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Extracts from William Pfaff with commentary: Tribune Media Services

09 May 2007

9/11, bin Laden's gloating, and Mr. Bush declaring war on terror gave us all the impression that what terrorism is all about is our presence in the Middle East. If we had not been in the Middle East, we would not have been hit. It is that simple. But we were there, to secure supplies of oil for energy-hungry America.

The war on terror, and that is no longer an apt description, has been corrupted to serve private interests--the likes of Blackwater and Haliburton being just two of a number of such entities.

Refreshingly, William Pfaff proposes an alternate view:

      The terrorist attacks in Algiers on April 11, killing 23 people, demonstrate once again a fundamental reality about Islamic terrorism that few in responsible positions in the West seem yet to have grasped.

      "The war of the fundamentalists is against other Moslems. It is not primarily a war against the West, which the extremists could not possibly win, and which concerns them only so far as the West interferes in the Moslem world. It is war against the established authorities in Islamic society and against Moslem moderates and reformers.

      "Hence it is Moslem society itself that must – and eventually will – deal with the extremist challenge, and the fundamentalists inevitably will lose. A billion Moslems are not going to turn back to the way of life of the Middle Ages, any more than modern Americans and Europeans are going to do so."

Pfaff makes wonderful sense. There really is no other way. American interests in this sense match those of the rest of the world's nations. We must avoid the quicksand and swamps as we find ways to boost moderate governance. The Cold War was won by patience, so can the cool war be. Diplomacy does work, but only if all sides win as they would by putting extremism into the dustbin of history. The lords of war, genocide, empire would be consigned to the same fate. The Cold War lasted some four decades. The Cool War might take as long as there is a humungous amount of nation building to be done, not to mention providing societies with the tools to recognize and counter extremism on the individual, local, national and world scales.

      "Why is the United States now at “war” with terrorist militants inspired by Wahabi fundamentalism? For the usual reason: the American inability to grasp the political and cultural implications of actions taken for totally self-interested reasons."

It is not just the American citizen, Pfaff means our leaders, the Neocons of this Administration to be exact. But prior adminstrations aided in the build-up to this moment. Not since the Truman, Marshall, Eisenhower, Kennedy era has much wisdom resided in Washington. Even winning the Cold War as we did came at a price. We naively armed and trained some extremists called the Taliban as part of our effort to kick the Russians out of Afghanistan. Pfaff explains how:

      Washington induced the Saudi authorities to help it recruit fundamentalist fighters against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. This action proved a great CIA success. The Russians ousted, the Agency went home, leaving behind an organized militant fundamentalist movement.

      At the same time the Pentagon had launched a worldwide expansion of American security and base systems. After the Gulf War (under George Bush senior) it decided that in the interests of its new global security strategy it needed a major permanent base in Saudi Arabia, despite the objections of Saudi leaders.

      Al Qaeda was created by Afghan war veterans to force that American base out of Saudi Arabia, where these militants believed that it contaminated the Islamic Holy Places.
      If diplomacy failed to get the U.S. out, violence might. Thus began the program of terrorist attacks that spectacularly climaxed in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
      After 9/11, George W. Bush declared – according to Bob Woodward – that he “would export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation.” The great nation, as we have seen, has been in little actual danger, but Bush has done what he promised.

      Thus far he has wrecked three nations, Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently a Somalia that had found some version of stability under Islamist rule. Soon – who knows? – there will be Iran. Tens of thousands have died. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes or countries. But victory eludes George Bush, while Islamic fundamentalism thrives on the blood of its martyrs.

And martyrs we provide, dozens daily. Chris Hedges is a seminary graduate; his father was a minister. Hedges was captured and held by the Iraqis in the first Gulf War, so he knows a bit about war first hand. He said in an interview with Bill Moyers:

      "I think in the short-term, yes, violence and force can win. But in the long-term, it leaves nothing but hollowness, emptiness. It does nothing to enrich our lives or propel us forward as human beings."

What happened in Iraq followed Hedge's script to a "T." Iraq has also become terribly expensive--a fact that will hit home to America when other nations stop purchasing American Government securities as being too high a risk.

What does a military goliath do when his banker, the American public, says:
"No More?"

Since Mr. Bush is the primary owner of this problem, we fear his solution. He wants to pour more fuel on a fire that is igniting Islam in ways remindful of Islam's response to the Crusades. The next adminstration, having to deal with it, could then, in his mind, be blamed for any ultimate failure. But of course that is not the case. Deceit cannot forever deceive the American electorate. Deceit can only deceive the deceiver, as it has this adminstration led by "Neocon elites" and their front-man George W Bush.

Meanwhile, Congress must hold firm to the wishes of the American voting public, even if that public is wrong. Although some of Iraq's neighbors may want us to stay, and that may be one valid reason to stay, we should not. The solution lies not in making a bad situation worse. Even though Bush and the Pope may privately believe Islam is beyond dialogue, that is not true. The Oslo accords showed that the Palestinians were as anxious for peace as the Israelis were. And it would have come had it not been for one of Israel's own from its extreme religious right wing assassinating Rabin.

Only in the harmony of Dialogue can peace come. That solution is not part of the lexicon for the Neocons and this president, a proud and arrogant, self-styled "War President."

Although Islamic fundamentalists have declared war, obliterating a billion Muslims would not bring peace! Where is the evidence that it might even be possible? In triumph, victors immediately turn on one another over the spoils, then for whatever the other has that they covet. That has been the post WWII history, a mere repitition of earlier history.

If we cannot tame our instincts,
how can we save the world from ourselves.

Instincts are programmed into us at conception. They can never really be undone without tinkering with our genome, or rather, the 10% or so of it that sets us apart from the bacteria. Yet many nations are not only peaceful, but safe and rewarding places to live. Can we not learn from them?


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