The US government held yet another conference on how best to combat “Islamic radicalism.” It is interesting that radicalism — even without adding the Islamic adjective, as the Obama administration avoids the label — is applied to only one cultural and religious milieu. Radicalism is thus assumed to be a phenomenon of one culture and one religion. When the US government speaks about radicalism, it ignores the radicalism that prevails in the US Congress or in the US churches. It has only one radicalism and one form of violence in mind. Thus the violence of the US government, visited upon people in many Muslim countries, is not seen as the product of radicalism, but of moderation and of lofty ideals. Furthermore, for the US to really demonstrate its willingness to effectively combat radicalism it has to undertake those steps and policies — which it will never do:
American writer Susan Jacoby wrote a very interesting article for The New York Times about the crimes of the Crusades. She cited the valuable contribution of James Carroll in his book, “Constantine’s Sword.” Jacoby intended to compare this horrific chapter in the church’s history to the crimes being committed by ISIS. But, is that method useful, or does it do more harm than good?
There is an attempt underway to make the case that Islam, the religion, inspired or spawned the creation of various jihadist groups. The fact that the US itself was a major catalyst for the creation of such groups, as that was its plot against communism during the Cold War, often goes unmentioned. But to understand the horrific savagery of terrorist groups in the Middle East you have to go to the origins of militias in the Middle East.
Israeli calculations don’t always meet their goals. In 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon and killed more than 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians — mostly civilians, as usual — in the hope of ridding Lebanon of the Israeli occupation’s enemies. The results of that invasion are well-known, but let’s just say that Israel never had more formidable opponents and resisters than the ones that its own brutality and savagery produced in Lebanon. Furthermore, Israel often casually invades and bombs for electoral benefit. Shimon Peres could never run a campaign without engaging in a massacre or bombing campaign. Crimes and massacres are part of Israel’s electoral politics.
The political transition in Saudi Arabia may not have been as smooth as it has been made out to be. Muhammad Bin Nayif’s selection as the Crown Prince of the Crown Prince was intended to solidify the Sudayri clan’s hold on power. Furthermore, the news that Khalid At-Tuwayjiri (whose father, `Abdul-`Azis ran the diwan of `Abdullah for decades before he was succeeded by his son) fled the country indicates that Salman and his allies moved quickly to eradicate the power center of Abdullah and his sons. It is not unlikely that Prince Muqrin will soon be replaced as Crown Prince.
There is so much to say about the crime against Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, AND the ensuing affair. Much has been said already, and protests were held, and pens were brandished all over the world. One of the more curious reactions can be found in an article in Dissent magazine by Michael Walzer, in which he reproaches the left for failing to take on Islamic fundamentalism or radicalism or whatever people call it (the official danger in France is now labeled “radical Islam,” provided that radical Islam does not have oil and gas wealth to buy arms from the French government).
There is always a story or an angle about Hezbollah that gets the attention, first, of the Saudi media, and then consequently of the Western media. Readers of Arabic are struck by how the themes, stories, and perspectives of the Saudi/Hariri media invariably become the stories of the Beirut correspondents of US (and to a lesser degree, French and British) media. The Hariri assassination story always originated from rumors and leaks in the Saudi royal yellow press, and was regurgitated by the Western media’s Beirut correspondents.
In his new book “World Order,” Henry Kissinger reveals the extent to which classical Orientalism lives on the mindset and worldviews of thinkers, writers, journalists, and scholars. New scholarship on the Middle East hold little sway in comparison to the classical Orientalist literature which validates the worst impressions and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. In Kissinger’s new book, in the section dealing with the Middle East he seems totally indebted to the writings of Majid Khadduri.
For too long, the totem of elections was sold to the people in the Middle East—those who live outside the pro-US tyrannical regimes in particular. In the decades of the Cold War, the whole premise of the US position was the belief in the moral and political superiority of the West vis-à-vis the Soviet Union due to the holding of regular and frequent elections. Yet, the American electoral system is probably one of the worst, corrupt model of democracies, not only due to the influence of big money ($4 billion in the last election cycle alone) but also due to the elitist Electoral College and the rigid rejection of proportional representation in order to preserve the two party dominance. The preservation of the first-past-the-post electoral system winds up wasting millions of votes, and renders all third parties insignificant and irrelevant.