A Tale of Two Wars: US Exploitation of the Middle East
By Amer Jubran
July 21, 2004
Israeli tanks in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli provocations against Lebanon, clashes between Saudi police and Saudi dissidents, clashes between Yemeni police and Yemeni dissidents, overstated and over-reported ethnic cleansing in western Sudan, sudden US concern about Iranian atomic projects and alleged Iranian links to September 11, explosions and dead US marines in Iraq. What's happening in the Middle East? To make sense the hell that seems always to be breaking loose over this region, some history is in order.
In late 1978, heads of intelligence, interior services, and state security advisors of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran held a secret meeting in the Saudi port of Jeddah. The purpose was to plan a strategy for combating the “communist infidels” of the USSR as part of a Jihadi war. Such a war would target one ideology - communism – by invoking another ideology --Islam.
The first round of the war began with attacks against opposition groups and dissidents of the four respective states. The dissidents were labeled communists. Specially singled out were the supporters of the Palestinian armed struggle, and the Lebanese resistance.
Arms, men, and supplies were then deployed to the battleground of the African Horn. Trouble was stirred up in Ethiopia, since it was the nearby communist state. There, a scenario was rehearsed which was run through two years later in Afghanistan, where a war of attrition became decisive in contributing to the collapse of the USSR.
While the US openly supported Israel and stole Arab oil, the USSR provided the Arab world throughout the 60's and 70's with arms, financial aid, wheat, and educational, technological and political support. Over thirty years, about a million poor Arabs received a chance of education in different fields because of the USSR. But none of this help seemed to pardon the USSR of its guilt.
The US came out as the winner in the so-called holy war on communism. The people and states of the Middle East lost in a big way. They lost the former benefits of USSR support and they endured but also by the catastrophic events of the Iraq-Iran war, the Afghanistan war, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the political turmoil in Egypt resulting from the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.
But the biggest loss was the loss by the region's oil producers of the strategic political power derived from oil.
At the end of September, 2001, the same states -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran -- in addition to Pakistan and Syria, met again in Sharm el-Sheikh, not far from Jeddah. The topic of concern this time was how to be an effective ally in the war on what the US called "global terrorism." Notably, Syria and Iran, despite claiming to be anti-American and being shunned as an ally by the US, were pivotal in implementing the US "war on terror." They went beyond giving legitimacy to this war to providing intelligence, rounding up their own citizens and other individuals to hand over to the US, and allowing the US to use their airspace to conduct sorties against Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran contributed the "Northern Alliance" as foot-soldiers in the new US war in Afghanistan . Iran also put a lid on the Iraqi Shiites through the clergy leadership known as "Al-Hawza," led by Iranian cleric Sistani.
War typically involves two sides fighting in direct battle for the purpose of controlling resources, land, or for self-defense. In the war on terrorism the US is on one side, and on the other side is a vague concept - "terrorism" -- which US media associated with Arabs and Muslims. US security and political control of the Middle East had been established since the late 40's. Why would the US now declare war on Arabs and Muslims? Attacking a religion and its followers and not their states could be only described as overt racism. Incredibly, heads of state were now reduced to joining a war declared by an outside invader on their own citizens.
The "War on Terrorism" became a pretext for cracking down once again on local dissidents, especially pro-resistance liberation movements in Saudi-Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, and the Kurdish fighters in Turkey. It is estimated that some 250,000 people have been subjected so far to imprisonment, interrogation, assassination, and US military attack in this new war. This is in addition to economic and social devastation done to the countries as a whole.
As in the war on communism, so with the new war on terrorism, the Arab states proved completely loyal and acted with maximum efficiency as allies to Uncle Sam - more so even than Israel. The US claim that Israel is its only ally in the Middle East is false. So far, Israel's record has been one of consistent provocation of Arabic people, which has hurt the US by turning public opinion toward resentment and hatred of it.
But the US insistence on provoking Arab rejection is deliberate. It is harder for the US to wage war on a concept alone. There has to be a concrete enemy, or the war will be impossible to sell. There have to be people associated with terrorism.
In both the war on communism and the war on terror, devastation and violence swept the Middle East. This triggered fear and anxiety, apprehension, and disenfranchisement in the people of the region. The two wars placed most Arabs and Muslims in a defensive position, reflected by a large majority responding by taking on an Islamic identity.
Repression by local client regimes and direct US and Israeli warmaking left the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims impoverished and praying for the defeat of the US. Through propaganda and manipulation, millions of people have been turned into faces without mouths who perfectly fit the profile of terrorists, simply because they don't look like Americans.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese, Palestinian, and Iraqi resistance decided to fight back, with discipline and strategy, adopting armed struggle. Others, such as Al-Qa'eda, decided to attack anywhere by any means possible. All have been used by Uncle Sam as proof of the existence of “terrorist organizations.”
In the war against communism, the US pushed to create an environment that would bring in recruits who felt pride in being Muslims fighting infidels. In the war against terror, those Muslims suddenly found themselves the infidels, who would now be vanquished by the Almighty Uncle Sam. Those the US once described as holy Mujahideen have become today ruthless terrorists.
How did this come about?
In the aftermath of the US defeat in Vietnam, the United States found itself unwelcome in many places around the globe. Strategic thinkers such as Carter's US national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, thought of a new strategy to regain lost national glory. Brzezinski called his strategy the "Grand Chess Game," arguing that the US should concentrate its efforts, strategic planning, and wars in the Middle East - putting all the eggs in this one basket would pay. This new outlook was a fundamental departure from Eisenhower's "Filling the Void" approach, where the region was considered a wall that could be used to encircle the USSR. The "Grand Chess Game" considered the Middle East a quagmire for anyone attempting global competition with US.
Brzezinski's chess board divided the world into four major blocs. US domination over the economic and political sovereignty of these blocs required that all of their conflicts and interests meet and filter through the Middle East. The Middle East was vulnerable because it lacked deeply rooted resistance, sovereignty, technological capabilities, and political stability. In large part, this weakness was due to six hundred years of Turkish occupation in the name of Islam, which left the Arab world lagging behind the industrial world, and politically and socially disoriented.
According to Brzezinski, the four blocs were:
1) The Eastern European bloc. Before the fall of the USSR, US military intervention was limited by Soviet military and nuclear capability.
2) The Western European bloc, a very important ally of the US with important cultural and economic ties. Western Europe was already being played as the major theater for the Cold War. The Europeans were exhausted from World Wars I and II, which left them uneasy about facing war conditions again.
3) The Far Eastern bloc, whose nations are known as the "Asian Tigers." The US adventured here twice in the Korean and the Vietnam wars. The outcome of these two brutal attacks made clear the US interest in global domination. In this region, China played the dual role of opening to the US and displaying power and sovereignty that required less US military policing of the region.
4) Finally, the Middle East, so named by Imperial Britain because it was half way to the Far East from Britain. In the 40's and 50's, under the Marshall Plan, the Arab world was starved to famine levels as its oil was siphoned off. The revenue from this oil was then used to rebuild and stabilize Europe. The robbing of the Middle East made it possible for Europe to salvage its colonies in Africa and Asia as well.
For Brzezinski, conditions in the Middle East were ideal for destabilization and for manufacturing wars, as needed. The conditions were perfect for bringing down the USSR. The bloc was exceptional for its susceptibility to being made weak by division among peoples, to be broken into small states, to be periodically attacked by the US proxy state of Israel, and, most important, for its ability to finance Uncle Sam's imperial ambitions, thanks to its huge oil resources. The US simply followed the European formula.
US wars on terrorism and communism were motivated not by stopping these supposed menaces, but in order to secure supreme power under their pretext. These wars were both governed by unsurpassed racism and cruelty against Arab and Muslim people. The US public, the people of Western Europe, and Arab compradors are all responsible for the scourge generated by this US policy. They have made it possible through the payment of taxes, through silence, through inexcusable ignorance, through unthinking greed and privilege, through complicity, and through an unbelievable betrayal of basic humanity over a period of more than 60 years. From the ravages there is now emerging a fierce will to fight back. It is visible today in the Iraqi resistance, which is beginning the long task of bringing the US to justice for its monumental crimes.