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Terrorists for Occupation By: Barry Rubin
The GLORIA Center | Wednesday, August 03, 2005

If anyone doubts that permissiveness toward terrorism is spreading--and building up tremendous political problems for the future--let them look at Iraq. Every day horrendous attacks are taking place there directed at civilians and yet there is no serious diplomatic action to fight this problem.

Indeed, we take for granted that the great majority of the Arab media will applaud the attacks, Arab states will look the other way as money is raised and terrorists recruited, while Syria has become a base from which terrorist war is waged.

We have become used to much of the world's willingness to accept, excuse, and even sympathize, with Arab nationalist and radical Islamist terrorism against Israel. In this case, the situation is distorted so that the victims become the accused. But when the same thing happens regarding mass murder against an Arab, Muslim, people it gets really scary.


Nominally, the insurgents are acting in the name of either Arab nationalism or Islamism against an American occupation. This is how the rebellion is generally being portrayed in the Arab media. Arab governments do not publicly endorse the war publicly and explicitly, but most of them certainly are letting it be known by their direction of the media that they support it. Syria has in fact become a state sponsor of the war while others, notably Saudi Arabia, do nothing to prevent financial donations to the terrorists and the participation of their own citizens in the fighting.


As in the case of Israel, the backing for terrorism is based on a number of fictions:


--First, the war is supposedly directed against a foreign occupier that wants to remain in perpetuity and thus the insurgents have no choice. But just like Israel is eager to find a way to withdraw from the territories in exchange for peace--it has in fact left the Gaza Strip unilaterally--the United States wants to get out of Iraq.


In Israel's situation, it wants to pull out as soon as there is a government on the Palestinian side that will reach a real peace treaty and stop cross-border terrorist attacks on Israel. For the United States, it wants to leave Iraq as soon as there is a stable government in the country capable of surviving. The terrorists thus become the main forces for sustaining occupation--a situation which gives them a good excuse to keep on fighting--on the pretext of battling occupation.


--Second, the Arab media, intellectuals, and clerics create a false narrative about bloodthirsty monsters committing innumerable crimes and seeking total conquest. America is said to be in Iraq to steal the oil and enslave the people. Unless it is driven out by force it will remain there immediately. Again, the theme is quite parallel to the myths constructed against Israel.


--Third, the claim is that the Iraqi people benefit from the terrorism when in fact, of course, they are murdered by it and their living standards crushed. The violence does not bring a solution but rather prevents one. The Iraqis, like the Palestinians, are plunged by this philosophy of glorious violence into a maelstrom on a wave of religious and nationalistic hysteria. Yet in Iraq, the direct victims of the attacks are also Iraqis themselves. As in the other conflict, there is a hidden genocidal purpose: to wipe out the Israelis in one case, to kill or subjugate the Shia Iraqis in the other.


Where is this war of terror in Iraq leading? Much of the world may have been so misinformed by slander to sneer at a notion so self-evident but Israel has been remarkably restrained at the ordeal it has faced. Iraqi Shia may act differently when they are eventually unleashed on their foes as the Americans start to leave and after they go.  Up until now, the country has been very lucky in the fact that its leading Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is a relatively moderate man. Otherwise, the death toll might be many times higher as armed Shia went after their tormentors and any Sunni unlucky enough to be in the way.


Sistani himself has called this a genocidal war being conducted against his people. Other Iraqis, including the new government's highest officials, have complained at their fellow Arabs and Muslims cheering the murder of children and helping doom Iraq to so much unnecessary tragedy and bloodshed. At least, though, it is consistent since the same people celebrated the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a great Arab hero at the same time he was torturing and murdering his countrymen.


The situation has led to bizarre incidents. When Iraqis have tried to explain their viewpoint to other Arabs, they have been told to stop whining. After all, as one Arab parliamentarian told an Iraqi demanding condemnation of Saddam's murders, what was the big deal since there are mass graves in all Arab states?


And who are the new murderers being glorified as Arab and Islamic heroes? They are a combination of Saddam loyalists, Sunni communal nationalists who view killing Shia as their highest duty, and radical Islamists who want to plunge Iraq into still another hell. Then there are the many young men being lured to their deaths by their inebriation on a steady diet of propaganda from those who make a good living such deception.


What hope can there be for progress in the Arab world or peace in the region when such things are happening at an increased pace and when the voices of sanity are so few and far between? 

Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center university. His latest book, The Truth about Syria was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2007. Prof. Rubin's columns can be read online here.

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