Moral Outrage
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Seven colonization lessons from the history of the Middle East

More than any other part of the former colonial world, the Middle East has never been fully decolonized. Here are seven lessons from the history of Western meddling:

1. The west never gives up its drive to control the Middle East, whatever the setbacks – In 2003, the US and Britain invaded and occupied Iraq. It was the strength of the Iraqi resistance that ultimately led to this week’s American withdrawal from Iraq, as in the rest of the region, they never leave unless they’re forced to.

2. Imperial powers can usually be relied on to delude themselves about what Arabs actually think – The neocons famously expected a cakewalk in Iraq and early US and British coverage of the invasion still had Iraqis throwing flowers at invading troops when armed resistance was already in full flow. And UK TV reports of British troops “protecting the local population” from the Taliban in Afghanistan can be strikingly reminiscent of 1950s newsreels from Aden and Suez.

3. The Big Powers are old hands at prettifying client regimes to keep the oil flowing – Any “Arab spring” state that ditches self-determination for the west’s embrace can expect a makeover – just as client regimes that never left its orbit, such as the corrupt police state of Jordan, have always been hailed as islands of good government and “moderation”.

4. People in the Middle East don’t forget their history – even when the US and Europe does – Given the history of the region, when western politicians rail against Iranian authoritarianism or claim to champion democratic rights while continuing to prop up a string of Gulf dictatorships, there won’t be many in the Middle East who take them too seriously.

5. The west has always presented Arabs who insist on running their own affairs as fanatics – As elections bring one Islamist party after another to power in the Arab world, the US and allies try to tame them – on foreign and economic policy, rather than interpretations of sharia. Those that succumb will become “moderates” – the rest will remain “fanatics”.

6. Foreign military intervention in the Middle East brings death, destruction and divide and rule – Whether it’s a full-scale invasion and occupation, such as Iraq, where hundreds of thousands have been killed, or aerial bombardment for regime change under the banner of “protecting civilians” in Libya, where tens of thousands have died, the human and social costs have been catastrophic. And that’s been true throughout the baleful history of western involvement in the Middle East.

7. Western sponsorship of Palestine’s colonization is a permanent block on normal relations with the Arab world – Israel could not have been created without Britain’s 30-year imperial rule in Palestine and its sponsorship of large-scale European Jewish colonization under the banner of the Balfour declaration of 1917. The unconditional nature of that alliance, which remains the pivot of US policy in the Middle East, is one reason why democratically elected Arab governments are likely to find it harder to play patsy to US power than the dictatorial Mubaraks and Gulf monarchs. The Palestinian cause is embedded in Arab and Islamic political culture.

[The Guardian]

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