Iraq now set up as a school for insurgents ready to be exported
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Anyone who knows anything about cancer knows that the danger point comes when the cancer suddenly and unexpectedly appears in another supposedly "clean" part of the body. As when, say, breast cancer, an implacable traveler, reappears in the bloodstream or the bones.
That there are stunning similarities between what happens medically in the body of man and what occurs sociologically and militarily in the societies of men is far less noticed – but just as frightening and dangerous.
Think of what has happened in only the last week in the Middle East. In northern Lebanon, in the long-established Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, out of the blue arose a new al Qaeda-related insurgent group, Fatah al-Islam. Within days and even hours, the recurring hell of the Middle East was loosed, and refugees poured out of the camp in terror.
There had been none of this kind of terror networking in these northern camps. Indeed, since this camp was established in 1949 to accommodate refugees from northern Palestine after the creation of Israel, it has housed one of the more formal and conservative of peoples.
But it was soon established that these new "insurgents" or "terrorists" – or whatever they really are – had arrived at the camp only recently, that they marched in one day with brand-new weapons, ready to fight.
Two points grip you:
•The first is found in the words of French scholar Bernard Rougier, author of Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon. "The main point is that these camps are no longer part of Palestinian society," he told The Washington Post . "They are only spaces – now open to all of the influences running through the Muslim world."
•The second is that Iraq, where we were supposed to be "containing terrorism," is now clearly exporting insurgents to other regions – to Lebanon, to Syria, to Gaza, to Bangladesh, to Kurdistan.
And so, on the one hand, you have weakened societies vulnerable to the "new answers" of "new insurgencies," and on the other hand, you have Iraq set up as a school for terrorists with American troops and policy providing the constant inspiration for their fight.
This, of course, is not the way the Bush administration sees it.
The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.
What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.
Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."
The truth of the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East is, of course, quite different. The Palestinian people of 40 and even 30 years ago were formal, conservative people who remained closely tied to their families, clans and religious groups. Theirs was a highly stratified society, which has now been shattered.
In the institutional vacuum that is a camp like Nahr el-Bared, a few hundred men trained and tempered in Iraq can make a huge difference. At the same time, the Turkish military is ready to go into northern Kurdistan, al-Qaeda operatives from Iraq are popping up in hitherto untouched places, and the American military's advice to its troops is, "Get down with the people – listen to them!" Only four years and thousands of bombs and night missions too late.
Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist. Readers may contact her through email@example.com.