Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, US policy has been based on the assumption that it is the world’s sole superpower. MUZAFFAR IQBAL, of the Center for Islam and Science, explores some aspects of the US’s policies.
“We now live in a world in which the United States is the only superpower. We must recast our foreign policy to cope with this radically new situation.” Thus wrote Richard Nixon in his book Seize the Moment (1992). Nixon was surely neither the first nor the last American leader to dream of a unipolar world dominated by the US, but his book provides interesting insights into the making of post-1989 American policies on the premise that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US was the only superpower. The end of the Cold War, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, was also taken by US policy-makers as the beginning of a new phase in world history in which all other civilizations would adopt the three idols of Western civilization—democracy, freedom, and the free market economy—as their gods as well.
The American euphoria of 1989 was short-lived, but it provided dramatic opportunities for a small group that envisioned the twenty-first century as “the American Century”. Within two years of the collapse of the Soviet Union, this group had taken control of major decision-making processes in the complex structure of American power politics. The invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussain in August 1990, generally known to have been instigated by the US, was the first real opportunity for this group to seize the initiative. George Bush senior and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher skillfully exploited this crisis. The first Gulf War and its aftermath not only provided an unprecedented opening for the US to establish its deep military and political presence in the Middle East, but also boosted the US economy through multi-billion dollar sales of outdated military hardware to client regimes. But this was merely the beginning of the making of the new American century.
Those who envisioned that the twenty-first century would be America’s consolidated their hold on power during the last decade of the twentieth century, and soon realized that the only resistance to their plans for world domination would come from the Islamic civilization. This perceived threat to their dream was not entirely inaccurate. They knew that the Muslim world was at the threshold of a new era, and that, although the military, economic and political power of the authoritarian regimes that controlled more than a billion Muslims was of no consequence to them, Muslims as a collective body of believers could challenge their plans for the next century because of the power inherent in their faith. They had already witnessed the actualization of this inherent power of Islam in Iran, a country that they thought had been secured for the West for many generations. Now their nightmares were of potential Islamic revolutions in other parts of the Muslim world. That is why they vehemently opposed the Islamic Revolution in Iran and tried to curtail its influence by many means, including the imposition of a vicious eight-year war on the newly established Islamic state.
It was also during the last decade of the twentieth century that this small group of people, better known as the neocons, realized the need for a new USstrategy in the Middle East. This realization was born of an assessment that their old allies in these countries had outlived their utility. Like skilful puppeteers, they knew the time had come to replace the old puppets with new ones. Similarly, their analysis of the ground realities in the Muslim world convinced them that the question of Palestine, which has dominated the political consciousness of Muslims for several decades, had to be diluted.
While these considerations were slowly shaping new US policies for the Muslim world, the events of September 11, 2001, suddenly gave the neocons an ideal opportunity to push their agenda into high gear. Since that fateful day, the US military has killed an estimated 150,000 Muslims in Iraq andAfghanistan, its client regimes have killed and maimed a large number of their own citizens, and thousands of Muslims are in jails around the world. But those who are responsible for this violence know that ultimately their dream of pax Americana will remain unfulfilled unless they undermine the power of Islam. It is for this reason that they have launched a multi-billion dollar project to promote a new made-in-America Islam and establish a new political environment in the Muslim world. It is in this context that the new American plan for the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world becomes highly significant.
A cornerstone of this plan is regime change. Such change is regarded as essential for two reasons: first, the old puppets have lost all credibility among the masses and therefore removal of rulers like Hosni Mubarak will provide opportunities to install new men and women who can push the American agenda much faster. And second, the process of successful institutionalization of a made-in-America Islam requires a veneer of democracy. It is for these underlying reasons that the new American policy requires the emergence of democracies throughout the Muslim world; that these democracies will only be “Bushy democracies”, engineered in the boardrooms of the neocon thinktanks and forced upon the client regimes that have already outlived their usefulness, is a different matter.
These Bushy democracies require a large number of new puppets, hence the US’s shopping spree. One of the essential requirements for new recruits is that they must have “Islamic” credentials, especially if they are being recruited for the top positions; a bearded man who can recite a few verses of the Qur’an is considered to be an ideal candidate to lead the new Bushy democracies in the Muslim world for two reasons: he will have a better chance of deceiving the average person in the street, and he will be better able to institutionalize the made-in-America Islam.
These new American policies are being implemented aggressively through a multi-billion dollar budget. The recent emergence of an “Islamic struggle” against the long-serving American puppet in Egypt, for instance, is being openly supported by the Bush administration by means of a fund for democracy that is using people with “Islamic” credentials to stage a revolt against Mubarak. Similarly, the US congress has approved an undisclosed sum of money to finance Syrian opposition groups. The US-based Reform Party of Syria (RPS) has now established an office in Damascus and is expected to instigate unrest against the regime of Bashar al-Asad. Elsewhere in the Middle East, the US seems to have granted “conditional extension” to some old puppets, such as the debauched rulers of the Gulf States and the Saudis, forcing them to fabricate a cosmetic democratic process in their oligarchies; thus the sudden hype about civic elections in Saudi-occupied Arabia, the founding of the first political party, and the granting of voting rights to women in Kuwait, and several similar developments throughout the Middle East.
This situation reminds one of the cynical statement of the Pir of Pagara, a seasoned and shrewd Pakistani politician, who likened the political process in his country to a horse race in which the first nine horses always belonged to the same owner. Thus, whether it is people like Al-Mutairi and Saif al-Hajri, the so-called founders of Kuwait’s first political party, or the new leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are being promoted as the “bold new opposition” to Mubarak, the process of change remains in the hands of the same horse owners and trainers.
The immediate goal of US policy-makers is not only the emergence of Bushy democracies all over the Muslim world. It is also to provide a vent for the increasing anti-American feelings among the Muslim masses. The scale and intensity of US-instigated violence against Muslims since September 11, 2001, has generated a worldwide revulsion against America. The neocons in Washington DC are not oblivious of this. In fact, they have their “pulse monitors” in the field and know when it is time to open safety valves. This is a long-standing procedure in US foreign policy. Richard Nixon institutionalized this process in what is called the Nixon Doctrine. It stipulated that, from time to time, America’s friends in the Muslim world should actually speak against the US. This would increase their credibility, Nixon argued, as well as release pent-up anger against the US and decrease the threat of any long-term harm to American interests.
The recent protest riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other parts of the Muslim world against the desecration of the Noble Qur’an in Guantanamo Bayappear to be such an exercise. It should be noted that the initial news of the event appeared in a magazine that has frequently been used to “open the safety valve”. One should also recall the original story that appeared in the May 9, 2005, issue of Newsweek had no substantial factual information. It stated that the “investigators probing interrogation abuses at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell Newsweek, interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash.”
A closer examination of this story, as well as the manner in which it was picked up by Qazi Hussein Ahmad and others in Pakistan, and the subsequent pattern of protests, reveals a blueprint often used by the US to provide a relatively safe and controlled vent by which to dissipate and dilute anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world. This procedure is now standard practice, and its purpose is to divert the processes that might strengthen the Islamic movement. The story that appeared in Newsweek is deliberately vague, there is no real source mentioned for it, and it does not clarify whether there is a secondary source for the collar-and-leash episode or whether there are multiple sources for these two stories. Newsweek is not saying anything with authority; the story shows every sign of having been planted to achieve a particular objective, a controlled release of pent-up anger against America. There is another version of the episode from none other than General Richard Myers, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Reuters, Myers said that “the only incident recorded in the prison logs was of a detainee tearing pages from a Qur’an and using them in an attempt to block a toilet as a protest, and even that incident,” he said, “was unconfirmed.” This incredible report is said to have been “recorded in the prison logs”!
In addition, we have an inside account of the procedures being used by the US in that outpost of tyranny called Camp X-ray telling us that the desecration of the Qur’an is a frequent occurrence in the camp. Hafiz Ehsan Saeed, a young man in his 20s, who was recently released from Guantanamo Bay, has stated in a rare two-hour interview, published in the May 16, 2005 issue of The News International, that he saw the desecration of the Noble Qur’an by security officials at the Guantanamo Bay not once but many times. Several other former detainees at Guantanamo Bay have given similar accounts.
In any case, a far more important issue is the abuse of Muslims held in Guantanamo Bay. These so-called leaders of the Ummah who have brought thousands of Muslims on to the streets against the desecration of the Qur’an would serve the Ummah’s interests much better if they held daily vigils in front of US embassies all over the world, until these brethren in faith are released from the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. This is not merely a personal opinion born out of sympathy for the inmates; the suggestion is rooted in Islamic Fiqh and the practice of our most noble Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him; the dignity and rights of a human being have a higher priority than words on a piece of paper—even those of the Qur’an—which remain beyond the reach of humans because it exists in the hearts and in that incorruptible heavenly Book (“lawh mahfuz”, al-Qur’an 85:22) from where it was sent into the world.
So what is really going on? Certainly, there is much more happening behind the scenes and that “much more” is worthy of consideration by Muslims everywhere. A telling sign is the way this story has been picked up by elements in the Muslim world that have long served the purposes of the US. Qazi Hussein Ahmad of the Jama‘at-e Islami in Pakistan, for instance, specializes in the art of creating public hysteria against America and its puppet regimes through his now-notorious “million-man marches”. But throughout his leadership of the Jama‘at, no such marches have produced any constructive change in Pakistan; they serve only one purpose: to undermine the Islamic movement in the country.
The sudden fever of democracy in the Middle East, debates around political events aimed at regime change, state-sponsored conferences about “moderate” and “enlightened” Islam, and soon-forgotten protest rallies against some transient event; all these fit into a long-term and carefully-designed American plan for the Muslim world. Unless Muslims understand this game plan, they will continue to squander their energies on ephemeral issues. One of the greatest challenges facing the Islamic movement is to find ways to concentrate the energies of the Muslim masses on the task of establishing Islamic governments by means of well-planned revolutions that simultaneously train and transform men and women. One sure way of doing this is to study and implement the methods used by the Prophet of Islam, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, for the establishment of the first Islamic state in Madinah.