Barbara Muldoon, an anti-racism campaigner from Belfast, is facing criminal charges for taking pa
Middle East Anger- all about a movie?
With the recent killing of the US Ambassador to Libya during the protests against a film that is seen by the protesters as anti-Muslim and defamatory, there are now questions raised at various platforms about 'freedom of speech' and the 'Islamist rage'.
There are debates on whether Islam is a 'tolerant religion' or not. Various experts and some media, yet again, reignite the discussions on the doctrine of religion (Islam) and its suitability to democracy and modern life.
RTE main news showed a somewhat 'apologetic' Hillary Clinton who declared that this movie had nothing to do with the US government and that she condemned it. This followed by a report telling us that “the US had dispatched two navy destroyers towards the Libyan coast to give the administration flexibility for any future action against Libyan targets”.
The US military dispatched a Marine Corps 'anti-terrorist' team to boost security in Libya. RTE analyst explained the huge US military resources available in the Middle-East at the Administration's disposal to bring law and order to the various countries. This is the very same military might that caused the destruction of millions of lives in the region.
One could naively ask the question: Do these people in Whitehouse ever learn from the past?
What the news programs and US government will not tell us is that, bringing 'order and stability' to these countries where similar protests are happening is just another – less aggressive – way of saying to 'protect the US interests' in these countries and the wider region.
Let's go back a little while and refresh our memories. As James O'Toole put it “the 1 degree of heat that makes the water boil is sometimes mistaken for the previous 99. The attacks on US embassies might have something to do with a million dead in Iraq, tens of thousands in Afghanistan, IMF policies backed up by US warships and years of US interference in Middle Eastern affairs. And then the recent movie”.
Nothing appears suddenly out of nowhere. Not a lunatic movie or the protests against it.
The real freedom of speech issue (rather the lack of it) has been around for the people of Middle-East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq for over many decades. This was both in the hands of their US/Western backed dictators and because of the horrific wars and invasions.
The “war on terror” unleashed a brutal oppression and bloodshed on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Manufactured concepts such as “The axis of evil” and “clash of civilizations” were some of the elements of the propaganda machine of the US lead imperialist wars. Deaths, poverty, mental illnesses, thousands of orphan children and a misery that will last for generations to come have been the legacy of these wars. While H. Clinton suggested that they were liberating the women of Afghanistan, Malalai Joya (an activist, writer and exiled member of parliament from Afghanistan) will tell you that those very same women “were on a frying pan and that they are now (after the invasion of their country) into the fire”.
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) will tell you first hand horror stories of the war on terror.
As we are going through another massive economic crisis and as people suffer its terrible consequences, the US war spending has increased to unimaginable levels. While teachers have to go on strike in the US to defend their jobs and public education, US government continues to spend billions on wars.
As RAWA describes it, Afghanistan is now one of the poorest countries on the planet. It takes its place among desperate, destitute nations like Burkina Faso and Somalia whenever any international organization bothers to measure. The official unemployment rate, last calculated in 2005, was 40% percent. According to recent estimates, it may today reach as high as 80% in some parts of the country.
Of the 30 million people in the country, at least 10 million people live under the line of poverty. As we are approaching the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan (October 7th) the total war spending so far is estimated to be over $500 Billion. If and when the invading armies pull out of Afghanistan, they will leave a huge human suffering and a completely destroyed country behind, with a very little chance for young Afghani men and women to realize any of their dreams.
Iraqi people suffered first from Saddam’s wars in the region, then from the inhumane UN sanctions/embargo and finally, the following years, from the brutality of the war and invasion. The orphan children of early 2000s are now young men and women who grew up in just another worst place in the world, made by US/Western imperialism. I remember the story of a man from Iraq, who was the only survivor of a family of 17. Three generations of his family were wiped out by a single air strike.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused a huge displacement of people. People were forced to leave their family homes, villages, cities only to stay alive and with the hope of a safer life. Numbers from Afghanistan show that there are up to 5 million people who are refugees, asylum seekers and internally/externally displaced. In Iraq this number is exceeding 3 million people.
The life cycle of imperialist wars for people seems to be the same in both countries: Invade, kill, make poor, force to run away and ultimately destroy the country.
So, next time we see a 'Muslim' refugee in our streets we better remember all these and condemn imperialism in solidarity with these people. Nothing and absolutely nothing has been 'normal' for millions of people in these countries for such a long time.
People of Pakistan were suffering even before the war, in the hands of their dictator who was supported by the US. They continue to get their share of the horrific consequences of 'war on terror' in their own country.
Dictators Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali, for decades, oppressed their own people. All of these were in direct receivership of Western arms and military aid. While they spent millions on warfare, their people were living in poverty with little or no democracy and freedom of speech. All of these dictators were supported by imperialist West.
In Tunisia, the demonstrations were ignited by chronic high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. Things were heating up and all it was needed was a man called Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who set himself on fire in protest against poverty, a man with full of love for his family and full of anger. He supported his mother, uncle, and younger siblings, including paying for one of his sisters to attend university, by earning approximately US$140 per month selling produce on the street in Sidi Bouzid. Bouazizi was educated in a one-room country school, worked all his life. He was an ordinary man who became the igniter of the Tunisian revolution. And of course, he was also a Muslim. 98% of people in Tunisia are Muslim.
The ongoing suffering of Palestinians doesn't even make the main news anymore. It has been going on for so long, that we have forgotten when it all began. We are probably expected to get used to their daily suffering and ongoing misery. They wanted us to celebrate the removal of Berlin wall as the Israeli wall got longer and higher. Amnesty reports that “mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law”. We must add to this and expose the very same international law as being a law dictated and implemented by the very same powers at war in the region. This is a law with full of double-standards and contradictions. In 2009, according to some estimates, the population rate below the poverty line was at 70%. Nothing has been better for people of Gaza since 2009. The troubles of people of Palestine continue to grow and get worse.
People of Iran will suffer directly from the new sanctions imposed upon their country. Working class people were poor in this an oil rich country, and with the new sanctions their economic, social conditions will undoubtedly get worse. They will feel the effects of these imperialist sanctions and they will get angry. As a result, these sanctions will cripple some of the essential services in the country and it will give the Iranian regime any excuse to implement further, tighter population controls in the name of fighting the outside enemies. With these sanctions ordinary people of Iran will find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
People, under dictatorial regimes and the ongoing wars/invasions/occupations suffered extremely. Nothing has been “normal” for these people, not even the basic things that people in Washington / Paris / London would take for granted.
As millions of people around the world supported and continue to support the uprisings in Arab Spring, millions of people worldwide marched and democratically campaigned against these wars and occupations. They warned their governments about the consequences of these wars. But these were ignored and people were lied to. There was no democracy when it came to declaring wars. The original war mongers may have left the government offices but the legacy of their wars and lies continues to bring turmoil and anger to the millions in various countries. An anger that is deeply rooted in peoples souls. This is an anger that is NOT originated from their genetic make-up and it was NOT something that they were born with. The anger is NOT an aspect of their religion. This anger originated from a life under constant war and oppression, along with the complimentary propaganda of islamophobia. This is an anger originating from people seeing with their very own eyes the destruction of very own lives, all in the name of 'clash of civilizations', 'war on terror' and ‘freedom and democracy'.
Hillary Clinton said that she was heartbroken with the latest deaths in Libya. But then where was her heart when millions of hearts/bones/lives and freedom of speech rights were broken for so many decades.
Maybe it is now time for such 'heartfelt' people in high places to realize (or rather to be told again by many opposing their actions) what they have been doing. We need to remind ourselves that what we see today is a direct outcome of what has been happening for decades.
In the last few days, people protesting on the streets did not just experience a 'surge of faith' and Muslims did not just decide to be angry with the West. People around the world and in the region have various social, economic conditions they lived under. These naturally shape their actions and expressions. There isn’t a single homogeneous bloc of people/groups that move at the same time, at the same pace, free of any internal debates and discussions. Muslims did not meet other 'civilizations' and religions for the first time in this century or in this past decade. For hundreds of years they have always been in interaction with the other people in the form of science, politics, philosophy, art, commerce, architecture, war, peace and religion. These were in other words the complex and ever changing social and economic interactions between people in and regions.
And this 'ever changing social and economic interactions' is where the core of the issue actually lies: Capitalism - A system that needs to take control of these interactions and dictate the terms and conditions in the name of the capitalist classes. But then these ruling classes are not always free of contradictions and internal, local and international conflicts among themselves.
They need to compete with each other. For oil, water, cheap labor, land and of course, ultimately, for profits... That's why Russia is in conflict with the rest of big capitalist states in the case of Syria.
Things are not good, and haven't been good for capitalists for some time now. How many crises did we have since WWI? Each time it seems to be getting worse. And so, in all of this mess, do they need a 'war on terror', they create one. Do they need to force IMF policies onto people; they will do their best to achieve this. Do they need to support dictators in implementing ‘free market’ and ‘privatization’ polices; they will just do that. Will capitalists require the help of propaganda; they will spread the seeds of islamophobia and racism.
But will all of this ultimately save them? Obviously not! 3 decades of huge military power did not save Mubarak. Their wars are now burden on them and they don't seem to know how to cut their losses and run away. Their political parties lose elections and face mass protests by people. They can't govern according to their plans. People, however much they suffer in the hand of capitalism, always come up with new surprises in opposing it. Ordinary people pay a high price but they don't give up and run away. People revolt and fight back in many different ways. People don't want these capitalist to dictate the terms and conditions of their interactions with others. They want a new model, a completely new model free of wars, racism and oppression.
And all of these various struggles are happening in an environment of solidarity among people who are in places far away from each other…
Why in God’s name would a worker in Tahrir Square, a Muslim worker bringing down Mubarak, would hate a teacher who is on strike in Wisconsin, a Christian worker? We saw quite the opposite of this, months after months, didn't we? Madrid sent solidarity to Tahrir, Tahrir to Chicago, Wall Street occupiers to Tahrir, London to Tunisia and Dublin to Tahrir. The network of solidarity goes on and on…
Nothing is as ‘silly’ as we are expected to believe in this recent 'movie crisis'. It is not simply just an 'anger surge' of by some intolerant radicals. The movie angered people but it was only one extra piece on top of all other things from before. That's how we should see the real cause and effect relationship and expose the manufactured lies as we are fighting for a better world…
A much better one…
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