Several years ago, during the commemoration of the quincentennial of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, I was walking down a street in Cuzco, Peru. An indigenous person threw human waste on me from a rooftop. I was informed later that there was great resentment in Peru against Columbus and the subsequent Spanish conquest of the Incas.
I did not know that in a previous life I served on the crew of the “Santa Maria” and was a Spanish Conquistador, a brutal owner of a vast hacienda. The point of this anecdote is that it relates to two recent “Viewpoints” about the Middle East.
William Chevalier presented an accurate historical analysis showing that the Sunni-Shia religious conflict is 1,400 years old and not caused by any American government. The other “Viewpoint” is historically inaccurate, illogical, morally repugnant, confuses cause and effect, and reflective of a long-held bias.
A person is only directly responsible for what he does in his own lifetime. A person is only indirectly responsible for what happens after he dies, for a short period of time, if his actions set off a chain of events. Thus, for example, Constantine Pobedonostev, tutor of Tsar Nicholas II autocratic ruler of Russia, taught his pupil that all his thoughts came from God. Consequently, Nicholas would not listen to wise advisors and made terrible decisions.
However, only an irrational person believes that an individual is responsible for what happened prior to his birth, when he was a very young child, or had no conceivable connection to an event that occurs when he is an adult. The following events, related to the Arab world, were not caused by American presidents and our foreign policy: the Lebanese civil war between Moslems and Christians; the four-way conflict amongst Kurds, Arabs, Iranians and Turks; civil wars in Sudan, Yemen, Somalia; terrorism in Kenya; conflicts in Libya; the decision of five Arab nations to invade Israel in 1948; the outbreak of the revolution in Syria; mistreatment of Sunnis by Shia and vice versa in Iraq; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979); Saddam Hussein’s decisions to invade Iran (a war which cost a million lives), his decision to invade Kuwait (1991), and, as revealed by interrogations of captured members of his inner circle, his lying about having weapons of mass destruction.
American foreign policy did not cause British and French imperialism in the Middle East. American soldiers did not defeat the Ottoman Empire, cause the Armenian genocide of 1915, or abolish the Caliphate. The Turkish leader Kamal Ataturk did that. Recent advances by ISIS in Syria and Iraq are designed to restore the Caliphate.
The American government was not responsible for the Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb’s negative experiences with American women while studying in the U.S. in 1949. Sayyid Qutb was obsessed with the supposed immorality of American females. Qutb’s writings were the main influences on Osama bin Laden’s views of America as being contrary to Islam. Qutb’s criticisms of democracy, Jews, materialism, America and woman’s equality are the intellectual basis of Islamic terrorist hatred of America.
A recent writer criticized American foreign policy for both supporting tyrants and trying to “bomb countries into democracy.” How can you support two conflicting objectives? That commentary is unsound and full of factual errors.
The American government withdrew its support of the Shah in Iran and Mubarak in Egypt. Our government opposed the military coup in Egypt. Al-Qaeda hates Saudi Arabia’s government, and that monarchy has been an ally in the fight against terrorism.
The 9/11 terrorists and suicide bombers are not made out to be “irrational, inherently violent and dangerous”; they actually are unless you believe that exploding and incinerating thousand of innocent people are acts of rational, nonviolent and peaceful individuals.
The critic mentioned the CIA’s role in overthrowing an elected government in Iran in 1953. That event was supported by Iranian religious leaders and must be seen in the context of the Cold War. However, that occurred 61 years ago and does not explain current repression in Iran. I suspect that most of Iran’s people would welcome a CIA-sponsored coup today.
The writer continues her diatribe against reason by arguing that it is morally right for Palestinians to attempt to murder Israelis with rockets, but any action Israel takes in self-defense is wrong. She sees nothing wrong with Hamas, which publicly stated that it wishes to destroy Israel, and that it is a religious obligation to murder Jews (Articles 12 and 7 of the Hamas Charter). I must add that not a single Arab civilian in Gaza would have died if Hamas did not shoot rockets into Israel and, in violation of international law, position their rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods.
Since 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, over 17,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Bostonians boast of being “Boston Strong” due to their reaction to two terrorist bombs. Well, the Israeli city of Sderot must be Hercules, since its inhabitants had over 5,000 rockets fired at it.
The Palestinian Arab leadership has rejected six offers for a Palestinian state; the last Israeli offer would have given them 94 percent of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and control of the Holy Sites. As an aside, in 1922 the British gave 80 percent of Palestine, 34,445 square miles to the Arabs, and that became Jordan.
America and Israel are not to blame for the Middle East violence.
Rick Sirvint lives in Rindge.