No matter where we garner our news; mainstream network television, cable, magazines, shrinking newspapers or the exploding internet, we are bombarded with news about terrorism, Muslim extremists, Al Qaeda expansion, and death and destruction at their hands. To say the least this is both alarming and disturbing, because there is a direct relationship to the future well being of our way of life.
While there were significant signs of growing threats to our society for many years, it was not until the horrific attacks within the United States on September 11, 2001 that we really took notice. As is frequently the case, America snapped to attention that the terrorist threat was real and it was right here on our home ground. There were earlier signs with the partially successful bombing of the World Trade Center garage in 1993 and a number of years earlier the bombing of the U.S Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. The USA had not been directly attacked since Pearl Harbor and the invasion of two small islands in Alaska by the Japanese early in WW II.
The roots of unrest in the Middle East go back to the vast influence of the British Empire in the colonial days. Few know that the British had widespread influence since the demise of the Ottoman Empire and decisions of the legendary Winston Churchill to intercede in the establishment of the nation of Iraq and the subsequent Plebiscite that created Israel and failed to resolve the Palestinian issue. The vast Indian sub-continent and huge portions of the Middle East have long been warring among the various tribes and have been ruled by numerous conquerors that fomented unrest and desires of independence. The entire region has been a powder keg for hundreds of years and the USA has repeatedly demonstrated the audacity to think we can resolve the long festering multi-cultural hatreds with democracy and money.
Clearly, the USA has not done an objective necessary historical background study. Many smart leaders have been unsuccessful in uniting the conflicting tribal interests long before the USA even existed. Were we correct to intervene when Iraq invaded Kuwait during the first President Bush’s term? I think the quick easy answer is yes, but the real problem has long festered with our failure to address properly our ever-growing dependency on oil and our repeated unconditional endorsement of Israel without acknowledging at least some accommodation of the Palestine side of the argument.
It is not a popular subject, but it is clear that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded in March, 2003. History may eventually prove we were correct in this decision and to depose their diabolical leader. The attack on the Kurds proved that there were WMD’s.
In Legacy of Ashes (The History of the CIA) by Tim Weiner, we learn that the CIA has repeatedly failed to provide accurate intelligence to our leaders. Longstanding problems within the CIA have repeatedly led our country into inappropriate actions resulting in dire consequences, and it is still questionable as to whether the agency has been brought to the required effective operational standards. From the time President Truman created the CIA through President Bush 43, the internal problems have not been solved.
The recent political debate has whipped this country into an emotional frenzy and candidates will do anything and say anything to get elected. The threat to our way of life is real and it is repeatedly being ignored.
It was evident to me that the Muslim Religion was heavily involved in the current terrorist threat, but I did not know anything about it. In an effort to garner some objective facts about a subject I knew little about, I talked with my Muslim Cardiologist who is a highly educated, successful family man in our community. He recommended I buy the book Muslim for Dummies, and I am now convinced that it is not that religion, but an unknown number of misdirected, rebellious religious zealots who are the problem.
What has caused the radical teachings of those fringe leaders to call for our ultimate demise is rooted in several converging facts. The colonial interests (British, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish Ottoman tribal dictatorial leaders) abused their subjects over a long period of time. Long destitute poverty has bred unrest repeatedly and festered desires for these radical teachings and beliefs.
Looking for answers and solutions, I have just completed a fascinating book by Steve Coll entitled The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century.
This is a very insightful review of the Bin Laden family’s rise from desert sand poor poverty in the Empty Quarter of Yemen to unbelievable wealth and dominance in the Middle East.
This somewhat ponderous read (600 pages) provides minute details into the rise from the humble Hadhramawt region of Yemen by Mohammed Bin Laden (Osama’s father) who was blind in one eye and could neither read nor write. His devotion to the House of Saud, the Koran, aggressive business development, his family, his multiple wives and numerous children were central to his huge financial success. A pivotal development was Mohammed’s divorce of Osama Bin Laden’s mother. Osama was well supported financially, but never received the normal formal education provided to the other twenty some sons and over twenty daughters of the multiple remaining wives. Osama drifted into radical Islamic schools in Saudi Arabia and slid away from the family business and into radicalism.
While Osama was not the only son to disappoint his father, he is by far the one that brought great shame and embarrassment to the family and the world. I drew many conclusions, but I won’t spoil the book’s message. Beyond the Bin Laden family, the book provides a unique perspective into why radical Islamic factions have flourished and exists today. The book further proves…You can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your relatives.
How we combat this real terrorist threat to our future remains to be seen. History will tell us whether we were right or wrong in going into Iraq the second time, but I believe we did it to oust a dangerous dictator and not to control his oil resources. We cannot simply walk out of Iraq tomorrow (or even over a 16 month period as Barack Obama proposes). We have to find some kind of a just, reasonable solution to Iraq’s stability. Let’s face it; we will have to have some troops there until that happens.
I pray we do not dilly dally in reaching a fair, solid resolution. Death means nothing to the fanatics and War alone may not be the answer to the decade’s long grievances. America is paying a terrible price for the sins of past individuals and generations, but we owe it to the over 3,000 killed in the airplane attacks and the 4,000 plus brave men and women who have given their lives in the Middle East to preserve the American way of life. We also owe it to many brave Iraqi’s willing to stand with us in order to gain freedom and also the innocent ones who have paid with their lives, too.
One final thought, I still believe that America does not yet understand the culture, minds, and desires of the people in the Middle East. It’s just possible that democracy will not work there, but we and the region must find something that will.