Time was when every Arab not confined to a mental asylum was aware of the nature of Britain’s imperial project in the Middle East. Even illiterate peasants understood London’s rationale for tormenting the people of the region. It was common knowledge that obnoxious cockney lads were garrisoned among the native people to guarantee access to cheap raw materials, exclusive markets for British manufactured goods and certain strategic advantages like controlling the Suez Canal. Back then, Zionist agitators focused their lobbying efforts on British lords with the power to sign away Palestine with a single paragraph edict like the Balfour Declaration.
It was a simpler world where apologists for the brazen repression of the darker people of the planet claimed to be on a “civilizing mission” and colonies were actually called colonies. It wasn’t only the natives who considered the foreign troops imperialists. England had no problem tattooing a sign on Victoria’s forehead identifying her job function as the mistress of an imperial landmass where the sun never set and exotic locals knew their place.
With the exception of Iraq and Israeli occupied territories, today’s Middle East is a very different place -- populated by two generations that have never felt obliged to cross the street to avoid a nasty encounter with drunk Tommies out for a night on the town. The odious task of tormenting the indigenous population has since been turned over to authoritarian tribal elders who posture as custodians of the holy places or locally produced dictators who retain power by force of arms.
Even in Iraq, cloistered space age Yankee invaders rarely venture outside their imperial garrisons. The really dirty work is subcontracted to native death squads recruited from American trained police and army units. Most of the occupation soldiers are quartered in the comfort of air-conditioned forts. Unless they are ordered on a mission to kill some Iraqis or get supplies, they are confined to base and oblivious to events outside the camp walls. None dare imagine a casual evening sipping mint tea in a Mesopotamian café -- much less a carefree night at a local bar. While Iraq might be Arabic for Vietnam, Baghdad is not Saigon. The occupation grunts rarely mingle with the natives.
The sectarian civil war raging outside Baghdad’s plush Green Zone continues to claim a hundred lives a day. Under international law, an occupation army automatically assumes the responsibility for the safety of their colonial subjects. Even the neo-con wizards in Washington understand that. But because Americans are such an innovative bunch, they found a rather novel way to avoid assuming the obligation of an imperial master to provide security for their colonial subjects. They simply deny they are on an imperial mission motivated by crude economic interests. With the blessings of the United Nations, the Bush administration has managed to camouflage America’s colonial army as “guests” of a sovereign Iraqi government.
Washington has very good reasons for dodging the “imperial” label. For one thing, imperialism has long been classified as a four-letter word. Most Americans are in denial about being citizens of the Imperial United States -- a country that invades other countries at will, bombs ancient cities to rubble and generally goes around messing with the destiny of foreign people who have no quarrel with New York or California or any other state.
Unlike their English counterparts of a century ago, Americans tend to be very reluctant imperialists. This explains why CNN and FOX combined their immense media resources to launch volley after volley of weapons of mass deception against the people of the United States. They actively marketed the patently absurd notion that Iraq possessed a vast WMD arsenal, that Saddam had the means to deliver them on 45 minutes notice and intended to share his lethal stash with Bin Laden.
If Rupert Murdoch, Judith Miller, Charles Krauthammer and Wolf Blitzer had not emerged victorious in the jingoistic campaign to bamboozle the American public into war -- 2,700 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be among the living. Remarkably, 50% of Americans continue to believe the WMD canard. That figure is up from 35% last year. Only in America can an Australian immigrant like Murdoch achieve such a feat.
There is plenty of other good news. After the WMD canards started losing their potent effect on American brain cells -- the Administration and their mass media allies came up with ever more ludicrous reasons for launching this war of choice. Against all evidence to the contrary, the public square in America is littered with the garbage about spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East. When they’re not busy spreading the blessings of liberty, the Bush boys are out fighting “Islamo-fascism.” To stimulate a contagious war fever in the land of the brave, it’s always convenient to wrap the enemy in brown shirts and make a show of sending the troops on a mission to smoke another Hitler out of the bunker.
Is anybody seriously monitoring the progress of democracy in the Middle East? A few male-only municipal elections have miraculously turned the Saudi Kingdom of Oil into an emerging democracy. Sham elections in Egypt resulted in the internment of Ayman Nour -- the only serious candidate to challenge Mubarak. While Nour rots in jail, Mubarak’s son -- the unofficially designated successor -- is hailed by the White House as the leader of young reformers.
Both Bush and Congress have actively championed the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the barbaric Israeli campaign against Lebanon. Among other atrocities, Washington financed the Apartheid wall, the million plus cluster bombs dropped on the innocent civilians of southern Lebanon and the systematic wholesale destruction of vital infrastructure in both Palestine and Lebanon.
American and Israeli policy makers actually spent months planning the serial war crimes that ravaged Lebanon this summer. Incidentally, Lebanon is the very same country that Bush hailed as a beacon of freedom. But that was last year when our opportunist commander-in-chief took a free ride on the coattails of a spontaneous Lebanese uprising in order to temporarily divert attention from his Iraqi debacle. Unfortunately for the Lebanese, Bush once again chose Beirut as his summer getaway from the Baghdad quagmire. But this time around, the president can actually take considerable credit for the carnage he and his Israeli partners left behind.
In Washington, every Israeli war crime is anointed as a battle for survival. While the Israelis systematically torment the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza, the Bush administration promotes a farcical non-existent “peace process” designed to give Tel Aviv additional space to confiscate more holy land from the indigenous population of Palestine.
Haditha, Abu Ghraib, Tel Afar, Jenin, Jabaliya, Bint Jbeil, Fallujah, Qana -- every Middle Eastern Guernica is made to appear as legitimate and inevitable “collateral damage” inflicted by well-meaning Israelis and Americans in service to the cause of world peace.
After wittingly or unwittingly training death squads and igniting sectarian mayhem in Iraq, Bush insists that his $300 billion quagmire is a quest for promoting democracy in the region and enhancing the security of the American people. In fact, the United States actively supports every authoritarian regime in the region -- notably Egypt’s one-party kleptocrats and the Saudi custodians of the oil plantation. And the consensus of American intelligence professionals is that the war in Iraq is increasing the threat of terrorism.
So, where exactly is all the good news here? Well, it’s a matter of historical record that the government of the United States has been forced to lie to the American people to carry out its foreign policy. To implement a hidden imperial agenda, the powers that be in Washington have force fed the public an ocean of drivel about the war on terror, fictional WMD arsenals, fanciful struggles against Islamic “fascists” and a noble mission to spread the blessings of liberty and democracy in the Middle East.
Lest we forget, this is an administration that deliberately tampered with intelligence to make a case for a war that never had to happen. In their defense, they really didn’t have an alternative choice. Without an elaborate campaign of deception, the vast majority of Americans would have opposed this ill-fated project.
Even the delusional neo-cons -- Israel Firsters to the last man -- couldn’t hope to sell the argument that the Pentagon should act as sub-contractors for Ariel Sharon.
While the Israeli lobby played a major and probably decisive role in launching the Iraq war -- the major reason for the war was the imperial economic national interest. The United States has 200,000 soldiers garrisoned in the Middle East to prop up the Saudis and assure that the almighty dollar remain the only currency convertible to tangible barrels of Arab oil. Americans may be obsessed with money, but the proposition that young Marines should be dispatched abroad to kill and die in defense of their currency would have found few takers.
Forget about the illiterate peasants. Even intellectuals in the Middle East seem to be confounded by the dollars-for-oil racket. As much can be said for the great unwashed in America -- including the peace movement. This has to be the only major conflict in modern history where the peons manning the barricades on both sides of the divide haven’t the remotest clue about what they’re fighting for.
Back to the good news. When someone lies to you -- it’s an act of coercion. The deceptive party knows that if the truth were to see the light of day, you might make entirely different decisions. The day we get both Americans and Arabs to understand the nature of the imperial project in the Gulf is the day the war party will take to the hills.
Of course, there is no way to get direct access to the American public because of the insurmountable sound barrier imposed by the lords of the mass media. And no one should expect the Arab governments to make a case against an imperial project in which they are full partners and collaborators.
Regardless, the ball remains in the court of the Arabs -- especially the intellectual class. A pacifist grass-root campaign to boycott the American dollar will expose the real agenda behind the invasion of Iraq.
As Churchill once observed, half the solution is identifying the problem. The biggest problem in the Middle East is the American imperial project. And half the solution is in making both Americans and Arabs familiar with the dollars-for-oil rationale that drives American foreign policy in the Middle East. Once an Arab dollar boycott is launched, the American public will start asking questions about the cause and consequences of this legitimate act of passive resistance. If they reach the right conclusion, they will be the first to demand an immediate end to American intervention in the region.
by Ahmed Amr