Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Arab street speaks

The well-known "Arab street" has spoken recently, and it seems to be angry at al-Zarqawi .

The hotel bombings have outraged Jordanians, apparently even some who ordinarily don't support the king's Western ways:

The Amman protest was organized by Jordan's 14 professional and trade unions, made up of both hard-line Islamic groups and leftist political organizations, traditional critics of the king's moderate, pro-Western policies...

Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba has noticed, also:

the attack should alert Jordan that it needed to stop hosting former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"I hope that these attacks will wake up the 'Jordanian street' to end their sympathy with Saddam's remnants ... who exploit the freedom in this country to have a safe shelter to plot their criminal acts against Iraqis."

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi agrees, stating:

she did not believe al-Qaeda "or any of these violent extremists have had support among mainstream Arab opinion at all. Now they are making sure they are turning everyone against them."

Can we believe it? Here's evidence to bolster Ashrawi's claims:

Braizat said in an opinion poll conducted last year by his office, 67 percent of Jordanian adult respondents had considered al Qaeda in Iraq "a legitimate resistance organization." That attitude may be changing, he said Friday, explaining that he had spoken since the attacks to 10 survey participants who held favorable views of al Qaeda; nine of them had changed their minds.

It seems difficult--perhaps impossible--for Jordanians to excuse this as an insurgency or a nationalist movement fighting against an evil occupation. Since Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian, this feels like a case of fratricide:

"Oh my God, oh my God. Is it possible that Arabs are killing Arabs, Muslims killing Muslims? For what did they do that?" screamed 35-year-old Najah Akhras, who lost two nieces in the attack. Similar thoughts were heard over and over throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Until now Najah Akhras had somehow avoided knowing that yes, Arabs kill Arabs, Muslims kill Muslims--although how, after watching the Iraq-Iran war, or seeing what is happening these days in Iraq, or even learning the Black September history of Jordan itself, I don't really know. Perhaps when reality is just too horrific, the mind closes down and denies--until the horror comes home in a way that no longer can be denied.

One wonders why al-Zarqawi didn't heed his far more strategic mentor, al-Zawaheri, who cautioned him about the negative PR fallout from this sort of thing. And why, oh why, did Zarqawi actually claim this as his own act, rather than letting people blame it on the Jews or the Americans, as many in the Arab world did 9/11? My guess is that Zarqawi just doesn't care; his focus is on proving that he's badder than old King Kong, and meaner than a junkyard dog.

Lest you think I'm being frivolous by quoting Jim Croce--that's not my intent. I am simply noting that although Zarqawi has political/Islamicist motives, his actions here don't seem to be strategic at all. In fact, they seem counterproductive (as Zawaheri understood), and more in the realm of psychological pathology writ large: that is, he is a psychopath on a world stage.

The details of Zarqawi's criminal past:

He spent his time scrapping and playing football in Zarqa's dusty streets and surprised no one by dropping out of school aged 17.

He drifted into casual crime as an enforcer and general-purpose thug. At some time, he was imprisoned for sexual assault. On the streets, he learned the art of violence. It was a lesson he used to dramatic effect when he hacked off the head of American engineer Nick Berg in the first "snuff video" to emerge from Iraq.

Indeed, much of his violence has a street crime feel to it. It is brutal, direct, unflinching and unthinking. Not for Zarqawi the press interviews with Westerners that bin Laden once gave. Not for Zarqawi the pampered Saudi childhood. Not for Zarqawi the meandering meditations on Islamic theory as a justification for murder. If Zarqawi and his network are eclipsing bin Laden and al-Qaeda, as some terrorist experts believe, then it is a form of terrorism that betrays its roots in Zarqa's brutish underworld, not some austere Arabian seminary.

Jordan has reason to regret its previous leniency towards its spawn Zarqawi. He was imprisoned there for plotting to replace the monarchy with an Islamic state, but was inexplicably released in 1997 after serving only five years in prison.

NOTE: I wrote most of this post last night, intending to finish it today. But this morning, when I checked out the NY Times, I wondered whether I'd spoken too soon about this being a case in which the Israelis weren't being blamed. Take a look at this front-page article headlined: "Many in Jordan see old enemy in attack: Israel," which describes blaming the same-old same-old scapegoat.

However, it's impossible to know from the Times article how many this "many" refers to. As is so often the case these days, the Times sees no need to quantify it. That there are such people in Jordan and elsewhere I have no doubt, but that news is only useful if we know how extensive the belief is, and the Times offers no help with that.

However, the Times does offer some rather insightful remarks on the "blame Israel first" crowd from several Arab scholars and pundits who seem to have thought some of this through:

Whatever the cause, the result is the same: "In the first place, people don't even recognize the reality around them," said Muhammad el-Sayed Said, a political analyst at the government-financed Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt. "Secondly, they continue to overlook and ignore the problem without supporting a consistent anti-terrorism campaign, which the government might be seeking."

Dawoud al-Shoryan, a prominent writer and journalist from Saudi Arabia, says he is not convinced that those who blame Israel really believe it. But, he added, many people are deeply angry at United States policy in the region, including its occupation of Iraq, and blaming Israel is a way of conferring some degree of legitimacy on a crime that would be considered unspeakable if committed by a Muslim.

"They try to hide the hideous face of terrorism by hanging it on the United States and Israel," he said. "Shifting the accusation is nothing but a subconscious attempt to justify the act."

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, it seems.

So, which point of view will win out? My guess is that, whatever the Times says, the Jordan hotel bombings have cut into some of that denial, and that quite a few Jordanians were mugged by the tragic and horrific reality of 11/9.


At 3:03 PM, November 12, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

9/11 engendered a sense of weakness and horror at the implacable will and determination of the terroists.

Iraq has given American youths a vision of the strength and durability of the American spirit, liberty, and the follies of fanaticism.

And why, oh why, did Zarqawi actually claim this as his own act,

It doesn't take much to put steel in young people's spines, when that is all that stands before you and an anthrax attack, or fear of a nuclear bombardment.

Fanaticism, to the decadent sleepers and the weak fools which set the standard for most of America prior to 9/11, might appear to be a stunning threat, horrendous in its power and fortitude.

Fanaticism, to the renewed national and patriotic vigor post-9/11, looks more and more like buying into a con-artist's promise of virgins in heaven.

Formidable? Perhaps, for an idiot.

In the end, there is a price to peace, and it is paid in the blood of patriots and the vigilance of citizens. The more you pay, the less your debt, and the less fearful you are of economical destitution.

Our debt before and just after 9/11 was horrendous. Fanaticism seemed like vikings ready to plunder our savings, our houses, and our cars. Foreclosure, bankruptcy, loss of a home.

How different the outlook of one's personal status now, when it is the fanatics that are scrabbling around to pay their debts, and being unable to, cause fanaticism produces neither patriots nor citizens.

At 5:26 PM, November 12, 2005, Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

- Dear Ms. Neo,

Sorry to ruin your delusions about the state of the “Arab Street” whatever that vintage 1950s Marxist/Nasserite expression may signify:
- “Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba” who “also agrees” with your point of view happens to be a lifelong Marxist activist recently “mugged by [Koranic] reality”: he conveniently converted to Shiite Islamic fundamentalism a few months before the US “liberation” of Iraq
- Dawoud al-Shoryan is certainly not “a prominent writer and journalist from Saudi Arabia” but a second-tier (at best) press officer employed by the Saudi government
- As for Ms. Hanan Ashrawi, she’s a member of Jerusalem’s tiny Christian minority, and a self-proclaimed Marxist intellectual who’s spent half her life in New York, London and Paris…which doesn’t really qualify her as an “expert in Jordanian cum Islamic issues”

Yesterday, our Arab (street) savvy Al-President Bin Bush as they call him in Saudistani collaborationist circles delivered his long-awaited Veterans Day speech on the fight against “terrorism” at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: this turned out to be a fascinating speech full of true-blue Trotskyite/Noecon clichés about the eventual collapse of the Islamic Al-Qaeda “system” from the burden of “its internal contradictions” and the firm presidential belief that its leaders will soon be “joining the dustbins of history”…beyond the irony of listening to a right-wing Republican leader using 19th century vintage Marxist metaphors, Dubya’s delivery was clearly below (his own already sub-par) personal average, and the rehearsed hurrahs sounded less enthusiastic than usual- maybe because Karl and Scooter were busy elsewhere and didn’t have enough time to prepare properly for this staged show of martial masculinity.

Anyway, the following 2 points in Bush’s speech caught my attention as they perfectly capture the essence of “Neo-conservative” Pharisaic propaganda:

1) “…the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments”

This type of talk is particularly racist and offensive: 1.4 billion Muslims around the world will be glad to learn that the US government has officially segmented them into two broad categories: “Radical/Al-Qaeda types” and “Non-radical Muslims” [sic]

2) “…our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life”

That’s an outright lie, which has been propagandized on a massive scale since September 11th 2001 by Wolfowitz, Perl, Libby, Sharon, Cheney & Co.

As veteran Middle-East experts such as former senior CIA officer Michael Scheuer have said repeatedly, this canard about “Bin Laden’s alleged desire to shatter the American way of life” was (and still is) the ultimate justification of the invasion of Iraq…simply because it was “market-tested” extensively by the White House and proved to fly well with focus groups and folks in the heartland.
See link below for more on Mike Scheuer’s sharp criticism of the Bush administration

Dubya’s mass repetition of the same failed arguments ad nauseam now threatens to unmask the dirty secrets of Neocon statecraft: in the future, he should keep his advanced Pharisaic talking points algorithm under wraps lest he reveal his intellectual edge to the enemies of freedom/democracy/Zion/McDonalds burgers/Philadelphia cheese/Alabama banana pudding/you name your favorite American dish and call the PR & Public Information Management department at the Israeli embassy in Houston so they can add it to the list of heartland gastronomic liberties that constitute the bedrock of culinary freedom on which this great nation was built!

We won’t let Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein destroy our way of life with their poisonous Gallic Gaullist soufflés and other radioactive “yellow cakes” cum hummus sauce cooked in the dirty Baathist/terrorist/evil/satanic/Islamo-fascist kitchens of Damascus and Tickrit.

Vive le Liberty!
Vive Al-President Bin Bush!
Long live our freedom-loving friend His Royal Wahhabiness King Abdullah of Saudistan!

At 10:17 PM, November 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Victorino's post is so drowned in sarcasm and contempt it's hard to tell what his point might be beyond a raging dislike of Bush and neoconservatism.

Or what he hopes to achieve in this forum by using such unpleasantly loaded language. When I see writing like his, it reinforces my impression that a fair number of Bush's opponents have gone well beyond the raucous debate of democracy to the display of a personal psychological crisis.

It is a fascinating phenomenon in itself. Neo-neocon writes well on this aspect of current events, which is a big reason I read her blog.

At 2:09 AM, November 13, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

One cannot help but wonder how long the people who suffer most from the terrorists' acts will continue to put up with them...

At 8:52 AM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al Qaeda may need to ask the question, "To bomb or not to bomb?" They may have alienated a lot of Arabs by this latest travesty. To kill infidels is one thing, but to kill Arabs is quite another thing (in the Arab viem of things).

At 9:52 AM, November 13, 2005, Blogger roman said...

Dr de la Vega.

Thank you for sharing the symptoms of your delusions.
I admit, you had me going there at the start of your comment with the current Arab street info but it all fell apart after that with your rabid anti-Bush rant.
I can't believe that you believe anyone would take you seriously.

At 11:40 AM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Doind a quadri-lineal, 4 dimensional, sarcasm post isn't really good propaganda, vegie.

If you want complex soliquaries attendant to good sarcasm, you might want to stay with the double sarcasm. As in, support position A, which you support, and then write about supporting position B, which you don't support.

That's complex enough, without the quadrupleness.

At 1:13 PM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's worth taking a peak at Dr Victorino's fanciful blogger profile. He is clearly a crank with pretensions and an animus against neocons and the Bush administration, but not a doctor.

I still don't understand how his behavior furthers the anti-Bush cause, unless of course he is another fiendishly clever operative from Karl Rove to make Bush's opponents look insincere and stupid.

At 4:00 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger karrde said...

You know, it's been a while since I heard about the "Arab Street."

It's one of those phrases that is too inexact to use properly. On the other hand, the phrase recognizes that the culture of the Arab Middle East includes many people who think that they are Arab before they think of their nationality (Iraqi, Saudi, Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, etc.)

Still, these are signs that at least one segment of the Arabs in the Middle East are beginning to wonder what Al Qaeda will do to win, and whether they are friends or enemies of most Arabs--or most Muslims.

I suspect the big difference between this bombing and the hundreds in Iraq is that Jordan isn't anyone's battle-field. It is easier to assume that the target is an American soldier when the bombing happens in Iraq--even if the bombs hit locatins like hotels full of journalists or voting locations.

But when the target is hundreds of miles from the nearest American Army battallion, in a country that has no "on-the-ground" action against Al Qaeda, people begin to wonder what is going on.

At 4:05 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The Iraqis also wonder at what is going on. We have already split Iraq off from the Arab street. We have split the Arabs so much that the only unity of expression they have is in... wonder of all wonders, France.

At 4:23 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger terrye said...

dr vegie:

I got about two sentences into that paranoid rant and gave it up.

Why don't you?

At 5:16 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger troutsky said...

I suspect the Dr. would be good in a poetry slam.I believe you are right neo that this is a stupid tactical error on Zarqawis'part and may be a watershed moment on turning Arab and Persian opinion away from support for Al qaeda.I don't believe that necessarily translates into support for US occupation, in fact the de-stabilizing effect of our presence in Middle East as well as the building of permanent base facilities may cause US to share in the blame for the violence overflowing into Jordan. The "steel in their spine" combined with hate in their hearts and air in their head is what makes all fanatics fanatics.

At 5:46 PM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve come across an interesting article about the CIA that Dr. Vic might want to read. Here the author, Gabriel Schoenfeld, writes of Michael Scheuer’s rather strange views:

Sentiments like these mark the author of Imperial Hubris as something of a political hybrid—a cross, not to put too fine a point on it, between an overwrought Buchananite and a raving Chomskyite. This alone, one might think, should have unfitted him for a high position of trust within the CIA. But that is not the end of it. Even as he lambastes the United States from his isolationist position, reserving special fury not only for America’s alliance with Israel but for our “hallucinatory crusade for democracy,” Scheuer also swivels to assail Washington for being insufficiently hawkish in waging the war on terror.

“An Unprepared and Ignorant Lunge to Defeat” is how Scheuer titles his chapter on Afghanistan. What appears to exercise him most is the fact that, after September 11, the United States waited almost a month to respond to al Qaeda’s attacks. Instead of a “savage, preplanned U.S. military response,” there was “inexcusable delay” and “supine inaction.” This had the effect of turning the “human-economic calamity” of September 11 into a “catastrophe” and a “full-blown disaster.”

The same passivity supposedly on display in Afghanistan is, Scheuer asserts, undermining the broader war on terrorism. To our lasting peril, we have ignored the maxims of General Curtis LeMay, who taught us that war is about killing people and that “when you have killed enough of them they stop fighting.” What we need to do, and immediately, is to “proceed with relentless, brutal, and, yes, blood-soaked offensive military actions,” and these should not cease “until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us.”

At 6:54 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

People should not overlook the fact that fanatics, by the very definition of fanaticism, is not the choice of the great majority of people, for obvious reasons. Not least of which is human nature.

The choice that is made by the great majority of folks, is whether or not to support their interests through the support of fanatics or the support of the people the fanatics fight against.

And in this arena, biting the hand that feeds them, is totally ass backwards in terms of human nature.

As such, the Arabs will only support fanaticism when fanaticism benefits them, since they are obedient dogs and will not bite the hand that feeds them. Change the master, and make the US the hand that feeds them through occupation and Imperial assimilation, association, and political infrastructure, then you start to win not inspite of human nature but because of it.

There will, however, always be those people who will never believe that anyone can ever act this pragmatically towards the United States.

The rest of the world may be confident in the dictates of human nature. Fullfill the requirements of political infrastructure and basic necessities for the human condition, and you will acquire the loyalty and love of the populace. Whether that is the rioteers in France, the Klu Klux Klan, or the Arabs themselves.

Human nature is both dynamic and unchangeable. It is the only one constant anyone may be sure of.

P.S. The US strategy has been working since car/IED bomb one. I knew and so did many other people, that with every Iraqi civilian, child, woman, and man killed in Iraq via the violence brought by Fedayeen, Baathist money, and terroist cells, the more the United States would be supported. In our objectives, if not in our person.


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