May 7th, 2010 17:56 EST
Why lose troops in Afghanistan when our enemies come from Pakistan?
War is big business. Instead of covering wars the press should be covering the business of war. Patriotism is war`s cover story. The real story is money.
I come by this conclusion via a strange route. When I was a newspaper editor I used to argue that the bestseller list should appear on the business pages because it was not a measure of literary merit but rather of the business of marketing books. The reason I never won this argument, the reason no one is winning it now, is that the arts and book review sections of a newspaper provide a cover story for the bestseller list. They imply that the list is about merit.
Patriotism and security often provide the same kind of cover story to the people who wish to make war to get rich "richer, that is, than they already are.
In this context, a press less constrained by the baggage of hypocrisy in the form of received and half-baked ideas would remind Denis McDonough, National Security Council chief of staff, that he has insisted on calling Afghanistan the wellspring of terrorism " while the evidence increasingly points to Pakistan.
It would be a rhetorical exercise. He can`t possibly believe his own thesis, nor does the press believe it. He is providing a cover story for President Obama`s disastrous decision to ramp up our military adventure in Afghanistan. The real story is about who is making money on this misadventure. The banks, surely, because they`re earning interest on accumulating war debt. The private military companies, the arms makers and many other kinds of manufacturers, the providers, the shippers, the consultants "the predictable cast of characters. There is more to learn about the war in Afghanistan by watching the film The International than by watching television or reading newspapers.
Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen born in Pakistan, tries to blow up fellow Americans on Times Square. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab is sentenced to death in Mumbai for his part in the November 2008 attacks that killed 166 Indians. What ails McDonough`s contention in light of these events?
The fundamentalist terrorism with which we are dealing "with which Muslims are dealing "derives from the teachings of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18th Century Arabian religious reformer. Arabia was then a backwater of the Ottoman Empire. Today Saudi Arabia is both an important supplier of our oil and exporter of terrorist ideas. Pakistan, once part of the British raj, is now both our putative ally in the war on terror and an exporter of terrorism. The 2008 attack on a Mumbai hotel and the recent attack in Times Square both originated in Pakistan.
So this makes Afghanistan the wellspring of terrorism " in McDonough`s mind, in President Obama`s mind? When they say we are at war, war with whom? With Wahhabist ideas taught in Saudi and Pakistani madrasahs? With a collection of tribes in Afghanistan? With genocidal Islamists in Sudan and Darfur? With Yemenis who have problems with their neighbors and their own government? With North Africans who despise the corruption and selfishness of their governments?
With whom are we at war? An idea? A nostalgia for a caliphate that actually would have stamped out the kind of fundamentalism we are enduring? Surely there is nothing new in a vast nostalgia for a society that never existed. Here in America we are witnessing just such a nostalgia for a white America that happened to have been established by genocide and slavery.
This is the age of the Internet. If you simply type the keyword Islam into a search engine you come up with such a vast wealth of information that, if you bother to read only a portion of it, will convince you that McDonough`s claim is far too simplistic and misleading to explain what we are doing in Afghanistan. Or Iraq. American foreign policy and its so-called war on terror flies in the face of the archival Internet. It cannot survive scrutiny, which is why the Internet poses a threat to global corporados and their political stooges.
Simplistic answers kill vast numbers of people and cause untold human suffering. Television and the kind of sound-byte decision-making it has encouraged is an antique in the age of the Internet. We have outgrown the 19th Century journalism that still imposes its conventions on us.
It is this kind of journalism that facilitated our going to war in Iraq when most of the 2001 terrorist attackers came from Saudi Arabia. It was easier to sell " a war on Iraq than it was to explain how our longtime chums in Saudi Arabia had nurtured an environment of hatred towards us. Prince Bandar, then the Saudi ambassador, seemed cuddly compared to the unlikable Saddam Hussein, who just happened to loathe Al Qaeda and was in fact our ally against a revanchist Iran. So we toppled the ally, slapped Prince Bandar on the back, and handed Iraq over to Iranian influence as well as to our business exploitation. Indeed there are still people who prefer this mindless response to the September 11th attacks rather than the truth. The distance between Mr. McDonough and his boss and these people is paper thin.
And all this happened for the same reason that terrorism thrives: the desire for simplistic answers to complicated issues. If we have no patience for the facts we shall have no patience for peace or democracy.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com