Monday, January 04, 2016

To See Ourselves as Others See Us - Middle Eastern Edition.

Trust Me, You Heathen Buggers!

First came WWI and we told them that if they sided with us instead of their ruling Ottomans then, once we had defeated the Germans and their Ottoman allies, we would ensure their freedom.

Germany and the Ottomans went down to defeat.

We (France and Britain) decided that they would rather parcel up most of the Ottoman territories between themselves and so Messrs. Sykes and Picot got out their pencils and their straight edges and began carving the place up. Straight lines. Ethnic (Arab, Persian, Kurd)  and religious (Sunni, Shiite) considerations were ignored.

We almost kept our word to the Kurds. Treaty of Sevres.

We quickly broke our word to the Kurds. Treaty of Lausanne just two years after Sevres.

Spent the next decade or two running around keeping those pesky and sullen Sunnis and Shia Persians and Arabs and Kurds in line, usually at gunpoint. One thing we knew for sure - you couldn't trust those damned Muslims.

Then came WWII. Some of those Arabs sort of sympathized with our enemy, the Germans, but they kept out of it recalling what awaited when we lavished them with promises and realizing it would probably be worse when we didn't.

Germans crushed. Second War over. What next? Oh yeah, let's take the Palestinian homeland, parcel it up, and give half of it to the new state of Israel to atone for what Europeans did to Jews during the war and ease our guilty consciences at how we failed to stop it in time. In the decades afterward we stood by as Israel gradually absorbed the rest of the Palestinian territories while it subjugated those Arab people.

Then came Iran, those uppity buggers.  We had blessed them with the British American Oil company that selflessly removed Iranian oil at almost no charge to the Persians. When the Iranian people democratically elected a leader who said "Hell no, that oil belongs to Iran" the CIA instigated a coup and installed a monarch, Shah Pahlavi, to sit on the peacock throne as our stooge. We (the CIA and the Mossad) even built him a secret police force, the Savak, that made the Gestapo look like cub scouts.

Over the following decades we, the West, backstopped every obedient thug willing to do our bidding from Iran to Iraq, Egypt to Libya. We made sure their lands were well vaccinated against unruly democracy and looked the other way as they subjugated their own people to what were often feudal conditions only to later denounce them for their lack of modernity and sophistication.

That largely sums up a century of Our dealings with Them. We still can't fathom why they hate us. We can't imagine why some resort to terrorism.

Ask yourself this. If you and your parents and your grandparents, perhaps even your great-grandparents, had gone through a century of that at the instance of foreigners who were utterly alien - ethnically, linguistically, culturally, economically, politically, theologically - how tolerant of them would you be?


In his latest essay for TruthDig, Chris Hedges explores the glue that holds America's empire together. It's pretty much the same formula that the European powers used in their colonial past - terror, intimidation and oodles of violence.


Lorne said...

I think as you post amply implies, Mound, overall ignorance of history has become the great enabler of the demagogues of our time.

Owen Gray said...

And, as Lorne implies, because we are ignorant of history, we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Toby said...

People didn't learn from the Peloponnesian War fiasco. I don't expect any sudden awakening.

Dana said...

Well at least now we can sell them lots of armaments.

A Kisaragi Colour said...

"the CIA instigated a coup and installed a monarch"

I'm going to make a minor correction to this statement. The CIA didn't install a monarch, he was already there. What they did do is arrange for the removal of the PM and install one more to their liking as well as encourage the Shah to behave in a more authoritarian manner (the extent that the Americans have encouraged strong-executive governments in both the republics and the monarchies they meddle with is a long-standing failure of their foreign policy). Sadly the interference by Western powers overshadows a lot of good the Shah was able to accomplish.

On a another topic you might be interested in the looking at the Arab Kingdom of Syria which was the first modern Arab state established after WW1. However, it lasted a little over four months as the French and British were not interested in an independent state in the region. In a similar manner the Kingdom of Kurdistan established itself during the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and lasted about two years before the British took it out.

My reason in bringing up both examples is that the narrative of the Arabs being betrayed tends to paint the Arabs (and others) as passively waiting for Britain and France to give them states when it was not the case. The Arabs were betrayed but they put up a fight to determine their own destiny.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for your insights, AKC