Steve Weissman / Reader Supported News & Just Foreign Policy – 2015-03-05 12:18:25
(March 4, 2015) — “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” declared George W. Bush less than a week after the attacks of September 11, 2001. “Islam is peace. The terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.”
“We are not at war with Islam,” Barack Obama said last month. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
And, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the killings at the kosher supermarket on the outskirts of Paris, and those at a free speech symposium and synagogue in Copenhagen, European leaders repeat the same politically correct refrain.
Did you believe Bush? Do you now believe Obama and the Europeans? I do not. Nor do I believe that anyone can separate the War on Terror, or whatever we are now supposed to call it, from the religious beliefs and attitudes of millions of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Much of the conflict is undeniably about religion, and fatally so, as those on all sides are encouraging religious and racist discrimination, ethnic cleansing, pogroms, and war.
God Bless America
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin let it all out, as I described a dozen years ago in “The Lure of Christian Nationalism.” Dressed in full military uniform with his spit-polished paratroop boots, Boykin told evangelical groups all over the country that “America” was “a Christian nation” and that his God was bigger than Islam’s. “We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this,” he declared. “[Our] spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.”
A former commander and 13-year veteran of the top-secret Delta Force, Gen. Boykin was speaking as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, the Pentagon’s top uniformed spook from 2002 to 2007. Bush carefully distanced himself from Boykin’s remarks, as did Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
But, as he told a bewildered French president Jacques Chirac, the born-again, faith-based Bush saw himself fulfilling a religious mission from a Christian God, while many of his most fervent supporters were theological conservatives, the theo-cons, who preached a holy war against Muslims. They still do.
Why isn’t the world rallying to stop the Islamic State (ISIS), Fox News star Bill O’Reilly asked evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the immensely influential Christian revivalist Billy Graham. “Bill, one of the problems that we have in the West is that our governments, especially in Washington, have been infiltrated by Muslims who are advising the White House, who I think are part of the problem,” replied the younger Graham. “And I see this also in Western Europe. They have gotten into the halls of power.”
Explicitly asked by O’Reilly, Graham could not name a single Muslim in Washington’s halls of power. But that does not stop him from cheering on a new anti-Muslim crusade, portraying it as purely defensive while assuring individual Muslims that Christ came to save them.
“The militant Islamic terrorist group ISIS has released a video called A MESSAGE SIGNED WITH BLOOD TO THE NATION OF THE CROSS showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped in Libya,” Graham wrote on his Facebook page. “We’d better take this warning seriously as these acts of terror will only spread throughout Europe and the United States. If this concerns you like it does me, share this. The storm is coming.”
Obama tries to hold the Muslim-bashers at bay, for which they crucify him. Jewish neo-cons like Charles Krauthammer and the magazine Commentary help drive in the nails, tormenting the president for not stressing that the Egyptian Coptic victims of the beheading were Christian or that the perpetrators were Muslim.
Liberal interventionists like Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Bernard Henri-Levy add their voices, singing humanitarian hosannas about the need to protect Yazidis, Kurds, women, or whomever else, much as they earlier called for using armed force to protect girls who wanted to go to school in Kabul and anti-Gaddafi protestors in Benghazi.
All this “spiritual” noise generally serves the economically expansive and environmentally non-sustainable ambitions of Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Military-Industrial Complex. But the airier exhortations will have their impact, promoting more imperial intervention, counter-productive escalation, and hate-filled Muslim bashing.
Why deny the obvious? Whether Islamic State, affiliates of al-Qaeda, or other jihadi groups, the enemies in Barack Obama’s wars call themselves Muslims, and are deadly serious about their differing interpretations of their faith. They find their recruits primarily among Sunni Muslims earlier proselytized by Saudi Arabia’s dominant Wahhabi sect, with its 18th century brand of Islam.
They have, according to pollsters, the admiration of a significant minority of other Muslims — not a majority, by any means, but millions of people nonetheless. And, as the carefully nuanced Patrick Cockburn documents in his just published The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution, these more medieval-minded jihadis received most of their initial funding from the Saudis and other rich Muslims in the Gulf monarchies.
“In reality, it was the war in Syria that destabilized Iraq when jihadi groups like ISIS, then called al-Qaeda in Iraq, found a new battlefield where they could fight and flourish,” Cockburn writes. “It was the US, Europe, and their regional allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates that created the conditions for the rise of ISIS.”
“The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations,” he explains. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to Washington and chief of Saudi intelligence from 2012 until his pointed dismissal in February 2014, worked closely with the jihadi opposition in Syria, as did his half-brother Salman bin Sultan, the deputy minister of defense. However half-heartedly, the Obama administration helped them and the Qataris, further fanning the flames of Sunni-Shia conflict.
The Saudis and Qataris have now pulled back from the militants of Islamic State, fearing them as an internal threat to the House of Saud and Qatar’s ruling family. But individual Saudi sheiks continue to fund their favorite jihadis, as do other wealthy Muslims throughout the area.
Making religious belief even more central to current conflicts, the Saudis continue to fund Wahhabi mosques and schools throughout the Muslim World, propagating what Cockburn describes as a highly intolerant, puritanical, and exclusive brand of Islam “that imposes sharia law, relegates women to the status of second-class citizens, and regards Shia and Sufi Muslims as non-Muslims to be persecuted along with Christians and Jews.”
The Turks played a different role, allowing weapons and jihadist volunteers, including potential suicide bombers, to cross their 510-mile-long border into Syria, from which many went into neighboring Iraq. Cockburn cites reports from sources in Iraqi intelligence “that Turkish military intelligence may have been heavily involved in aiding ISIS when it was reconstituting itself in 2011.”
One source told him that the Turks encouraged experienced Iraqi officers to work with ISIS. Like the Saudis and Qataris, the Turks appear to have backed away from Islamic State, at least in the light of day, but all three countries continue publicly to back other radical jihadis who insist on imposing Sharia law.
Cockburn’s reporting — and the official European and American documents and sources he cites — offer much-needed background to recent headline news. Take three examples. The missing 9/11 bomber Zacharias Moussaoui testified that Saudi princes had acted as patrons of al-Qaeda.
The still-classified 28 pages from Congressional intelligence investigations of 9/11 implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism. And, most dramatically, former NATO commander Wesley Clark told CNN that ISIS, or Daesh, had “been created by our friends and allies to defeat Hezbollah.”
If Gen. Clark was agreeing with Cockburn about the role of the Sunni states, he was wrong in limiting their motives to weakening the Shia of Hezbollah. If he was pointing only at Israel, he was missing the much larger story that Cockburn tells. Clark never made himself clear and never offered any evidence. He was just shooting from the lip, as he so often does. But his allusion to Israel is worth investigating.
In a 1981 interview with the International Herald Tribune, Brigadier-General Yitzhak Sager, an Israeli military governor for Gaza, revealed that Tel Aviv had given him funds that he passed on to the mosques. “The funds are used for both mosques and religious schools, with the purpose of strengthening a force that runs counter to the pro-PLO leftists.” That force was Hamas, which Israel was covertly building up to weaken Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization. Why not, then, fund ISIS to weaken Hezbollah?
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m merely suggesting a certain plausibility to one possible interpretation of Gen. Clark’s cryptic comment. But plausibility is not proof, and further digging is needed. It is also just plain wrong to proclaim, as Thierry Meyssan’s Voltaire.net did, that “General Clark reveals that Daesh is an Israeli project.”
As I previously explained, Meyssan was the first person to write a book blaming the 9/11 attacks on Washington insiders, military industrialists, and Israel’s Mossad, and he has recently assured us that those who killed the people at Charlie Hebdo, “had no connection with jihadist ideology.” He never supported either claim with anything close to the necessary evidence.
One other caveat: Back in 2004, I noted Gen. Sager’s interview in my response to Israel’s targeted assassination of Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas and chief beneficiary of the Israeli shekels. “For most people around the world, the photographs told the story,” I wrote. “A picture of a crippled, white-bearded man looking far older than his 67 years. Then a crumpled piece of his wheelchair and a large red bloodstain on the road where Israeli helicopter gunships sent three rockets to kill him.”
The photos and all the subsequent carnage in Gaza dramatize a significant lesson. Whether for Israel, the Sunni states, or Washington, covertly funding groups like Hamas or ISIS does not buy control, and certainly not over time.
This fact of life needs to be relearned, not least by the surprising number of would-be progressives who take as true the chronically unproven conspiracies conjured up by Michel Chossudovsky at GlobalResearch and the aging Lyndon LaRouche, whom old-timers may remember by his pseudonym as the brilliant but bent Lyn Marcus.
These relentless 9/11 truthers and conspiracy-mongers proclaim that ISIS is nothing more than a false-flag operation consciously created to promote Western hegemony. Obama certainly uses ISIS to promote exactly that, as do the neo-cons, theo-cons, and liberal interventionists. But, as Cockburn shows, neither Washington nor NATO control ISIS, which has a far more complex history than Larouche, Chossudovsky, and Meyssan will ever admit.
Not even half true, their unsubstantiated conspiracy theories may sound extremely radical, worldly, sophisticated, and insightful. But they seriously undermine any effort to build a credible, evidence-based opposition to Obama’s military adventures.
“Cui bono?” as the truth-believers love to ask. For whose benefit do they weave their tales? Who pays their bills? And why do most of them seem so soft on Vladimir Putin’s Russia and so eager to repeat his major propaganda themes? Lacking proof, I cannot possibly answer such questions. But the coincidences do make me wonder.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.