We need to see the “big picture” here….
The problem with the U.S. supporting Mubarak is that, as of late, his human rights record is atrocious. I realize that we support many other oppressive/suppressive regimes around the world, but we must learn from our mistakes: here, i.e., supporting Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Shah was also our friend, but his oppressive regime resulted in the rise of Islamic nationalism, and supporting him gave fuel to the Islamist takeover by the Shi’a fundamentalist Grand AyatollahSayyed Ruhollah Mostafavi Moosavi Khomeini and his followers.
We have always paid a heavy price when we dabble in the internal national affairs of other countries. It is the U.S. that, in its short-sighted policy, decided to counteract the Iranian revolution by supporting, financing and arming Saddam Hussein in Iraq (the guy we later attacked and helped execute) because he was the “doorstop” to the Iranian fundamentalists. Although Iraq’s population is predominantly Shi’a and was at the time Saddam rose to power, he was Sunni (although he was mostly secular in his governance).
We promoted democracy in Lebanon, opening the door to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Same for the Iranian-backed Hamas in the Palestinian territories. The Muslim Brotherhood is active in Egypt. This is where Al Qaeda was born. Until we learn from our mistakes we will continue to fuel anti-American sentiment and outright terrorism in the Middle East.
America as peace-broker?
We cannot wage wars of choice and play policeman for the world anymore. We probably never should have tried in the first place, because it reeks of hubris. However, even if we should get involved in the affairs of other nations, what are the express criteria? And, further, who should get to decide? Isn’t that what the United Nations’ purpose is? If it is not working, then we need to fix it; if it can’t be fixed, it needs to officially be scrapped, pure and simple.
The bottom line is that we cannot regain our position of strength diplomatically until we rebuild our economy. This requires us to get out of debt, and that is directly linked to (a) getting control of the value of our currency; and (b) overcoming our addiction to a finite energy source: oil, and foreign oil in particular. The real answer for the U.S. to our Middle East problem is to convert our economy and energy from oil to sustainable, domestically produced fuel. And, yes, before you say it, we aren’t there right this very minute in time, but we’ll never get there until we get serious about converting from an oil-based energy policy and build a green economy.
Until then, we are funding terrorism every time we fill up at the pump. This would be the most effective way to protect Israel as well. If the demand for oil is drastically reduced, market forces will drive the price of oil down, which will help our allies in Western Europe as well. Russia’s intervention into the national affairs of Georgia and other former Soviet states for the purposes of controlling the oil pipeline will have less effect. And, finally, the planet will have less air pollution to filter.
Lower oil prices also mean lower cost of goods that require transport by ship, train, air or truck. This means our money will have greater purchase strength. Lower cost of goods means we can be more competitive in open international markets. This increases our GDP, and the ripple effect encompasses American service companies as well, since a lower cost of living means wages can stabilize or even go lower without penalty to American labor as purchase power increases.
Until we rebuild our economic strength, we cannot negotiate diplomatically from a position of strength or moral integrity. It’s hard to tell the government of a country on whose oil you depend for daily functioning that they must treat their citizens fairly when you know they could bring your economy to its knees by cutting you off.
And that is why we have, in our short-sightedness, supported tyrannical dictators and monarchs and contributed to our bad image abroad, especially in the Middle East. When it comes to Egypt, Tunisia or any other of the Arab states fearing political turmoil, the U.S. is, at best, playing in the minor leagues. Why? Because our only play is to use our military strength to impose our will. We cannot win friends and influence people to whom we are beholden for oil or loans. Hence, we cannot do much more than offer behind the scenes pleas or encouragement to either party.
The reason the protestors are still out there protesting is because there is no definitive predominant leader representing the protestors as a group, at least not one they have full faith and confidence in. Further, negotiations with the Egyptian government have been covert. If they knew what the plan was and who was to lead, they might buy in. Right now, they believe that Mubarak is just “starving them out” and trying to suck the Oxygen out of their protest efforts. They do not have faith in the Muslim Brotherhood or the Vice President to act on their behalf. They know that if the journalists leave Egypt, the crack down will happen just like it did in Iran, where journalists were denied access and knew they would be imprisoned or killed if they showed what was really going on.
As far as the U.S. is concerned, the worst possible outcome is to give power to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists. That has been the disastrous outcome in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Blaming the Israelis won’t work!
Israel is not the problem. Israel is the scapegoat that Islamic extremists conveniently use to unite their oppressed population — a population which they themselves are oppressing – in an almost identical way that Hitler used the Jews to unite Germany and distract their attention from the real issues and root causes. The original name for the Palestinian people was Trans-Jordanian. That is because the Palestinian Territories, as it exists now, was where Jordan deported and contained all the political groups that they didn’t want or couldn’t deal with.
Israel has long since agreed to support a Palestinian state under the condition that they agree not to export terrorism and stop attacking Israel. Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas don’t want a Palestinian state to actually materialize because that would take the Oxygen out of their political movement, which is international, not national, in scope, and which main tactic is to foment terrorism.
Most of the nations that we talk about (like Iraq) did not exist as national groups until after WWI and even later. The societies and whatever passed for governance then were tribal and imperial. The reality is that Arab society has never been nationalistic, but rather, tribalistic, and until we understand how their culture works now and its history, attempts to unite diverse and opposing tribes into a national group with shared goals and aspirations and respect for diversity, we are doomed to failure. We have been trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear for decades now with little or no lasting success.
We talk about democracy, but our government is not a pure democracy, it is a representative democracy. Additionally, there is a pre-democratic process, if you will, and certain social structures that are required prior to establishing a democracy or representative democracy in order to be successful. Our founding fathers realized that preparation was the key, and that the more distance and obstacles you put between the people and the final outcome of their representatives negotiating a compromise would prevent mob rule fueled by mob hysteria. You have to have the social structures, especially free and responsible journalism and an educated public that knows how to analyze the information they receive, before you can have a sustainable democratic government. Thoughtful public discourse about what the needs of “We the People” actually are, what kind of government services, controls and balance of power is needed, and how to protect minority rights and allow dissent I critical to a functioning democracy. Most of the Middle East does not have a sense of nationalism or a real understanding of the “messy” intricacies of democracy and how to avoid the pitfalls of strong men, organized crime and terrorist groups taking over the process. That was the result in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories with Hezbollah and Hamas.
The sad thing is that, at this point, most of the Middle East is so suspicious of our motives (however pure, and they often are not), because they know the bottom line is that it’s all about oil as far as our business community is concerned, and it is Big Business money that drives elections and produces leaders who drive policy that is responsive to the short-term needs of their benefactors. While our population sacrifices our young men and women over there, oil prices go up with no justification, oil companies make huge profits while we pay the tab on two costly wars.
And we cannot act in good conscience based on what is truly best for the Middle East or ourselves, long-term, as long as we are dependent on their oil.
Granted, there are many extreme fundamentalist Christian groups in the U.S. that want to legislate morality “God-style” — at least their interpretation of what God wants. And they would be just as happy to “get rid of” gays and lesbians, psychiatrists, etc., censor valid literature, music and works of art; and push rigid parental control over schools and curriculum in a very oppressive way — most people would consider what their version of a proper education is to be brain-washing, programming and propaganda. We cannot single out Islam exclusively as the only culprit of religious and cultural intolerance.
Religious extremists are the new barbarians of the world — that is what religion-based terrorists are, you know, technologically adept barbarians using religion as a shield to hide behind and deflect responsibility for their barbaric acts. Whether it is an Arab suicide bomber blowing up a bus in Israel or a Roman Catholic priest encouraging parishioners to shoot doctors that work in women’s clinics offering legal abortions, the tactic is the same, and it is all based on intolerance and lack of respect for other religions, cultures and ideologies.
The political arm of terror
Unlike Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, which are purely Islamic terrorist groups trying to develop a political face, the Muslim Brotherhood is the political face for a far more fundamentalist set of Islamic terrorist organizations that crosses national boundaries and gets funding from the wealthy oil nations and from Western Europe and America as well. The easiest comparison I can come up with is the relationship between the political party in Ireland, Sinn Fein, and its militant/terrorist group the Provisional IRA. The difference is that Ireland has long had a sense of national identity, although there is a less pervasive sense of tribe there, historically.
However, unlike Sinn Fein/IRA, the stated goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is not nationalistic in nature, but rather, to spread Islam throughout the world, establish Sharia Law and unite all Islamic states under the Caliphate — to take over the world, in effect. This would serve to outlaw all other religions and turn women and children into property owned by men. The Taliban is the most extreme version of this concept (they don’t even allow women to attend school), and Iran is a somewhat less extreme example. Women can attend school, but if you were around after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, you will remember seeing women beaten in the streets by cultural police:
Within months of the founding of the Islamic Republic the 1967 Family Protection Law was repealed, female government workers were forced to observe Islamic dress code, women were barred from becoming judges, beaches and sports were sex-segregated, the marriage age for girls was reduced to 13 and married women were barred from attending regular schools. Women began almost immediately to protest and have won some reversals of policies in the years since. Inequality for women in inheritance and other areas of the civil code remain. Segregation of the sexes, from “schoolrooms to ski slopes to public buses”, is strictly enforced. Females caught by revolutionary officials in a mixed-sex situation can be subject to virginity tests.
Women may also be sentenced to fines, beatings, or even death if they are found to be engaged in pre-marital sex.
The truly dangerous side of the Muslim Brotherhood is not just in their stated goal (to spread Islam), but their unstated goal of the total destruction of Israel and Western culture. It is insidious because it appears to be benign.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said her policy on Egypt looks “over the horizon” to its possible democratic future — a future that must be carefully planned (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110207/wl_nm/us_egypt).
The real problem with measuring progress in these talks is that the process is not transparent. We don’t know what has been said or promised “under the table.” Mubarak’s exit will not, in and of itself, solve the problem, because the real problem is the lack of integrity of the process in Egypt’s Constitution, including the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches; and orderly transfer of power from one elected leader to another; protection for opposition parties to freely form and receive funding without penalty; freedom to dissent and criticize the government without penalty or fear or imprisonment; transparency, etc. They need a system of checks and balances that would prevent another strong man or extreme political group from taking over where Mubarak left off. The protestors are right to be cynical about the probability that all these promises will materialize — they’ve been down this road before.
The biggest concern is which side is the military on, if, indeed, they are reasonably united in their support for any side. So far, the difference between Egypt now and Iran in 2009 is that there were foreign journalists that could document the human rights abuses for all the world to see. When Mubarak’s supporters were attacking journalists, it was toward the end that the departure of foreign journalists would free Mubarak to crack down similar to that in Iran. The military who stepped in to control the secret police disguised as Mubarak supporters and the courage of foreign journalists who stayed the course has been the game-changer so far. If either of those elements changes, the outcome could change dramatically.
The real danger for the protestors is with the short attention span that the rest of the world has towards these struggles — even when they are sympathetic. Visitors want to take their vacations to the pyramids; or there is a new, more entertaining show on TV; or a new, more captivating crisis takes their attention away from Egypt. When the ratings drop, the foreign journalists will disappear because the networks will reassign them to some other issue that sells better. This is the dangerous side of news bureaus being owned by corporations whose main interest is the bottom line.
There is no such thing as truly independent journalism anymore. In this case, it may be the Egyptian protestors that pay for this bottom line with their lives.
The insidious nature of the Muslim Brotherhood
- intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan.
- stealthily treacherous or deceitful: an insidious enemy.
- operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect: an insidious disease. (dictionary.com)
Hezbollah gained popular acceptance among Lebanon’s lower classes by passing out money given to the organization by Iran. Money buys votes among the poor and uneducated. To these folks, Hezbollah is an organization of heroes and saviors. They promise everything until they get into office, then, once they have power, they act very differently.
Many Germans supported the Nazis originally because they were preaching that Germany was in moral decay. Where have we heard that before? Then, once they got in power, they started programming German and Austrian youth with their version of the Boy Scouts, Hitler Youth, but more paramilitary in nature. Remember the atrocities that followed? Lenin/Stalin and Mao Tse-tung followed Hitler’s example of programming the young as well.
No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.” — Alan Bullock
The Muslim Brotherhood and most terror-based organizations work through the Mullahs and religious schools to program children to their ideology, which is that Allah’s goal for the world is Islamic domination of the world under the Caliphate and any means used to achieve that is acceptable. It pretty much says that in the Qur’an.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Qur%27an for more information:
The Qur’an said “fight in the name of your religion with those who fight against you.” On the other hand, other scholars argue that such verses of the Qur’an are interpreted out of context, and argue that when the verses are read in context it clearly appears that the Qur’an prohibits aggression, and allows fighting only in self defense.
Two critics  have claimed that a concept of ‘Jihad’, defined as ‘warfare’, has been introduced by the Qur’an. They claim that while Muhummad was in Mecca, he “did not have many supporters and was very weak compared to the Pagans”, and “it was at this time he added some ‘soft’, peaceful verses”, where as “almost all the hateful, coercive and intimidating verses later in the Qur’an were made with respect to Jihad” when Muhammad was in Medina (8:38-39, 8:65, 9:29-30, 48:16-22, 4:95, 9:111, 2:216-218, 8:15-17, 9:123, 8:12, 9:5, 2:190-194, 9:73). This interpretation of events is strongly disputed by other scholars, claiming an intention of encouraging self-defense in Islamic communities.
Al-Qaeda has clearly stated that the re-establishing the Caliphate is one of its primary objectives. Although Al-Qaeda has taken the violent path to realize their dream of the massive Islamic empire,(http://infidelsarecool.com/2008/03/27/islamic-caliphate-the-ultimate-muslim-dream/)[/ there are many Islamic groups all across the world that use politics to gain influence; Tanzeem-al-Islami and Hizb ut-Tahrir to name a few.
You can’t, in essence, get to a tolerant co-existence and peace from the Qur’an and its message of jihad. And all the white-washing and political propaganda disseminated through groups such as CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood are, indeed, insidious in nature because of the very reason that they claim religious tolerance while covertly promoting world domination under the Caliphate and the wholesale destruction of Israel and Western culture. Most predominantly Muslim countries outlaw proselytizing by other religions.
The Qur’an states with reasonable clarity what Jihad is.
What the Quran says about Jihad
The Muslims are commanded to wage an everlasting war against the unbelievers and are assured victory in the struggle. Surely, the Marxist social philosophy is an extension of the Koranic doctrine. To realize the significance of this statement, one ought to read the following:
- On unbelievers is the curse of Allah. (The Cow: 161 )
- Allah is an enemy to unbelievers. ( The Cow: 15 )
- The worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful, who will not believe. (Spoils of War: 55)
- Oh ye who believe! the non-Muslims are unclean. (Repentance:17)
- Oh ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers and let them find harshness in you. (Repentance: 123)
- Oh believers, do not treat your fathers and mothers as your friends, if they prefer unbelief to belief, whosoever of you takes them for friends, they are evil-doers. (Repentance: 20) 7. Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that they surrender and pay tribute. ( Repentance: 29 )
http://quran.com/ is the Qur’an online, and will give you the original text. If you have not read it word-for-word, you need to. (“Know thine enemy better than one knows thyself.” — Sun Tzu from The Art of War.) However, you must also consider the interpretations of the Qur’an, the Hadith, because this establishes the basis of Sharia law.
There is no question that there is genuine disagreement between Muslims about what jihad is. There is also no question that many of the sociopolitical organizations that appear benign are merely being deceptive in order to seduce the naive into believing that they are tolerant and respectful of other religions and ideologies. This applies even to more moderate Muslims who would otherwise not support terror-based organization if they knew their true goals and how they intended to achieve them.
Remember, when Hitler rose to power, he was considered by many Germans to be to answer to what they perceived as moral decay. He then focused their anger at their circumstances (the harsh consequences of losing WWI) on the rich, primarily the Jews, the intelligentsia and other religions that had a stronghold on segments of the population – anything but the true cause of Germany’s woes, which was the failed attempt of its leaders to wage war with the goal of establishing a German empire worldwide. In addition to the cost of waging war, the reparations and loss of territory and treasure as a result of their defeat caused Germany’s woes, but the German people didn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences they faced.
Islamic fundamentalists consider Western culture to be in a state of moral decay, therefore all Westerners — especially Americans, since they are the Western superpower — are enemies of Allah. It is no different than Bill O’Reilly declaring cultural war on liberals, except Bill O’Reilly has not, so far, sent suicide bombers into Massachusetts or the DNC headquarters, nor has he encouraged others to do so (yet, anyway).
You have to give credit to Al Qaeda on at least one level – they suckered us into responding in exactly the manner that would generate support for their cause in the Muslim world. If America and the West are enemies of Allah, then what better way to unite Arabs against us than attacking us on our homeland to start a war that can be viewed in the Arab world as the infidels in America and Western Europe attacking Islam? A 21st century version of the Crusades. Once you can twist perception of how the war started, you can use the Qur’an to justify acts of terror in “defense” of Islam. And, of course, we know how long the memory of the Arab world is regarding grievances — they still blame Christians today for the Crusades waged centuries ago. Disagreements between Shi’a and the Sunni escalate to death squads — Muslims murdering each other – over the order of succession of religious political leaders, Imams, after the death of Muhammad. What chance do we have of winning over this mentality and culture?
Back to Hitler: One by one, he focused on each group until they were conquered. Once they were conquered, the German people had to have another scapegoat to focus on, so he unwittingly orchestrated an implosion of their society and, ultimately, his own power. Niemöller’s poem describes this technique.
The comparison of the Muslim extremists with the Nazis or the Communists or Red Chinese is valid because it describes a long-used political tactic for establishing a tyrannical dictatorship, the ideology is not the significance here, it is about how to achieve and hold power. See my blog: Reflections on Naomi Wolf’s piece: Blueprint for shutting down a democracy.
The names and causes may change, but the techniques remain frighteningly the same. And it is particularly discouraging to know that we humans still have not learned from history by now.
Learning from our mistakes
One of the advantages of America’s beginnings is that life was not instantaneous, that movements could refine their ideologies and goals over time, and that the people who wanted to establish rule by “We the People” had time to educate themselves to the issues and philosophies behind various positions. You cannot have a successful democracy unless controls and balances are put into place that not only ensure independence between the various branches, but also prevent mob rule.
The worst possible result of a true democracy is mob rule. Having a process that deliberately creates obstacles to prevent rash decisions based on mob hysteria or manipulation of the truth by the media protects the minorities in a population. That is why our founders chose to have a representative form of government. They knew that instant response was perhaps the worst outcome and could lead to bad laws and unjust enforcement.
Who wants a government that rules by poll? What is popular today may not be so tomorrow. It also leads to intolerance of others and doesn’t give minority viewpoints a chance to establish their argument in the public forum.
My concern is that jumping into a wholesale change of the form of government without first establishing pre-democratic structures, including a free press, independent public education, a free market economy and opposition political parties that can gain strength and financial backing will push the process forward before the Egyptian people have had a chance to conduct a full and thoughtful public discourse regarding the role they want their government to play or not play and whether their expectations are reasonable.
This will allow opposition leaders to emerge that are political, not just revolutionary. There is a big difference between organizing and waging a revolution (social or military) and governing. This is a concept that Americans have to revisit from time to time. It is human to want drastic action right now to solve problems. The issue is not whether or not everyone wants to solve the problem (i.e., our own energy crisis and the lack of clarity of any government policy), but whose solution is the best or is there a hybrid solution….
This was the danger of GWB and his lack of planning for Iraq. That our military could come up with a plan to invade and conquer Iraq was not the issue, it was the lack of planning for peace that got us into trouble. We (as GHWB said of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War) “miscalculated” in thinking that political leaders with the ability and understanding of how to govern would emerge immediately after the war ended to take up the “banner of freedom” and govern. If GWB had thought this through, he would have realized that after 30 years of a tyrannical dictatorship that either executed or exiled any opposition political leaders, there was no system in place to mentor leadership and there were no leaders ready to step into the job.
We have seen this in the fall of the Soviet Union. Former KGB agents have become the backbone of the Russian mob. On the surface, Russia looks like it is different from the USSR or imperialist Russia, but just like in Iraq, there were very few Russian opposition leaders who had the experience to step into the job. That’s why Putin has established himself as another dictator in sheep’s clothing.
This is why I fear for the Egyptian people. Islamic extremists have a network of organizations that mentor leaders-in-waiting, a paramilitary group to support such leaders and an ideology that most moderate Muslims would be too intimidated to argue with. How do you argue with something that has been ordained by Allah?
Even if only 30% of Egyptians currently support the Muslim Brotherhood, the MB knows that a loud (and violent) minority can silence a timid majority. Just look to history to learn that lesson.