Archive for the On War and Peace in the Mid East! Category

A Fool’s Errand!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on June 16, 2014 by playthell
george hw bush strike group
 USS George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Force

 Is Barack about to Repeat Bush’s Folly?

Amid cries from media talking heads and some members of Congress to “do something” in order to save Iraq from falling under the control of Islamic Jihadists, President Obama has ordered the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group to the region.  The fleet is anchoring in a position that is within striking distance of Iraq by the planes and missiles with which the carrier is armed.  Witnessing this turn of events the thoughtful observer who is paying attention to developments in Iraq, particularly the rise of ISIS Jihadist, is forced to wonder just what is going on.

At the root of our government’s response is the deeply held belief by many Americans that the US President should be able to impose his will on the world.  This explains why even those Americans who tell pollsters that they are tired of war, and don’t want to see their country embarking on yet another foreign war, still blame President Obama for not being able to control events in volatile hot spots across the globe.  However President Obama knows that he is in the same situation as Abe Lincoln when, referring to the outbreak of the American Civil War, Lincoln said “clearly I have not controlled events, but events have controlled me.”

If President Lincoln couldn’t prevent a Civil War on US soil, where white Christian brothers slaughtered each other in what was then the bloodiest war in history, how is President Obama supposed to stop a civil/religious war among Muslims thousands of miles away that has been raging for 1800 years?  The neo-con militarist and assorted chicken hawks assure us that we can accomplish our objectives with airpower.

Although I am a former member of the United States Strategic Air Command, the greatest bomber fleet ever assembled, I agree with Colin Powell, an Army General, that proponents of air power always make claims they cannot keep.  And I have no doubt the idea that the Iraqi insurgents can be defeated with bombing strikes will prove a bogus claim.

How can I speak with such certainty in this matter you wonder?   Well, one does not have to be a mental colossus in order to figure it out.  During my stay in SAC I learned a lot about what bombing can do; I also learned what it can’t do. And bombs cannot distinguish innocent civilians from the Jihadists.

Alas it is indisputable fact that one of the main things which turned the populace against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan is the killing of innocent civilians due to “friendly America fire.”  Most often this takes the form of bombs gone awry, missing their targets and slaughtering innocent souls.  Hence it is a no brainer to figure out that more bombing, and the “collateral damage” of more dead civilians, will not win friends and influence Iraqi’s to love America.

I am convinced that to resume bombing of Iraq is the essence of “folly” as defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman in her path breaking book “The March of Folly.”  It is, I think, an omen of some sort that I should be writing the same kind of critical arguments on what appears to be the second invasion of Iraq – albeit solely with air power this time – as I published on the eve of the first invasion.  Then I pointed out that George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was dangerous folly because all of the objective evidence suggested it would prove contrary to American National Security interests.  (See: “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq”)

Now I am compelled to raise my voice in a warning to President Obama: bombing Iraq will not stop the Jihadists!  But it will produce more anti-American zealots among the population.  This is not a matter of conjecture, all we need do is analyze the consequences of the Bush invasion, where bombs were deployed promiscuously.  Most Americans have forgotten now, being a nation of folks who suffer with historical amnesia, but the invasion of Iraq began with a massive bombing attack code named “Shock and Awe.” 

It was a spectacular display of American airpower broadcast in real time on television, I called it “March Madness;” it was supposed to frighten the Iraqi resistance into surrender.  It didn’t.  Hence we now find ourselves a decade later still trying to disengage from that little desert country after a massive expenditure of blood and treasure has left us with more enemies than friends.

This explains why despite the increasingly hysterical cries from elements in the media and Congress to “do something,” Barack Obama must not repeat Bush’s Folly with a massive bombardment of Iraq again….that would be a fool’s errand indeed!

Fighter Planes on the Flight Deck of Carrier

aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean.

Making more enemies in Iraq?

 

Playthell G, Benjamin
San Francisco, CA
June 16, 2014

A Tragic Reality Check in Iraq

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on June 13, 2014 by playthell
iraq.si Rebel Army, ISIL, advancing on Mosul

American Meddling in Middle East Ends in Disaster….Again

While US pundits and policy wonks despair over the success of Islamic Jihadists in Iraq with the dramatic capture of Mosul, the nation’s second largest city, it comes as no surprise to this observer.  On the eve of the US invasion of that country, with the clearly stated objective of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, I wrote an extended commentary pointing out that this would prove a grave mistake because the policy was based on a lie cooked up by politicized intelligence operatives.  (See: “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq” on this blog)

I pointed out that the central premise in the Bush Administration’s argument for invading Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was an ally of the Jihadists that attacked the US on 9/11 was a transparent lie.   I argued instead that Saddam Hussein was actually an enemy of the Jihadist in Al Qaeda and committed to the defeat of Osama bin Laden – who viewed all secular leaders of predominantly Muslim countries like Saddam as apostates worthy of death!

Hence by removing Saddam the US weakened the war against the Jihadists, because it was the secular military strong men like Saddam that had prevented the Islamic zealots from taking over these countries – often through popular elections such as in Algeria.  Subsequent events in Egypt and Libya have proven my argument true and now it is coming to pass in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was all predictable to anyone with an understanding of the modern political history of the Islamic world and committed to an objective assessment of the facts, rather than tailoring them to justify a preconceived policy.

The deterioration of the US backed regime in Iraq – whose installation cost Americans five thousand lives over ten years of military and related action for a price of around two trillion dollars – must be viewed as yet another spectacular failure of US policy in the Islamic world.  In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that the advance of fundamentalist militant Islam has been aided and abetted by American intervention in the region more than any single source.

For instance the overthrow of President Muhammad Mossedeck in Iran during 1953, under President Eisenhower, led directly to the Islamic revolution in Iran, which was so popular the US was powerless to stop it. This, of course, was an unintended consequence of a US covert action, just as the present disaster in Iraq is an unintended consequence of the misbegotten American invasion.   Alas, some conspiracy theorists on the right will no doubt view the present victory of the Jihadist forces in Iraq as a sinister covert plot by the “secret Muslim ally” of the Jihadists in the White House, an undercover Kenyan who deceived the American people into voting for him twice, and now has betrayed our trust by removing American troops from Iraq in order to create the conditions for a Islamist takeover.

No matter that such sinister charges make no sense; it didn’t stop the conspiracy theorist on the left from concluding that George Bush actually ordered the terrorist attack on 9/11, or that the CIA was the moving force behind the popular uprisings of the “Arab Spring.”  However the Republican critics of President Obama’s policy toward the Arab Spring, or the Syrian Uprising, or the Iranian nuclear program, are just as devoid of reality as the zealots on the left.

The truth is that Barack Obama has been Solomonic in the wisdom he has employed in dealing with these bewilderingly complex foreign events. (See the essays in the section “On War and Peace in the Middle East” and other relevant essays listed under “On Foreign Policy on this blog) The beginning of this wisdom is the president’s recognition that America cannot control these events with military force.  In this the American people have been fortunate indeed.

When we consider the consequences of the major thrust of US policy in the Islamic world over the last 60 years, it is easy to recognize that it has been a dismal failure and we needed a change of vision and policy.   This is why early on in his administration Barack travelled to Egypt to offer an olive branch of peace to the Islamic world, even as he declared total war on those who chose the Jihadist path. (See: “Of all the Places in the Islamic world, Why Egypt?” on this blog)

If we look at the three most explosive problems the US faces in the Middle East as I write – the Islamic regime in Iran; the rising power of Islamic Jihadist in Afghanistan and Iraq; the protracted Israeli/Palestinian conflict that constantly threatens to plunge into violence, we can see the consequences of American meddling in an attempt to install or defend client regimes that will defend American hegemony in the region.  Added to this dismal record of monumental failures is the uncritical American support for the corrupt and fascistic royal family of Saudi Arabia, which is what got us in trouble with Al Qaeda in the first place.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who was roundly defeated by Barack Obama in his bid for the presidency, offered this bit of advice.  “”The President should get rid of his entire national security team including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”  Bringing back the generals who failed to defeat the Insurgents in Iraq for half a decade would “turn this whole situation around,” in the opinion of this Vietnam era warrior and member of the Senate Arms Services Committee.  Luckily, McCain stopped short of calling for the resumption of American bombing in Iraq the way some are doing.  At least as of this writing….but as Fats Waller would say: “One never knows, do one?”

Yet, listening to McCain’s reactions to the major trouble spots on the American foreign policy radar – i.e. Iran, Ukraine, Syria, et al – one shudders to think of where this nation would be if John McCain had been in office for the last six years.  He wanted to intervene everywhere during the Arab Spring uprisings, and criticized President Obama for “leading from behind” in Libya.  Which has proved to be a brilliant innovative strategy that accomplished American objectives without involving us in yet another war in the Arab world.

Big MAC would have long ago bombed Iran and he would have maintained the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until “victory” was won!  He even suggested that we use American policy in Korea as a model for Iraq and Afghanistan – although American military forces are still stationed in Korea after sixty years, and we have yet to sign an armistice officially ending the Korean War!

McCain would arm the Syrian Rebels, which would be a repeat of the mistake the US made in arming and training the Afghanistan Mujahideen – which metamorphosed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda!   At the time we were told that these people were “heroes” because they were fighting the Russians, now they have become our worst nightmare.

The spectacular success of the Islamist forces in Iraq – whose objective is to build an Islamic Caliphate that includes Syria – is evidence that things have gone as badly in Iraq, a country that had no problem with ethnic strife nor Islamic insurgents before the Neo-Con Bushmen led by “Dirty Dick” Cheney convinced Clueless George to overthrow Saddam Hussein, a leader who had committed no hostile act against the US. (See: “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” on this blog)

And now McCain wants to arm and train pro-western forces in the Ukraine, despite the fact that they are riddled with neo-Nazis – with the ultimate objective of incorporating that former Soviet Republic into NATO.  This is a prescription for nuclear war!  Hence, to put it succinctly, If John McCain was our president instead of Barack Obama we would be in wars all over the globe, and hovering on the brink of nuclear annihilation.  Bluesman Percy Mayfield’s lyrics would have become a tragic prophecy:

“The whole world is in trouble and the danger zone is everywhere….if man don’t put an end to his horrible sins, hate will set the world aflame…what a shame!”

Soldiers of Allah

Isis Militants

Fighting for the Islamic Caliphate
This is Part I of a series of Articles on the Iraq Crisis.
Playthell Benjamin
San Francisco, California
June, 2014
*Note: To locate any of the articles cited above just enter the titles into the search box.

JOHN KERRY MUST RESIST ISRAEL LOBBY!!!!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , , on April 29, 2014 by playthell

 john-kerry-351

 Taking flack for telling the Truth

Kerry Must not Resign over Israel Comment

Senator Ted Cruz, a far rightwing Republican charlatan from Texas, has called upon Secretary of State John Kerry to resign because of some remarks he made at the recent Trilateral Conference about the future of Arab/Jewish relations in Palestine/Israel.  Speaking of the consequences that would result from the failure of the present talks between Israel and the Palestinians fail Secretary Kerry said that Israel would become an “Apartheid state.”

Senator Cruz says this remark shows that the Secretary of State is unfit to conduct American foreign policy, and Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who rarely agrees with the Texas Republican Cruz on anything has quickly joined him in criticizing Secretary Kerry, expressing horror that Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East,” should be associated with a massive crime against humanity like South African Apartheid. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Cruz is an opportunistic charlatan whose political success is based on playing to the most extreme rightwing elements of the Republican base – including the “Christian Zionist” among the evangelicals – and his sympathies lie with Neo-Con hawks like Dick Cheney on foreign policy.   And despite her progressive record on other issues Barbara Boxer is a standard-issue Democratic apologist for Israeli excesses.  Like other members of Congress they are both prisoners of the Israeli Lobby.

This explains why they have both rushed to denounce Secretary Kerry’s remarks, and like a kid who has been chastised for wandering out of the yard without permission, Kerry has apologized for breaking the rules.  Since what the Secretary of state said was true, the question before the American people is: Can the Secretary of State serve the best interests of the United States if he cannot even discuss issues critical issues candidly, especially when these issues involve American blood and treasure?

This imposed silence amounts to a form of censorship through political intimidation, orchestrated by the Anti-Defamation League. The League, which directs much of the activity of the broader “Israel Lobby” even as its Director, Abraham “The Inquisitor” Foxman, produced a book denouncing Professors Mearsheimer and Walt’s study and denying that the Israel Lobby exists –  is clearly injurious to American national security, although everyone is in denial about this phenomenon.

 

I wrote about this imposed silence on the question of Israel’s support for Apartheid and the role they played in fingering Mandela in my Eulogy on Commentaries On The Times: ”Nelson Mandela: Freedom Fighter.”

“It is conventional wisdom that no….censorship exists in America, but if one’s work is critical of Israel the normal rules about free inquiry don’t apply.  One need only look at the fate of scholars, both Jew and Gentile, who have written critically about Israel: the learned Jewish theologian Mark Ellis; the courageous investigative journalist Robert I. Freedman, the independent Jewish scholar Lenni Brenner, and especially the non-Jewish scholars John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of the penetrating study The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.”

to read the complete article, see http://commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/nelson-mandela-freedom-fighter/

The US government’s absolute refusal to criticize Israeli policies toward the Palestinians no matter how atrocious, coupled with promiscuous use of horrendous deadly force against Islamic peoples, and the atmosphere of intimidation that suppresses honest debate at home, is the main source of Anti-American hatred in the Muslim world that has made us the primary target of the modern Jihad.  All Americans need to understand the process by which US policy toward Israel is shaped because there will never be peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians receive a just settlement from the Israeli government.  Until then there will be constant wars and rumors of wars in the Middle East.

In order to gain a fuller understanding of this ongoing crisis, and why Kerry should stand up to the “Israel is always right crowd,” read my essay cited above and “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” by John Mearshimer and Stephan Walt, at The London Review of Books Online.  The authors of this study are political science professors at two of the world’s most prestigious universities – Harvard and the University of Chicago – and they know whereof they speak!

“Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?” they ask.   And their answers should outrage all patriotic Americans. “One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides. Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.”

Based on this claim, we might reasonably ask whether those who actively seek to suppress honest debate on Israeli policies toward the beleaguered Palestinian people are a danger to US national security.  For it is self-evident that the best interests of the US is not their paramount concern.

 

Senator Ted Cruz

Cruz - shady character

Republican Charlatan!

Senator Barbara Boxer

Barbara+Boxer+Holds+News+Conf+Wall+St+Reform+ZuoDxn1iL5Zl

Shameless Democratic Apologist for Israel
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Playthell G. Benjamin

San Francisco

April 29, 2014

 

 

Kerry’s Axis of Evil

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on September 4, 2013 by playthell
John Kerry
Watch the Hands

 Pleading the Case for War

As I listened to Secretary of State John Kerry argue the case for launching yet another war in the Muslim world, I thought of the old axiom “truth is the first casualty of war,” which once more demonstrates its veracity.  To listen to his impassioned plea for an attack on Syria, an action they have cloaked in noble rhetoric and infused with high minded purpose, and to take it seriously, it is fairly easy to conclude that going to war in Syria is a benefaction for mankind.  And to do nothing imperils the fate of our republic…which we are assured is “the last best hope of mankind,” even with all our faults.

The fact that 60% of the American people want no part of yet another war in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, poses a problem for the members of Congress, who must vote on questions of war and peace.  Under the US Constitution the nation’s war-making powers are invested in the Congress.  Since President Obama is not only a lawyer but a former professor of Constitutional Law, who has written thoughtfully about that hallowed foundational document, it will be fascinating to watch how he handles it should the Congress fail to co-sign his plan for a military intervention in Syria.  For as we know all too well, past Presidents have found ways to bypass Congress and deployed American military forces abroad.

The most disturbing aspect of the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  is that few Senators offered stiff opposition to the Administration’s plan.  More often than not their questions concentrated on operational matters, such as types of forces and possible casualities, and what plans are we making to support the Syrian opposition after the initial military assault.  This kind of talk takes on a dangerous urgency when it is bolstered with talk about Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria posing a grave danger to the national security of the United States.

Even more disturbing is the line of questioning pursued by Senator Flake, a Republican from Arizona, who argues that the Administration already has the authority to act if the situation in Syria is as bad as they say it is.  Hence he questioned the motives of the administration in bringing the issue to the Congress for a vote.  His response put Secretary Kerry in the bizarre position of pointing out that the Constitution mandates that the President consult the Congress before going to war.

Senator Udall’s questions to the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense were a refreshing departure from the mealy mouthed acquiescence to Administration policy from both sides of the aisle.  Among other things Mr. Udall raised sharp questions as to how he can be sure that American military action will not enable the Jihadist forces to take power.  And his point-blank question as to whether the US should continue to assume the role of global cop, especially in light of our spectacular failures in Iraq or Afghanistan, went straight to the heart of the matter at hand.

I was delighted to witness the Senator standing his ground in face of the huffing and puffing from an unusually animated Secretary of State in defense of his historic military adventure.  At the end of Kerry’s impassioned monologue, in which the Secretary painted his proposed military adventure as the last chance to save the world from barbarism, Senator Udall remained unconvinced that a military intervention in Syria was either a good thing in general, or that our national security was dependent upon it. Alas, his Republican colleague, John McCain, wants an even wider American commitment to war.

However the most probing questions came from Senator Rand Paul, a man with whom I usually disagree with about everything including the weather. It is a sign of the impoverishment of the discourse that Paul, who generally plays the charlatan in shameless fashion, should emerge as a voice of wisdom and truth.  But his unflinching challenge to the Secretary, about both the reliability of his predictions regarding the behavior of Syrian president Assad and the constitutionality of the President’s deployment of military forces on foreign soil if the Congress votes down the his request for a pro-war resolution, went straight to the heart of the matter,

For the Senator the matter was clear, and he cited a compelling passage from James Madison’s writing in the Federalist Papers.  Here Madison argues that the Constitution specifically invested the war making power in the Congress because the great expanse of history demonstrates that it is the executive branch of government that is most promiscuous in its pursuit of war.

Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican, was followed by the newly elected Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Ed Markey, who ironically holds the Senate seat recently abandoned by John  Kerry when he became Secretary of State.  The Senator reminded his colleagues and the representatives of the Obama Administration how we blundered into the Iraq war, and expressed doubt about the certainty of the Administration’s claims regarding the situation in Syria, and the outcome of the proposed military action there.  I share their skepticism.

As I listened to the Secretary of State paint a frightening scenario of the disaster that will befall the world, with grave consequences for the US, should we fail to attack Syria, I became uneasy.    He is certain to include all the bad actors that are routinely vilified in the American media, from the Islamic Caliphate of Iran to the insular communist nation of North Korea.  It reminds me far too much of Colin Powell’s performance before the United Nations, when he argued the case for the invasion of Iraq, and it also evoked the image of Mr. Kerry’s impassioned denunciation of American military actions in Vietnam as a recently returned veteran.

Hence witnessing his performance as a passionate advocate for an attack on Syria had the feeling of dwelling in a Barney and Bailey world, a strange new world where everything had become its opposite.   Mr. Kerry unfolded a list of America’s enemies that bore an uncanny resemblance to George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” and predicted a chain of events to follow in the wake of an American failure to intervene in Syria that resembled a global  “Domino Theory.”   It was as if I had stumbled into a time warp.  This was bad enough, but when I heard Senator Robert Menendez referring to his standing up to the neighborhood bully in New Jersey, as a model from which the US government should fashion our policy toward embattled Syria, it scared the shit outta me!  Hence I am more convinced than ever that my position is right on: NO ATTACK ON SYRIA!!!!!

 Power Corrupts or the Motion of History?
AP A DC USA IRAQ THROUGH VIETNAM
 John Kerry testifying Against war 42 years ago

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Playthell G. Benjamin

San Francisco, Ca.

September 3, 2013

A Memo to President Obama…

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized on August 29, 2013 by playthell

A devestated Syria

A country already devastated by internecine conflict

 …No Unilateral Strike on Syria!!

Once again the saber rattlers in Washington are seriously considering a military action in an Islamic country in order to “liberate” the people from an oppressive government.  As the Obama Administration reviews evidence that the Syrian government has used poison  gas  against opponents of the embattled Assad regime, talk of an air strike  in Syria is growing louder even as the polls show that a majority of Americans want no part of it, this writer included.

This growing opposition to American intervention is fueled by a combination of war weariness and the belief that American treasure can be put to better use rebuilding our country and rescuing millions of Americans from economic desperation. There is also widespread skepticism about the so-called “evidence,” for it evokes bitter memories of the Bush Administrations “evidence” regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Even in a nation famous for historical amnesia, this four trillion dollar debacle has not been forgotten – especially when the American Society of Civil Engineers have calculated that we could have completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the US, laying the basis for a new economic takeoff, for half that price.

While I cannot be counted as a fellow isolationist in lockstep with the Libertarians who believe  the US should never intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country no matter what, and even oppose the granting of foreign aid – i.e. Ron and Rand Paul – I am nonetheless cautious about American intervention in other countries.  Needless to say, as a humanitarian and one who cares deeply about the future of our country, I believe we cannot ignore genuine cases of genocide in the world, and the idea of cutting off all foreign aid from the richest country in on earth is irresponsible and dangerous nonsense!

Like the Chinese, I think our foreign policy should be largely oriented toward aid, trade and technical assistance and less toward military actions.  But I also believe that Chinese indifference to questions of human rights in their foreign policy is amoral, such as in the Sudan,  and here they can learn something from us. 

If morality is to play any role in foreign policy, and I believe the world will be a more dangerous place without it, there are situations where the deployment of military force in a foreign country can be a heroic and benevolent act.  The invasion of Nazi Germany to liberate the Jews, and a proposed invasion of Rwanda to prevent genocide are obvious situations where US intervention would be justified.

However more often than not, American military intervention has been a disaster, both for the US and the people in the countries under attack.  Iran, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al are excellent cases in point.  Not to mention the countless US interventions in Latin American counties, often subverting the democratic will of the people if it didn’t compliment American interests in the region – such as the overthrow of Dr. Salvador Allende in Chile.  

In every instance these interventions were justified with high minded rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy…despite abundant evidence to the contrary.  At one point cynics about the real aims of American foreign policy began to refer to the CIA the “Community Interventionist Agency,” and the American claim as “freedom fighters” was met with the retort: “Yes, they fight freedom everywhere!”

Obviously, international relations being the complicated mess that it is there is no easy or simple answer to the question of military intervention in foreign countries.  While the strict Chinese policy of non-intervention into the internal affairs of other nations serves the interest of China well, since rapid domestic development and modernization is their paramount objective at this juncture in their history, if the rest of the world adopted a similar position every variety of evil tyrant and murderous mad man could use national sovereignty as a shield behind which to commit all manner of evil against their people, including genocide.

The way in which the US has treated Afro-Americans and Native Americans for most of its history is a strong case in point.  And although American military power made intervention unthinkable by other countries – even if they had the inclination to do so – the arrival of the Cold War in the mid-twentieth century and the coincidental rise of anti-colonial national liberation movements that resulted in the emergence of a host of newly independent non-white nations exerted tremendous pressure on the US to scrap its racist policies.

For the ruling elites in the US this dramatic about face was not a question of morality, as it is so often represented, but was dictated by the need to win the hearts and minds of the millions who lived in the “Bandung World” in order to prevent them from aligning with the Communist block led by the increasingly powerful, nuclear armed, Soviet Union.

This political reality was far more powerful than moral preachment in convincing many in the US government to dismantle racial apartheid.  Hence as a member of a powerless minority that has suffered great oppression from our government and witnessed genocide against Native Americans, I could never be persuaded to adopt a position of non-intervention no matter what that is the mantra of the Libertarian fringe of the Republican Party.

Having said this however, I feel that the US cannot continue to pursue go it alone policies, as if America has been appointed the moral arbiter of the world by some divine power – as some of my fellow citizens appear to believe.  For we have neither the wisdom nor the wealth to carry out such a task.  Hence the Obama Administration must heed the warning of the United Nations not to launch a unilateral strike, or an attack by an American made “coalition of the willing” such as we witnessed in Iraq.  Instead the US government must follow the norms of international law, and submit their findings before the UN and allow the international community of nations to act on it.

It is no secret that I believe that in messy matters of foreign policy President Obama has acted with Solomonic wisdom.  Yet because his actions must be governed by the imperatives of defending American interests in the world, while protecting the homeland against terrorist assault from the Islamic Jihadists, he will never satisfy the committed pacifist or the self-righteous ideologues on the left.  

 The President is about to make what I believe will prove to be a foreign policy blunder of historic proportions if he plunges headlong into the Syrian conflict without a genuine debate in the UN, and awaiting the unbiased conclusion of the international team of UN weapons inspectors who are assessing the situation on the ground in Syria.

Are more bombs the answer here?
A devastated Syria
A country in desperate need of peace

If we have learned anything from the colossal blunder in Iraq it is the folly of launching a military assault based on inadequate or inaccurate information.  The fact that there may have been toxic gas used in Syria, as the intelligence seems to suggest, does not tell us who used it.   And of this we must be sure before we commit American blood and treasure in that conflict. 

Furthermore, even if the Obama Administration is convinced that their intelligence proves it was the Syrian government – who controls one of the largest stock piles of chemical weapons on earth – that gave the order, they must still submit that evidence and allow the UN to adjudicate the matter.

We should also have learned by now that it is far easier to start a war than to end one, as the present attempts to disengage from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan makes all too clear.  And that sometimes the “cure” turns out to be worse than the disease…especially in the Islamic world, a region of unfathomable complexities and contradictions.  The Syrian situation has the warning “beware of quagmires!” emblazoned all over it like a flashing neon sign.  For all these reasons, and possibly more, the US must not launch a unilateral attack on Syria!

 

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Playthell  G. Benjamin

San Francisco, California

August 28, 2013

In Egypt its a Fight to the Finish!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on August 21, 2013 by playthell
Islamic militants take to the streets
egypt-coup-morsi-us
Fear of death has not deterred them

But What Should the US Do?

The widening conflict in Egypt and the rising body count contains the fundamental feature of classical tragedy, magnificent mortals pitted against cosmic forces whose heroic efforts are doomed to failure.  For some time now I have been writing about the situation in Egypt and the possibility of an armed conflict between the Islamic theocrats and secular military strong men, as they contend for power in that oldest and most populous of the Arab nations.

One can simply enter “On Egypt” in the search engine on this blog to review the paper trail, and it will reveal why I am not surprised that it has come to this tragic state of affairs in that ancient country.  The record will show that I have always believed it would come to something like this i.e. open armed conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Armed forces that will result in one side vanquishing the other.

Let me hasten to confess that I have no crystal ball and do not claim supernatural powers.  Nor do I have vast intelligence agencies briefing me.  Instead I rely on the lessons of history and take the Islamist at their word.  Hence at the onset of the so called Arab Spring, an impromptu movement for popular democracy in the Arab world characterized by disruptive mass demonstrations directed from Facebook, I have always been skeptical that the movement would result in anything like the western democratic societies as many had vainly hoped.

In fact I have consistently argued that we were far more likely to wind up with a “Tyranny of the Majority,” as Alexis de Tocqueville, that prescient 19th century tribune and incisive analyst of American democracy called it.  Even in the US, this has been the case when the racial caste system is taken into account.  Hence in this land of ancient grievances, the most potent of which in the modern era being based in religious disputes and secularist vs. theocrats, democracy is a synonym for tyranny.  In such a scenario the common place bromides about the virtues of popular democracy do not apply; ideology is contradicted by reality and thus things fall apart.

We have been assured of this result by no less an authority than the official ideologist of the Andropov regime in Soviet Russia, who confessed that the powerful Communist Party of the Soviet Union collapsed mainly because “when reality disagreed with our ideology we dismissed reality.”  That’s what some “experts” who now talk about restoring “democratic government” in Egypt are doing.  As history has repeatedly demonstrated: In the Muslim world, when unfettered popular elections allow the majority of the populace to express their political will, they often elect Islamic parties to power.

It has even happened in Turkey, a nation founded on the principle of separation of church and state.  Indeed, the key to understanding the present conflict in Egypt is to grasp the significance of the Turkish experiment with constructing a secular democracy in an Islamic country.  Kamal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, had figured out that there was a correlation between the modernization of western societies and the separation of church and state that had occurred there.

He saw that in a modern secular society science is given primacy over religion, physics over metaphysics, and merit over tribalism.  Ataturk recognized that these changes were the essential  building blocks of modernity.  And he understood that if the Islamic countries were going to ever catch up to the West they would have to undergo a similar religious reformation as that in the west, and he put measures in place to insure the development and preservation of secularism in Turkish politics and public policy.

But the secular character of Turkish society in now threatened by the success of the Justice and Development Party, which is an Islamic Party. One female Turkish journalist that I recently interviewed – and who wishes to remain anonymous – is horrified by the rise of this Islamic Party to power. She is hoping that the military will intervene to stop them from passing repressive laws against women and curtailing other civil liberties.  And she is very worried about the fact that some top military men have been removed from their positions, since Ataturk had envisioned the military as the guardian of Turkey’s secular democracy.

Islamic Demonstrators in Turkey
turkey_demonstrators001_16x9
A frightening sight to secular democrats

The Egyptian government has been able to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood only by employing the heavy hand of the military since the middle of the twentieth century; which is why Muhammad Morsi is the first elected civilian leader in Egypt’s history.  The entire history of the modern Egyptian state is marked by the rule of military strongmen: Abdel Gamal Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Honsi Mubarak, all army officers. And for most of this period the country was governed under martial law, a system which gave extraordinary powers to the government.

When criticized on this policy by the US and other western governments the Egyptian strong men said martial law was necessary in order to keep the Islamic militants in check, preventing them from wreaking havoc. They were convinced that if the Muslim Brotherhood ever took over the country they would establish Sharia i.e. Islamic law. As modern secular men the military has been consistently opposed to the Islamicization of Egypt.   That’s why the Egyptian activist, who led the pro-democracy movement that toppled the Mubarak regime and forced the military out of politics, were begging them to overthrow the Muhamad Morsi government before he was halfway through his first term as President.

The reason millions of Egyptians who had cursed the military establishment just a year or two ago now enthusiastically sing their praises, is because after giving them a taste of power they now recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood, like all Islamic parties, is fundamentally opposed to a secular democratic society.

Hence no matter what they say, they are committed to establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Yet to the careful and informed observer all of this was predictable, as you can see from reading my essays on Egypt.  To grasp what has happened here one need only remember that the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt was the incubator in which the theology of Sayyid Guthb, the theologian whose writings inspired the modern Jihad, was hatched. And they have not repudiated these beliefs.

Thus in order to understand the Muslim Brotherhoods political behavior, understanding their view of politics is essential.  The most important thing to understand about their attitude toward democratic politics is that Sayyid Guthb preached that all the troubles of the contemporary world are rooted in the separation of church and state.  To them all the world should be living under Sharia Law, which they believe was handed down from God/Allah and is therefore the perfect plan for a fulfilling and righteous human community.

Allah’s Army

Uprising

They will not be easily deterred

They also believe that all leaders of predominately Muslim countries that are not governed by Sharia law are apostates worthy of death.  They are referred to as “Jahlili,” which means a barbarian or savage who is living in contradiction of God’s Plan.  Sayyid divided the world into “Dat El Islam” and “Dar El Harb,”  the difference between the two is one is governed by Sharia Law and the other by laws of man.  In his view these societies are natural enemies and  the latter must be subordinated to the former by any means nescissary,  Hence they view it as their duty to eradicate secular democracy in Muslim countries because they are sacrilegious abominations that interfere with God’s perfect plan.  There’s is a totalitarian doctrine; Just like the Communists who believe that Marxism is a socio-political version of what physicist call “Unified Field theory,” a theory that explains everything.

However since the standards of physics is far more exacting than Marxism physicist readily admit that they have no such theory; yet the Marxist are certain that they have.  Hence in any coalition with communist their objective is to eventually take it over and impose their worldview.  If you add to the certainty of the Marxist that they have the “science” that explains every aspect of human society, to the Islamic theocrat’s view that their plan was handed down to man by God almighty himself, even a blind man can see that there is no compromise to be found with them.  Hence they must be defeated!

It is this understanding on the part of secular military men, supported by Egyptians who have witnessed enough of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to governence to know that they cannot be trusted to safeguard democracy and religious pluralism.   This has led to the present violent conflict between the supporters on the Muslim Brotherhood and those who support the ideal of secular democracy.  Since Americans would not wish to live under religious dictators, and it is not in the interests of the US to have an Islamic fundamentalist government in Egypt, it would be both hypocritical and self-destructive for President Obama to follow the advice of those who are calling for him to cut off aid to the Egyptian military.

Although the scenes of carnage we see on our television screens are troubling, the consequences of an Islamic fundamentalist government would be far worse – remember the mass executions in Iran after the Ayatollahs came to power in an Islamic revolution spurred by American meddling?   This is a situation where all of the choices are bad.  Hence while moralist look for a perfect solution, politicians must choose the lesser evil.  In the present instance this means supporting the Egyptian military.  Anyone who is not capable of making this kind of old blooded decision based on realpolitik should choose another profession – such as a preacher or philosopher.

The Carnage in Syria

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Slaughtered innocents are everywhere

Alas, the most critical lesson of the Egyptian crisis – and other upheavals in the Middle Easy – is that the US is not the world’s policeman and thus cannot control the behavior of other nations.  That is a lesson we should also remember when our political leaders talk about wading into the Syrian Quagmire, where thousands of people are being slaughtered as I write.  The region is on fire and the danger zone is everywhere!  We will continue to monitor this developing situation in the Arab world with great interests.

The Middle East is Being Reduced to Rubble
 Free Syrian Army fighters are seen as a fire burns after what activists said was a shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Homs
 And America has no solution to this.
 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
August 21, 2013

Secularists vs. Theocrats in Egypt!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on July 12, 2013 by playthell

fl26egypt

                       A Muslim Imam and Colonel Nasser

 Can Egyptians Avoid Civil War?

The present Egyptian crisis, in which 51 people have been killed in the last few days and threatens to rip the nation apart, was sparked by events growing out of the last election a year ago, yet it has deep roots in the nation’s modern history, harkening back to the founding of Egypt as an independent nation in the middle of the last century.  At best it is old wine in new bottles. Hence the issues that have moved the nation to the brink of what increasingly looks like a brewing Civil War represent a persistent theme in the political history of Egypt over the last 61 years: The struggle between the secularists, represented by military strong men, and the Theocrats in the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is only when viewed from this perspective that the present conflict can be understood. Since the middle of the 20th century the Egyptians have gone through three major struggles in an attempt to forge an independent modern nation state.  First there was the movement for national independence from British protectorate status, secondly there was the struggle for a more equitable society, and finally there was the struggle against a takeover of the country by Islamic extremist, who were represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the anti-colonial struggle to overthrow the government of King Forouk, Colonel Abdel Gamel Nasser, a secular nationalist soldier trained in the art of war at Sandhurst, England’s elite military academy, enlisted the Muslim Brotherhood in the fight.  In 1952 he led a group of military men called the “Free Officers” that overthrew the Farouk regime and set up the Revolutionary Command Council, which was headed by Major General Muhammad Naguib.  But Nasser removed him from office two years later and declared himself Prime Minister.  In 1956 he was elected President of a new single party socialist government, whose constitution was also approved in the election, both by 98% of the vote

At first all was well, as both the secular nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to put an end to foreign domination, however when Egypt emerged as an independent nation the radical differences in their vision of the ideal society came to the fore and would eventually lead to open conflict.  Things got so bad the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Colonel Nasser, and he in return imprisoned their leading theologian Sayeed Guthb, author of the massive thirty volume theological exegesis “In the Shade of the Koran,” which along with Sayeed’s single volume treatise Milestones underpins the theology of the modern Jihad.

In 1966, Sayeed’s opposition to the secular Egyptian government, which inspired Islamic fanatics to attempt another assassination of Colonel Nasser, resulted in Nasser’s decision to send the militant Muslims an unmistakable message and hung Sayeed Guthb – who remained an unrepentant fanatic to the end, kissing the scaffold just before the put the noose around his neck.  This initiated a protracted struggle between the Secularist government and fanatical theocrats who want to establish Islamic Sharia law in Egypt that persists as I write.

This is why Egypt has been governed by a succession of secular military strong men over the last fifty years, and they kept the Muslim Brotherhood in check.  However it was not an easy task.  Colonel Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Colonel Nasser, was the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel.  He was assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist as he sat on a reviewing stand during a military parade and he was followed by Colonel Honsi Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for the next 30 years, until he was driven from office by the recent uprisings and put on trial for crimes against the Egyptian people.  The first multi-party elections in Egyptian history were held last year and Mohammad Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected.  A year later he was deposed and placed under house arrest by the by the military…to many observers it looks like de ja vu.

Sayeed Guthb

Saayd Guthb

Militant Theologian Hung by Nasser

Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat

Assassinated by a Muslim fundamentalist

However a closer look will reveal some important differences.  In 1952 the military overthrew a universally hated regime and held power, until the military leader was confirmed by a vote in a one party election four years later. In 2012 the military forced one of its own to step down as a result of a mass uprising of the Egyptian people.

The present takeover occurred after Mohamad Morsi was elected in a multi-party election in which many of the people who voted for Morsi vehemently disagreed with the decision of the military to depose Morsi.  Their massive demonstrations, vows of further resistance and the violence that followed Morsi’s removal make it clear that the situation in Egypt is far from resolved.

However while Morsi’s die hard supporters took to the streets in a fit of rage, some even fired on the police, many millions more cheered his removal by the army.  They cheered, and sang, and even set off fireworks while chanting “God is great!”  This is what distinguished the action of the military in this instance from a traditional coup, although some American politicians, like Senator John McCain, argue that it is.

The truth is that the military was carrying out the popular will, many on the scene observers who were there during the demonstrations that brought the authoritarian Mubarak regime down, say the demonstrations demanding the ouster of Morsi were larger.  This is because many Egyptians, who hoped the new government would bring a wider arena of freedom and democratic practice, felt that the actions of the Morsi government were a betrayal.  Before the army intervened the country was on the verge of anarchy and religious conflict, hence I think Dr. Ziebneiw Brzezinsky is right when he calls the military’s actions “a coup against anarchy.”

The People Return to the Streets in outrage

Egyptian Revolution 2013

Demanding an end to the Islamist Government!
Then the Army Stepped In
_Egypt_2013
And Restores Order

The fundamental problem with the new Egyptian “democracy” is that it was in reality a “tyranny of the majority,” a term coined by the French social theorist Alex de Tocqueville in his two volume masterwork “Democracy in America,” the pioneering study on the American style of governance published in 1830, in order to distinguish a true democracy in which the opposition and unpopular minorities are protected in the law, and a system in which the majority simply imposes it’s will without regard for dissenting opinions.

The latter approach is how the Morsi government went about its business as they cobbled together a constitution that was laying the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state; which has been a longtime objective of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Furthermore the constitution had no mechanism such as impeachment or recall procedures for the lawful removal of a president who misused his office.

It was clear that, like all Islamic parties when they come to power, these people believed their actions were ordained by God, so who cares about the wishes of men.  This kind of thinking leads to a system where you have one person one vote once!  Hence the Egyptian people, who sought a true democracy where political decisions are based on the will of the electorate, not the word of God whispered into the ears of some Islamic zealot, wouldn’t stand for it and took to the streets en mass.

Only the intervention of the army could prevent chaos.  That’s why in the eyes of the majority of Egyptians the soldiers are heroes who rescued the nation from catastrophe; and those Americans who oppose the wisdom of the Egyptian people – like the Arizona bully John McCain – remind me of the suspicious characters an old Ibo proverb warns us about:” Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family! “

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NOTE: This is the first of a multi-part series on the Egyptian crisis.

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 11, 2013

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