The primary reason America is presently suffering from a range of dire ills and economic misfortunes is because no one bothered to check the Arab mind to see if anyone was home before breaking down the Iraqi door. Bear with me as we investigate regional mind-set among the Arab peoples in Southwest Asia (formerly, the 'Middle East').
Down the Rabbit Hole: Understanding the Arab Mind
Last year, three children of a senior security official attached to the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were murdered in an attack directed at the limousine transporting them to school (this was characterised by eyewitnesses to the shooting as ‘a hail of automatic weapons fire from two separate cars’). So overwhelming was the fire that one child reportedly received over 10 head wounds in a matter of seconds. The circumstances of this horrible incident were considerably different from past occasions, in which children have been killed by accident (as in the case of poorly aimed Israeli tank rounds, ‘wide’ mortar fire, or errant Palestinian rocket salvos) in the long-standing Israeli-Palestine conflict, if this was in fact a deliberate attack. However, it was suggested that the blacked-out windows of the limo may have led the gunmen to believe that it contained their father, who has been a target of several past unsuccessful assassination attempts. Regardless of the motives or methods, this tragic occurrence establishes a new level of barbarity in the brutal clash between Hamas and the rival Palestinian faction, both of whom are vying for control of the Palestinian people’s mandate.
Even more recently, terrorists linked to Al Queda have resorted to using mentally impaired women (and even children) fitted with explosives vests under their abayyahs, (in Saudi Arabian Arab dialect, but also known as the ‘chaldor’ in Iran) sending them into crowded Iraqi marketplaces where their bombs are set off remotely. The object in this last instance is to create despair, terror, and random chaos among ordinary Iraqis so as to further destabilise the nation.
These events serve to underscore an important fact that forever seems to have continually escaped the notice of all those muddled right-wing intellectuals who have for the past 5 years been busily mapping out their hare-brained strategies to insert a ‘Democratic’ peace process into the heart of the Middle East, from their hidey-holes on Washington’s K Street. Namely, that western style democracy has about as much chance of success anywhere in Southwest Asia as I have of introducing Captain Winkie to Angela Jolie’s skivvies.
And why is that, you may well ask? Mainly because the nature of western style democracy is so completely, totally, categorically, and absolutely foreign to the thought-processes of the Arabs who live in the Southwest Asian desert as to be ludicrous to an extent remarkable even for a race of opposed-thumb, pseudo-sentient higher primates like us. The concept of equal opportunity, freedom of religion, belief, creed, and personal expression, along with unconstrained liberty to pursue happiness (all important basic rights under even the most basic definition of American democracy), is utterly alien to a people who have lived an isolated life as tribal desert nomads for centuries.
At risk of recovering dusty theoretical ground I’ve recurrently trekked across for uncounted decades (in company of many others who understand this region), I will nevertheless restate yet again the fact that the peoples of the Southwest Asian region are the product of a tribal, nomadic culture that has over the course of the past 6 centuries been totally sheltered from change in the ancient, sun-baked sands of that part of the world. Partly due to the fact that their culture has been thoroughly shaped by that climatically extreme geographical area, and partly as a consequence of the pastoral, tribal nature of their traditional culture, western style democracy (a relatively modern and enlightened expression of advanced western social, economic, and political thought, and a system that has only surfaced in the last several hundred years) might as well be something as ‘comfortably familiar’ to their way of viewing the universe as little green aliens from another star system.
Lest there be any shred of doubt about the truth of this, just try spending 10 years living among and working with the Arabs as I did. The concept of democracy in any semblance to that we are perfectly comfortable with in America is simply inconceivable over there. In considering this matter further, it helps to remember that until recently, the majority of Arabian peninsula inhabitants lived in nomadic encampments, following the dictates of traditional tribal customs that have remained largely unchanged since 1500 AD. In saying this, I am not unmindful of the flowering of Islamic culture under the Damascene Caliphate (7th through 11th centuries), which was as far ahead of its time as Europeans were behind theirs. The startling advancements of the Arab civilization that flourished in the Middle East during that period eventually helped bring Europe out of its Dark Age ignorance and gave us astral navigation, complex higher mathematics, scientific innovations, and catalysed the events that ultimately culminated in the European renaissance. Unfortunately, that was then; this is now. The heritage of the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus, with its ancient, highly ordered, and enlightened Arab culture is today as dead as a Syrian doornail, thanks to a series of wars and conflicts that brought about its downfall. Ironically, with a shift in the Caliphate’s focus of power from Damascus to Baghdad in the 8th century (by the ruling Abassids), Iraq itself was the center of this powerful and sophisticated Arab civilisation until it was eventually overthrown by the Mongol invasions of the 12th century. Unfortunately, with this occurrence, and with the rise in prominence of the relatively recent extremist Islamic sects (Wahabbiyyah foremost among them) enlightened Arab culture that arose during the first millennium was essentially dismembered and sank to the low point it has held ever since.
More recently, compounding the severe ideological schism that took place after Mohammed’s death over succession (when the Shia adherents of Ali split off from mainstream Sunni followers of Mohammed’s eventual successor), the subsequent rise of the ultra-extreme Islamic fundamentalist Ikhwan sect of Wahabbiyyah has today created a state of unending (and virtually irresolvable) religious internecine conflict in the Southwest Asian area that blends confusingly muddled elements of radically polarized Islamic thinking processes together with the Arabs’ ancient tribal based culture to serve as the basic fuel of extreme religious unrest that continues to inflame the whole region.
On my second Saudi contract in the late 80s I was fortunate to have as a flat-mate an Egyptian who had served as a Captain in the Egyptian Armed Forces chemical warfare department during the ‘6 day’ and Yom Kippur Wars between Israel and Egypt in the 70s. A research biologist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh when we first met, he had a number of highly educated expatriate Egyptian friends who used to drop by the flat for tea and conversation from time to time. One of them, a medical researcher from Cairo named ‘Shams’ (an Egyptian word that means ‘sunlight’ or ‘sunshine’), was a PhD in the hospital’s life sciences division who was quite an interesting person in his own right. On one of his visits, he shared some fascinating personal insights into Arab thinking that remain with me today as being profoundly important for the simple directness of the logic they offer in helping understand the tempestuous and highly emotional Arab personality.
As we sat there sipping the typical, overly sweet tea that is the preferred social beverage of most Arabs, Shams observed that the Southwest Asian area is by physical geographic fact a land of severe climatological extremes—a fact that hardly seemed less obvious in the 140 degree heat of day and equally frigid desert nights. The marked contrast between the extreme desert cold after dark (it cools off quite quickly after the sun sets in the desert) and severely hot days (it isn’t unusual for the still-air temperature to reach 150 degrees F. or higher in the unshaded sun during the hot season) constitutes one of the most challenging natural environments for human habitation in the entire world (the other being the severe cold found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, of course) has been reflected in a mind-set in the peoples populating the area that is echoed in their customs, social norms, attitudes, outlooks, reflections, religion, politics, and in just about every expression of Arab society you can think of. Consequently, to a typical Arab there is no middle-ground, no central path, no conceptual ‘mean’, and no uncertain shades of of neutral gray separating the black & white extremes of their social and cultural paradigm. Whereas a spirit of balanced reason and well-modulated ecumenism more often obtains in the West between various religious creeds and faiths, in the Middle East there is no longer any such evenly balanced colloquy in Arab social or religious thought at all.
What makes my friend’s particular candid insight into the ‘Arab mind’ most profound is the fact that no less a distinguished Arabist scholar (by national identity an Israeli, formerly a European intellectual, who has studied Arabian civilization for many, many years) than Raphael Patai, has filled the better part of his benchmark 500 page study (‘The Arab Mind’) with documentation that almost unnervingly parallels and supports the casual opinion of my friend Shams.
The dramatically polar contrast between good and bad, right and wrong, the holy and the profane, that characterises Arab awareness of the world exerts its major impact on every single aspect of modern Arab life, and impacts every exchange between the West and the nations of the Southwest Asian area. Thus, in Shams' view (and indeed in Patai’s as well), proper understanding of the Arab mentality is substantially linked to a requisite understanding of the harsh physical geography of the Arab world and the effects its climate and geophysical terrain has had on the inhabitants. This opinion, casually tossed out in the course of a leisurely conversation over tea one particularly hot Riyadh afternoon, initially struck me as too simple and candid to be worthy of more than the fleeting regard I gave it at the time. At the same time, I also never forgot that moment and Sham’s words lingered on in the back of my thoughts over the course of a number of years as I continued to fully understand the Arab thought process.
Finally, after a few more years had passed in the course of my work with the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Iraqis, the true relevance of that casual hypothesis finally sank in and I realized the basic truth of the argument that the harsh world of extremes found in Arabia does indeed have much to do with the way the Arabs regard the world. This insight, having come not from some pasty-white Caucasian adventure-seeker (e.g. T.E. Lawrence and his sort), but from the descendent of an aristocratic old Egyptian family that had lived in the shadow of the Pyramids since ancient times, finally started to make perfect sense. To then later read a far more academically cogent reiteration of this theory by a highly respected authority on Arab civilization (Raphael Patai) was a considerably sobering epipheny.
One of the many, many things westerners don’t fully understand about the Southwest Asian region is that Arab wealth occurred only in the 30s, when oil was first discovered on the Arabian Peninsula. Prior to that time and for centuries before, most of the Arab peoples of that area and a preponderance of those living in Iraq and Kuwait were abysmally poor, lived in small communities, and eked out a life as members of traditional tribal groups that had (as dispersed groups roaming around the vast reaches of Greater Arabia), remained essentially unchanged for centuries (following the downfall of the Abbassid Caliphate in the 12th century).
Despite the flourishing of the Caliphate’s high Arab culture and the advancements of science, astronomy, mathematics, and much cultural flowering that was produced during that period from the 8th through 11th (and ignoring the accomplishments of Arab geniuses such as Ibn Khaldun and many others like him), the majority of ordinary Arab peoples remained solidly caught up in these un-changing patterns of ancient nomadic tribal culture until the most recent decades.
When the first oil well drilled in Saudi Arabia (mid 30s) produced undreamed of and vast reserves of petroleum, Saudi Arabia was (for example) little more than a vast, barren and inhospitable desert, sparsely populated with constantly warring nomadic tribes who managed a marginal survival on the meager resources to be found there. The first Saudi King, Abdulazziz ibn Saud, unified the fragmented tribes into a reasonable semblance of a national entity only with the greatest difficulty (and a healthy dollop of good luck), and that only after a war with the powerful Hasshemite Prince Faisel, just after the first World War.
The Islamic religion suddenly burst forth, somewhat anomalously, from this empty desert in roughly in the early 7th Century with the establishment of Islam by its founder Mohammed. After the death of Mohammed, in 634, and consequent to the passing of that period of cultural magnificence that marked the Caliphate Era, neighboring Iraq and Iran, although brilliant centers of advanced ancient pagan cultures during the Caliphate Eras, once again reverted over the subsequent centuries to being poor pastoral and nomadic cultures, thanks to the depredations of the Mongol invasions and succeeding chaos of warring armies. Eventually, the area became used to being continually ravaged anew as each new wave of conquerors swept through, but it was not until some time later that a string of events occurred, involving warring Islamic factions that would ultimately shake the modern world to its core and give us the quixotic status quo we now have in the Arabian Middle east.
Five years ago, the Bush administration, about as well prepared to understand the region and its peoples as an amœbia is to play a Liszt piano sonata, in league with a number of politically connected conservatives with strong political, religious, and economic ties to Israel, embraced the Neocon ‘Program for a New World Order’ and plunged into the completely mad scheme we now think of as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Thinking to introduce a destabilising ‘virus’ in the form of a democratic state in Iraq that would help Israel in its fight against Palestinians, this ‘great idea’ was about as unrealistic as could be imagined, given the completely alien nature of the concept of democracy to the Arab peoples.
Regrettably, and to the present misfortune of the American people, the Bush Administration shortly thereafter seized upon the idea with the intention of developing a formal foreign policy based upon the Neocon plan. With the active participation and Machiavellian scheming of a great number of very influential friends of the Neocons at work in the Bush/Cheney Administration it was not long before a massive effort was underway to ‘cherry-pick’ convincing appearing documentation that would help make the case for an invasion of Iraq. Much evidence of this is today being culled forth and pointed out by a wide range of independent strategic policy foundations, not least being the deliberate misinterpretation of intelligence reports that served as a basis of erstwhile ‘legitimacy’ for the Iraq war movement.
Given the relatively low level of applied intelligence that the Average American brings to bear on any thoughts more profound than where to finance the family’s next SUV, it was relatively simple to browbeat the nation with specious if sober-sounding bombast and dire predictions of how Iraq’s evil intentions would result in loosing chemical and biological weapons on the world if it were not stopped cold. What followed is painfully apparent to nearly everyone now, although it took nearly 6 years for the truth behind all of America’s hell-bent determination to spank Saddam Hussein to finally seep out into general circulation. Today we face many severe problems on many fronts, not least of which are a multi-trillion dollar national deficit, a weary and seriously depleted US military force, a shrinking economy, and most recently significant signs that the nation is sliding into a serious recession. All of these problems, like the release of demons from Pandora’s storied chest, stem directly from the US efforts to unwisely invade Iraq, depose Saddam Hussein, and establish a form of western democracy in that nation.
One of the primary reasons Bush, Cheney, Rove, and all of the Bush cohort were able to bring this half-baked plan into reality (aside from the fact that so many Americans have shit for brains inside their vacuous heads instead of grey matter) is that hardly anyone in the United States has the first glimmer of understanding about the Arab peoples. With all the information and knowledge we have of the Arabs coming from and being fed to us by our friends the Israelis, it is little wonder that America has allowed itself to be so grievously misinformed about the people it has capriciously chosen to go to war with. Most of it boils down to the fact that not only were Americans poorly informed, they really didn’t seem to care enough about the problem to become informed. If the Bush Administration had actively solicited those most well equipped to understand the Southwest Asian region (Arabic scholars and academics who have specialised in Arab civilisation), the war on Iraq could never have come into being.
As a former US Air Force serviceman, I recently had occasion to discuss this subject with a retired Major General who today helps administer the nation-wide Air Force Association, an influential organisation of retired former Air Force personnel. Although I was pleasantly surprised by the cogency and intelligence of this (unnamed) individual that was apparent in our exchanges, I was also dismayed to find that he shared the primary views and outlook of the Bush Administration—despite all of the recent evidence that clearly demonstrates a miscarriage of presidential responsibility to the nation. After encountering this shock, I was somewhat less surprised to find him suggesting I read some of European (nee: Israeli) intellectual Anatoly Sharansky’s books. Sharansky’s views are, of course, favored by President Bush and those who are his chief advisors, and no wonder at that! Once more the loop closes back upon itself. [I do not fully expect those close to the President to dare to maintain contrasting views on his policies, since that would be counterproductive to their careers; that's pretty obvious].
Regrettably, I did not manage to recommend that my highly placed friend read (among others) Raphael Patai’s book for some genuinely illuminating insights into exactly why democracy will NEVER take root in the Southwest Asian area, but the thought of sending him a copy to assure that it came to his awareness did cross my mind.
There are a great number of equally startling insights into the way the Arab mind functions to be found, not just in Patai’s highly illuminating book, but in literally dozens of other erudite works on the Arabs that have been published in recent years. Among the most interesting, by way of providing an example, is the extraordinary manner in which children are raised in Arab countries. According to ancient Arab custom, children are rigidly segregated in terms of their gender and treated accordingly by their parents. Boys are breast fed for a much longer period of time than girls and allowed to demand ‘the breast’ almost like little tyrants. This small and seemingly trivial yet highly significant factor helps set the stage for a conditionally arrested juvenile personality in which male children are socialised to understand that (as males) their every whim legitimises instant gratification; this dynamic of early childhood in turn helps create a personality affect in which the male feels that he ought to be catered to in all concerns, without qualification.
This, of course, can have very substantial effects on the development of his perception that the world revolves around him. Little girls, in contrast and opposition, are sheltered to the point of total seclusion and treated very rigorously, owing in part to the belief that females are victims of their uncontrollable ‘inherent sexuality’ and therefore must be protected like small children. When they have become sexually mature, they are regarded as a potential source of severe dishonor to the family, should their chastity be thought (for any reason whatsoever) to have been compromised. Thus the enforced sexual segregation of children, and the preferential treatment men receive as being thought superior to women sets the tone for the rest of ensuing adulthood in a manner that has far-reaching consequences.
Other highly interesting characteristics of the ‘Arab personality’ worth mentioning (and there are far too many to mention here—a better suggestion would be to read Patai’s fascinating and very informative book) include a tendency to confuse spoken declarations with factual, subsequent action. To an Arab’s way of regarding life, the mere act of having voiced intent to do something is often weighted equally with actual follow-through action. That is to say, in this jumbled context fantasy and reality share a blurred area of perception that also profoundly impact an Arabian man’s actions and behavior. In Arab society, one of the peculiar clues to actual male intent is found in how a person expresses himself verbally. In Arabian society it is customary to dramatically overemphasize an intended act by repeating the same thing several different ways, if one maintains serious intentions. Similarly, a single, unemphatic and simple affirming declaration may actually signal that nothing will be done at all, despite the declamation.
Still another attribute that one may fairly ascribe to Arab behavior is the tendency to become highly volatile and emotionally overwrought in the company of others (this seems to be particularly true in crowd situations). A number of examples of this behavioral trait were cited in Patai’s book with specific reference to the overthrow of the Iraqi regime in 1958, and once again (as in Patai’s book), the inference of labile volatility is borne out by factual documentation that must be regarded as legitimate and verifiable. And while a careful and more balanced person might point to this and other ‘characteristics’ of Arab behavior as being merely harmful stereotypes, the fact is that they are as stereotypical as they are overtly indictful. The characteristics they reflect may be observed time and time again, throughout recent decades of Arab interactions with each other and with outsiders.
Why the lengthy foregoing preamble here? Simply to make a point by highlighting the fiercely emotional, highly passionate, radically polarized thought, volatile nature, and extreme outlook of the Arab peoples as a collective regional group. Regrettably, in the unfolding of today’s modern Al Queda jihaddist fanaticism, such absolutely integral western considerations of balanced reasoning, logic, and moderation simply do not exist as factors in the equation. To the more radicalized of the Islamic extremists, slaughtering opponents en mass, killing large numbers of innocent people, employing human beings as suicide bombers, brutally torturing enemies, and exploiting mentally retarded children to send them into crowded marketplaces equipped as living bombs are no more startling or extraordinary than picking one’s nose. Everything that might remotely smack of reason is subjugated entirely to the enthusiasms of inflamed Islamic rhetoric and severely twisted religious fanaticisms. All of this is frightening enough to contemplate, as the situation in Iraq continues to disintegrate daily and the Wahabbiyyah inspired Al Queda extremists continue their campaign of deliberate chaos and demoralization.
When one considers that the people whose desert forged personalities gave rise to all of the above are also the same people the Bush Administration claims it wants to introduce to the benefits of democracy, it quickly becomes clear enough that 1) you can, after all, fool (nearly) all of the people all of the time, and that 2) we as a nation as almost no closer to an understanding of the Arab mind than we were before the events of 9/11 occurred.
One of the triggers that prompted me to set down these hasty observations here was a very small news article that appeared hidden away in the bowels of the local newspaper of the little hick town known as the Capitol of the State of California (Sacramento). It stated briefly that the Saudi Arabian government has recently announced that it intends to develop a high-grade nuclear enrichment program for the purpose of creating enriched uranium. As may be imagined, highly enriched nuclear fuel byproducts may easily serve as the basic stuff from which weapons grade nuclear warheads may be made. This is exactly what Iran is now doing and it is what North Korea has made efforts to do, as well.
As someone who lived through the frightening period known as the ‘Cold War’, during which time the two mightiest superpowers ever seen on earth threatened to mutually destroy the entire world with their nuclear arsenals, I and many other ‘saner’ individuals hoped that the world was finally safely delivered from the sort of potential catastrophe such a scenario threatened, when the Strategic Arms Limitations Acts (SALT I and SALT II) of the late 80s and early 90s were enacted.
Naturally, we weren’t at that time factoring in the logarithmic possibilities of fanatical religious extremists getting their hands on WMD (weapons of mass destruction). It’s bad enough that India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons (along with the means to deploy them), that China, Russia, and the United State all have vast stockpiles of some of the most powerful nuclear weapons ever produced, and that Israel now has anywhere from 100 to 200 of its own indigenous nuclear weapons (and aircraft to deploy them). In my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense at all to allow Israel to have nuclear weapons while simultaneously denying that ‘right’ to other nations in the same part of the world. This severely skewed logic is furthermore not lost on any of the Arabs over there (least of all the Iranians).
The thought of Iran creating nuclear weapons (and missiles to deliver them) is startling enough, but if and when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ever gains that capability, it will again be time to dig out those 1950s civil defense ‘Duck and Cover’ pamphlets kids all laugh about today, and perhaps start taking those instructions a bit more seriously. We’re talking some serious possibilities here, folks. Can you imagine a powerful Arab nation, substantially influenced by religiously fanatic Islamic hardliners, armed with nukes? I lived among the Arabs for 10 years and I don’t mind saying it scares the absolute living pahootie out of me to contemplate that unacceptable state of affairs, my friends!
Meanwhile, while America continues to diddle off in Iraq, now hopelessly caught up in an irresolvable and irreversible internal melt-down there, we continue to stretch US military forces to the near-breaking point by concurrently engaging two additional groups of Islamic extremists (in Pakistan and Afghanistan) in active combat.
The hope that another major armed conflict won’t break out anywhere else in the world goes unsaid, since if it does, that will push our tenuous status as the most powerful nation on the planet right over the razor’s edge. And if that’s not bad enough, Dubya and his administrative coterie of evil-minded schemers think that they may give diplomatic means a try in dealing with a belligerent Iran that has made it clear they are not willing to back off their nuclear program any time real soon! Fast forward now to North Korea, which we still haven’t fully faced off in an attempt to curtail ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Il Jong’s determination to go nuclear, because Iraq is ‘more important’. All of these contradictions are clear evidence (at least to me) of criminal inconsistancies in the exercise of American foreign policy, under the Bush/Cheney regime.
As Iraq continues to fester, the very real and genuine threat to the West continues to lie in the remote fastness of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it has always existed like a malignant melanoma. Some 6 years after the onset of that miserably misdirected and half-baked crusade to depose Saddam, it is becoming shockingly clear what a terrible mistake the Bush-initiated policy of attacking Iraq actually was. More tragically, the United States will be suffering fallout from this egregiously severe miscarriage of US foreign policy for decades to come. In my opinion (although perhaps I am giving them entirely too much credit), even a nation of totally brain-dead right-wing Christian conservatives could fail to be so unimaginably ignorant as to fail to see the truth of that fact.
If reflecting on all of this wretched mess doesn’t make your blood run cold, nothing likely ever will. As I admitted to my two-star friend recently in response to his query, in this dangerously advanced state of affairs I personally don’t have any more potentially viable solutions for resolution to suggest than our own ideologically inept Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. The only thing I am certain of is that if something doesn’t happen fairly soon to keep nukes out of the hands of Islamic fundamentalist states, all bets are off and anyone's guess is as good as any other's.
I myself am not a religious person of any persuasion; I do not believe in a conventional deity of the sort most individuals do. What is clear to me, coming from an opinion that religion (of any sort) is at best a ritualised form of anthropomorphic wish-fulfillment projection, the extreme expression of radical Islamic fundamentalism that today inflames the Southwestern Asian extremists is perhaps the most serious threat to world peace and coexistance that has occurred in the recent century. In view of the dire consequences implicit in failing to deal intelligently with it, the sort of amateur-hour ineptness demonstrated by the Bush/Cheney Administration in failing to understand the Arab mind is criminal.
Any idea of trying to establish a western-style democracy in the Southwest Asian area, given the evidence touched upon so lightly by the above remarks, is more than certifiably stupid, since given the fact that America still does not understand the first thing about how Arab culture works, until such a time as we make a credible effort, the situation will only continue to spiral downwards towards complete international meltdown.
Finally, and returning to the subject that set off this fusillade of gratuitous criticism, think once again of those three innocent children lying very dead in a shattered car, their small bodies riddled with a firestorm of automatic weapons fire directed at them by two carloads of fanatic sectarian extremists. Next, think of an entire region, with all its human life completely annihilated by the explosion of a nuclear weapon, set off by a group of similar fanatics who have somehow managed to acquire WMDs. Unfortunately, the leap from the first example to the second is too vast to contemplate sensibly, but such an event could conceivably happen in the not too distant future, unless ongoing events in the Southwest Asian region are dealt with wisely....and soon.
If we ever needed a fresh set of truly wise perceptivities in the highest elected offices of the land, that time is now. I certainly hope that years from now, in the clarity of hindsight that time and distance typically afford, President George W. Bush is finally recognized as the most catastrophically inept chief of state ever elected to office in the United States. I also hope, by that time, that we as a nation have finally managed to gain the insights into Arab civilization we should have had decades ago. I do not plan, however, to hold my breath!
Malama pono, Kalikiano
[For an interesting, brief overview of Islamic history, dial up the following URL:
[Postscript: For those who are curious about exactly why Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait, the long-awaited answer was revealed recently when the TV program 60 Minutes hosted the young FBI operative who successfully 'debriefed' Saddam Hussein, before he was handed over to the Iraqi government for trial. Saddam candidly stated that his decision was based almost entirely on an insult he had received from the Emir of Kuwait, several weeks prior to his invasion. The Emir had told Saddam that he wouldn't rest until 'every Iraqi had the reputation of being the son of a cheap whore' (or words to that effect). As anyone who understands Arabs may well perceive, such a grossly insulting remark about an Arab's mother could easily result in war (or far worse, if you happen to be a ruthless tyrant). If you have the opportunity, dial up the 60 Minutes website and read the transcript of that interview of this young Arab-speaking FBI agent. His accomplishment is being lauded as one of the finest achievements of the FBI over its entire 100 years of establisment, and it is truly another astounding insight into 'the Arab mind'.
A bit of Levity:
A recent internet joke has been circulating to the effect that because people sitting in the adjacent seat on airliners are frequently boorish fluff-brains who insist on chatting non stop throughout that 22 hour flight you are on to Australia, a perfect way of dealing with them is to open your notebook PC, raise your hands in supplication, and move your lips while appearing to pray....then key in the following URL:
(It is, however, up to you to explain yourself to the authorities who will quickly trundle you off to a windowless cell for interrogation faster than you can say 'Islamic Jihad'....)
Update: 7 Mar 08:
For a brilliant documentary presentation by the BBC on the massive lies and distortions of truth that prompted the George Bush post-911 Invasion of Iraq, do not fail to view the following. It is lengthy (about 40 minutes long), but carefully researched and intelligently set forth by the BBC, an organisation long noted for its fair-minded and cogent news analysis. http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/lies/video.html
A still further and rather exceptionally documented program on the Iraq War has just been aired on PBS' popular 'FRONTLINE'. Consisting of a whopping four and a half hours of documentary journalism in video format, the segment is titled 'BUSH'S WAR' and it is an event NOT to be missed by anyone who has a vague feeling that perhaps the Bush administration hasn't been as honestly candid about drawing the nation into that war as it should have been. Naturally (and understandably) those happy souls who think that FOX NEWS is the journalistic 'word of God' incarnate will reject the entire production as just another pack of lies by those damn leftist liberal bleeding hearts; but for those of you with a still-open mind, it will undoubtedly prove illuminating. The entire 4.5 hour program may be viewed online at the PBS website, if you wish to experience it. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/bushswar/ I highly suggest watching this important program if you want to consider yourself well-informed about why we are in Iraq and how that whole unpleasant mess got started.
UPDATE: 23 May 2011
In 2006 Professor John Mersheimer (Dept. of Political Science, University of Chicago) and co-author Stephen Walt (JF Kennedy School of Goverfnment, Harvard University) wrote a truly masterful and exhaustively researched paper titled 'The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy'. While pertaining to the massive support for Israel that exists within the United States, it has a lasting relevance that any one concerned with the Middle East should be acquainted with. This 82 page paper may be found in PDF file format here: The Israel Lobby . As the long-lasting Israeli/Palestinian conflict continues, with no sign of real progress forthcoming, the conclusions and observations documented in this paper remain exceptionally illuminating and informative.