Failed US Policy in the Middle East

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Failed US Policy in the Middle East

(Photo: Mark Holloway/flickr/cc.)

The United States has been involved in the Middle East for almost one hundred years because of the vast oil reserves there, and the US has been militarily involved since 1967, when the US began supplying Israel with weapons with which to defend itself. However, the US has only been involved in the “quagmire” of Middle East wars since 2001.

The failed US policy in the Middle East began with the US's bombing, sanctioning and then invasion of Iraq, which was based on false information about Iraq's development of nuclear weapons. The forged information most probably was given by a neo-conservative with ties to Italian and Israeli intelligence, Michael Ladeen, to Italian intelligence, who gave it to US intelligence, caused the US to invade without justification another sovereign country. George H. Bush merely bombed Iraq and imposed sanctions that killed a million people, half of them children. Osama Bin Laden's 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center that killed 2,996 people was retaliation for those killings and for the US's supplying Israel with F 15's, F 16's and other weapons that were used to attack Palestinian refugee camps. Thus the Israeli- motivated attack on Iraq and the US's funding of Israeli aggression against Palestinians resulted in great harm to US citizens in the US.

There's something in the air...

George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq resulted in the US's subsequent holding of elections there that put a Shia government in power and dismantled the former Sunni Baath Party and caused the persecution of the overthrown Baath Party military men, who were not allowed to obtain other jobs. The new Shia government of Iraq immediately allied itself with Shia Iran, the former enemy of Iraq. Iran thus gained regional power and challenged the hegemony of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the strongest Sunni Arab countries. Moreover, the infrastructure of Iraq has never recovered from the US bombing: electricity still is not universally available, nor are jobs, housing, education and health-care, as they were under the former Sunni government of Saddam Hussein. Farmers in southern Iraq also lost their farms and livelihood because of drought and the many Turkish and Syrian dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers cutting the water supply to Basra and the surrounding areas. Moreover, the human rights abuses by the Iraqi government are seldom mentioned by the western media, though those by the opposition Islamic State are highlighted. Yet, according to Hameedt Sooden of the Christian Peacemaker Team formerly in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Iraqi security forces, including under the current Prime Minister al-Abadi, engage in similar practices. The Iraqi forces have practiced summary executions of civilians, including women and children, torture, hostage-taking, beheading, lynching, burning captives to death, and desecrating corpses. And they have celebrated the atrocities in photographs and videos posted online. The Iraqi forces also have engaged in looting and wanton destruction of property, as well as shelling and bombing residential areas and hospitals. Moreover, Iraqi and Kurdish authorities sometimes have prevented families fleeing the fighting from reaching safer parts of the country. Iraqi forces also have established “death zones” around Baghdad.

Furthermore, these abuses by Iraqi forces are often preceded by coalition airstrikes. Not only are the airstrikes effectively providing cover for what appears to be ethnic cleansing in areas re-captured from ISIS, but they are also directly causing civilian deaths that may amount to war crimes. According to the Red Cross, the airstrikes are compounding the humanitarian consequences of the conflict. The war against Iraq caused the deaths of 4,474 US military men and women and 2,300 military contractors, a total of 6,774. The war against Iraq from 2003 until 2008 was also harmful to US taxpayers: it cost the US $757.8 billion and brought no benefits to the US economy—except to the US war profiteers made the weapons and who allegedly rebuilt Iraq but in reality squandered billions.

George W. Bush continued the onslaught against Sunnis. He attacked Afghanistan to retaliate for Osama Bin Laden's 9/11 attack on the US World Trade Center and Pentagon. When George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan turn Osama Bin Laden over to the US, Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government, refused since Bin Laden was a benefactor of Afghanistan. But Mullah Omar did offer to turn Bin Laden over to a third neutral country for a trial by an Islamic court, an offer that conforms to international law, which states that “everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” (UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 14.1) In spite of that offer, George W. Bush declared falsely that the Taliban were “harboring terrorists” and attacked Afghanistan, beginning the longest war the US has fought. When the Taliban were the government, they stopped the rape of women, the rape of boys by pedophiles, and the growing of opium poppies. Currently, under the US supported government, Afghanistan is the leading grower of opium poppies in the world, the rape of women is rampant, and the US Marines are instructed to ignore the pedophile warlords' rape of boys and are court-marshaled or forced out of the Marines if they disobey and try to help the boy-victims. Not surprisingly, the Taliban, of the majority Pashtun tribe, still enjoy strong support in Afghanistan and US troops are occasionally killed by “friendly” Afghan soldiers. Isn't it time to give Afghanistan back to the Taliban and let them clean up the mess the US has created? 1457 US military men and women have died in the war, and the US taxpayers have spent $2.5 trillion attacking the Taliban since 2001. With this great expenditure of money and life, the US has created unconscionable chaos in Afghanistan and no benefit to the US.

In Pakistan, also, the US has attacked the Taliban and has given the Pakistani government $20.7 billion since 2001 to convince it to attack the Taliban, even though Pakistan was the Taliban's earliest supporter. The US now conducts drone strikes in Waziristan to kill Taliban, and also kills many civilians, thus assuring the Taliban of ever-new supporters. Isn't it time to leave the Taliban in Pakistan alone and use the money to improve conditions in the US?

In Egypt, the situation is also non-viable. Although the US did support the people's revolution to overthrow Mubarak, their dictator of thirty some years; and told the military, which the US financed, not to intervene to support Mubarak. Moreover, the US accepted Mohammed Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt, and a Muslim Brotherhood member. However, when Gen. Al Sisi joined the people on the left to overthrow Morsi, the US did not object to the military coup, although US law prohibits funding a military coup, nor has it influenced Sisi to stop persecuting, arresting and killing the Muslim Brotherhood people in Egypt. In fact, the US taxpayers give Egypt $1.5 billion a year, and have given significant amounts since 1979 after Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. Radical Islamists who oppose the military coup are taking power in the northern Sinai and elsewhere, and they have allied themselves with the Islamic State.

In Libya, the US supported the rebels seeking to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi because he did not fund their area adequately. The US however did not work with the groups to form a stable government, and now Libya is designated as almost a failed state because of the continued fighting there among various groups. The US spent $896 million to create the failed state.

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In Syria, in which the large majority of Sunnis have been governed by the Assad family from a minority Shia group, the Alawites, the Sunnis revolted against Assad when he massacred 4500 Sunni farmers who demonstrated against the government's taking water from their farms to give to industry. Sunni soldiers in the army began defecting and shooting back at the army as it attacked the Sunni demonstrators. Thus began Syria's civil war, which has claimed 250,000 lives and displaced 12 million people from their homes. The civil war pits the Sunnis against the small minorities of Shias, Kurds, and Christians. Although the US formally supported the Sunni rebels, spending about $500 million training them, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon have supported Assad and kept him in power. The subsequent flood of Syrian refugees is destabilizing the EU countries.

Moreover, in Syria itself the Islamic State (ISIS or Daash) has seized many areas in the largely Sunni Muslim country. The Islamic State is made up of the persecuted secular and socialist Iraqi Baath Party military men who joined with fundamentalist Islamic Salafists to form the Islamic State that has seized many Sunni cities and villages from the Shia governments in Iraq and Syria. The US has spent $4.59 billion attacking the Islamic State, which is seeking to gain self-determination for the persecuted Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria. Although a few US and NATO backed Sunnis have fought with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, only the Islamic State has made major gains against the Shia governments. Originally the Islamic State fought only against Assad and his supporters in Syria—the Alawites, the Kurds, including the Yazidis, and the Orthodox Christians. However, when other nations attacked the Islamic State, sometimes supporting the Yazidi Kurds, for example, then the Islamic State attacked citizens of those countries in retaliation for its people being killed: it attacked citizens of the US, France, and Russia, and it attacked the Kurds in Turkey. Turkey, however, remains fairly neutral about the Sunni Islamic State, and allegedly a number of Sunni Arab countries or their citizens support the it. Sunni fighters from around the world have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State to help the Sunnis gain self- determination and freedom from harsh Shia rule. US and NATO, however, are fighting the Islamic State because it retaliated when they first attacked it without good reason. Thus the US and NATO may join Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in fighting the Sunni Islamic State, which represents Sunni self-determination.

Thus in the Middle East, the US is fighting the Sunni Islamic State and illogically is trying to get other Sunni Arab countries to take the lead in fighting it. One might say that aggressive US policy in the Middle East has caused chaos in the region. Is that what the US desired to accomplish? No, but it certainly accords with Israeli policy of breaking up strong Arab countries and encouraging Muslim to fight Muslim, and US policy in the Middle East is largely but not entirely determined by Israel. However, the US is supporting its oil-supplying ally Saudi Arabia against the Shia rebels in Yemen. The rebels want the former president instead of the current Saudi-allied Sunni president. Saudi Arabia, however, has been committing war crimes against the Shia population, and the US is therefore implicated since it is militarily supporting Saudi Arabia.

The major cause of the current chaos in the Middle East, which is also affecting the EU because of the great number of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Europe, is Israel's continuing harsh and illegal occupation of Palestine, for Israel and the US supporters of Israel are pleased that Muslims fight Muslims in the Middle East and that the US fights Muslims there, for when there is chaos, the Muslim nations do not think of attacking Israel nor of demanding an end of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. It is very ironic that Israel is now governed by extremists similar in political views to those of Igdal Amir, the settler who assassinated Rabin. It is as though Amir's act guided Israel into its current path—the path of racism and violent oppression of a subject Palestinian population. And the US government continues to fund the occupation, for money is fungible and money given to a nation or organization for one purpose frees money that can be used for other purposes. Thus the US aid to Israel funds at $3.2-4.2 billion a year the illegal occupation that the US officially opposes and that contributes to the chaos in the Middle East. In fact, since 2001, the US has given Israel $49.5 billion.

Isn't it time for the US to cease to fund a brutal and illegal occupation and instead follow US law and cut aid to Israel because of Israel's extra-judicial killing of Palestinians? Isn't it time for justice to prevail and bring peace to the Middle East as well as relief to US taxpayers, who have spent $3,450,896,000,000 (over $3 trillion) on the Middle East since 2001 and who now have more national debt than has existed previously in world history? Don't those taxpayers need to invest billions not in war but to repair the crumbling US infrastructure, to improve the declining US educational system, and to provide health care, parental leave, food and housing for the poor, and cost of living increases in Social Security for the seniors, as well as to restore the disappearing middle class. Why should the US taxpayers suffer in order for the neo-cons to fight endless wars in the Middle East? Isn't it time for the US to convince Israel to make peace with Palestine and thus lead the way to peace throughout the Middle East?

Ellen Rosser

Dr. Ellen Rosser is an American peace activist and retired English professor.

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