K. Patrick Glover, author of A Wicked Little Town. Comments are encouraged! If you missed the introductory essay to SLEIGHT OF MIND, click here to read it in full.
I sat and watched a couple of weeks ago as the typical parade of Memorial Day programming filled nearly every channel on U.S. TV. War movies, new and old, documentaries on D-Day and the Battle of The Bulge, news coverage of the various celebrations and ceremonies going on across the country.
It’s easy to view the men who fought in World War II as heroes. Everything was so black and white, the Germans and the Japanese almost cartoon like in their villainy. No shades of grey need apply.
In other wars and conflicts, things aren’t always so clear. It can be hard to see these brave young men and women as heroes and not as victims. Victims of politicians and industrialists who have manipulated and lied to them. They believe that they are fighting for our freedom, but that belief is Quixotic in nature. What they are really fighting is the ghost of the Soviet Union.
The evil empire. Although it’s hard to find someone who can tell you just how they were evil. What they had done to become our enemy. With the Nazis it was easy, they wanted to conquer the world. The Soviets? They were different. They didn’t believe what we did, they had different thoughts on economic issues. They thought we were decadent.
And if radical Islam is the current boogeyman, well, it’s a boogeyman of our own making. One put into place by decades of interventionist policies and an out-of-control intelligence agency.
It’s thought by many that behind every action we’ve taken in the region is a motive drenched in the lust for oil. And oil does play its part. By the end of the second World War, Roosevelt had become convinced that the region was of the utmost strategic importance in what would become the Cold War and he and the British Ambassador to the region signed an agreement dividing up all of the area’s petroleum exports.
His major concern was not securing the oil, it was preventing the Soviets from getting it. That fear of the Soviets gaining any advantage over us drove nearly every decision we made in the region for decades. And nearly every decision was a catastrophic mistake.
The first known instance of U.S. manipulation in the region was in the spring of 1949, when the C.I.A. helped to overthrow the Parliamentary Democracy in Syria, leaving a dictatorship headed by former military Colonel Husni al-Za'im in its place. Little is known about why the C.I.A. got involved in this particular power struggle, but it is worth considering that Syria had been heavily involved in trying to prevent the formation of Israel just two years previously, and that Husni al-Za'im had been on the front lines of that conflict. The coup set up a pattern of instability in the country and Syria’s government was overthrown twice more in the same year.
It also set the pattern for U.S. Involvement in the Middle East. In 1953, at the request of Great Britain, the C.I.A. began Operation Ajax, a plan that concluded with the overthrow of a democratically elected government and cemented the Shah’s power for decades to come. Britain’s interest, at the time, was oil, specifically the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The U.S. was interested, mainly, in preventing the spread of Soviet influence.
In 1956 international relations with Egypt started to fall apart. In spite of existing relationships with the U.S. and Britain, Egypt began forming ties with the Soviets and China. Britain and the U.S. withdrew from an agreement to fund the building of the Aswan Dam and in response, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.
A military standoff between Egypt and England, France, and Israel ensued. For political reasons, the U.S. was forced to side with Egypt and tensions backed off. Still unhappy with Egypt’s budding relationship with the Soviets, which now included arms deals, President Eisenhower set forth what would become known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, a policy designed to contain Soviet Expansion.
It also gave the President the authority to use military force in the Middle East without going through congress. Sound familiar?
In 1963, The U.S. supported an overthrow of the government in Iraq. Why? Ties to the Soviet Union. Like Syria before it, Iraq became much more unstable, leading to more coups and eventually to the rise of Saddam Hussein, who immediately formed strong ties with the Soviets.
Then we have Afghanistan which, in 1978, was a very different place than the Afghanistan of today. Although rife with internal struggles, the country was under the control of a democratic government, the PDPA. A government that favored equal rights and strong education for men and women alike, a government that supported unions and the separation of church and state, and one that pushed an agenda that included radical land reform, a position that was not popular among the wealthy land barons.
The PDPA also had strong ties to the Soviet Union.
In a move designed to prevent the Soviets from gaining too strong a foothold in the region, the U.S. once again turned to manipulation, encouraging the wealthy land owners to rebel against the PDPA, ostensibly because they were governing against the principles of Islam. The C.I.A., along with its British allies in M.I.6, began working with the mujahadeen forces, training and arming them.
When the PDPA government fell, due to its own internal struggles, the Soviets invaded, stepping into the vacuum left by the PDPA. The C.I.A. began Operation Cyclone, using radical Islamic forces to fight the spread of Soviet influence.
Let me repeat that, because it seems important.
The C.I.A. used radical Islamic forces to fight the spread of Soviet influence. They trained them, they organized them, they armed them. They created their own future boogeyman.
It should be noted at this point that among those radical Islamic forces that the U.S. trained, organized, and armed was a young Osama bin Laden.
Other major conflicts in the region, ones that weren’t instigated by the U.S., still often led to stand offs between the U.S. and the Soviets. Black September in Jordan, the Iran-Iraq War. The spectre of the Cold War loomed large over everything.
By the time the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union had fallen, the damage was done. The U.S. had spent decades using the people in the Middle East as if they were no more than pieces on a chess board. It wasn’t something the people of those countries were going to easily forgive.
We have been told, over and over, in this country, by simplistic politicians and pundits that men like bin Laden hate us for our freedom. That the events of 9/11 happened because they hate us for our freedom. It’s been repeated like a mantra from those in power and those in the media and it’s a damn lie.
They hate us for what we’ve done.
It doesn’t excuse the things they’ve done in retaliation. Nothing could excuse the horrors of that fateful day in September. But to bury our heads in the sand and tell ourselves comforting lies about why it happened can only lead to the same mistakes being made again.
Some of you reading this, enlightened audience that you are, may already be familiar with some of the events that I described. A few may even have known everything contained herein. All the details are readily available on the internet, you just have to look. The fact that every citizen in the U.S. and the U.K. doesn’t know this is a crime and the media should be held to account.
Every time someone uses the phrase “they hate us for our freedom” and goes unchallenged a little bit of the truth dies. That’s a crime I can never forgive.
Until next time,
K. Patrick Glover