My Turn: Turning a page on the Middle East   

  • Afghan refugees are processed inside Hangar 5 at the Ramstein U.S. Air Base in Germany on Sept. 8.  POOL PHOTO VIA AP/OLIVIER DOULIERY

Published: 10/15/2021 1:54:04 PM

The “book” on relationships between the Christian West and Islam in the East records centuries of conflict, of which the Trump and Biden administration’s efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan are but a few pages.

The perilous European overland exploration and trade for desired products of the Far East and northern Africa, particularly spices, began in ancient times. Broadly, it is this seeking possession of resources that is the driver of competition that leads to war.

The last of the three monotheistic Abraham-based religions to evolved in the Middle East was Islam, its founder the merchant, political-social leader, warrior, and prophet Mohammed. By the time of his death in 632 CE, his preaching, based on revelations, had brought about the conversion of many to Islam, as well as regional political-military dominance.

Christian Palestine, Syria, and Egypt were soon absorbed. Islam rapidly spread across northern Africa and into Russia. It encroached on Europe. At its greatest extension, for 700 years Islam controlled much of Spain, and its armies conquered Southeastern Europe. Church proclaimed crusades to recover Christian holy lands and sites largely failed.

One of the most significant aspects of this rise of Islam was that in a time of stagnation in Europe, termed the Dark Ages, learning, literature, and science dramatically advanced in the Muslim world. The most often cited example is our adopted system of numbers called “Arabic.”

The other is that Islam’s blocking, thus increasing the difficulty of trade with the East, forced Europeans to search for other pathways. Portuguese sailors venturing down the western coast of Africa, eventually found their way around the southern tip and went on to trade in the East.

Departing the calmer Mediterranean Sea for the Atlantic Ocean, they developed larger, more seaworthy ships. They adopted Islam’s triangular lateen sails but had also large square sails which drove their ships faster. In contest, this was one way in which the West began to catch up with the long dominant Islamic East.

1492, the year commencing Spanish dominance, the rewards of gold and silver from the New World, witnessed also the driving of Muslims back from Spain into North Africa.

It was with the resolutions following World War I that Europe finally obtained dominance over the Islamic Middle East it had for centuries sought. Present day Turkey had been seat of the powerful Islamic state, the Ottoman Empire. Hoping to end its territorial losses and fearing nearby Russia, the Ottomans had chosen to side with Germany. They were also faced with Arab revolts — made famous by the leadership of British Col. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). In 1915, Ottomans carried out genocide against their rebellious Armenian minority population.

Defeat of Germany and its allies meant Europeans would decide the fate of the Ottoman Empire and of political Islam. It meant Europeans would compete for control of the resources of the Middle East — namely oil. It set the stage for a century of Islamic anger and revenge-seeking against the West — in particular the 9/11/2001 destruction of the World Trade.

Islamic Persia (modern day Iran) had chosen neutrality, but its proximity to the British colony India and fact that it possessed oil made it object of wartime invasion and control by both Britain and Russia.

The Ottoman Empire and monarchy were dissolved, the Republic of Turkey created, while the French were awarded Islam’s Lebanon and Syria, and the British Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine.

World War II empowered Zionists, in 1948, to drive 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. With the creation of Israel, they remain under deeply resentful occupation to this day.

President Eisenhower warned the U.S. against the post-war expansion of its military industry power, later becoming the main expenditure in our budget. Negotiating with Russian Premier Khrushchev, President Kennedy endeavored to end the Cold War and rid the world of nuclear weapons — also ordering an end to U.S. involvement in Vietnam. For these threats to Western global dominance, the most sinister plot in US history was launched to assassinate him.

White supremacy also plays a part. Perhaps to best illustrate the nature and consequences of this 1,400-year contest between the West and Middle East, consider that Al Queda’s Osama bin Laden said his 9/11 attack was in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

Rather than seeking global support to put him on trial, President Bush invaded Afghanistan to kill bin Laden. Trials expose issues. The trial of Lee Harvey Oswald would have revealed the conspirator’s plot.

Charlemont resident Carl Doerner is an author and historian currently at work on a re-examination of the “American narrative.”


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