The faith-based wrath of a region

U.S. fuels creation of more radicals in the Mideast

Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C

April 4, 2003

Despite passing references to links to Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction, the real intent of the Bush war party has always been to reconfigure the Middle East. First Iraq, then Syria, then on to Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Well, part of that equation seems to be right on schedule. This war is already reconfiguring the Middle East, but not in the way the war party intended. Instead of democratizing the region, the United States is radicalizing it.

Let's put the war aside for a moment and take a short trip around the region, where our troops are fighting so valiantly in an as-yet-indeterminate cause:

Jordan has always been the swing country and a crucially important listening post to Arab sensibilities; its monarchy is pro-American but its people are massively either Palestinian or pro-Palestinian.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, the discerning editor-at-large for The Washington Times and United Press International, now reports from Jordan how the picture there of the war has become irrevocably anti-American.

Some 30 Arab and European TV channels there are showing constant montages of dead Iraqis, Iraqi men being humiliated by Royal Marines, $1 billion worth of hated American "smart bombs" and cruise missiles, thousands of Arab volunteers flocking to Syria en route to Iraq, fears of American global dominance, and Palestinians proclaiming with rage that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is simply an extension of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

A "harbinger of radical change" occurring right before our eyes, de Borchgrave further notes, is the fact that only last week, Islamists in Jordan, always a threat to the monarchy, won all the top positions in the politically important Jordan Agricultural Engineers Association. He compared this in significance to the radical Islamist electoral takeover of the Pakistani border provinces with Afghanistan last October.

Iran is supposed to be, at least for the moment, waiting on the sidelines. But this week, Ayatollah Sayed Mohamad Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's 70 percent Shiite majority, who has long been violently anti-Saddam Hussein since his exile to Iran, proclaimed that as much as he hated Hussein, if the Americans stayed in Iraq, he would instruct his people to fight them to the death.

And now we are seeing something new inside Iraq – suicide bombers. We see widespread guerrilla opposition to the Americans, much more in the name of nationalism than out of any love for Hussein. (Why should any of this have been a surprise? This is what people have done throughout history.)

New York Times correspondent John Burns reported this week that the Iraqi guerrilla-style Fedayeen, who have been harassing American and British troops, are becoming the new Iraqi army, and that the Western troops "cannot hope in any degree to be assisted by the Iraqi people."

Ah yes, the New Iraq! Observers of history and warfare see a massive historical explosion on the horizon. "These irregular Fedayeen are not fighting for Saddam or even for his government. It's coming to a point where the state is not legitimate to them," says military historian William Lind of the Free Congress Foundation. "This is Osama bin Laden's way. The war is drawing them all together. It is precisely the opposite of what we want."

Despite the professional excellence of our military, we are giving every radical fundamentalist in the Middle East – and particularly Al Qaeda – fixed targets within the region, and particularly, of course, within Iraq. (No more need for those exhausting 14-hour flights from Afghanistan and Pakistan to New York!)

We are turning Iraq into the West Bank, and ourselves into the eternal Israeli occupation – which will sever us from the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, where pro-Western moderates will be completely destroyed.

Then, as the war becomes more difficult and more painful, even for superbly trained and highly motivated troops such as ours – and as our side is forced by all these conditions outlined above to raze more and more of Iraq in order to "win" – the rage on the other side will spiral into ever more violent expressions of nationalism.

All of this was foreseeable to anyone who has studied the history of nations, the generically nationalistic response of all peoples to foreign invaders, and simply human nature.

Yet even on American TV this week, one anchorperson mused about how strange suicide bombers are to Americans – despite the fact that self-immolation and self-sacrifice in the name of one's religion and one's history is known to virtually every faith that ever has existed on the face of the Earth.



Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

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