Tuesday, June 5, 2007

No Pleasing Some People

Via Glenn Greenwald, I happened across this interview with Tony Blair which ran in The Sunday Times of London. Like the good neocon, Blair proves very myopic to any problems created by his war.

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

What's more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us?

Why indeed, Tony. The Syrian sex industry has much for which to thank us.

Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.

But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.

Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.

As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.

“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.

Though it is uncommon, especially for a Muslim nation, for a government to acknowledge such problems as rampant illegal prostitution, Syria has opened a dialogue, both to highlight the problem and to gain assistance.

For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.

“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”

Greenwald admits it “never ceases to amaze how such basic truth eludes people like Blair, who argues, in essence, that Iraqis ought to be grateful for all the opportunities the invasion and occupation has brought them.”

In general, human beings do not appreciate it when foreign armies invade their nation, shatter its infrastructure, drop bombs throughout the country, kill tens of thousands of civilians, unleash anarchy and chaos, and then proceed to occupy the country with a force of 150,000 foreign soldiers. And that is true even if a genuine monster like Saddam Hussein is removed from power and killed in the process.

No matter how well-intentioned the invaders might think they are -- indeed, no matter how well-intentioned the invaders actually might be -- that behavior is going to engender anger and resentment among the invaded populace, not to mention the rest of the world, and that resentment is going to increase as the brutality and duration (and ineptitude) of the occupation increases.

And all of that is to say nothing of the extremely precarious notion that Muslims perceive that the aim of the invasion is to bequeath to the Muslim world what George Bush calls "the Almighty God's gift to every man, woman and child": freedom and democracy. Does Blair think that people in the Muslim world don't see or understand the meaning of images such as [these]:



“Our closest Middle Eastern allies are some of the most repressive tyrants on the planet,” a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the trod-upon Iraqi expats in Syria.

Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.

From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.

“Do you think we’re happy that these men from the gulf are seeing our daughters’ naked bodies?” [said Umm Hiba.]

Blair suffers from the same delusions as Bush, Cheney and so many of the necons who were the architects of this war. Blowback simply is not a concept to which they subscribe, no matter how many times they are proven wrong. We continue to sow seeds of future hatred, thanks to the neocons war, which has been anything but “God’s gift” to Iraq.

Cross posted at Welcome to the Revolution & Watching Those We Chose