Liberal betrayal of U.S. Libya mission

WASHINGTON — President Obama always makes good speeches, and he gave an excellent one defending his administration’s participation in NATO’s military intervention in Libya.

The coalition bombing has averted, as the president pointed out, a “brutal repression and looming humanitarian crisis” brought on by Muammar Qadhafi’s forces.  Even though   the Qadhafi forces have halted the rebels’ advance toward his eastern strongholds, the United States and its allies aren’t going to let the dictator prevail.

I’m concerned about the resistance to the mission that the administration is facing from America’s political and intellectual establishments. Republican and Tea Party opposition to the operation was predictable.  I’m disappointed, though not surprised, by the Democratic and, especially, liberal resistance to it.  It’s hard to imagine more liberal Americans than Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington Post columnist Mark Shields and Rep. Denis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. They’re leading a range of American liberals and progressives who oppose the U.S. role in the U.N.-sponsored military action. I’m not surprised by their stance because I have known conservative and liberal Americans who profess support for “universal” human rights and freedoms, but view their “universe” to be the West. (The neocons’ “democratization” propaganda about the Iraq war meant to camouflage a clumsy imperial project.)

I was a member of an “International Congress” that was pushing for military intervention to stop the Serbian slaughter of Bosnian Muslims.  At our August 1995 conference in Bonn, Germany, my fellow U.S. delegates and I were elated to hear American liberals being hailed as “the bastion” of support for such a campaign. Coincidentally, the NATO bombing of  Serbian aggressors began while we were heading back home. I didn’t hear Kucinich, Gelb, Shields or any other well-known American liberals denouncing the Clinton administration for leading that operation.   Four years later when the United States led the NATO air raids to stop the Serbian army assaults on dissidents in Kosovo, American liberals applauded it.  Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are part of the West.  Libya isn’t. Neither was Rwanda or Congo.

Kucinich and other liberals are criticizing Obama’s failure to obtain prior congressional approval of the Libya operation.  More revealing, however, has been their silence about the morality of the campaign. Shields and others have offered a moral argument, which is equally telling. The administration, they say, didn’t prove how defending the Libyan uprising would serve America’s “vital interests.”

Suppose tomorrow troops loyal to a neo-Nazi dictator begin mowing down protesters in the streets of Berlin or Vienna. Would we hear them denounce U.S. involvement in a NATO military assault to stop it? I believe that Americans, including Shields, would then find it in America’s “vital interest” to support such intervention, just as they did in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

I see defending the pro-democracy upheavals in Libya and other Arab countries serving an over-arching U.S. interest.  Most Muslims and Arabs in west Asia and North Africa have been deeply anguished by the United States’ long-standing support for their repressive autocracies. Their resentment is the biggest challenge to U.S. security and economic interests in the Arab world.  Embracing the “Arab spring” would help Washington douse the toxic anti-Americanism and court tomorrow’s rulers, generals and diplomats in that region.


Muslim terrorists bred by U.S. policy

Published in Austin-American Statesman, March 20, 2011; Columbus Dispatch, March 16, 2011)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Peter T. King had said his congressional hearing on Muslim radicalization would investigate the causes of the problem. It didn’t.

I have long been calling, in my newspaper columns and at public forums, for a serious investigation of the causes of Muslim anti-Americanism and terrorism. Some researchers have made in-depth inquiries about it, but U.S. administrations, Congress and news media have brushed them aside.

Muslim radicalization in America and the West is a recent trend. It’s the outcome mainly of Western Muslims’ identification with their fellow Muslims overseas who are fighting U.S. and Israeli forces occupying their lands or deployed on them. As we know, 15 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis. They apparently had been pissed off by the deployment of American troops in Saudi Arabia. In October 1991 I was stunned by the extent of anti-American rage among Saudi youth that I hadn’t seen before. In the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Medina, some of them vociferously denounced the stationing of American troops on the “holy land of Islam.” Five years later Osama bin Laden would be railing against the presence of these forces “on the land of Muhammad.” And in April 2003 when the United States, at the insistence of the Saudi monarchy, abandoned its Sultan City airbase, Al Qaeda celebrated it as the fulfillment of one of its 9/11 objectives.

Muslims have never hated America per se. During the colonial era, the Muslim world viewed the United States as the only good Western power. In 1956, when the Eisenhower administration forced Israeli, British and French invaders to pull out of Egyptian territory, America was showered with accolade from Muslims everywhere. Then in the 1980s thousands of Muslim militants, including Bin Laden, collaborated with the CIA in the war against Soviet invaders in Afghanistan. Neither is Islam a source of Muslim anti-Americanism. Muslims have been reading their scripture and practicing their faith for 1,400 years. The so-called “Islamic terrorism” against American targets didn’t begin until the 1990s.

Robert Pepe has done a thorough study of suicide terrorism. He investigated terrorists belonging to the Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Marxist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, Sunni Muslim and Christian Palestinian organizations and Lebanese Shiite groups. “What over 95 percent of all suicide attacks since 1980 have had in common,” concluded the University of Chicago professor in his book Dying to Win, “is not religion but a specific strategic objective: to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory the terrorists consider their homeland or prize greatly.”

King is well-known as a staunch defender of the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s terrorist campaign against what he called “British imperialism.” He should know that Muslim terrorism against Americans and American interests isn’t anymore “Islamic” than IRA terrorism was “Catholic.” It is transnational Irish social and cultural solidarity that drove him and many other Irish-Americans into supporting the IRA.

Ever since the Crusades, the bond of the transnational Muslim community, the umma, has inspired Muslims to defend fellow Muslims in different lands against foreign aggression and hegemony. Umma solidarity has now galvanized many of them to support in various ways the victims of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, bombing raids in Pakistan and Yemen and the occupation of Palestine by Israel, with which America is joined at the hip. These anti-American Muslims include those who, unfortunately, resort to terrorism.

Muslim terrorism in America, a terrible crime as it is, can’t be combated successfully without addressing its source. That source is the U.S. foreign policy of occupation and domination of Muslim societies. A witchhunt of law-abiding American Muslims, which the King hearing could escalate, can only detract America from that overdue task.

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Can the U.S. save the Jordanian throne?

(Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 2011)

WASHINGTON – Admiral Mike Mullen recently visited Jordan. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff assured King Abdullah II of America’s commitment to the security of his kingdom. As Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, it doesn’t really have an external security threat. A growing internal threat looms, however, to the Hashemite monarchy. The Arab revolutionary movement snowballing from Tunisia and Egypt has exacerbated that threat.

What’s likely to fuel a large-scale uprising against the Jordanian monarchy? And if that occurs, can the Pentagon help the king ride out of it?

As in other Arab states, Jordan is afflicted with a high unemployment rate (officially 13% but actually much higher), low living standards (per capita GNI $3,300) and widespread official corruption. But the biggest challenge to the throne comes from it not having local roots. The Hashemite family’s ethnic roots lie in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The British Empire planted the scion of that family, Abdullah bin al-Hussein, in 1923 as the king of what was called Transjordan. The state was carved out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire, which had been defeated and dismembered by the Allied Powers in World War I.

About 60 percent of Jordan’s population of 6.5 million is Palestinians. They’re mostly well-educated, urban and enjoy much higher income levels than the remaining 40 percent or so, made up largely of rural Bedouin tribes. The Palestinians and Bedouins have been estranged from each other since the inception of the state.

The Bedouin tribes have been the monarchy’s main support base, especially since 1970 when then King Hussein brutally suppressed a revolt by Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered or expelled from Jordan. That was the beginning of the monarchy’s secret outreach to Israel, the nemesis of the Palestinians and other Arabs. In 1973, for example, Hussein, Abdullah’s deceased father, had a clandestine meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir during which he warned her of Egyptian preparations for war against Israel. Egypt would later attack Israel in what would be known as the Yom Kippur war. Hussein also began working secretly with then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to conclude a peace agreement with Israel. The treaty was finally wrapped up and signed in 1994.

While the Palestinians resent the monarchy’s courtship of Israel, the Bedouins are being alienated by the current king, Abdullah, especially because of his efforts to placate the Palestinians. The outreach to the Palestinians is led by the king’s Palestinian wife, Rania. She is instrumental in providing Jordanian citizenship to a large number of Palestinian refugees, and helping Palestinians with jobs, business opportunities, and so forth.

On Feb. 7 the Bedouins staged a demonstration against the Abdullah government, a first in the history of the Hashemite-Bedouin relationship. They criticized Queen Rania’s meddling in government affairs and voiced other complaints against the regime. “The situation,” said their spokesman “has become unbearable. Corruption, nepotism and bureaucracy (sic) are widespread and the rich are becoming richer, while the poor – like many Bedouins – are becoming poorer.”
Meanwhile, the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings have triggered several mainstream opposition rallies in Jordan. The protesters demanded democratic reforms, curbing nepotism and official corruption. The Jordanians haven’t called for an end to the monarchy yet, but they could do so if the public discontent escalates into a full-scale uprising.

So what could the Obama administration do to help the Jordanian royalty stave off an Egyptian-style revolution? Whatever else it can do, sending the head of the U.S. armed forces to Amman was a mistake. Many Jordanians saw it as America’s threat to use its military might to defend one of its Arab cops against the repressed people of the state.

Moreover, a U.S. military intervention in Jordan’s political crisis would be counterproductive. Could American soldiers be shooting Arabs in one country without provoking Arab protests against the U.S. military presence and other vital interests in others?

Americans can’t really beat the brewing pan-Arab revolution in Jordan and most other countries. They should join the revolution now to preserve their vital interests in the Middle East.

▪ Mustafa Malik is a columnist and blogger, based in Washington. He conducted field research on U.S.-Arab relations in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as a senior associate for the University of Chicago Middle East Center.