Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blame America? Try Again.

A series of bombs rocked India recently, killing at least 200. The reason? Because of the American occupation of India. If the American military would just leave India there would be no more of these bombings. Wait, wrong country...

It has been claimed by many bloggers, as well as people posing as American reporters, that the violence in Iraq would be gone if America would just leave. In reality the truth is much more complex than the soundbites we are so apt to latch on to. The fact that mayhem and destruction by Islamic lunatics occur in places other than Iraq belies the claim that America is to blame for the violence in Iraq.

A web site I noticed claims that the American military is responsible for at least 39,000 Iraqi deaths. When you drill down into the events that are blamed on America, they very frequently deal with Sunnis killing Shia' and Shia' exacting retribution. No one said that web sites had to tell the truth, but it sure would be nice.

The recent killings in India, as well as forays by the Iran-sponsored Hizbshaitan (formerly known as Hizballah, the party of God) illustrate clearly that if the United States leaves Iraq (and similarly if Israel gives up Gaza) Islamic lunatics will not quit until either a report comes down from heaven that all the virgins are gone, or everyone is Muslim.

Thomas Friedman, one of the few bright spots at the New York Times has this to say about what's going on in the Middle East:

What we are seeing in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon is an effort by Islamist parties to use elections to pursue their long-term aim of Islamizing the Arab-Muslim world. This is not a conflict about Palestinian or Lebanese prisoners in Israel. This is a power struggle within Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq over who will call the shots in their newly elected "democratic" governments and whether they will be real democracies.

The tiny militant wing of Hamas today is pulling all the strings of Palestinian politics, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Shiite Islamic party is doing the same in Lebanon, even though it is a small minority in the cabinet, and so, too, are the Iranian-backed Shiite parties and militias in Iraq. They are not only showing who is boss inside each new democracy, but they are also competing with one another for regional influence.

As a result, the post-9/11 democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is being hijacked.

It's not as simple as 'America go home and everything will get better.' Things are admittedly terrible in Iraq (and Palestine and Lebanon) right now. But with no stabilizing influence whatsover, or at least the stabilizing influence dramatically reduced to the point of no longer being able to hold up the dam against terrorism, Iraq will become infinitely worse off.

In the short run and the long run.

America has made mistakes with regard to the fostering of liberty in Iraq, especially in thinking that people steeped in slavery, fear, and feelings of revenge would suddenly know what to do with liberty. But let's not make another mistake by leaving Iraq too soon.


Elizabeth said...

Frank, I think you are mixing up several different issues here:

1. Yes, you are correct that the U.S. leaving Iraq will not mean an end to the violence there. The genie's been let out of the bottle, Humpty Dumpty got pushed of the wall, etc. etc. There's no way things will go back to relative peace anytime soon.

2. However, you are mixing up different situations when you try to compare America to Israel or Iraqi insurgents to Hezbollah, etc.etc. Each entity has its own identity and it's sloppy thinking to lump things together because of a few similarities. As bad as our occupation of Iraq has been, it has no comparison with the displacement/colonization project Israel has been undertaking vis a vis the Palestinians--that's something completely different.(thank God--if I thought America was like Israel I would leave America). In addition Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon was designed to foment ethnic tension, not resolve it, and when they were driven out in 2000 by Hezbollah, things started getting better in Lebanon...

Elizabeth said...

As for India--much of the conflict there concerns the status of Kashmir. Again, the issue is land, not ideology (most world conflicts are really about land; ideology is used by leaders to pump up the masses and get them psyched). If you fail to look at the underlying issues regarding territorial control and local autonomy vs. foreign domination, you will really be missing the boat.

Frank Staheli said...


I know about Kashmir. My point is to illustrate that it is not as simple as saying 'America Go Home!'

I'm not sure what you mean by the displacement/colonization project that Israel has been working on. What about the displacement of Arabs from Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc. Israel has never committed the first offense. Their reactions may be disporportionate, but Israel has more than bent over backward to try and find something with which the now never-to-be-mistaken-for-normal-people terrorists of Hamas and Hizbshaitan could agree on.

It was clearly a mistake for Israel to leave Gaza, and now Israel sees that most of the world will stand by them under NO circumstances.

Now clearly, as we have known since somewhere around 1948, but definitely before the Six-Day War in 1967, the terrorists will stop at nothing until Israel is destroyed.

I would be interested in the sources for your feelings that Israel is the agressor in the Middle East.

Elizabeth said...

"Israel has never committed the first offense"

Actually, in the 1948 war, Israel displaced 750,000 Palestinians, many of whom still live in refugee camps to this day...there's no controversy about that fact. It exists in every history book about the conflict. The refugee situation is one of the two intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the other being the status of Jerusalem.

But the other issue--which strangely, almost everyone (except the most radical Israelis) agrees on, and yet which about little gets done, is the issue of the Jewish-only settlements in the Palestinian territories, which are built in violation of international law. Although the Gaza settlers were pulled out, they numbered only 8,000, and the total number of illegal Jewish settlers is around 400,000.

The Gaza pullout could have been the beginning of a solution if Israel had shown some willingness to work with the Palestinian government. Instead, Israel instituted an economic blockade of Gaza, and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Palestine, the combination of which led to economic devastation and shortages of food and medicine. Thus it was difficult for the Palestinian government to rein in the rocket launchers (it's true, they could have done a better job with this, but they had to walk a fine line because to be seen as collaborating with the enemy is not exactly good for politicians. Israel used the mostly harmless Qassam rocket fire as an excuse to engage in serious attacks on Palestinian civilian as well as governmental targets. This led to rage in the Arab and Muslim world, not just among Palestinians. Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier and asked for a prisoner swap which is something done all the time in the Middle East. Israel responded with more attacks and finally Hezbollah got involved. I can't boil it down any further for you Frank. I really suggest you read up on the subject. I try to post some relevant articles in my blog which you can read. If you want to read books, I know that Juan Cole on his blog at has a recommended reading list. If you want an easy-to-read book on 1948 I would recommend Michael Palumbo's "The Palestinian Catastrophe" which is now out of print but I know where you can get a copy,let me know.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, and "Hizbshaitan" was cute, I doubt most of your readers got it though...personally I think there may be some "hizbshaitans" in the world, but I don't think Hizbollah is one of them....

Frank Staheli said...


I have bookmarked Juan Cole's reading list and will look into some of the books. I hope Brigham Young University will have some of these in its shelves. If not, I will go to Borders or Amazon. I have read Night Draws Near by Anthony Shadid and felt it to be a mostly fair representation of what's going on it Iraq. I have Hourani's book, A history of the Arab Peoples, and have read about a third of it, although it's pretty hard just to plow through the whole thing. I have also read most of one of Sayyid Qutb's (Muslim Brotherhood) works, which I found to be very informative.

A couple of other books that might ought to be on Juan's list are After Jihad by Noah Feldman, and From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters.

Thanks for your different perspective. Sometimes we (I) have a tendency to forget that my perspective may not be entirely accurate. ;-)

Elizabeth said...

Frank, Joan Peters was exposed as a hoax!

Frank Staheli said...

In other words, what Joan Peters said in the book I referred to is completely untrue? Is any of it true?

Annoyed said...

When I grow up, I want to be as smart at Elizabeth thinks she is...however, I hope I am less defensive, more open to listening to others opinions and more polite.

Spar all you want with Frank - it's his blog and he can stop it any time he wants, but don't insult the rest of us. "I doubt most of your readers got it though..." - how condescending.

Frank Staheli said...


Although Elizabeth and I very often disagree, I have valued her comments. I don't take them as condescending, even if they are occasionally meant that way, because the bulk of her comments are courteous and insightful.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you, Frank. I don't mean any comments to be condescending. I sometimes get frustrated, but it's not at you. My frustration is with the public educational system and the media in this country. Neither are doing their jobs. The end result is a population that doesn't know enough to understand world events. We're the world's only superpower, and yet our citizenry know less about the world than that of a lot of other countries.

Frank Staheli said...

Good point! Interestingly, although we disagree on things, I agree 100% that we know a lot less than we should about the world around us.

It's interesting that with our different viewpoints we are both nonetheless dismayed with the public education system and the media.

I get frustrated with myself that I forget so much history that I have learned, and that I can't remember how the 'pieces of the puzzle' fit together. But then there are those people that never even pick up a book--a sad indictment of our country.

frazzledsister said...

For anyone who is interested, I have a solution for the public education system-
Home schooling.

Frank Staheli said...


We actually did home school our children until I left for Iraq in 2005. While I was gone, my wife enrolled them in a new Charter School called American Leadership Academy, which has very good discipline, and in which they're doing really well. For the time being, we'll leave them there, although the principal (a very good friend) left the school over a philosophical disagreement. So we'll be very scrutinizing over the next year to see whether the quality of education stays at the previously high level or not.