Extremism and Islam: Whose?

We are the indispensable nation.

— US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, NBC, February 19, 1998

On September 21st, 2001, George W. Bush addressed Congress and the nation and stated:  “Americans are asking “Why do they hate us?” He gave the nation the answer:  “They hate us for our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech …” By “they”,  of course, he meant the vast, great ancient Muslim diaspora, wherever they were.

Thus, just ten days after the collapse of the World Trade Centre, dismissed were the messages of sympathy from around the world, from leaders of countries, threatened by the US, from those who had been victims of the US. It was a historic opportunity to respond in kind, to truly build bridges and to make that America’s homage and memorial to the dead – of eighty countries – as he reminded that day.

What marked the messages was compassion and humanity. Three, however, in the light of recent and current events are particularly notable.

Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, accused of aiding terrorism by the US and in international isolation, in his communication, also urged Muslim aid groups to offer all assistance.  He wrote:

… regardless of political considerations or differences between America and the peoples of the world. Irrespective of (conflicts) with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people, and be with them at (the time of) these horrifying … events which are bound to awaken human conscience.

That was three  years before Tony Blair’s visit to Libya (March 25th, 2004) and his Judas kiss. The BBC’s Andrew Marr called that meeting “… an absolutely pivotal moment in the history of the region, possibly even in the history of the war against terrorism.”  Gaddafi agreed to dismantle Libya’s weapons, to trade with the West. Shell gained a $550 million deal the same week,

“Trust on both sides will take time to establish,” Blair said at the time. Tragedy for Libya, arguably is that Colonal Gaddafi was not more judicious with his.

Syria’s President Al Assad sent condolences to the White House, calling for “… world cooperation to eradicate all kinds of terrorism.”

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, which had been –and still is — stringently embargoed by the US since 1979 and ever increasingly threatened, wrote of his “…deep regret and sympathy with the victims”, urging that, “It is an international duty to try to undermine terrorism.”

Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein stood alone as a leader, not personally sending his nation’s sympathies, but Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz did, transmitting  condolences via former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. (After the invasion, of course, Aziz was arrested by the Americans and subsequently sentenced to death. He remains in jail, under death threat, since 2003.)

However, on October 18th, 2001, Iraq’s President responded to an American citizen, software engineer, Christopher Love, who, apparently referring to the US Administration already pointing the finger at Iraq for the tragedy it had nothing to do with, had emailed Saddam Hussein.

Love wrote that he was an ordinary American with a daughter of seventeen and a son of thirteen and that, “I, and the majority of people here in (the US) only want to live together with all the nations in the world.”

Saddam Hussein’s response began:

Dear brother in the family of mankind, I read your email message of October 2nd carefully and I have well pondered over your emotions regarding the victims of the two towers.

All I can say in presenting my condolences to you (is) ‘ God has created us, and to him we return. May God give you long life’ ” ( the traditional Muslim consolation in bereavement.)

A lengthy response included:  “I don’t think that your Administration deserves the condolences of Iraqis, except if it presents its condolences to the Iraqi people for the 1,500,000 Iraqis it (has) killed, and apologises to them …” (resultant from the strangulating US-driven embargo which denied even cancer medicines, Ventolin inhalers and paediatric syringes.)

Referring to the nine years of US/UK bombings which had not alone killed uncounted numbers, but routinely targeted precious, scarce harvests and livestock, he wrote:

Do you know, brother Christopher, that your Administration, in its war against the people of Iraq, has been burning not only the cereals in silos, but even the harvest by throwing flares in order to make Iraqi people starve?

Iraq has been harmed severely by the fanaticism of others, including America …

Outlining some of the massive complexities of the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, he wrote  insightfully of George W. Bush, that a war had been waged against Iraq, in a way that had nothing to do with the issue of Kuwait.

(Bush’s) objective was to destroy all Iraq, and to deprive its people of the (nation) built, over several decades, and not merely getting the Iraqi armed forces out of Kuwait … he and his Administration, are still doing so under different pretexts and justifications.

The letter concluded: “Wishing that you will have the opportunity to see the facts as they are, and not as your administration present them.” It ended:

“Yours truly,

Saddam Hussein.”

With the added vision and validity of hindsight his grasp on political reality was faultless. Less than two years later his country was invaded and “destroyed” under entirely false “pretexts and justifications.”

After the London train networks and bus bombing on July 7th,  2005, leaders from across the world, again regardless of their differences with London’s aggressive backing of US assaults and threats, also sent sincere condolences, including Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad, in a personal message to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Syria was, of course, daily, quietly absorbing thousands of now destitute, bereaved, distraught, sick, maimed and traumatised Iraqis resultant from Blair’s offices misinformation (“dodgy dossiers”) to the US Administration.

What marked all the messages in both disasters was the lack of triumphalism. If there were subliminal undertones, they were with tact and care and the doors were clearly open, on both occasions, for fresh starts.

Response with reciprocal door unlocking was trenchantly absent; door destruction ruled.

The contrast in reactions to the tragedy of others by Washington and London’s politicians, the sneering, crowing, gleeful, jubilance at murder, mayhem, heartbreak and barbarity shames all who believed those countries stood for decency, legality and values of benefit to human kind.

When Saddam Hussein’s two sons and nephew, just into his teens, were murdered, shredded by US firepower and surely near vapourised by the ten missiles dropped on their dwelling in Mosul, George W. Bush sneered: “Their deaths show that the former Iraqi regime will not be coming back” – and the rule of law also died.

When Saddam Hussein was arrested in December 2003 by US occupiers, “Viceroy” Paul Bremer crowed to the gathered media and military: “Ladies and gentlemen, we got ‘im.” The country’s President was then shown on television having a medical examination. Medical privacy and human rights breathed their last gasp. Moreover, whether a supporter of Saddam Hussein or an opponent, he represented an ancient and fiercely proud nation.  US behaviour humiliated all. Arguably the blue touch paper to serious and sustained resistance to the occupation was lit that day.

That he was barbarically lynched, under America’s stewardship of the country, by black-masked, and hooded men and at the time of the great Muslim feast of Eid al Adha, is probably expressed best by Abdel-Bari Atwan, Editor of  the highly respected Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper:

The timing of this execution is an affront to all Arabs and Muslims. It is an act of scorn against a great religion by the United States and the Iraqi government.

Arab public opinion wonders who deserves to be tried and executed: Saddam Hussein who preserved the unity of Iraq, its Arab and Islamic identity and the coexistence of its different communities … or those who engulfed the country into this bloody civil war.

More recently, the sickening spectacle of Obama and his Administration’s gleeful jubilance at an illegal incursion into, and assault on, ally Pakistan and the lawless extra-judicial assassination of Osama bin Laden on May 1st 2011 can only have been seen as a further “affront.”

The Nobel Peace Laureate crowed on the day of the death of one: “who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.” Ironically a glance towards Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria shows  “thousands of innocent men, women and children” murdered at his behest or backing.

Of course, another vexing elephant or ten in the room is apart from lynch mob rule, if the numerous and consistent reports of bin Laden’s death years before are true, who was the sacrificial soul? Since we are told the body was chucked to the sharks, bin Laden or not, the identity will never be verified. How convenient.

Just five months later (October 20th) Libya’s Leader Colonel Gaddafi, was horrifically mutilated and murdered at the hands of insurgents whose leaders Hillary Clinton had met and declared every support for in March and September 2011 meetings in Paris. Far from being taken aback at the illegality of enormity and utter bestiality, she laughed on global television and boasted: “We came, we saw, he died.”

Now Syria and President Assad are in the crosshairs with even a former US Senate Foreign Policy Analyst, James Jatras, stating that Washington has violated the UN Charter by arming insurgents and gangs in Syria.

“Arming an insurgency in a recognized State is already an act of war and let’s be clear, the United States has acknowledged that we give “non-lethal” aid” – arguably the promised mega financial aid to the insurgents – “and we wink at the notion that some of our allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, are giving lethal aid to … these terrorists”, he stated, adding: ”This is already a violation of the UN charter in every standard of international law.”

On Wednesday (July 18th), Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, his deputy Assef Shawkat and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani were killed in a bombing that hit the headquarters of the Syrian National Security Bureau. Two days later General Hisham Ikhtiyar, Head of Syrian National Security, also died of his wounds.

Jatras noted: “There is a great deal of glee here in Washington”, following the Damascus attack.

“It is stunning the extent to which the American establishment is essentially cheering on this kind of terrorism, killing government officials with this kind of terrorist bombing that has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda type jihad terror operation”, he concluded.

“We’re looking at the controlled demolition of the Assad regime”, trumpeted  Andrew J. Tabler, a “Syria expert” at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy shortly before. Sovereignty and rule of law are becoming a distant memory.

After the Aurora, Colorado cinema shootings,  President Obama said:

We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.


Our time here is limited and it is precious.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.

He went on:

Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil, is senseless. It’s beyond reason … we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another …

The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.

His statement mirrors all America’s victims, all those facing decimation, as did the 27 people killed by US drones in Pakistan recently over three days alone, June 2nd, 4th.

“I will hug my children closer tonight”, he told Americans from Fortress White House. America has left uncounted parents with no children to hug – not enough left of them to even bury.

British trained surgeon, President Assad must be hugging his young children tonight and every night, staying in his beleagured country as he and his family are, with the courage of Iraq and Libya’s (and loss of children and grandchildren) leaders before him. Meanwhile, his father-in-law, an eminent cardiac surgeon, continues to battle for, and save British lives, in British hospitals.

In the seconds this was ended, a news feed showed a reported eleven un-named human beings killed by US drones in Pakistan. “Why do they hate us?”

The US-UK alliance has lost its mind.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.