In the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001, amid the grief and rage that followed the toppling of the World Trade Center, President George W Bush did not declare war on Islam. “These acts of violence against innocents,” he told Americans in the week after 3,000 people were killed by Muslim terrorists, “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.” The war that Bush went on to declare soon thereafter was not against a religion, but against “terror” – and within that baggy term, he focused on al-Qaida, “a fringe movement”, in Bush’s words, “that perverts the peaceful teaching of Islam”.Sign up to the long read emailRead moreBush’s tact may have been caused by a short-term desire to rein in attacks on American Muslims (and others mistaken for them, such as Sikhs) in the wake of 9/11. But it also served the longer view of the president and his advisers, who believed that the Muslim world, much like everywhere else, was capable of being improved by exposure to democracy, free market capitalism and individual freedoms. In this regard, Bush’s views were in line with the then-influential “end of history” thesis proposed by the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama in 1989. With the end of the cold war, Fukuyama argued, it was only a matter of time before western liberal democracy was recognised everywhere as the best form of government. By the turn of the century, the belief that we were witnessing “the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western liberalism” was never more widely shared, and it lay behind one of Bush’s professed goals in invading Afghanistan and Iraq: to shepherd the Muslim world towards the universal ideology of liberalism.
Tag Archives: Middle East
It’s time America explored how to end the multiple wars it has helped cause since 2001, rather than dropping more bombs
War-whoops and loud applause from foreign policy establishments and their media supporters have greeted President Trump’s missile strike in Syria, the dropping of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan and the dispatch of a naval task force in the direction of North Korea.
This spurt in belligerence over the last week has as much to do with domestic American politics as any fundamental new development in the rest of the world. Trump needed to defuse the accusation that he was too close to President Putin and too tolerant of a Russian ally like Bashar al-Assad. The resort to military action was largely in keeping with the old Pentagon saying that “defence policy ends at the water’s edge”, meaning that it is politics inside, not outside the US, which is the real decision-maker.
The art of the deal, when practiced for 2500 years, does lead to the palace of wisdom. I had hardly set foot in Tehran when a diplomat broke the news: “Trump? We’re not worried. He’s a bazaari”. It’s a Persian language term meaning he is from the merchants class or, more literally, a worker from the bazaar and its use implies that a political accommodation will eventually be reached.The Iranian government’s response to the Trump administration boils down to a Sun Tzu variant; silence, especially after the Fall of Flynn, who had “put Iran on notice” after it carried out a ballistic missile test, and had pushed the idea of an anti-Iran military alliance comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Tehran says the missile test did not infringe the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal and that naval drills from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, which began on Sunday, had been planned well in advance.
George W Bush set the bar high for the accolade of worst US president in history.
Before 9/11, he ignored warnings of an impending attack, failed to respond to Hurricane Katrina, withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol lowering greenhouse gas emissions, set the US on a collision course with Russia by tearing up the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and invalidated the Geneva Convention protocols against torture. His invasion of Iraq, based on false intelligence, lit a regional fire that burns to this day.
You’d think, given the harsh anti-Muslim Trump administration in Washington, that the Arab kings and dictators would be lining up to condemn the ruthless sectarian laws being drawn up by an American President who approves of torture. All that claptrap about “bad dudes” and “Islamic terror”. Pretty sinister stuff. Not a bit of it. The potentates have been overwhelming the White House switchboard with calls, both Egypt’s Sissi and the Gulf Arabs. The Emirates actually expressed approval of Trump’s policies.
The reaction to Donald Trump’s executive order to ban refugees and Muslims from seven countries has been unprecedented. Flash crowds descended on JFK and Dulles international airports on Saturday. When the New York Taxi Drivers Association held an hour-long protest at Trump’s ban, and Uber attempted to profit from it by turning off their surge price, a campaign was launched to delete the Uber app from phones.Demonstrations erupted in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco, New York and Washington. Britain’s prime minister Theresa May hardly had time to unpack her bags from her trip to Washington, than she found that her newly formed “special relationship” with Trump had turned into a domestic political liability. On a cold Monday evening, thousands of protesters jammed Whitehall outside Downing Street. A petition calling for Trump’s state visit to Britain to be cancelled has already got 1m signatures.
So Donald Trump is going to f**k them all. No excuses for such filthy words today. I’m only quoting the man whose Pentagon offices he just used to disgrace himself – and America. For it was Secretary of Defence James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis who told Iraqis in 2003 that he came “in peace’ – he even urged his Marines to be compassionate – but said of those who might dare to resist America’s illegal invasion of their country: “If you f**k with me, I’ll kill you all.”
It is an era of instability and disintegration which began in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 and in Europe and the US in 2016. These regions are very different, but their recent political convulsions have basic features in common, notably a feeling shared by people from the Mississippi to the Euphrates that they are unhappy with the status quo. Likewise, political elites from Damascus to Washington DC have demonstrably underestimated their own unpopularity and the narrowness of their political base.
When the US supreme court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage last year, the White House welcomed it with rainbow-coloured lights and many people celebrated by adding a rainbow tint to their Facebook profile.For the authorities in Saudi Arabia, though, this was cause for alarm rather than celebration, alerting them to a previously unnoticed peril in their midst. The first casualty was the privately run Talaee Al-Noor school in Riyadh which happened to have a rooftop parapet painted with rainbow stripes. According to the kingdom’s religious police, the school was fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) for displaying “the emblem of the homosexuals” on its building, one of its administrators was jailed and the offending parapet was swiftly repainted to match a blue rainbow-free sky.
Donald Trump’s dangerous team of crackpots will spread corruption and start new wars in the Middle East
Isis is under pressure in Mosul and Raqqa, but it is jubilant at the election of Donald Trump.
Abu Omar Khorasani, an Isis leader in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying that “our leaders were closely following the US election, but it was unexpected that the Americans would dig their own graves.” He added that what he termed Trump’s “hatred” towards Muslims would enable Isis to recruit thousands of fighters.
The Isis calculation is that, as happened after 9/11, the demonisation and collective punishment of Muslims will propel a proportion of the Islamic community into its ranks. Given that there are 1.6 billion Muslims – about 23 per cent of the world’s population – Isis and al-Qaeda-type organisations need to win the loyalty of only a small proportion of the Islamic community to remain a powerful force.