Through Middle East Eyes
In order for the peoples of America and the West to understand what has been and is currently being done to the peoples of the Middle East we must envision ourselves as human beings living and going through life in that most troubled of regions. We must exercise a humanist form of empathy that places us squarely inside the lands of desert and sand, the lands of the people of the Bible, of terrain full of mirages and complexities, of alien and unfamiliar cultures and languages and religions, of a history that predates any western beginning or thought, of a complexity we know almost nothing about.
We must see through the eyes of peoples we do not understand and are completely ignorant of, of peoples we have been conditioned through ceaseless propaganda to disdain and oftentimes hate. We must, in order to see into resurrected Crusades, know the unknown, so that we cease to fear what is foreign and alien. We must contemplate life as it currently exists for the people of the region, not the life we are made to believe in, nor the hazy reality imagined in our minds. For the sake of the millions now dead and dying, for the sake of the dispossessed and the suffering, the maimed and mentally destroyed, we must have an understanding of life in the Middle East, life inside the fires of imperialism.
We must, in order to comprehend the catastrophe befalling the peoples of the Middle East, imagine ourselves as people living under tyranny, under occupation, under oppression and modern day colonialism, in lands where the devil’s excrement abounds, where it makes blind monsters of men, where conflicts are born from the interpretations of fables and mythology, where theological differences succeed in both dividing and conquering, and where western colonialism has and continues to inflict great damage on millions of Arabs and Muslims.
If we are to understand the suffering and oppression of the Arab and Muslim people of the Middle East, we must confront the Empire and its omnipresent grip over the region; a powerful nation with omnipotent control over lands whose resources are needed to run the engines of hegemonic power; a hegemonic Goliath that methodically and calculatedly rules over dozens of little David’s by proxy, intimidation and through puppets. Indeed, to fully understand the 21st century’s version of yesteryear’s crusades, we must journey to the lands where greed and petroleum mix, where neoliberal capitalism and market colonialism fuse, where economic genocide and hegemonic drive intermingle and where the grand pieces of the global chess match collide.
For this present Crusade is not about reclaiming Jerusalem or the Holy Land, or of converting the heathens and barbarians into good Christians. It is not about conquest in the name of a god or a religion, nor a crusade to determine a clash of civilizations. No, this Crusade is about conquering and controlling petroleum, a resource unknown by past Crusaders. This Crusade is about conquering and controlling geostrategic land, about appropriating for the Empire the region’s vast fields of oil and natural gas and the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.
This Crusade is a neoliberal one, designed to inject American style debauched democracy and corrupt capitalism into the Middle East. This Crusade, this invasion and occupation, this folly into mass murder and mass destruction, this criminal enterprise to appease the gods of greed and of the Almighty Dollar, is an ideological struggle initiated by the masters of neoliberal economics, who, together with those enamored with American Manifest Destiny, have for decades decimated the lives of the people who inhabit this condemned region.
As such, as much as we must see ourselves through Arab and Muslim eyes, we must also look inwards, towards our own selfish way of life, searching our self-centered egos and our ethnocentric bubble of delusion. We must learn to see and accept the role we have in the great damage done in our name. We must learn to understand, and acknowledge, that so much of the Crusade of Surge and Siege is a direct consequence of our gluttony and greed, our insatiable hunger for wealth and materialistic goods, our addictions to comfort and convenience and our complete and utter abandonment of humanist values as death and destruction is rained down on Arab and Muslim peoples.
In many ways, we, with our ever-expanding demands for better and greater standards of living, for more complete comfort and luxury, are the engine that runs the Empire’s economy and thus its power, and that of its rulers. It is the People that give sustenance to the Empire’s actions, and it is us who inevitably depend most on Middle Eastern petroleum. Indeed, every engine needs energy to give it life, to keep it operational, to maintain its many parts in harmony, to make sure of sound performance and of engine health.
This energy, of course, the energy we depend on for the continued survival of our “way of life” and our “values,” — by which we naturally mean greed, comfort, gluttony and the standard of living no other nation enjoys – the energy that helps guarantee our “democracy and capitalism,” — by which we mean the exploitation of the people of undeveloped nations and the market colonialism holding them hostage, all to maintain our “way of life” – as well as our addictions of mass consumption and materialism, comes directly from the black gold that permeates beneath the surface of the lands we inhabit, mostly from the nations of the south, whether it is the lands of Arabs or Muslims or Latin Americans or Africans.
The Crusade of Surge and Siege is thus a natural manifestation of our own vices and sins, of our unwillingness to part ways with a life no other people can claim to possess, and which becomes ever harder to simply abandon the longer it lasts and the more it continues to grow. Our gluttony has continued its devastation on the peoples of the region, decade after decade, because those living inside the Empire refuse to part ways with an unsustainable way of life due to an uncontrollable addiction to greed and a plague-like, insatiable appetite for materialistic goods. In the end, while we can feel good by blaming corporations or leaders, it is We the People who ultimately shoulder the blame for an indifference and a gluttony that stoke the flames that grant life to the engine of the Pax Americana.
At the crossroads of humanity, connecting east and west, located in vitally geostrategic positions, the Middle East has long been a prize for any aspiring Empire. Many powers have invaded and occupied these lands and peoples, only to inevitably be violently thrown out over time. History is saturated with the hubris and folly of Empires long since disappeared, whose arrogance and wealth ended up but rotting, decaying carcasses when their adventures with the Middle East came to a less than triumphant conclusion.
The Middle East has always been resistant and hostile to invasion and occupation, with its people using the accumulated wisdom of generations, and that of thousand years old civilizations, together with a silent patience that buys time and studies how best to defeat its enemies, preying on its victim like stealthy lions on a hunt. Over time, these peoples have developed guerrilla warfare and the experience of multiple occupations, slowly, and methodically, castrating the invader, one soldier, one supply line at a time. In a region that has seen much suffering, destruction and death, a war of attrition against these peoples cannot be won. Ideas of time, of black and white thinking, of the definition of victory, of analysis and reason, of the necessity for vengeance, of death, and of war and battle are interpreted and seen differently from western views. The failure to understand this reality has ruined the armies of powerful empires.
Many of the now defunct powers, it seems, failed to learn and understand human history, only to repeat the mistakes and the delusions of predecessors. They failed to read between the lines, failing to see a cornucopia of red flags. The region is as dynamic and as complicated as it is tempting, with theology, history, culture, society, territorial claims, commerce, ethnic and tribal affiliations mixing in a cocktail of fiery anger, aggression and turmoil against those powers that have tried to tame such a varied and mysterious land.
With the short-sighted machinations and the complete ignorance of the region of the last century’s western European powers the fate of the modern day Middle East was sealed. Like Africa, the Middle East we know today is one of artificiality, one that never before existed until the west imported the fictions of imaginary lines of division. Western, colonial power exceptionalism, with its belief in Judeo-Christian superiority and its belief that it was civilizing the inferior, “sub-human” Arab and Muslim peoples, created imaginary borders out of thin air, as always in its ignorance and hubris and geopolitical self-interest, carving nations where none dared exist, and where none should ever have been birthed.
Dividing lands, sects, ethnicities, tribes and peoples based on colonial powers’ interests and intentions was a mistake that condemned millions of people and resulted in a contemporary Middle East whose volatility, and importance to the world’s powers, makes it a region of immense conflict and of potential danger to the world entire. Colonial follies have led to the region’s greatest animosities and injustices, together with its greatest crimes against humanity, fating millions to live inside a geopolitical puzzle carved by the hands of the west.
Failing to take into consideration tribal, sectarian, ethnic and cultural dynamics, or the realities of Islamic theological differences, or centuries-old territorial claims to land, or the longstanding resistance to foreign invasions and occupations, or the injustice of claiming and stealing the land of continuously native peoples, or the sensitivity of the Islamic faith to and resentment in foreign entities occupying lands deemed sacred and holy, European powers set in motion the inevitable clash between the rich north and the resource rich, geopolitically necessary Middle East.
Of course the indigenous peoples of these lands had their destinies, and that of their descendants, decided for them by yesteryear’s colonizers. Today’s Crusade of Surge and Siege owes its genesis to Europe’s indifference and ignorance, to its catastrophic errors. In its short-sighted appetite for power, the long-term volatility of the region has been compromised. Yet since only sub-human infidels would feel the consequences, the west continued adding fuel to the fire.
Claws of Control
When the volatile liquid of petroleum, together with that of natural gas, are included into the Middle East cauldron – a reality that escaped all previous powers exerting force in the region before the turn of the 20th century – what emerges is a geopolitical and geostrategic prize on a scale not seen by emerging Empires before. Indeed, control of the region and of its resources – for oil, natural gas and water are today and will invariably be into the future of great strategic importance – will decide the fate of the present Empire, as well as those waiting in line to rise when America begins her decline, as she is presently doing. It is in this region where the destiny of the modern world will be decided, and it is those who dwell there who will be forced to endure the grand chess match played between powerful competitors.
Control of the region, while signifying control of its resources, also means control of the spigot, of the pipelines feeding and fueling economies, of access to these same resources by other nations, as well as control of the waterways granting passage to tankers headed to all corners of the globe. Control the Middle East’s oil fields and you control the world. Controlling the Middle East, especially having a firm grip on those lands where oil and gas abound, virtually guarantees that the Empire’s oil and gas companies, today gorging on the profits that war, insecurity and control engender, will assume major investments in, and the enormous profits from, extracting, refining, transporting and selling the Middle East’s resources. It guarantees the continued plunder of the Middle East’s oil by American energy giants.
Through control of resource-rich nations, the Empire’s energy conglomerates are granted access to and possession of these precious and finite resources, such as oil and gas, that would otherwise escape their colossal grasp. Such was the purpose of illegally and aggressively invading and occupying Iraq, where, years prior to invasion, the state and the industry unilaterally, and in secret, carved up Iraq’s existing and potential oil fields. This symbiotic relationship between the state and the corporate world, whereby the muscle and the power of the state are used to protect and further the interests of the energy industry, at great detriment to the people of the resource-rich nation, along with the knowledge, capital and resources of the industry being used to impregnate the Empire with cheap and abundant oil and gas, to the great benefit of its economy and hegemony, to the great detriment to all other potential rivals, is a classic example of corporatism, the fusion of state and profit.
The state thus secures for the energy industry those nations possessing large amounts of tapped and untapped oil reserves, only to later receive the benefits from conglomerates in the form of subsidized petroleum prices, control of oil and gas supplies, along with tax revenues from these companies and their products which, thanks to rising petroleum prices, further enhance the state’s coffers and further enable a transfer of resources, in the form of paying exponentially higher prices at the pump, away from the pocketbooks of the American people and towards the corporate and establishment world.
With a government saturated with corporate executives, lawyers and lobbyists, many from the energy and defense industries, and a revolving door of opportunity between the halls of power and the halls of profit that never seems to stop and in fact only continues to gain momentum, it is easy to see why America’s foreign policy in many ways mirrors the interests of the corporate world, especially those of the energy-industrial complex. Thus, the Crusade of Surge and Siege is a reflection of a corporate world swarming the Middle East like vultures ready to feast on the spoils of war. It is easy, too, to foresee where America will be focusing its muscle and its might in the near future, for one simply needs to follow the trail of black gold, the trail of greed and money.
As such, Central Asia, with its collection of despotic Stans, together with Iran, with its vast oil and gas fields, will most likely follow in the footsteps of Iraq – with her oil – and Afghanistan – with her strategic location and pipeline route – as the next targets of the Empire, whether militarily, through buying off of leaders or through market colonialism. Already on the radar screen are the countries of Western Africa, with valuable proven and potential oil reserves, with nations such as Nigeria already feeling the strain of possessing the devil’s excrement, already reeling both from western energy conglomerates meddling in the domestic affairs of these governments and through the pillage of their natural resources. It is the people of these lands which are at present already feeling the effects of oil and its many vices and corruptions. As usual, it is the native people inhabiting oil rich lands that will never see one drop from the massive profits oil creates.
The thirst and addiction for oil is also the reason Venezuela has become of such importance, for Hugo Chavez has become the exception, not the rule, to the Empire’s demand that a nation’s oil not be used for the good of the people. He has not sold out his nation, and his people, to the dictates of the Empire. With enormous reserves of proven oil, said to rival or even surpass those of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela is an obvious choice for American intervention, and will most likely become a victim of the Empire’s hegemony before too long. Its intransigence against the Empire’s commands will not be tolerated much longer.
Its crime, indeed, Hugo Chavez’s crime, which no oil-rich nation or leader is allowed to commit, is redistribute the nation’s oil profits to its citizens and to the state’s growing treasury. Venezuela’s crime, and why she is now a target of the Empire, is having the audacity to use its own resources for the betterment of the population, and the state itself. What has made the Bolivarian state a pariah of the Empire, placed in the waiting line for the Empire’s firing squad, is that it refused to comply or sacrifice its people to the demands of America. Her great error, in the minds of the American establishment, was to destroy the cancer of neoliberal economics, the so-called Washington Consensus, the disaster of debauched capitalism and market colonialism. For this indiscretion, together with its decision to keep oil revenues within the interests of the nation, instead of allowing American energy conglomerates to pillage oil and revenues, Venezuela is now a target of American hegemony.
The lessons to be learned from the harsh teachings of the Empire have been absorbed by the Middle East’s kings and dictators. The oil beneath your sand belongs to the Empire, not your people. It belongs to America’s energy-industrial complex. You will sell your oil at the prices selected by the Empire, at the supplies it seeks, as always in American dollars. You will increase or decrease supply as the Empire sees fit, as always to the benefit of America. The spigot ultimately is under the control of the Empire and, if your oil supply is threatened by an enemy of the Empire, your nation will be invaded and occupied by America’s legions. You will be protected only because the Empire protects its lifeblood.
If you obey and remain loyal to the Empire, not your people, you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams, allowed to rule over your lands, allowed to remain a viable Middle East leader. If you fail to learn the lessons of those who no longer rule, or those no longer alive, you will cease to rule, cease to exist and cease to be a friend. You will be overthrown, replaced and forgotten. From Mossadegh to Saddam, from Iran to Iraq, to question or challenge the Empire is to seek the wrath of blood and the full might of America’s military. To even think of nationalizing your oil, or of retaining its wealth for the benefit of your people will unleash shock and awe on your land. These lessons have been memorized and incorporated, never to be broken, never to challenge the dictates of Empire and never to interfere with its unquenchable thirst for the devil’s excrement.
What is transpiring in the Middle East is, more than anything else, a symptom of a disease a long time in the making, of the natural tendencies of Empire to accumulate for itself the blood that grants it life and the oxygen that makes it grow. Empires old and new have always sought to maintain and indeed expand their power, their hegemony, their standards of living, their “way of life.” They never seek to reduce their influence or minimize their footprint on the world; they can never lower the expectations of their population nor slow down the engine that has brought them to such power. They almost always seek to expand their economies and their domain, always trying to increase growth.
As such, with sustainability being anathema to their chosen path, with Empires becoming victims of their own hubris and success, with greed and thirst for power consuming its elite, with comfort, laziness and gluttony possessing its people, the Empire, either willingly or forced, must stay on the present course and must retain and ratchet up the same machinations that have for decades assured supremacy. Thus, caught in a vicious circle of its own making, the Empire must increase its power and domination and must continue its path of imperialism, of conquest and of pillage, all in order to satiate its people, its elite, its economy and its own power-induced, greed addicted ego.
Failure to maintain the ever-more difficult course of Empire would allow rivals the fresh air to grow and challenge, it would result in the growing unease of its people, and it would open the door for maturity and decline. The Empire is akin to a massive corporation succeeding under a neoliberal capitalist model, where to survive and thrive, expansion and dictatorial power are the rule, not the exception, where return on investment is demanded, with expectations of profit and returns higher every year, with market share growth part of the formula, with success ultimately lying in the exploitation of worker and Earth, of the uncompromising, merciless crushing of competition, and the buying, or acquisition of, smaller potential rivals.
By placing high barriers to entry, by possessing unmatched capital and profit, by integrating vertically and horizontally, by accumulating the infrastructure, resources and relationships its challengers need to grow, by dominating the market through its sheer size and strength, and by securing the unilateral power of monopoly a corporation can maintain its dominance and power, thereby keeping potential rivals at bay, and its stockholders happy. Failure to grow and expand exponentially usually means failure to survive, with investors fleeing what is perceived to be a sinking ship, and competition ready to cannibalize a dying company. Without growth on an almost annual basis, decline is sure to follow. Such is the reality of empire, much to the detriment of the empire itself, much to the detriment of humanity, and much to the detriment of Earth.
Empires continuously seek to maintain and grow, not slow down and shrink. For this reason America will not slow down its imperial ambitions, just as it will only demand that its hegemony be allowed to expand. It will seek to crush all competition, just as will try to grow at the expense of the rest of the world. The Middle East, the breadbasket of the world’s energy needs, is a region, and a prize, that no modern empire can be without, and thus, of paramount importance to those elite for whom imperialism and Empire is the next logical step in the evolution of America. The pursuit, protection and control of Middle East oil and gas is the only logical answer to the question of why America has established permanence in the region, why she invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, why she seeks to impose her will on Iran, and why she supports, finances and helps maintain in power the cadre of puppet kings, princes, sheiks, generals and dictators that rule the nations of the region.
What is occurring today, and will continue to intensify well into the future, is the expropriation of the Middle East directly into American hands, with the Empire planting the seeds of hegemony and control over the region’s vitally important natural resources, as well as its vitally important geostrategic terrain, for a permanent – or “enduring” in Orwellian speak – and unchallenged stay. Every new military installation or base already or presently being built confirms to the thinking world, which excludes the American masses, that the United States seeks not only complete control of the Middle East, but the exclusion of all potential rivals. Through its actions, America has let it be known that the Middle East is off limits to Russia and China, with Europe allowed inside the fringes, that it is the sole domain of the Empire, and that she will be in the region for as long as oil and gas flow freely from the inner organs of the Arab and Muslim underground.
The American flag has firmly been planted in the great majority of Middle East nations, with the Empire’s military establishing permanent Crusader castles and garrisons and bases, in dozens of countries, to secure for the realm the spoils and rewards of the region. At present, in the Middle East is where the lifeblood of the Empire lies, along with that of the industrialized world, where its energy for the foreseeable future is secured. Naturally, then, it is this region, more than any other, that must be protected and defended and taken off the grand chessboard before emerging rivals rise and old challengers think themselves resurrected. It is in the Middle East where a permanent footprint must be established, where the Empire must claim the divine right to plunder, rape, destroy and subjugate. The great catastrophe of the Middle East will thus continue well into the future.
It is the black energy that lies below humanity’s feet that propels the Empire and its people to unmatched wealth and power. And so, in order to understand the Crusade of Surge and Siege, in order to give prominence inside the conscious mind of billions to the genocide inside Iraq, the crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and the human rights violations throughout the Middle East, we must come to an understanding that as long as petroleum fuels the human condition, as long as carbon-based engines and products dominate our civilization, wars and invasions and occupations and the oppression of entire peoples will continue unabated by today’s present Empire, with its corresponding brutality and barbarity and violence and destruction and mass murder continuing to haunt us until either we put an end to our insatiable thirst for oil, or our insatiable thirst for oil puts an end to us.
Part Four Will Be Posted 27/02/08
Due to the great response and interest “Crusade of Surge and Siege” has had over the last week, I have written a fourth and final part to the series. Along with part three, “Inside the Fires of Imperialism,” part four, “Into the Valley of Catastrophe,” has now been published.
For those wishing to read more about the brutality of America’s occupation in Iraq, along with its consequences, I suggest my previous essays, “Operation Iraq Forever,” “Holocaust Redux” “The Killing Fields: Ghosts of the Walking Dead,” and “Dear Terrorist Child.” These essays convey aspects of America’s Crusade that are not covered in this essay.
Also, it should be noted that the Israeli/Palestinian issue has largely been left untouched in this series. That topic is an issue reserved for its own essays, some of which have been written already, and some which are yet to come. For those interested, please see “The Untermensch Syndrome: Israel’s Moral Decay,” “A Malignant Tumor On the World,” and “The Walls That Divide Us.”
Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic, commentator, Internet essayist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by Authorhouse.com. His essays appear regularly at various alternative news websites from around the globe. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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