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It's Not Radical Islam That Worries the US

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.countercurrents.org/chomsky050211.htm It s Not Radical Islam That
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2011
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      It's Not Radical Islam That Worries The US – It's Independence
      By Noam Chomsky
      05 February, 2011

      The nature of any regime USA backs in the Arab world is secondary to
      control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains

      'The Arab world is on fire," al-Jazeera reported last week, while
      throughout the region, western allies "are quickly losing their
      influence". The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in
      Tunisia that drove out a western-backed dictator, with reverberations
      especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator's brutal

      Observers compared it to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but
      there are important differences. Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists
      among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather,
      Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that
      democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and
      economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in
      our backyard, please, unless properly tamed.

      One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington
      maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the
      east European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then
      Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased. That is a
      standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo-hwan,
      Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case
      of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure a
      successor regime will not veer far from the approved path. The current
      hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist General Omar Suleiman, just named
      Egypt's vice-president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence
      services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the
      dictator himself.

      A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires
      (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not
      without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat
      has always been independence. The US and its allies have regularly
      supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular

      A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological centre of radical
      Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the
      most brutal of Pakistan's dictators and President Reagan's favorite, who
      carried out a programme of radical Islamisation (with Saudi funding).

      "The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is
      that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control," says Marwan
      Muasher, a former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East
      research for the Carnegie Endowment. "With this line of thinking,
      entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform
      are exaggerating the conditions on the ground."

      Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and
      generalises worldwide, to US home territory as well. In the event of
      unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to
      reasserting control.

      The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against "a police
      state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious
      human rights problems", ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for
      their venality. So said US ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable
      released by WikiLeaks.

      Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks "documents should create a
      comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't
      asleep at the switch" – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of US
      policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so
      Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)

      "America should give Assange a medal," says a headline in the Financial
      Times, where Gideon Rachman writes: "America's foreign policy comes
      across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position
      taken by the US on any given issue is usually the private position as well."

      In this view, WikiLeaks undermines "conspiracy theorists" who question
      the noble motives Washington proclaims.

      Godec's cable supports these judgments – at least if we look no further.
      If we do,, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign
      Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec's information in hand,
      Washington provided $12m in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens,
      Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely);
      the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which
      has long had the worst human-rights record and the most US military aid
      in the hemisphere.

      Heilbrunn's exhibit A is Arab support for US policies targeting Iran,
      revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did
      the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The
      reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the
      educated culture.

      Unmentioned is what the population thinks – easily discovered. According
      to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs
      agree with Washington and western commentators that Iran is a threat:
      10%. In contrast, they regard the US and Israel as the major threats
      (77%; 88%).

      Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington's policies that a majority
      (57%) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear
      weapons. Still, "there is nothing wrong, everything is under control"
      (as Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us.
      Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then
      policy must be adjusted.

      Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments
      about Washington's nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador
      to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of "legal
      and constitutional issues surrounding the 28 June forced removal of
      President Manuel 'Mel' Zelaya."

      The embassy concluded that "there is no doubt that the military, supreme
      court and national congress conspired on 28 June in what constituted an
      illegal and unconstitutional coup against the executive branch". Very
      admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost
      all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and
      dismissing subsequent atrocities.

      Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with
      Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.

      The cables reveal that the US embassy is well aware that Washington's
      war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant
      anti-Americanism but also "risks destabilising the Pakistani state" and
      even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons
      might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

      Again, the revelations "should create a comforting feeling … that
      officials are not asleep at the switch" (Heilbrunn's words) – while
      Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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