The United States of Amnesia
Of course our corporate-propaganda news media are fanning the flames of hysteria, doing their usual Lord of the Flies scrambling over one another to hype the story. The danger in all this is that we could enter a new round of fear-based irrationality, described in an article in yesterday's Salon.
In a tacky responses to the tragedy, buildings, landmarks, statues and towers all over the world were lit up in the blue, white and red (not to be confused with red, white and blue) of the French flag. Because Paris is one of the premier cities of the Western industrial world, terrorist attacks that happen there are supposed to be mourned by the whole world.
By contrast, no such worldwide mourning was displayed for recent terror attacks in other countries. In the past few weeks there have been attacks in Baghdad (19 dead), Beirut (43 dead), Ankara (95 dead), and an attack in Istanbul was foiled on the same day as the Paris attacks. The number of people killed in the bombing of the Russian plane in Egypt was almost twice as many as in the Paris attacks - 224. No tinted buildings for them, no playing of the Russian national anthem.
There were also no tinted buildings around the world for the 30 people killed in the terrorist attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in October. It might have something to do with the known perpetrator of the attack: the United States military. Maybe 30 wasn't enough. Maybe Afghanistan doesn't matter so much. Maybe it is because we don't do terrorism, just like we don't torture. If you believe this, I have some swampland in Florida you might be interested in buying. That is, if you have any money left after I sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
It might help to look at what preceded our current state of affairs. In the not-so-distant past the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, met with members of the Mujahideen of Afghanistan, in 1983 at the White House, and called them "freedom fighters." The Mujahideen was a guerrilla force organized by the CIA, and included volunteers from Arab countries, most significantly Osama bin Laden. After the Russians left Afghanistan the organization divided into factions, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.
This story is retold in today's Salon, in an article titled "We created Islamic extremism: Those blaming Islam for ISIS would have supported Osama bin Laden in the ’80s." In the Reagan regime's zeal for crushing the Soviet Union anything was game - El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Nicaragua, Argentina, elsewhere, including the United States. His illegal sale of weapons to the Iranian government, with the proceeds going to provide arms to the "Contras" in Nicaragua was an impeachable offense, but presidents are not held accountable for international crimes.
The history of U.S. and European meddling in the Mideast goes much farther back than the time of Ronald Reagan. Great Britain, France and Italy were colonial powers in the region, with Britain intruding in what is now Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, France involved in Syria and Lebanon, Italy in Libya. France has also had colonial relationships with Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Britain was a colonial presence in Egypt.
It all changed with the invention of the gasoline powered automobile , the discovery of oil in the Mideast, and the changing power relationships as a result of the two world wars. After World War II the countries in the region became nominally independent, and the U.S. assumed the role of hegemonic power.
U.S. influence meant establishing political stability and control over the oil. This was done with the installation of monarchies and dictatorships, overthrowing the democratically elected government in Iran and the nationalist government in Iraq. Saddam Hussein gradually emerged in Iraq as the head of the Ba'ath Party as a quasi-socialist dictator.
We sort-of know the rest. Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, invaded Iraq in 1991, for reasons not the same as what were promoted. Military bases were established in Saudi Arabia, enraging our former ally Osama bin Laden, inspiring him to form the terrorist organization al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda engaged in a variety of terrorist attacks, including the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and at U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Then, in spite of emphatic and desperate warnings, the second Bush regime looked the other way, and we had the "911" attacks.
Bush II then invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, largely to deflect scrutiny for his active negligence, but also for reasons of empire and control of Iraq's oil.
So now we have blowback on steroids. Thanks to the Mideast turning to chaos, hundreds of thousands of refugees are desperately trying to immigrate to Europe. The previously nonexistent "ISIS" has added to the havoc in Iraq, Syria and now Afghanistan.
This is more perspective than most Americans can handle. We have gotten ourselves into a huge mess, and we don't have either the leadership or the electorate either willing or able to even face what is going on truthfully. Especially leadership. The gaggle of candidates for president is a cast of buffoons, like the asylum inmates of the movie King of Hearts, but mean. The exception is Bernie Sanders, and even he has his challenges. I met him once, right here in Madison in 1997 or so, at a fundraiser for him. He was rude, even though I donated to his congressional campaign, pretty much like the Larry David impression on Saturday Night Live. It's just the way he is, leftover habit from his Brooklyn origins.
Meanwhile, the Polar ice caps are melting. Weather is getting more extreme. Forest fires are becoming more frequent and covering wider areas. Drought, floods, blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes are common, and getting more severe. Are we ready to face the future yet? First we have to face the present.
Here's a song. Here's another. This Neil Young song fits. Here's some music of Nubia. This song should be the world anthem. Here's a question worth asking. Some instrumental music. A Chuck Mangione-Esther Satterfield classic.
Here's some more background on Ronald Reagan's involvement with radical Islamists. Here's a video of Reagan with the Mujahideen.
It wasn't Reagan who started the organizing, training and promotion of radical Islam in Afghanistan. It was Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter. Here's a brief description.
Here's some background on U.S. overthrows of foreign governments.
Update, November 21:
For some more history of European colonialism in the Mideast, click here.
Britain's former head of counterterrorism says destroying ISIS will be futile if nothing positive is put in the vacuum it is filling. Duh. This was learned from the invasion and occupation of Iraq, in which no awareness of consequences was in evidence. Just invade. Whoopee! What could possibly go wrong?