Abstract: This paper will contrast the generally accepted cultural assumptions concerning The Middle East that arrived during The Cold War prior to the Gulf Wars and current, ongoing catastrophe, with a theory of the motives behind American intervention that suggests reasons to be wary of official explanations for the cataclysm unfolding. It attempts to redress deficiencies in available media digest and proposes reform.
A Community College Narrative
Understanding about the Middle East is hard to arrive at, but with some careful categorical priorities, a reader can, in fact, find a set of disputes that help bring into focus what the rift between our cultures is all about, and why things have gotten worse, despite promising avenues for advancement, moderation and resolution. The inability to understand on the part of our people may be part of a malaise in the media.
In an article about Diane Arbus, a photographer of marginal persons who died in 1971 by her own hand, Louis A. Sass says that Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist, describes the post-modern mind “as a new form of schizophrenia: the person having lost all sources of passion or direction, or of personal individuality, and all motivation for introspection, comes to be little more than a “switching center for all the networks of influence,”” (1). Although he does not say this, for that to happen the individual would have to become an active agency in switching off interjections from conscience or personal curiosity, working instead to master the juggling act of accommodating positions from their parameter comfortable to their power center. In another note, a group of medical sociologists in Germany wrote about grueling working conditions and health decline in positions available to freelance media workers. They describe a society where “the steady growth of non-standard work contracts, increasing instability and flexibility and rapid technological change may have far-reaching effects on health and well-being.” Specifically, “people on fixed-term contracts, contingent and temporary work and the self-employed may suffer from the consequences of increased flexibility and decentralization (Bussing & Glasser, 1998; Thorell 1996). The media industry belongs to the sectors that are most intensely hit by these developments.” (2)
It can be hard, in other words, to pour time and attention into understanding the problems of a culture faraway which are traditionally scorned in the West, with your own health challenged, your skills unequal to the chore and little personal to gain.
Consider this when attempting to grasp why you may not be satisfied with your own understanding of the Middle East if it is based on what arrives by way of mainstream and available alternative media. These observations depict a post-modern world in which the mind is trained to be versatile at accommodation, swept into circumstances that require intensely rigorous, competitive self-definition or discovery of new ways to exploit a power center based on what is understood to be acceptable. For the exhausted journalist, the saving grace in such an arrangement is a public unwilling, unable and disinterested in seeing the labors of influential media, both mainstream and independent, exercise practical deviation from their standard scripts, pitches and entries. What were once called “ink devils” presumably on the prowl for the truth, are now understood as navigators of acceptability and useful scandal. The pace of technological change in other words, and what was once called “future shock” still has to cater to a consumer base that graciously accepts what is offered, provided it plays to their grasp. This simplifies things on both sides. If everyone misunderstands, it has the grace of being at least common ground. Readers unfortunately feel well served by this upheaval. Media burnout, that is to say, has an ally in a society that doesn’t really understand what is going on and therefore cannot identify when what they are told is wrong, any more than those charged with explaining can find time to research, or the autonomy needed to bring comprehension to the table. All concerned would certainly deny this and find it insulting, even though it is in the interests of everyone concerned to admit that freelance reporting, where independence of judgment is at stake, is also besieged by hardship that makes the labor involved very forbidding.
You cannot understand the Middle East without having an understanding of why so few people do. While the most important industry for alternative views as a forum to challenge mainstream opinions, independent journalism is also the least likely place for writers to develop the powerful research skills needed to vie publicly with established journals playing misleading tunes or successfully show when a powerful voice is being unreasonable, or lying. Freelance writers, once also known as stringers, are caged by extremely difficult circumstances and subject to greater access by agencies hostile to freedom of the press, including disgruntled and bigoted readers, their rivals writers and overlords in the press. This creates a particularly serious problem when it comes to affairs in The Middle East, towards which there is a lot of ignorance, bias, hysteria and a past of misleading disgest. It is my goal in this note to help you understand what you are being denied an opportunity to by available media. Despite the terrorist attacks on “Charlie Hebdo” a lampoon newspaper in France, or the sparks that flew over “Satanic Verses” by Saalmun Rushdie, terrorism towards freedom of expression is not a characteristic of Muslims living in the West, most of whom accept separation of Mosque and State graciously, aware their freedom of belief and practice of religion is being protected by law. Terrorism does not excuse journalists from the obligation to make sense of our times and explain them to the reading public. The bandwagon of hate only sells meaninglessness. If you subscribe to the preposterous idea that Muslims are terrorists, read no further. Stereotyping after an incident leading to lasting trauma may be understandable concerning an individual victim from a psychiatric point of view, but it has no place in a profession.
To understand why you should want to understand the Middle East, and aspire to assist the refugees, return to the art of Diane Arbus which concerns subjects of deformity, mongoloids, individuals with mental illness and Downs Syndrome. As she became enthralled with these images her mental health deteriorated leading to suicide, leading some critics to suspect she began identifying with her subject matter and internalized stigma. As we are inundated with false ideas about the cataclysm around Arabia that has lurched from Cold War stalemate and low-intensity conflict, into rivers of blood, mass exodus, starvation, and threats of a dirty bomb in a climate of shocking terrorism, we begin to identify ourselves within the mess, trying to navigate the post-modern morass while ourselves on the receiving end of powerful media misrepresentation, unnecessary fear and alternative media burnout. This swirl of mongoloid opinions affects our self-esteem, leading to apathy, coldness and cynicism. The timing couldn’t be worse. Those who wish ill on the West would be deeply gratified by seeing us abandon our scruples.
The situation is even worse in The Middle East itself, where people affected by our warfare are dislocated who know next to nothing about the true character of our people in the United States. This paper cannot do anything but open the smallest door into understanding how the absence of viable independent media around Arabia affects the judgment of those in catastrophic straits, which is not my goal. We do, however, have a legal obligation to help them. We helped cause this mess, and towards this ends, I will present a sketch of what has happened and what tools are available to begin civil remedies. Our legal structure is central to this mission, but it is difficult to engage, and cannot be engaged successfully without the necessary background. This project may not always be overly welcome among those who have brought us to this pass of our own making. It is not an argument for appeasement of values unacceptable to us. It is a validation of humanity at risk.
It is easier to discuss danger than paradox. For example, America is at war in the Middle East and shocking attacks punctuate our daily news. There is danger of a dirty bomb against one of our cities, as 911 made clear or devastating attack on one of our exposed and vulnerable nuclear plants, whether by foreign Muslims, berserkers or a domestic terrorist like Timothy McVeigh, the next Dylan and Eric from Columbine. Events in Fukushima, Japan have spelled out that natural calamity alone could result in catastrophe, just as Chernobyl gave witness to the pulverizing misfortune of human error. Large scale cataclysm, short of being fatal to the human species, probably would not conquer The United States of America. There is no terrorist syndicate or nation with sufficient manpower and artillery to both bomb and conquer America. Though daunting, the potential for disaster cannot be the guiding light for our attempts to maintain civilization and live by objective legal standards. It is not being excessively cheerful to say that we must maintain a sense of enthusiasm for the procedures of education and dreams of Our Commonwealth in light of adversity and fear.
Paradox is at the root of arbitration concerning the fate of democracy in a world where there are Islamic nations. While it is possible to imagine a post-Fundamentalist world where legal institutions are in place everywhere that protect the dignity and human right of all individuals to live by their own private beliefs concerning religion and skepticism, that is not yet the case internationally. Further, the day of reconciliation may be far away. The article I am embarked on is motivated by a feeling at my school that research into the situation that has developed between America and The Middle East, particularly the catastrophe in Syria, and appeal for asylum by refugees in the context of a country divided by controversy regarding illegal immigration, is called for and timely. It is too easy to forget, in light of public opinion barrages caused by dizzying news reports of sudden, unexpected violence in crowded public areas, that politics are not just an acid test of rival pressure groups proclaiming loud public opinions, but a problem of legal review and law enforcement. Accordingly, a sociological approach to understanding U.S.-Islamic relations in light of current affairs has to be comprehensive enough to explain confusion and misperception concerning jurisdiction and International Law. It is a matter of peace-keeping and criminology. War, unfortunately, can be easier or at least simplifies, questions involving intelligence gathering necessary for capable diplomacy. Attacking Islamic society simply because of differences in our legal systems is a sinister gyration that oversteps reasonable exercise of American power. Hatred for Sharia Law and Islam is powerful enough, however, that I begin with this dreadful mindset.
Shariah is Islamic Law based on interpretations of the Koran. The West is suspicious of this legal tradition. Sharia panic is a devious mistress. It comes out in legal review, political satire, and official proclamations. It is guided by the idea that Sharia law is so biased and prejudicial that nothing good can from even attempting to achieve comity between legal systems that have many points of departure in common. Fear of an attack in the wings of Sharia recognition and empowerment is guided by bigots and a strategic high command who have authored a cataclysmic war, strangely, at turns, hand in glove and dagger in glove with the most repugnant clergy in Iran as the Iran-Contra affair made chillingly clear. There is more to this Fundamentalist pipeline, their armies of God, as my paper will explain.
When thinking of the Middle East as blameworthy, many Americans conceptualize the evolution of trouble there as an expression of government under Sharia Law committed to control of the population through Theological Empire and mandatory religion. It is as if the Middle East lives in a world much like America would be if Cotton Mather, who led the Salem Witch Hunts, had become not only President of Harvard, where his father was President, but President of the United States as well and that in this imaginary world the Confederacy had won the Civil War. A CIA analyst of interest in this paper named Graham E. Fuller authored a book about Iran titled: The Center of the Universe. If indeed this is how Islamic Theological governments do see themselves, then we must wryly conclude, among other things unworthy, that there is a slave auction block at the center of the universe, for human trafficking is alive and well in the Middle East, intensified by the cataclysmic civil wars that rose from the crush in the wake of Arab Spring.
April 6, 2016, which was just yesterday at the time of this writing, was the day that the first Syrian family was relocated in the United States under a special accelerated program in cooperation with Jordan that allowed Ahmad al-Abboud, his wife and five children from Homs, Syria, to resettle in Kansas City, Missouri after three years in exile from the civil war. Despite the clear victory for those who recognize our duty and the humanity of the refugees, Governors of Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, have all spoken out in defiance of Federal authority vowing never to allow refugees in their states. To hear this from Massachusetts, home of the Kennedys, is despicable and alarming. Our allies, in Europe, Turkey and the Mediterrean, by contrast, are absorbing millions of refugees in an enormous crisis.
The stage was set in America by a movement that has long blamed immigrants for the woes of America’s working class in hard times. Public support for refugees is divided and both sides vigorous, outspoken, loud. Diya Abdo, an associate professor of English at Guilford College has started a program called: Every Campus a Refuge, asking “every college and university around the world to host at least one refugee family on their campus grounds and assist them in resettlement,” (3)
Fueling this controversy is fear that Arab Spring may give an opening not only to Islamic moderates like the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda Movement, both of which I will explain to you in the course of this paper and their role in the post-Arab Spring crisis, but also to Islamic Black Flag extremists, a development that is critical to knowing what American High Command has really done with our so-called good intentions. There is a stubborn belief among those who study and practice the law that International Law is of no use whatsoever because it cannot be enforced by police power. Events beyond the reach of Law Enforcement, it is advised, do not amend themselves to wishful thinking. If Islamic moderates displace secular governments where they exist Constitutionally, such as Tunisia, where Arab Spring began, a tale I will tell to you in the course of this paper, then the stage is set for a major setback to our ideals concerning tolerance for minority beliefs under an objective legal system.
Not everyone agrees however, that International Law is rendered impossible to enforce by absence of coercion. In an article in Yale Law Review by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro, they argue that “the coercion used to enforce the law need not involve the threat and exercise of violence. Rather, it may involve the threat of exclusion, or as we call it, outcasting. Unlike the distinctive method that modern states use to enforce their law, outcasting is nonviolent: it does not rely on bureaucratic organizations, such as police or militia, that employ physical force to maintain order.” In other words the very forces that give rise to discontent leading to movements like Arab Spring function in conformance with the exercise of opprobrium jeopardizing acceptance of ridiculous or extreme regimes when they practice religious oppression. “Disobedience need not be met with the law’s iron fist – enforcement may simply involve denying the disobedient the benefits of social cooperation and membership.” (8) Clearly, such outcasting does not mean refusing acceptance of refugees from countries in turmoil. It is the influence of inclusion despite the trauma and gravity of extreme situations, that lifts Muslim refugees out of the psychological ghetto Salam Al-Marayati describes and brings them to safety in a Commonwealth of mutual learning and self-respect.
Alexander Klassen, writes, “Using Ruth Grant’s moralism/moderation and hypocrisy/integrity ethical framework,” “insight into the political decision making” (9) of Ennahda Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, both Islamic moderates who provide a stabilizing power in Tunisia and Egypt where Arab Spring was very powerful, in their sincerity, concerning, for example, women’s rights, will inform acceptance by the International community or make them outcasts. The anger of Western women towards Islamic oppression of women is intense and very real, but we need to measure hope for progress against the development of worst case environments. The rights of women are not being advanced, and women are not being liberated by driving them into the hands of ISIS and Boko Harem, gangs of terrible violence and cruelty, whose power and orientation I will describe in this note.
A professor at the Community College of Allegheny County whose colleague wishes him to remain anonymous stated in a talk about supporting the anti-Immigration Presidential campaign of Donald Trump: A. That regions of the United States affected by illegal immigrants are “a different world,” from the one known in East Coast cities where opposition to the proposed wall is stronger. B. That the Public doesn’t have the Right to Know what Security forces are doing to protect the public. C. That we have to accept that competent men are at work in High Command. The question I raise in this paper is whether if they are such competent men in High Command why did they want to conjure and bring about this catastrophic outcome? When they argue that competence does not mean that all the countervailing forces at work can be expected to be in hand, are they practicing the age old art of refusing responsibility for error or hiding strategic goals they have not shared? To learn about this situation, we need to turn away from the Middle East briefly and focus instead on what brings Illegal Immigrants across our borders. Both Syrian refugees and Illegal Immigrants are, from one point of view, coming here to flee, perversely and ironically, none other than us, due to draconian military actions of de-stabilizing nature at work in their own homelands. While this is also disputed, the reader needs to be informed about the social history of so-called “friendly dictators” in both regions, narco-fascism and its police state sponsors, murder of dissent practiced with the authority of a Supreme Court decision that I will present concerning disregard of Constitutional Rights in foreign countries by intelligence agents, and the presence of Islamofascism in the Middle East. Narco-fascism and Islamofascism have fascism in common. Rumor of fascism in U.S. High Command can only be taken as seriously to the degree that it is proven. I did not set out with intent to prove malicious intent, nor was I surprised to find evidence for it. I did not, however, set out to vindicate my judgment by finding in the end for Authoritarians, as many people seeking self advancement do.
Arab Spring has something in common with a movement in Latin America called Liberation Theology. Additionally, as I will show, several of the disputes with Sharia Law which take hold of the public imagination in the United States are not unknown in controversies between secular institutions and the Catholic church, who have at turns been cold hearted towards Liberation Theology’s revolutionary support despite the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero. It can be argued, of course, that any armed revolution risks manipulation by Imperial brilliants, and undermines the platform that zero-sum games have no place in world society. Political struggles and dreams of power do not always bring the most savory characters into the spotlight, but Liberation Theology is moved by a spirit of non-violence that has invited treachery even in the United States of America.
Samuel Moyn has written, “If the human rights movement at its most inspiring has stigmatized repression and violence, it has never offered a functional replacement for the sense of fear that led to both protection and re-distribution for those left alive by the horrors of the 20th century. If a global welfarism is ever to be brought from the realm of the ideal, where it is currently exiled, it will need to be championed not only as a program, but also by a movement.” (10) The idea of worldwide liberation from the stress of killing innocent people asks honest review concerning the limits of patience. It is to be remembered, at a Community College in Pittsburgh where this note originates, that Roberto Clemente died trying to protect the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua. It was the finest example of practical idealism I have witnessed in my lifetime, and loses nothing to the tragedy.
The crisis today is truly epic, but our society is dogged by an absence of imagination. Indeed, Martha Gellhorn, who once wrote me a letter of lost estate, stated forcefully that the Arms Race so lacked imagination that it “preyed on” her mind. It also preyed on our wallets. The situation in both the region South of our borders and the Middle East are playing out at the conductor’s baton of those most responsible for the Cold War, a fact from which I do not propose to exonerate the former Soviet Union. In the course of this digest I do have the temerity to suggest what I believe to be extremely helpful and overlooked potentials in the area of reform.
Permit me to restore a moment of humanity to the dissertation before you. Although I understand and care to present the foreign policy history at work behind the scenes of the recent past causing turmoil leading to immigrants and refugees beseeching us for asylum and besieging regions to which they have no choice but to flee, I also understand that the human condition at work, the love of children, the fright of orphans, the suffering of the maimed, and the sickness of the elderly require, in order to make a jaded reader feel them, resort to understanding that gains nurture by poetry. Risk isn’t acceptable until it is personal. A methodical approach to the immigrant and refugee challenge gains nothing by abstractions that de-humanize our spiritual relationship to the plight of the poor and afflicted.
These passages are from the poem, When I am Overcome by Weakness by Najat Abdul Samad, translated by Ghada Alatrash. “When I am overcome by weakness, I bandage my heart with a woman’s patience.” “She does not cut a tree, does not steal, does not surrender her soul to weariness, does not ask anyone’s charity, does not fold with the load, and does not yield.” Her translater, Ghada Alatrash, says of the crisis in Syria where, “Poetry has always been central,” that, “the wall of fear has fallen, and people are saying things that they never owuld have said before.” How sad that poetry finds its voice in times of death and war. So much is just a terrible misunderstanding.
Critical misunderstanding exists in the hostility that Western women express with great violence towards the traditional life of a Muslim woman. It is hard to know who to trust among company analysts. What we know about both sides comes from Muslim women themselves. Long before the rise of Arab Spring or the Gulf Wars, greater than the divide we shall discuss between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of the Islamic faith, a rift deeper than the martyrs and known to every tribe, just as it is in the legacy of the United States, is the oppression of women. That not all Muslim women feel oppressed or reject their role is something that evokes a bigoted response from Western women. I want to focus on this because its consequence is among the most terrible we are faced with at this placemark in the book of time.
The Women’s Movement in Arabia
1. “Hyped on Clarity”: Diane Arbus and the Postmodern Condition, Louis A. Sass. p. 5.
2. Adverse psychosocial working conditions and subjective health in freelance media workers, Work & Stress, 2005, Michael Ertel, et al.
3. Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 2015.
4. Sufi Essays, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Allen and Unwin, Ltd, 1972, p. 143
5. Commentary Magazine, 2015 (online)
6. International and Comparative Law Review (Vol. 36: 153, 2013), p. 154
7. Justice for All: American Muslims, Sharia Law and Maintaining Comity Within American Jurisprudence, Sarah M. Fallon.
8. Outcasting: Enforcement in Domestic and International Law, Yale Law Review.
9. Islamism and Democracy in New Arab Democracies, Alexander Klassen, online.
10. Do Human Rights Inctrease Inequality? Chronicle of Higher Education, May 29, 2015, p. B15.