Thursday, January 25, 2007

Shite of the Union

President Bush's latest State of the Onion was the usual jokefest, utterly divorced from reality. Time prevents fisking the whole thing -- and I don't really have anything new to say that anyone sane doesn't already think. But I thought this (about AQ) was priceless:

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country.

AQ's primary targets are and always have been Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It's interesting that Bush considers these "moderate" governments. Ascribing wider aims to AQ is dodgy: its operatives have not even been involved in attacks on Israel, let alone anywhere else. Nearly all of AQ and similar Islamist groups' activities have been in Muslim countries, aimed at overthrowing the current regimes or, in the cases of Indonesia and the Philippines, at creating secessionist Muslim states. The US made itself a target for the Islamists: not just because of its unquestioning support -- moral, political and financial -- for Israel but because of its backing for some of the world's most horrible despots: Mubarak, the Sauds, Saddam.

And is that what AQ wants? To overthrow governments and set up safe havens to attack the US from? Erm, no. Where Islamists have succeeded, in Somalia, America attacked them, not the other way round. In Somalia, the Islamic courts brought a measure of peace (at a price). America backed an Ethiopian invasion. (Why Ethiopia would want to invade Somalia is another question but it's connected to having a large ethnic Somali majority in one of its regions, which just happens to have a commodity everyone wants: join the dots and see whether it strikes you why the US doesn't want people who despise it to be in power in Somalia.) The Afghanistani AQ training camps were not all that important to it because it did and still does a lot of its training in Pakistan: a US ally that has another of those "moderate" governments. (So why invade Afghanistan? Clearly, revenge for 9/11 was a motive; as was eliminating AQ members -- although, as I've noted, they were generally active in Middle Eastern nations and in other places in which Muslims have been oppressed, such as Bosnia and Chechnya, not against the US. However, more importantly, the Taliban was not keen on an American pipeline leading from some of our Central Asian friends -- again with those "moderate" dictatorshi^H^H^H^governments that we love so much -- to the sea. Rather than negotiate with them, at some cost, the US decided it would be simpler to change negotiating partners and get the deal done more cheaply. If you think this is too cynical a view of geopolitics, you need to get out a bit more.)

Indeed, AQ wants something arguably a lot less malign than Bush makes out (the "arguably" is important because I don't at all believe that an Islamist state would be a "good thing": after all, I love pop music, dancing and drinking. And women. And I don't like having a beard). Its chief aim remains to remove the dictators that blight the majority Sunni nations of the Middle East. AQ was born in Egypt as a radical movement to overturn the secular government there. It was involved in Afghanistan as part of the fight to rid that country of the Soviets and their puppets. Otherwise, it has fought against the Saudis and other Arab emirates in the Gulf. It's become common to paint AQ as a Sunni extremist organisation (because that is how the neocons are trying to spin it now: not naughty Islam but naughty Sunni, naughty Shia; as if there were a plain vanilla Islam that was okay!) but it does not on the whole target others on a sectarian basis (the power struggle in Saudi Arabia that it is part of is between different types of Sunnis).

And to suggest that its aim is world domination is plain silly. Of course there are people who would like everyone in the world to be Muslim. They think being Muslim is a good thing. There are people who would like everyone in the world to be Christian; they think that you will suffer eternal pain if you are not, so that it's an act of kindness to help you convert. But there's a huge gap between "it would be great if you were all Xists" and "I'm going to bomb everywhere until you are all Xists", which Bush -- who himself probably thinks we should all subscribe to his brand of X -- ignores, or pretends to. Like most of us, AQ is interested in its own shit. It's not very interested in our shit, so long as we keep our shit out of its shit.

It may be that we do not believe we should keep our shit out of others' shit. We might even believe that we have a right to involve ourselves if that is the best route in our view to securing our way of life (and interfering in the Middle East may well be necessary to keeping ourselves rich). But we should know that so long as we do, we will have to deal with these nutters, and pretending that they are the bad boys, when it's us who's bringing the shit, will ring hollow, as it did in this speech and all the others like it.


At 5:09 pm, Blogger Sour Grapes said...

I think it's important not to forget that Bush's brand of X holds that it would be a good thing for conflagration in the Middle East to extend into world war. They're actually looking forward to it, because they'll be watching from Heaven at that point. 72 virgins just isn't in the same league when it comes to lethal delusions.


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