The explosion of anger over the anti-Islamic film produced and posted on YouTube by a bigot living in the United States should have been entirely predictable.
Yet the shock in Washington that met the killing of the US ambassador to Libya along with members of his staff in Benghazi after ‘liberating’ the country is evidence of the arrogance and ignorance that has defined the approach of the US to the region for far too long.
The riots and protests we’ve seen in Libya in particular call to mind the words of former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who, in response to the widespread looting and lawlessness that enveloped Iraq during the heady initial days of the US occupation, said: “Stuff happens… and it’s untidy and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”
The product of hubris and ignorance, those words have returned to haunt the US repeatedly since they were spoken.
In truth a decades-long policy of military and political intervention throughout the Arab and Muslim world lies at the root of these events. And, crucially, it is not and never has been a policy motivated by the desire to spread freedom and democracy, or by the objective of upholding human rights, but by a desire and determination to retain an iron grip on the region’s natural resources and ensure strategic hegemony as part of an overarching global reach. It is a policy that has demonstrably failed and will continue to fail to achieve anything other than instability and a growing reservoir of anger among the millions who’ve suffered the consequences.
In Iraq there is chaos. In Afghanistan there is chaos. In Libya there is chaos. In Syria there is chaos. Wherever the West intervenes, either directly or indirectly, chaos is the result. The historical charge sheet is just too long and damning to refute in this regard.
The insult felt in response to what for non-Muslims may seem a relatively minor attack on a religion, reflects the humiliation and powerlessness felt throughout the Muslim world in the face of this long history of domination. The effect has been to drive more and more Muslims to express their resistance to it via the conduit of religion. The result is that today Islam does not only connote a religious identity, but also political, cultural and physical resistance to western hegemony.
Compounding this process is the ongoing injustice of Israel’s dogged refusal to budge one inch from its policy of apartheid, occupation and expropriation vis-à-vis the Palestinians, able to do so with the unconditional backing of the United States. It is in this context that the raw anger that’s been unleashed has to be considered and understood. Yet for all that the blinkers will no doubt remain fixed firmly in place when it comes to dealing with the fall out from this latest eruption of anti-western sentiment.
When Obama was elected in 2008 hopes for a new approach by Washington to the Arab and Muslim worlds were great. His conciliatory rhetoric and pledges to the region were unlike those spoken by any of his predecessors. Yet four years on the first black president has proved less the reincarnation of Martin Luther King as Al Capone, with his weekly kill lists and regular drone attacks on suspected militants in Pakistan slaughtering many hundreds of innocent people – men, women, and children – while maiming and terrorising many more. Judicial murder, the violation of sovereignty, and a blatant disregard for the lives and human rights of innocent people in Pakistan’s tribal areas is the Obama administration’s contribution to peace during his first term in office. Yet compared to his rival for the White House in November, Mitt Romney, he appears like Ghandi.
Romney and the Republican Party he leads are committed to joining with hawks within the Israeli political and security establishment in pursuing a hard line policy towards Iran, making the prospect of full scale war more likely than it is now if he’s elected. The Republicans believe there is no problem that can’t solved by reference to the Old Testament. The idea of diplomacy is anathema to a party of right wing, God fearing extremists in a political culture that has grown increasingly polarized over the past decade between the very mad and very bad.
When are western governments going to wake up to the fact that the only way to prevent terrorism is to cease practising or supporting it? State terrorism begets non-state terrorism, yet there seems little appetite on the part of those in positions of power to do anything other than repeat the same old lies and justifications for the West’s self evident manifest destiny – its role as the ‘decider’ in the inimitable words of George W Bush. This is why nothing will change anytime soon. One set of extremists have forged another set of extremists, with the scale and scope of the carnage caused by the former exceeding that of the latter by a gigantic margin.
These violent protests and scenes of uncontained anger are not only in reaction to a bigoted, anti-Islamic film. They are the latest manifestation of a world in which the doctrine of might is right is lent legitimacy by the word democracy.