TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2013 The U.S. Chooses Capitalist Muslims
Nothing about the Arab uprisings is crystal clear, however signs point to America’s preference for pro-capitalist religious groups over those that lean leftward.
A recent blog by the French activist Thierry Meyssan refers to conspiracy theories surrounding New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s Muslim wife, Huma Abedin, long-time Hillary Clinton associate. Reading up on these accusations, I noticed that Ms Abedin, whose mother heads the women’s section of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Sisterhood, has been defended by several major Republican figures, starting with John McCain, who unequivocally represent American capitalism.
Though taking Meyssan’s convoluted assertions with a grain of salt, given the need for oil from an area long ruled by religion, it is not hard to believe that the United States took the practical decision to work with ‘moderate’ Muslims, that is pro-capitalist Muslims instead of trying to secularize them. American willingness to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban that is presently threatening to break our ties to President Karzai, our hitherto ally could not be more eloquent. And this is just one example of an apparently incoherent Middle East policy.
Though Sunnis occasionally lean left, as was the case with Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party, leftist Muslims are usually found among Shi’as, such as the Iranian and Syrian governments. Though Western media refer to the Iranian ‘Revolution’ of 1979, they avoid identifying it with its predecessors, the French, Russian Chinese or Cuban revolutions, all of which are associated with idea of equity.
In the case of Syria, the media never mentions that Assad’s is the only secular Arab regime, that its eduction system is modeled on the French (Syria having been a French protectorate before independence), that as under up-from-the-military-ranks dictator Saddam Hussein, women enjoy Western-style equality, from divorce to education to careers.
Whether or not Anthony Weiner’s wife is a closet Islamist or not, it is a fact that the U.S. first backed Morsi than decided to ditch him, perhaps fearing a change from the dependable policy vis a vis Israel of Mubarak. Similarly, the Egyptian military was trained in the United States (practicing Muslim General al-Sisi appearing to incarnate the ‘young dynamic’ ruler wished for by the secular opposi-tion group Tamarod...), and that responding to ‘calls from the people’ to topple rulers is right out of the US playbook.
And yet, military might cannot ensure a coherent American Middle East policy, given the myriad expediencies that cloud the region’s fundamental rivalries: secular vs. religious, Sunni vs. Shi’a, left vs. right, traditionalists vs. moderns, ‘democratizing’ Sunni’s represented by the Brotherhood vs. socializing Shi’a Alawites. We can expect more confusion in Washington as Tamarod groups gain momentum, via the internet, in Alawite Syria, Sunni Tunisia and Bahrain, which hosts the Sixth Fleet. As in Musliim Brotherhood Turkey, this phenomenon born in Egypt represents those who reject both religious rule and shopping malls.
Here now is a partial transcript of today’s fascinating Democracy Now! that focuses on Middle East oil and oil pipelines:
AMY GOODMAN: In Carbon Democracy, you have a very interesting chapter called "McJihad." Explain it, and especially this week on the 12th anniversary of the occupation of Afghanistan.
TIMOTHY MITCHELL: Yes, I wrote "McJihad" initially in response to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, because that was the time, of course, when the U.S. declared this crusade against forms of militant and jihadist Islam. And it was a time when people began talking about a clash of civilizations, about the West standing for enlightenment and reason, and opposing itself to the forms of unreason and illiberal politics represented by something that was called "jihad," Islamic radicalism of various forms. There’s a very different history of the relationship between the U.S. and the variety of forms of political Islam, and one of the main parts of that relationship has been a strong alliance between the United States and conservative Islamic forces, such as those that are in power in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Gulf. And I think one has to understand the reason the U.S. came to depend on anti-democratic forces to maintain the kinds of interests and positions it had in the region to make more sense of the rise of radical Islamic forces in the more recent period.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the meeting of the Taliban in the United States?
TIMOTHY MITCHELL: Yes. Before the attacks of 9/11, when the Taliban had first come to power in Afghanistan in the previous decade, the U.S. was very interested in the possibility of working with them. At that time, they were interested in the possibility of negotiating routes for pipelines we were talking about earlier, the pipelines from the Caspian and the Central Asian region, and interested in that. And they saw the Taliban as someone they could work with. In fact, they made the explicit reference in the State Department meetings when the Taliban visited Washington, met with Ronald Reagan. And—
AMY GOODMAN: They came to Texas?
TIMOTHY MITCHELL: They came to Texas and—
AMY GOODMAN: Met with the Bushes?
TIMOTHY MITCHELL: —met with the Bushes there and talked about the Taliban as being just like the Saudis. I mean, these are the kind of people we can work with, because we need people who are conservative, who believe in a strict application of Islamic law. This will create the kind of state we would be interested in.
Experts are vital to understanding the world around us. But the rest of us can also trust what events are telling us, what I call getting 'the gist'.