The video is my latest interview, tonight, on PressTV speaking of western intervention in the Middle East against ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris terror attack.
In times like these I trot out those wonderful lyrics from The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again: “Meet the new boss, just like the old boss.” In tonight’s case we’re talking about the new war against ISIS that western leaders from King Abdullah to Pres. Obama to Francois Hollande have blithely declared. One hardline Israeli commentator went so far as to declare “World War III.” Law professor Thane Rosenbaum blogged this nonsense at the Times of Israel: We are All Israelis Now. Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli security correspondent, even offered this Dogs of War headline for his article on the terror attacks: To defeat ISIS West must pay the price soldiers returning in coffins. It was later softened to: To defeat ISIS, West must be willing to pay the price with soldiers’ lives.
It’s especially painful when, as George Santayana noted long ago, people who should know better refuse to learn the lessons of history. The west has offered the Middle East no end of pain, blood and sorrow over nearly two centuries of colonial conquest. Throughout this period, countries have regularly decided that they have an obligation to remake the region in their image, to bring civilization or democracy, to modernize. There are no end of motivations, all of which sounded good enough to undertake one disastrous project or another in furtherance of some laudable goal or other.
But I especially want to focus on 9/11. Those attacks by al-Qaeda determined George Bush to launch a never-ending “crusade” (as he once called it in an unfortunate choice of words) against “radical Islam.” He called it, infamously, the “war on terror.” That was the war that Barack Obama told us only a few years ago, was being retired from his political lexicon.
Trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives (and hundreds of thousands of Arab lives) later; and after invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the region remains much as we found it. Yes, we rid it of some thoroughly nasty individuals like Saddam and Osama bin Laden, but we inspired the rise of others just as capable as them, who weren’t even a gleam in our eye when we first started this campaign. We’ve also offered to the region two states which are arguably less stable than they were before we toppled their former leaders.
ISIS: a Golem of Our Making
We are now beginning to hear about the origins of the recent Paris terror attacks. Claims are made that it commenced with ISIS’ top commander Ali Bakr al-Baghdadi, who directed his operatives in the west to launch multiple “operations” against western nations who had joined in an alliance to attack him. Who was he in 2001? Nothing and no one. But some genius in Saudi Arabia or Turkey who was desperate to counter Bashar al Assad’s massacre of his people in 2011, came up with the brilliant idea of throwing their support behind this Sunni killing machine. Al-Baghdadi was the result. Not to mention, where do we think the fundamentalist theology underpinning ISIS originated? In the mosques and madrassas of Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahabi Islam.
What the west finds is that those who it creates to serve short-term interests can become uncontrollable monsters who take on a life of their own. Like the medieval Golem, the master creates them in an hour of need. But then the servant becomes more powerful than his creator, who loses control. The servant becomes a monster with a will and mind of his own.
That was the Afghan mujahadeen, among them Osama bin Laden, in 1979. It was Saddam Hussein, whom Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney armed during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War. For Ariel Sharon, it was the Lebanese Phalange who in 1983 murdered 3,000 Lebanese Muslims in Sabra and Chatilla. Now, it is ISIS.
We create the monster. Then we try to kill it when it goes on a rampage and turns against us. Even if we succeed, new monsters arise from the clay we used to create the first one.
There is no doubt that there are good, or at least understandable intentions behind these original projects. Countries naturally need local allies. But when you create an ally whose sole goal is to be your hired killer, then it can’t end well for anyone, including yourself.
A word now about Israel’s especially pernicious hijacking of the Paris attack. After 9/11, Bibi secretly rejoiced because he knew this was exactly what was needed to draw the U.S. into Israel’s orbit around questions of radical Islam and counter-terror. Haaretz capsulated one of his speeches about the attack as “good for Israel.” And Bibi has milked it for all it’s worth since.
Now, we have Israel’s “brilliant” counter-terror strategists like Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon advising the French to abandon individual rights for the sake of “security.” Just as Israel has long done of course. Not to be left out of the radical Islam propaganda sweepstakes, Bibi says that the killers in Paris are no different from “Arab” killers who stalk the West Bank seeking to spill Jewish blood.
My advice: be careful what you wish for. If you take Israel’s advice you become Israel. You sacrifice the very values which make you distinct as a nation. In America, you throw away the Constitution. In France, you throw away egalite, fraternite and most of all, liberte. I say, if Israel wants to go down this road, we can’t stop it. But if it wants to drag the rest of the western world with it–we don’t have to go along.
The vicious Arutz Sheva cartoon I’ve featured here is emblematic of some of this noxious thinking. In it, an innocent young Israeli chap knocks at the EU’s door offering all manner of beneficial products from Israel for the European market. But the nasty EU border official waves him off. While walking towards Europe is the Muslim, whose sole offering to Europe is blood and carnage, who proceeds shiftily toward his target in the distance, Paris. It’s too bad they neglected to picture the Israeli in uniform, piloting an F-16, and offering Israeli advanced weaponry to the EU cop. That would’ve been far more realistic in terms of the level of damage and lethality of Israel’s export industry compared to that of Islam.
Many messages here, all disgusting. One among many is that BDS is a handmaiden of radical Islam. If you reject Israel you open the door to terror.
I’ve posted this cartoon, despite its deeply offensive imagery, because it’s critical to point out where the overheated rhetoric of Obama and Hollande takes us: it causes massacres and endless bloodshed. No amount of caveats, explaining that we don’t mean to target all of Islam; or we respect Muslims in general, except for the radicals among them; none of this escapes the fact that this nuance easily becomes lost in the heat of battle. Commandos are trained to kill, not parse religious beliefs. If you tell him to attack Islamist radicals, he will make a mistake. You hope he won’t kill the innocent with the guilty. But once you unleash the Dogs of War, they may fail to make the distinction. That’s precisely how you start this vicious cycle all over again.