One of Bush’s mantras is we’re trying to bring “freedom” to Iraq and those opposed to our policies “seek tyranny.” (For an on-target satirical view of the role of “freedom” and its derivatives in the Bush lexicon, see this). I truly think that what we have here is a cultural failure to communicate.
To the Middle East, the US represents secular, modern society. Karen Armstrong believes the advent of modernization in the Middle East has been so rapid that secularism is experienced not as liberating “but as a deadly assault upon faith.” Thus, she concludes in an analysis of fundamentalism:
Projects that can seem self-evidently good to a liberal — such as democracy, peace-making, concern for the environment, the liberation of women, or freedom of speech — can seem evil or even Satanic to a fundamentalist.
Fundamentalism often expresses itself violently, but it springs from deep fear. Every single fundamentalist movement that I have studied . . . is inspired by a dread of annihilation. Fundamentalists are convinced that the secularist establishment is determined to wipe them out. . . . Hence, it is an embattled form of faith; fundamentalists believe that they are fighting for their own survival, the survival of the religion, and the survival of civilized society. They feel that their backs are to the wall and that they must fight their way out of the impasse in which they find themselves.
Part of bin Laden’s “inspiration” is the US military forces in Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf War. It was the “presence of ‘crusader’ forces in the land of Islam’s holiest sites – Mecca and Medina — that turned bin Laden from Afghan jihadi into an international terrorist.” bin Laden himself reiterates this view in his latest audio statement:
[Bush] lied to people [in saying] that we hate freedom and kill for the sake of killing. Reality proves our truthfulness and his lie.
The killing of the Russians was after their invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya; the killing of Europeans was after their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; and the killing of Americans on the day of New York [reference to 11 September] was after their support of the Jews in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.
As this indicates, the occupation of Iraq is part and parcel of what causes us to be viewed as “crusaders” in the most evil connation possible. Many of the sites involved in the current “insurrection” are among the holiest Shiite shrines. In fact, in Najaf even the soil of the city is is considered holy. It may epitomize the clash of cultures. Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite, reportedly sent a “strongly-worded” warning to Coalition forces not to attack Najaf or the holy city of Karbala, saying if they did the religious leadership of the Shiites would fight to its last breath. Even Ahmed Chalabi has said, “Najaf must not be touched.” But a powerful U.S. military force is building outside the city, with one military commander saying the mission is to “destroy Sadr’s militia, absolutely destroy it.” And Bush himself calls what’s been happening “theocractic terror,” ignoring that theocracy is a system “controlled by the dominating religions [sic] beliefs inherent in the society.”
What is transpiring in Iraq is simply further “proof” to the Muslim world that the US is at war with Islam. Our approach and the things to which Bush refers in contrast to “freedom” basically says the only way our “freedom can be achieved is to destroy the dominant religious beliefs of Iraq. Is there any doubt we have failed to communicate with Islamic peoples?
I note the following Star Tribune editorial that appeared while I’ve been working on this post (which is too long already). Referring to comments made by Bush at his press conference and the next day’s announcement supporting Israel retaining settlements on Palestinian land, the Strib said:
Bush came pretty close to proclaiming the fight against radical Islam the divine mission of the United States. He may not have meant that, but you can rest assured that is just how much of the Islamic world will view his comments, especially in light of his actions the next day on behalf of Israel. ***
We can’t know Bush’s motives, but it’s not difficult to read the effects, and they risk being catastrophic. * * * * The way Bush has chosen to do it is essentially saying, again, to radical Islam, “Bring it on.”
With that being the only message Bush and his cronies have been sending, we can be assured only that people will continue to die and the “war on terror” will have no end.