. …

Al Qaeda's money, inspiration and organizational abilities have helped turn Pakistan's Pashtun belt into the extremist base it is today, but U.S. and Pakistani policies have helped more. Although the Taliban and al Qaeda extremists were routed from Afghanistan by U.S. forces, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's refusal to put enough U.S. troops on the ground let the extremists escape and regroup in Pakistan's Pashtun belt. …
What followed was a disaster: For 27 months after the fall of the Taliban regime, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Washington's closest ally in the region, allowed the extremists free rein in the Pashtun tribal areas to re-establish training camps for militants who had escaped Afghanistan. These included Arabs, Central Asians, Chechens, Kashmiris, Africans, Uighurs and a smattering of East Asians. It was a mini-replay of the gathering in Afghanistan after bin Laden arrived there in 1996.

Musharraf did capture some Arab members of al Qaeda, but he avoided the Taliban because he was convinced that the U.S.-led coalition forces would not stay long in Afghanistan. He wanted to maintain the Taliban as a strategic option in case Afghanistan dissolved into civil war and chaos again. The army also protected extremist Kashmiri groups who had trained in Afghanistan before 9/11 and now had to be repositioned.”

And so on and on. I fought the war and the war won.

6. Interestingly, in the four articles about Osama bin Laden in the WAPO, the three by Americans all casually repeat the Bush phrase that Osama bin Laden is on the run. The phrase is a blatant lie. The repetition of the phrase, however, is unconscious -- the context shows that, since all of the pieces recognize that Osama is no more on the run than Bush is, who is HQed in D.C. and lives in Crawford, Texas. Funny, nobody calls the Rebel in Chief "on the run" for living in the White House. American journalism is so out of touch with the reality that they are supposed to be reporting on that they pre-censor it.

It is in those terms that we love the fact that all the American contributions are anxious to assure us that Osama is harmless, basically, a defanged man, his poll results going down. None dwells on that rather humiliating fact that under the current administration he not only got away, he has flourished -- and is no more injured than he was in Sudan, or than he was when he first arrived in Afghanistan from Sudan. The on the run talk, of course, conceals that he was "on the run" when 9/11 happened. I mean, why risk getting out of the narrative?

None of them, too, inquire too closely about the nexus between Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Islamist parties.

1 comment:

Roger Gathmann said...
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