May 1, 2005

The Power of Myth

Posted by Mary Madigan

In his essay The Arab Street: A Vanquished Cliché, Christopher Hitchens described how the “annoying expression” Arab street began to expire. It unofficially expired when millions of Iraqis defied the terrorist “Insurgents” by voting in January’s elections. But it was on its last legs before then:

Other Muslim streets are even more problematic for those who lazily assume that the jihadists are the voice of the unheard. The populations of Bosnia and Kosovo—populations that actually did have to confront anti-Muslim violence on a large scale—are generally hostile to Bin-Ladenism. Nobody has ever used the term "Iranian street," at least in print or on broadcast news, if only because everyone knows that Iranian opinion, as registered during the mock elections or voiced to visiting hacks, is strongly against the reigning theocracy.
When the real man on the street was allowed to speak his own mind, without fear of the secret police or the terrorist who lives next door, the myth of the "Arab Street" and the media’s dream that jihad was the "voice of the unheard" died. The Cedar Revolution was the final nail in the coffin. Hezbollah’s jihadis defied the will of the ordinary people and marched in support of the Syrian Ba’thists. Michael Totten described Hezbollahland's streets as:
a terrorist-ruled security-state within a state. The Lebanese Armed Forces are not allowed to enter Hezbollah's territory. Most Christians and Sunni Muslims never dare set foot inside. Buildings are sandbagged. Surveillance and security watchtowers are erected in front of restaurants and stores. A Lebanese-American historian based in West Beirut told me that Hezbollah is better armed and more militarily powerful than the Lebanese army.
In contrast to the average streets in Beirut:
East and West Beirut are as free-wheeling as Hong Kong, but Hezbollahland is a virtually sovereign fascist police state.
The Cedar Revolution also destroyed the cliché that Ba’thists like Saddam were secularists, opposed to the Islamists. Hezbollah and the Syrians, both inspired by fascist imagery and salutes, have been united towards a common goal for some time.

This week, we saw the benefit of the end of destructive myths - the final, wonderful victory for the Cedar Revolution. The Lebanese government formally announced the election would be held on time. Pro-independence and pro-democracy forces were able to make their voices heard. As the Iraqi voters and millions of Lebanese proved, the goals of the fascists are actively opposed by the majority of the "Arab street."

Unfortunately, also last week our President exploded another myth. He just killed the belief that American has been fighting a war against terrorism by publicly begging the financier and the source of most Islamist terrorism for a favor.

Appeasing the Saudi government and helping the Royals in any way they can has been a long-standing policy of our Government. It’s doubtful that the Democrats could criticize Bush for his actions when Clinton accepted millions in Saudi donation towards the building of his library, or when Jimmy Carter accepts many millions in Saudi donations for ‘peace’ in Africa.

But like many Democrats, the Bush administration still seems to be living in a 9/10 universe. According to this article, Pump Dreams, published in the New Yorker and in the Energy Bulletin, Dick Cheney stated that the war in Iraq was necessary to protect America’s friends in the region:

.. in August, 2002, seven months before the war started, Cheney warned that Saddam would be able to seize control of the world’s economic lifeline if he acquired weapons of mass destruction: “Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten per cent of the world’s oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
America's friends as in Saudi Arabia. Saudi oil wealth pays Osama bin Laden’s salary, and the salaries of most Islamist terror organizations around the world. They are responsible for 9/11. As our president held Abdullah’s hand, Abdullah’s employee and friend, chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan encouraged young Saudis to go to Iraq to kill American soldiers.
"This statement shows the real face of the Saudi government," says Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed of the Saudi Institute, based in Washington.

Al-Ahmed says that while Saudi officials — including Sheik Luhaidan — publicly oppose jihad in Iraq, privately some send a different message.

"He is telling Saudis it's OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis and they won’t be punished for doing that," says Al-Ahmed.

Young Saudis don’t need Al Luhaidan to tell them to kill Americans. They were happy to do that on 9/11, and they’ve been killing, maiming American soldiers and destroying the Iraqi oil fields since the ‘end’ of the Iraq war. As we can see from oil prices, terrorism has been very profitable for the KSA.

These are our friends?

We fought the war in Iraq for many reasons: the elimination of Ba’thist Saddam’s genocidal dictatorship, the threat he posed. The Iraqi elections and the Cedar Revolution wouldn’t have been possible without this war. But there’s a profound disconnect between the real world and the logic-free reasoning of the RealPolitik stategists and the energy establishment. Also from the New Yorker:

From an economic vantage point, a strategy based on Realpolitik makes sense. To meet the rising demand for oil in the coming decades, the Gulf states need to spend tens of billions of dollars on expanding their capacity, an enormous capital investment that is unlikely to materialize in a hostile environment. Some opec members already favor keeping the supply tight so that prices will stay high. As in the past, the West will have to rely on the Saudi government to be the voice of moderation. “If you are sitting on a very large reserve base, as Saudi Arabia is, you don’t want somebody coming along and saying, ‘We are really going to make a push to develop an alternative to the internal-combustion engine,’” Robert Ebel said. “You have a division of opinion within opec, but Saudi Arabia is big enough to call the shots.”
Clueless can’t begin to describe this policy. Realpolitik strategists don’t want to offend the ‘moderate’ sponsors of worldwide terrorism by discussing alternative energy? They want to give these terror supporting tyrants more power over their OPEC buddies and their neighbors in the Middle East? The myth of our moderate Saudi friends is obviously more powerful to them than the facts about Saudi support of terrorism and the slaughter of thousands of Americans on 9/11.

The KSA is the terrorism and the tyranny we’re supposed to be fighting. But our government is continuing its long-standing policy of coddling, pampering and legitimizing them. This destructive alliance alienates potential friends and allies.

The death of lies and myths is a good thing – we can’t fight a war if we don’t understand our friends, our enemies, or ourselves. Until we understand all of the elements involved, we can’t claim to be fighting a war on terrorism.

Posted by Mary Madigan at May 1, 2005 7:23 AM

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