Some tentative thoughts and a history lesson

I wanted to write something yesterday and I put this blog together, but my content reviewer, Steve, said no, it’s all too fresh and too hot – don’t enter into a battle with words on something so contentious. But that’s what this blog is about right? A platform to offer “my” opinions, whether they are right or wrong, because we all have ideas about things and by launching this blog, I decided to declare mine to the world.

So I’ve been thinking about what Steve said long and hard, but I still want to write this. I don’t think I’m right here, I just want to share a point of view and would be very pleased to hear what others think – not just about what I think, but about what YOU think. Discussion is what keeps me going.

On Sunday, I really did appreciate that many in the US needed to “celebrate” the news of Osama’s demise. I missed being in WTC1 by the skin of my teeth, cancelling a meeting there the night before – so I do understand the emotion wrapped around that day. Walking the streets of NYC in the aftermath of 9/11 will stay with me forever, especially all of the photos on the Battery building. It was very powerful and very very sad.

But it’s not just 9/11 that we link his face to. It’s linked to all the bad that has befallen not just America, but the world in recent decades – London, Spain, Bali, Africa, Yemen, India, Pakistan, and everywhere else a bomb has killed innocent people, as well as the excuse for Iraq and Afghanistan + its aftermath - where tens of thousands have been killed (estimates go from 90,000+ to over one million by the way.) Some people have suffered tremendously, losing loved ones, becoming maimed, having their way of life become a living terror, being orphaned and so much more - but it’s not just “the Christian nations” that have suffered.

Thousands of Muslims all over the world continue to suffer at the hands of terrorists, but they also suffer through our ignorance and racism. Muslims are linked to this man and his ideals because they share the same religion, but that is all they share. Ask any Muslim and most will tell you he is not one of us. I asked a Muslim on Sunday how he felt about the news? He said, I feel great but Osama wasn’t one of us. He was something separate – he doesn’t represent me or my Islam. I didn’t ask him because I considered him linked to Osama because of his religion, I asked him because I wanted to know how a Muslim was responding to the news and the way it was being “celebrated.” He said he wasn’t comfortable with the celebrating and that it would potentially create even more problems. Well we all know that right?

I really believe that now is a chance to take the moral high ground, because how this is handled now can improve things or make things worse - because one thing is for sure, nothing is going to change because Osama bin Laden is dead. If anything, I believe it will get worse, unless we wake up and really see the opportunity we have.

Am I pleased Osama is dead? I don’t know if pleased is the right word. Does it make me sad that people like him exist in the world, hurting millions in their lifetime – absolutely, but then, it’s not about an individual, but about the world we live in creating opportunities for people like him to exist. That is the crux of the issue for me. How do people like him even exist? Well because people are doing bad things in his part of the world and eventually, when enough bad shit happens, people like him rise up and start fighting back. That’s the part of the story we seem oblivious to.

While we’ve all been focused on this “War on Terror,” one question still hasn’t been answered and that is the why? Why do people like bin Laden do what they do? What motivates them? When September 11th hit, many of my American friends said “why do they hate us so much?” and I said: “ you really don’t know what your government and other European governments, along with your big corporations have been doing in that part of the world for 100’s of years? Really?”

To this day, people are still not asking THAT question and most are unable to appreciate that there is ALWAYS another side to a story. The Christian World has plundered and disrespected the “Muslim” world for over 1,000 years and people in that region are pissed off. They’ve had enough and they have valid reasons for feeling this way.

Let’s go back a couple of thousands years briefly (or not so briefly) and try and understand where it’s all coming from. These bullets are directly attributable to J.W. Smith, who wrote “The World's Wasted Wealth II.” While I appreciate that this is long, if you even read three bullets, you’ll get a great sense of why we are going through all of this bullshit today!

• “The Roman, Byzantine, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, and Ottoman empires all demanded tribute from their outlying provinces and continually consumed this wealth-and eventually wealth from the center-defending against encroachment by competing empires • The Romans extended their empire around the entire Mediterranean Sea and part of the Bible is the record of battles resisting subjugation in the peripheral province of Israel. After 300 years of persecution, during the 4th century A.D., Emperors Constantine and Theodosius made Christianity the state religion and "forbade the worship of ancient pagan gods"

• Over the next 1,100 years, as the Roman Empire in the West was overwhelmed by barbarians, the people of Turkestan - who had a long history of conquest and defeat, back and forth, with China, Mongolia, Europe, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt - accepted the Islamic religion, formed an alliance with other Arabs and Muslims, and defeated and then ruled the Byzantine (Eastern) half of the "Holy Roman Empire." This was the Islamic/Ottoman (Turkish) empire, which reached its zenith under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1550 A.D

• By the 8th century, just 100 years after the death of Mohammed, the Arabs had converted most of North Africa to the Muslim faith, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and overrun Spain. They then entered France, but were decisively defeated by the Christians at the Battle of Tours (Poiters) in the year 732 A.D. From the 8th to the 15th century, the Spanish Christians slowly pushed the Muslims back, and during the reign of Queen Isabella in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas, they drove the Muslims off the peninsula

• While that 700-year battle was being fought, Muslims remained firmly astraddle the trade routes to the silk of China and the spices of the Far East. The searches for another route to the Far East were also attempts to envelop the Muslims in a giant pincer movement. But while Christians prevailed in the West, the Muslims were growing stronger in the East

• The success of the Turkish people up to this time was due to their warlike heritage, superior cannons, and the cohesive strength of the Islamic faith. But, as with all extended empires, the greater the distance from its center, the more difficult it became to defeat and control other societies. Though they had defeated Byzantium, they were still face to face with the Western half of the former Holy Roman Empire and its common bond of Christianity

• As "the center of gravity of the Western world [shifted] from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard," a series of defeats marked the turning point of Islamic/Ottoman fortunes in the East

• For the next 100 years, the Turks tried to regain their momentum and expand deeper into Europe. But they suffered a horrendous defeat in 1683 trying to take Vienna and, weakened by that setback, lost several other cities, including Athens, to the Christians. At this time Russia, under Peter the Great, joined the Holy Alliance against the Turks; the inexorable crushing of the Islamic/Ottoman Empire by the Christian empire had begun

• The battles ebbed and flowed for another 100 years, but, as America won its freedom and the French their revolution, the Moslem empire steadily gave ground. By the middle of the 19th century, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was imminent, and European powers started positioning themselves to claim the spoils. France sought to maintain influence in Jerusalem, Egypt, Algeria, and later, Tunisia. Its building of the Suez Canal (1859-1869) conflicted with Britain's plans to control the land and sea routes to Asia

• While jockeying for position in the Middle East, France and England joined forces to prevent Russian expansion from getting out of hand in the Balkans (Crimean War, 1854-1856). But 10 years later, while England was occupied with the conquest of India, Russia pushed the Turks out of most of Europe. Those gains to Russia were largely lost when Britain recalled some of her troops from India and, in concert with France, denied Russia those political gains 

• Turkey was humbled by these military defeats and, just as dependent countries today must do, it turned to those with capital (France, England, Russia, Germany, and Austria) for loans to build modern infrastructure. [This is where control kicks in] because each loan was granted on condition of guarantees and security. Each country had its own banks, monopolies and controllers. Banks, railways, mining companies and forestry, gas and water works were all foreign built, run and owned. France had seen to it that the tobacco monopoly had been [turned] over to her in 1883, as well as the docks at Beirut and Constantinople (1890), Smyrna (1892), and Salonica (1896)

• In 1890 followed the rights to exploit natural resources at Herklion and Selenica, as well as running the Jaffa-to-Jerusalem Railway; in 1891 the Damascus-Homs and Mudanya-Bursa railway rights; in 1892 the rights to the Salonica-Constantinople Railway and in 1893 to the Smyrna-Kasaba Railway. The English had a healthy share in the "Ottoman Bank," obtaining sole oil rights in Mossul in 1905

• The Russians enjoyed various privileges, having secured the rights to all customs duties in Constantinople and in Black Sea ports

• The Germans had secured the rights to free port docks at Haider Pasha (1899), railway shares and a municipal transport monopoly, and the docks at Alexandrette (1905)

• As a result, the foreign powers sucked the wealth out of the country. The share of the national income, which did not flow directly into the Sultan's coffers, went to London, Paris, Viennese or Berlin banks. Even the management of state finances was now handled by foreigners

• Besides the wealth wasted internally on their outdated feudal form of government, foreign military might forced the signing of unequal trade contracts that consumed more wealth. It only remained for the violent upheaval of World War I to dissolve the once mighty empire

• The provinces of Algeria and Tunisia were the first to break away (1830 and 1881). Though nominally still a Turkish province and coveted by France, Egypt was effectively taken over by Britain in 1881. In 1911, Italy invaded Libya and, pressured by attacks from the Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia) attacking from the West, Turkey made peace with the eastern invaders and lost control in Africa as it rushed to defend its western provinces

• Italy now took an interest in Libya, while the ostracized German nation saw its chance to gain power vis-à-vis France, England, and Russia by becoming an ally of Turkey. They built the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railway and trained the Turkish army. In 1912, the war in the Balkans cost the Ottoman Empire almost all territory west of the Bosporus. It regained much of it in 1913 when the Balkan nations could not agree on the division of the spoils and went to war amongst themselves

• But it was English, French, and Russian covert efforts to destabilize Germany's trading partner - the Austro-Hungarian Empire - that led to World War I. Before that alliance with the besieged Ottoman Empire, Germany was reinforcing her position by making a hard and fast alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy

• In 1904, Britain made a sweeping deal with France over Morocco and Egypt; a couple of years later she compromised with Russia over Persia, that loose federation of powers was finally replaced by two hostile power groupings; the balance of power as a system had now come to an end....

• About the same time the symptoms of the dissolution of the existing forms of world economy - colonial rivalry and competition for exotic markets - became acute

• Just as British diplomats had long feared, "the scramble to pick up the pieces [of the Ottoman Empire] might lead to a major war between the European powers" and World War I erupted

• Here’s Christopher Layne's analysis - “Backed by Czarist Russia's pan-Slavic foreign policy, Serbia attempted to foment unrest among Austria-Hungary's restless South Slavs, with the aim of splitting them away from Austria-Hungary and uniting them with Serbia in a greater South Slav state - the eventual Yugoslavia. The Austro-Hungarians knew that this ambition, if realized, would cause the breakup of the Habsburg empire (and in fact, did so). In Vienna, Serbia came to be regarded as a threat to Austria-Hungary's very existence. On July 2, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Count Berchtold, told Emperor Franz Josef that to remain a great power, Austria-Hungary had no alternative but to go to war against Serbia. In July 1914, Austria-Hungary believed it could survive only by defeating the external powers that were exploiting its internal difficulties....Austria-Hungary's rulers, having weighed the balance, decided that "the risks of peace were now greater than the risks of war."

• Turkey joined on the side of the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy), and with the defeat of that alliance, as had been secretly agreed on years before, the Middle East was divided among the victorious powers with Britain "adding nearly a million square miles to the British Empire."

• The promise of self-determination implicit in Lenin's diplomacy and President Wilson's "14 Points" of January 1918, made it no longer possible for Britain and France to impose direct colonial rule over the Arab lands they had agreed to partition in 1916. They therefore came up with a proposal whereby these same areas would be ceded to them by the League of Nations as their "mandates" under the fiction that these territories were being prepared for future self rule. Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan came under British mandate, Lebanon and Syria under that of France....[Egypt's monarchy] was set up only to facilitate British control; it was overthrown by the Egyptian army in 1952....

• Since that time, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq have had to struggle hard to establish their legitimacy. Meanwhile, the Arabic speaking states of North Africa continued as colonies: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia under the French, and Libya under the Italians. They became independent only after the Second World War. A small piece of land called Kuwait also continued to exist under colonial rule, as a British protectorate

• After World War I the borders and the leaders of virtually all Arab states were decided upon by Britain and France. Jordan's assigned monarch was not even a local; he was from Saudi Arabia

• On April 27, 1920, at the Conference of San Remo following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France finally concluded a secret oil bargain agreeing in effect to monopolize the whole future output of Middle Eastern oil between them. [Two years later when under pressure from their own puppet (King Feisal) for Iraqi independence, Britain's Prime Minister, Lloyd George commented]..."If we leave we may find a year or two after we departed that we handed over to the French and Americans some of the richest oilfields in the world.”

• Massive amounts of the wealth of the old Ottoman Empire were now claimed by the victors. But one must remember that the Islamic empire had tried for centuries to conquer Christian Europe and the power brokers deciding the fate of those defeated people were naturally determined that these countries should never be able to organize and threaten Western interests again. With centuries of mercantilist experience, Britain and France created small, unstable states whose rulers needed their support to stay in power. The development and trade of these states were controlled and they were meant never again to be a threat to the West. These external powers then made contracts with their puppets to buy Arab resources cheaply, making the feudal elite enormously wealthy while leaving most citizens in poverty.

• Once small weak countries are established, it is very difficult to persuade their rulers to give up power and form those many dependent states into one economically viable nation. Conversely, it is easy for outside power brokers to support an exploitative faction to maintain or regain power. None of this can ever be openly admitted to or the neo-mercantilist world would fall apart. The fiction of sovereign governments, equal rights, fair trade, etc., must continue. To be candid is to invite immediate widespread rebellion and loss of control

• During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson learned about the secret agreements to carve up the Middle East and was determined to thwart them; thus his proposal for the League of Nations under which colonialism would eventually be dismantled. He personally assumed the role of U.S. negotiator for that purpose. Being head of state gave President Wilson the right to chair the peace conference and set the agenda. This caused great anxiety among the colonial powers of Europe. But Lloyd George, the British negotiator and designer of the Middle East partition that President Wilson found so offensive, was able to thwart Wilson's every move to grant those territories independence. With a shift in elections at home, President Wilson could not even obtain the consent of the United States to join and lead the League of Nations and his great hopes for world peace were stillborn. The suggestions for full rights for the entire world's people described in this part are little more than an outline of President Wilson's dream of world peace

• When World War II consumed the wealth of the colonial governments of Europe, the disenfranchised world started to break free from those shackles. Some of the installed puppets became increasingly independent and others were overthrown. The last direct control in the Middle East was abandoned in the early 1970s when Britain "granted independence to Oman and the small sheikdoms that would become Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.” But there was still indirect control; these small states did not have economic independence. That can only come with a viable nation that has the power to protect equality of trades with other nations

• The old Soviet empire had a long border with the Middle East. The desperation of the West to maintain control stems from the potential for those two regions to join. If that had happened, the Middle East would have had the weapons to protect their resources. The resources of the Soviet Union and the Middle East together would have been comparable to those of the West, and, by virtue of most of the world's reserves of oil being within the borders of those two empires, and thus the potential for high oil prices, a good part of the West's wealth, could have been claimed by the East. Hence the West's large military expenditures to maintain control in that volatile region

• In 1951, Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq took the reins of power in Iran from the British-backed ruler. Like Vietnamese leaders who wished to copy the U.S. constitution but ended up fighting the United States for their independence, this progressive leader viewed America as a land of wonderful opportunities and wonderful people....[Apparently] Mossadeq never became anti-American and continued to believe that the United States was still the only major power capable of making a positive contribution to the reshaping of the world in favor of those nations which had long suffered from European imperialism

• But European imperialists had destroyed each other's wealth in World War II battling over their empires and, unknown to Middle Eastern societies (or to the American people), U.S. foreign policy was designed to deny independence to any nation that might ally with the East. For two years Mossadeq held out, while Western oil interests pulled government strings to embargo Iran's oil and deny them funds. During this time, and even with the loss of 100,000 jobs in the oil industry due to that embargo, there was a "slight improvement in employment, overall economic production, and balance of trade." In their effort to break the West's embargo, Iran threatened to start trading with the Soviet bloc

• That was their fatal mistake. The fear that an independent Iran might someday join forces with their Soviet neighbor guided the West's Middle East policies. Instead of using its influence and power to break the chains of British and French colonialism by supporting the budding democracy, the United States joined hands with Britain in the 1953 covert intervention (Operation Ajax) that placed the feudal Shah back in power. Even though this was largely a British MI6 operation, the Americans, in a burst of self-congratulation, openly took credit for it

• With an immediate payment of $45 million (part of an eventual $21 billion), the over-capitalized nations then removed their economic blockade, renewed their aid, and went on to make Iran their Middle East surrogate and regional military power. Of course, these billions of dollars' worth of military hardware were bought with Iran's oil. That was not by chance. Later, when OPEC was formed, oil prices started rising and money started moving outside the control of the old power brokers. Just as when Iran declared its independence, the neo-mercantile monopolization was broken at this point and President Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, recommended "massive arms sales to Middle East oil states as a way of recycling the petrodollars that were rapidly flowing out of the United States”

• Iran's oil wealth was returned to the centers of capital through arms sales, both when their surrogate, the Shah, was in power and again when the Middle East was temporarily outside their control. This is a crucial aspect of the West's Middle East policies. In spite of the rhetoric of compassion and aid for the worlds impoverished, we must remember how - except when allies are needed in balance of power struggles - the owners of capital have always tried to prevent the development or accumulation of competing capital

• The oil money in the Middle East had to be soaked up and returned to the old centers of capital or it would have become another center of capital that could build industry and take over resources and markets. As oil sources are limited, the over-capitalized world did not have the option of excluding the entire Middle East from world markets as they had done with Iran and are doing with Iraq. If used for both fuel and raw material, the industrial nations' refineries and chemical complexes could never compete with the cheap oil in the Middle East. The developed world was in the position identical to that of the Free Cities of Europe a 1,000 years ago. If permitted capital, the comparative advantage of the Middle East's raw material and fuel (free flowing oil) would eliminate the current centers of capital as manufacturers (in this case refiners) and marketers of the finished products

• Meanwhile, having tasted freedom, such repressive measures against their sovereignty converted the friendly Iranians, who once looked to America for guidance and support, into deadly enemies. The Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamic followers overthrew the Shah in 1979 and Muslim fundamentalists gained full control. It was the loss of those oil resources and the potential loss of refineries and markets that dictated Iran be depicted as an enemy to the citizens of the over-capitalized nations. If this had been reversed, the justice of the battle to control one's own wealth would have been obvious to us all - that is to all except the citizens of the other society, who would have heard resounding rhetoric portraying the insurgents as enemies

• All the Middle East is, logically, one country and is considered so by many Arabs. After all, where would America's wealth be if Mexico set up and controlled governments in Texas and Oklahoma, Japan controlled California, England the northeast, Spain the south, and the rest of the country was divided into small emirates with an elite power structure under external control?”

It’s food for thought huh? The world’s powers have really fucked things up over there and it’s payback time for all of us. Imagine if President Woodrow Wilson succeeded? Where would the world be now?

And so I go back to my earlier point. I believe that we are being encouraged to only focus on the fact that we are being attacked, but we are not asking the question - why are they willing to do what they are doing, not just to us, but to their fellow countrymen? History gives perspective. People have had enough! They want freedom too – freedom to make money, freedom to live and support their families, freedom to enjoy the wealth from “their” resources - and while for sure, some want the freedom to spread death and destruction - the majority want peace to live and enjoy life.

So what do we do to fix it? How do we resolve the issues that continue to dog “us?” And continue to dog us they will. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to put our hands on our hearts, accept responsibility (even if it wasn’t “us”) and start making compromises and plans for a future where none of us are divided, angry, racist, ignorant, greedy, destructive, and more willing to wage war than talk peace.

Now is the time to say to our governments, enough! No more bloody ignorant war, and while we’re at it, if you want to take the high ground with war, get involved in all wars where tyrants rule and show us that you really mean what you say, rather than just the wars that bring commodities like oil or sparkly mineral resources into our laps. And to the global corporations – innocent men, women and children all over the world are dying because of you – how about investing in more productive enterprises, like green fuel, then half the shit in the world will go away anyway?

It is greed that motivates and greed that causes most of the world’s problems and most of us are consumers who enjoy the easy life, and therefore we are part of the problem. We need to change our ways, because when we don’t demand these goods, things can start to change. All of us should also seek to make friends outside our community – make friends with all faiths and races and get to know each other. How many people do not have a friendship with anyone beyond their race or religion? How can we start to understand each other if we don’t even know each other?

This didn’t start because Osama bin Laden had a good idea one day to piss America off, it started long before and that is what needs to be addressed. We should always ask why about everything. At the moment it feels like America is saying: “Mummy and Daddy that boy hit me!” To which Daddy replies, “well hit them back.” Children fighting in a playground can result in a bump on the head, “the Global War on Terror”(and its predecessors) has resulted in millions dead, dying, maimed, orphaned, homeless, living in fear or really bloody angry with “us” because we never asked why? Where have all the diplomats gone? Or are they all just so shithouse, we need to sack them? Let’s not forget the trillions that have been spent – money that could have been used to solve the on-going problems at home and abroad...

We no longer win wars, and I hate the term "we won" that! Everything that has ever been "won" is just the future groundwork for more war, so there is no more winning or losing. Why is that lesson never learnt?

I long and hope for a time of peace and acceptance amongst the races and religions of the world. I just hope that now we decide it’s time to grow up and enter a time in human history where we can focus on moving towards peace and prosperity for all, because we can, we really can. We’ve just got to work harder at understanding each other and spending less time with an “us” and “them” mentality. We’re all just people and we need to start getting along, and taking care of our planet and each other.

Yours, without the bollocks

PS here’s a spiritual perspective from Neale Donald Walsch – the author of “Conversations with God” if you’re interested. I like the questioning over the use of the word “justice” and the questions around “killing” – as in, do you believe in the death penalty? And if not, do you still agree with this death? Just another interesting perspective.... 


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