Felicity Arbuthnot uruknet.com 11/14/06

May I first say how honoured I am by this invitation and thank Imam Suliman Gani for his kindness in extending it.

Incidentally, it occurred to me on the way here, that we are just days past the seventeenth anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall, amid vibrant, memorable scenes of jubiliation, marking a world whole again and not divided,the end of the ‘cold war’. How naiive we were; the U.S., with Britain as ever, tagging along, went out in search of new enemies and immediately began building new walls, psychological and actual.

It was not long after that, one realised that that one barely ever read the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’ in a western paper, without a negative attached: ‘terrorist’, ‘extremists’, ‘fundamentalist’ … There seemed an orchestration. Phrases came out in Washington and popped up here within days, even hours. A separeteness seemed to be being manufactured. Then I discovered Major Ralph Peters, Pentagon and U.S. War College policy maker, reponsible for ‘future warfare’. – and possibly the scariest and most deluded man on the planet. One of the most enlightening insights into Washington’s policy agenda comes from an article of his in the summer 1997, U.S. Army War College Quarterly, titled : ‘Constant Conflict’. Here are some truncated extracts:

‘There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes … The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our ecomony and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing. We are entering a new American century, in which we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal and increasingly powerful. We will exite hatreds without precedent. He who warns of the “clash of civilisations”, is uncontestibly right.’ There will be more democracy … and more popular refusal of democracy.

(There will be those ‘from Jerusalem’ and across the world) who will: ‘ache to return to a golden age that never existed. The attempt of the Iranian mullahs to secede from modernity has failed, though a turbaned corpse still stumbles about the neighbourhood. The non-competitive cultures, such as that of Arabo-Persian Islam … are enraged. Their cultures are under assault; their cherished values have proven disfunctional, the successful have moved on without them. The laid-off blue collar worker in America and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan are brothers in suffering.’

Peters refers to : ‘discarded citizens’, the ‘foreign twin’ of Islamic, Sub-Saharan African, Mexican, ‘too poor to marry’, producing the ‘young embittered male …’ with ‘skewed view.’

‘This discarded foreigner’s desire may be to attack the “Great Satan America” … he will accept no guilt for his failure, nor can he bear the possiblity his culture “doesn’t work”. The blame lies elsewhere. The cult of victimisation is becoming a universal phenomenon and is a source of dynamic hatreds’, writes a man who clearly knows a bit about hatred.’

He continues: ‘Contemporary American culture is the most powerful in history and the most destructive of competitor cultures … In defence of its interests .. allies or clients, the United States wil be required to intervene … we will win militarily .. there will be no peace. Violent conflicts will dominate the headlines … the US armed forces will keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.’

The U.S. will be : ‘.. the most triumphant culture in history. Freedom works.’

‘Everybody is afraid of us (who combine an) alliance of culture with killing power. We are magic. The United States is going to add a lot of battle streamers to its flag.’

So in the ‘land of the free’ this is the truly terrifying thinking of the policy makers encapsulated. But you only get away with unthinkable acts, if you portray the victims as unthinkable people. My personal opinion is that there is a ‘divide and rule’ policy here in the west – a depiction of ‘you’ and ‘us’ – to justify attacks on countries ever further east.

The United States, in search of oil, gas and global dominance, must, shamefully, portray civilisations and cultures,which flourished millenia before they existed, as Churchill’s ‘uncivilised tribes’.

In Iraq, the U.S. has a policy they call: ‘positive instability’ – only in America – and having brought in Iranian, Israeli and Israeli-trained militias, they are busy dividing a peoples who have, broadly, lived together for a thousand years. Having wrought daily mayhem, carnage and unimagnable heartbreak, in a country that was safe (unless you messed with the regime) and stable, they then claim that they must stay ‘until Iraq is capable of running itself.’ Actually, until they have moved into their fourteen bases, some the size of small cities, stategically placed along the oil fields and piplelines and secured the oil, which was to pay for the invasion and provide vast profits for Uncle Sam (or Uncle George W., and his pals.)

Additionally, when George Bush talked of a ‘Crusade’, it was not a slip. There is a truly scary fundamentalist evangelical domination on Capitol Hill. Further, the British entered Basra flying the St George (Crusader) flag and the Spanish troops, reportedly, had the insignia of their crusader Saint sewn on their uniforms. Yet in all the carnage of the invasion, some of the most cynical, non-believing, western journalists one could meet, said the only time they felt peace amid the bombs and destruction, was hearing the call to prayer, constant as time itself, beautiful, ringing out above the guns and the bombs.

These last years of the destruction of the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq – and Lebanon and Palestine as Britain and America stood silently by – with bombs and bullets ‘made in the U.S.A.’, seared on them – it has been also verbal open season on Islam. The Danish cartoons, the remarks of the Pope, The BNP leader’s comments in Islam deemed permissable by a Court of Law, the Government attack on the veil, I have been awed by Islam’s tolerance. Yes there have been terible tragedies, Madrid, London and elsewhere. But the trigger has surely been the destruction of homes, towns, villages, state buildings – and whole countries – and a human and cultural cost beyond any imagination. When there is a backlash against this unimaginable and illegal horror – the ‘supreme crime’ under the Nuremburg judgement – the victims are blamed.

Yet, as with 11th September 2001, London, 7th July 2005, has many queries to be answered, yet this ‘worst disaster to hit the capitol since World War 11’ is also not warranted am official, independent Inquiry, though, why?

And is justice and democrocy Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, secret CIA flights, disappeared people across the globe?

To conclude, let me tell you of a dear friend, an Iraqi who came here in the late 1970’s and stayed, convinced by all he believed Britain stood for. A distinguished professional, of towering integrity, of which any country would be proud – who has contributed exeptionally generously in taxes. Six years in to the truly crucifying embargo on the people of Iraq, he rang and asked me – this, gentle, measured, human being – ‘ Flic, what do I have to do to to tell them what this embargo is doing to my country, my family? Do I have to go down and set light to myself outside the Foreign and Commonbwealth Office?’ Such was the pain and desparation, shared by millions of Iraqi people, in Iraq and across the globe.

After the golden mosque at Samarra was destroyed in February, I called him asking: ‘ If this is how I feel, how does an Iraqi feel?”Flic’, he replied : ‘We have no tears left.’

Two weeks later, we spoke again. He concluded : ‘ We have no tears, but I bleed. My heart bleeds, my soul bleeds, even my dreams bleed.’ He could speak for all those displaced and those in the countries this ‘crusade’ has destroyed. And Americans ask : ‘Why do they hate us?’ And the British government patronisingly looks to you to watch that your children be responsible and not radicalised.

Finally, a lesson Western governments might learn, in walking in the shoes of others. At a Middle East border, the immigration officer had trouble finding my details in my passport. Tired, forgetting where I was, I said: ‘They are at the back’, he flipped the pages, beamed, handed it back and said : ‘No, Madam, they are at the front.’

Thank you again for this invitation and for your time.

Balham Mosque, 145 Upper Tooting Road, London SW17 (Tooting Bec station) is having an Open Day for ‘women of all backgrounds and faiths’ on Sunday 19th November, 2-5 p.m: ‘Much is said about Islam and Mulim women … What do you really know.’ Speakers include barrister Ibtihal Bsis who also presents on the Islam Channel, workshops, interaction, discussion, refreshment and snacks. Queries: Yaz_Hussein@hotmail.com and Tel: 07930 367 857