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Lt GENERAL BHOPINDER SINGH | 20 JULY, 2016

The Awkward Truths of the Middle Eastern Crisis


From Walter Benjamin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill to Dan Brown, all have alluded to the ‘victor’ defining the essential and definitive narrative and perceptions surrounding an event or history – except, in the burning cauldron of Middle East there are no ‘victors’, only ‘victims’ who have to suffer the partial-truths, convenient versions and the ultimate ignominy of the established narrative, written by the ‘mightier’.

Ignorance of history, context and oversimplification has been the bane of the ‘truth-crusade’ in Middle East that belies various facts that led to the current inferno. Pronto, the popular narrative established in the Western capitals becomes deliciously appealing and palatable to the uninitiated, restless and impatient masses, who seek a ‘quick-end’ to the Middle Eastern crisis (read, military solution only).

The part-declassification of the remaining ‘28 pages’, of the official US Congressional Report on the lead-up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and on the alleged ties of the US ‘ally’, the Saudi Arabian establishment with the perpetrators of the terror act, along with the parallel tabling of the ‘Iraq enquiry’ or the ‘Chilcot Inquiry’ (the timing is coincidental), across the Atlantic in the UK – paints a very dim view of the West’s track record leading up to the horrors of 9/11 and the subsequent actions in the Middle East that germinated the foundation for the regressive strains like the ISIL etc.

Expectedly, the embarrassment of the formalised facts as established by the Western experts themselves, will be played down and contained – in his last days as the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron refused to accept a ‘mistake’ on part of the Conservative Government and observed conveniently that said that he did not see ‘a huge amount of point’ in ‘replaying all the arguments of the day’ and added rather sagely that focus should instead, be on learning ‘the lessons of what happened and what needs to be put in place to make sure that mistakes cannot be made in future’.

West’s historic tolerance and support for the various Sheikhdoms and dictators as long as they did the bidding on behalf of the Western interest is well documented – the sudden waving of human right manuals, literature on democracy and civic freedoms gets flashed, only on the selective non-compliance of the energy and geo-political agreements of the said Middle Eastern establishment and the West (Saddam Hussein was the preferred business partner in the Iran-Iraq wars, irrespective of his known indulgences of chemical weaponry).

The toxicity and malignancy of the Western disinterest in the reckless excesses and largesse of the Sheikhdoms, who fuelled the madrassa inspired angst, ignorance and anger as far as the Indian-sub continent and the Sub-Saharan deserts was ignored and pooh-poohed with a ‘look away’, as then the shores of the US and the continental Europe were still thought to be very far away from any danger – something that haunts the doorsteps of Paris, Nice, Brussels, New York and London’s of the world, today. These deliberate oversights are indefensible, unforgivable and point to the complicity domain, well beyond the commonly known contours of the currently apportioned, ‘blame-framework’.

For 13 years, these 28 pages of the US Congressional report were kept away from public gaze, fuelling rightful suspicions on the content, intent and implication of the same – even now, certain sections and portions containing specific details have been ‘blacked-out’ or withheld. The official spin put on the declassification of the ‘28 pages’ is that it actually exonerates the Saudi’s, although the 9/11 report did mention the Saudi support to certain ‘charities’ that ultimately bankrolled the likes of Al Qaida, earlier. Clearly even now, the strategic compulsions are still getting the better of the entire truth related to the conception of the events leading up to the 9/11 act.

Institutional complicity is getting differentiated from direct individual complicity, hence offering a dangerously convenient and perilous, escape route – raw truth without any qualifications, is still the casualty.

On the other hand, the ‘Chilcot Inquiry’ was led by Sir John Chilcot, a career diplomat, along with the other committee members including a military historian, former ambassador to UN, civil historian and the chairwoman of the Judicial Appointments Commission – it has formally inked the worst kept secrets of UK’s war in Iraq. The Guardian described it a ‘crushing verdict’, while the BBC described it as ‘damning’.

At a fundamental level, it found the very case for going to war in Iraq as insufficient, with inadequate legal base – tantamount to ‘undermining the Security Council’s authority’, given that it had proceeded without a Security Council resolution. Further the report alluded to the limited say UK had on the war in Iraq, vis-à-vis the US and the planning for the war as, ‘wholly inadequate’. To compound matters, it clearly stated that the military objectives were not met and that the situation on ground had deteriorated after the invasion.

The well-known bogey of Iraqi WMD’s was supposedly made on the basis of flawed intelligence, and worse, while it should have been challenged, it never was. Now, prickly questions of ‘lying’, or the extent of ‘lying’, or even just plain mistakes by the British leadership are getting debated – though there is, like in the US, a brave front put up to mitigate the implications.

The West’s instinct to protect their own track record, intelligence sources and strategic relationships e.g. avoid upsetting Saudi Arabia is realpolitik – that, it is also very powerful in defining the construct of the ‘story’ of Middle East is both damaging in the long run, immoral and counter-productive.

Unless the whole truth prevails in its entirety and not in the selective leaks and releases – the understanding of the context and the application of the remedial steps required, will always haunt the region, as indeed the entire world. Europe and the US are no longer unreachable from the elements of the regressive forces that they have willy-nilly created and chose to still remain naïve, to its origins.

That the emergence of the Taliban has something to do with leaving the Afghan turf in the lurch in the safe hands of another reliable ‘ally’ Pakistan, or that the progenitor of the phenomenon of ISIL are the disgraced remnants of the erstwhile Baathists, left to fend for themselves by the US forces is something that needs to be discussed, addressed and internalised in the mainstream, a lot more – this truth and reconciliation is the only way to mend the increasing polarisation with the masses and the ultimate isolation of the fundamentalists.

However, historical facts about the Middle East and the games played within, is a can of worms that West prefers to avoid opening or accepting.

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