Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Middle Beast

I have been scouring the press for interesting things to talk about. I think I have information fatigue. The Middle East is always a convenient source for agita and a never ending topic of impending doom.
Here are two tidbits I found today in the paper.
There's the saga of David Rhodes, a New York Times journalist who was abducted by the Taliban and held for seven months until he escaped. I have not yet read the articles but did follow the interactive videos and the comments and questions of the readers. A detail caught my eye, which is something we should not forget as we grapple with our misguided presence in that hellhole. Here's Rhodes, recommending bibliography on the topic:
 For an understanding of the United States’ role in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, I would recommend Steve Coll’s book: “Ghost Wars.” Coll describes how the United States helped spread fundamentalist Islam in the region in the 1980s and then largely abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s.
So there we have it. We fucked up and here are the results of our idiotic misadventures. Whatever we are doing about it now; that is, attacking militants with drones that kill both militants and civilians, is not really helping, except exacerbate hatred for America in the region. What to do about Afghanistan and Pakistan?
My opinion I will keep to myself, for will not make me very popular in politically correct circles. But it would not be a bad idea to consider withdrawing the unwelcome American presence from there and from Iraq.

Meanwhile, everybody continues to happily dump on Israel.  Here's a refreshing paragraph:
Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored...

This was written by Robert Bernstein, one of the founders of Human Rights Watch. Although I don't agree with his assertion that HRW should just concern itself with the abuses committed in closed societies (what about Guantanamo then?), I agree with that paragraph. Israel is not the enemy anymore, and Israel, instead of continuing being arrogant and defiant, should use this development to its advantage. European countries, who have forever been hostile to Israel, are changing their tune, now that they have also been victims of terrorist attacks by fundamentalist barbarians.
I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard British Col. Richard Kemp defend Israel at the UN for its handling of the Gaza offensive. A British officer defending Israel! How things have changed... Nor is Israel the sole culprit for the terrifying state of affairs between the Western world and fundamentalist Islam, as many like to think.
This doesn't mean that Israel is off the hook. Quite the contrary, this is an excellent opportunity to be on the side of reason and civilization -- that is of democracy and Westerndom. This is the time to fight back fundamentalism with pragmatic policies that will end the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians (unfortunately, and to judge from Fatah and Hamas, their own oppression of themselves will most probably continue unabated).
Imagine that tomorrow Israel and the Palestinians come to an agreement and a Palestinian state is born and peace is achieved. What are the Arab countries going to do when they no longer have a scapegoat with which to delude and distract their oppressed populations? Let's see if indeed then the attacks against Israel by Arab and Muslim countries and others will end. I doubt it.

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