Friday, 21 May 2004
Uncle Sam and the Green Belt - KHORRAM COUNTRY - THE COMMENTARY
By Babak Khorram, for The Commentary
Conspiracy theorists believe that the virus that causes AIDS, HIV, was accidentally introduced into humans. More specifically, that HIV was engineered by a powerful government for the purpose of biological warfare, and was unintentionally released into the world population. This theory is, in all likelihood, complete and utter rubbish. Additionally, most experts would agree that this theory is unfounded and is based on people's desire to lay blame on someone for a horrible epidemic. Nevertheless, it makes one think, that perhaps something created for the defence of a nation, goes on to attack the nation.
There was a time when the United States was not the main target of Islamic extremism. Prior to the end of the Cold War, the biggest threat to western democracies was communism. The domino theory stated that unless communism was stopped, nations would collapse into communism like dominos. The United States was in a bitter struggle with the Soviet Union over allies and resources - the most important being black gold, oil.
The Middle East produces much of the world's oil exports. The United States and its allies had to ensure that these nations were not influenced by the Soviet Union. There was no better way to impede the Soviets, then with Islam. Communism, which is influenced by Marxism, believes that religion is "the opiate of the masses," and Islam makes no room for the "Godless Communists." As a result, Islam and communism would invariably clash.
The United States and its allies armed and ensured the spread of fundamentalist Islam across the Middle East to surround the Soviet Union with a green belt (green referring to the colour of Islam). This green belt would not only stop the spread of communism, it would also limit Soviet influence in the region. The United States did this in several ways.
They were involved in the removal of leaders who were considered Soviet sympathisers. In Iran, the CIA removed Muhammad Mossadegh, after he nationalised Iran's oil industry and sought closer ties with the Soviet Union. The removal of Mossadegh along with the corruption in succeeding governments led to the Islamic Revolution and the creation of the world's first modern theocracy. The Islamic Republic is part of Bush's so-called "Axis of Evil" and considered by many to be the world's foremost state sponsor of terror. Iran is known to support Hezbollah ("Party of God"), the organisation famous for forcing Israel to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and infamous for the 1985 Marine barracks bombing.
Another way they did this was through the direct support of Islamic extremists. The best known and feared were the Mujahideen ("Holy Warriors"), which were the opposition groups that fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 and the following civil war. Under the leadership of then President Ronald Reagan, the United States armed, financed, and trained the Mujahideen. These soldiers formed the core of Al-Qaeda. In addition, Osama bin Laden headed an organisation referred to as the Makhtab al-Khidamat (MAK), which initially helped to recruit Mujahideen for the Afghan resistance against the Soviets. This organisation was funded partly by Osama bin Laden himself, but also by donations from Islamic countries and the United States government.
With the downfall of the Soviet Union, Islamic extremism has found a new enemy - The United States of America. Islamists from the Middle East and the rest of the world have a virulent hatred of the United States, which has only grown after 9-11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The brutal decapitation of American Nicholas Berg should be a stark reminder of the goals and means of these terrorists.
In this day and age, the threat presented by global terrorism is the main topic of discourse. Without a doubt, Islamic extremism threatens countries not only in the Middle East but in the rest of the world as well. Some might argue that Islam is inherently violent. This, however, is simply not true. In the two major conflicts of the last century, only one Muslim country (Turkey) was directly involved. Moreover, even at the peak of European anti-Semitism, Jews were living peacefully in predominantly Muslim countries.
All cultures and religions have potentially violent elements within them and Islam is no exception. Moderate and peaceful Muslims must take a stand against those that wish to kill, maim, and terrorise in the name of their religion. However, it would be irresponsible to deny the role of the United States in adding fuel to the fire. Either by direct or indirect means, the United States has permitted the growth of Islamic extremism. It is vital that the "war on terrorism" include measures to prevent the world's governments from sowing the seeds of extremism.
Babak Khorram will return in three weeks.
Please check the archives for previous columns from The Commentary.