In Reconciliation, Benazir Bhutto shows she knows a thing or two about Middle Eastern history; she should–after all she was born and raised there and knew the culture of her own people. History did not start on September 1, 2001, as some people would like us to believe. Any time the U.S.A. or its allies are attacked, a group argues it was caused by religious extremists who didn’t like the way we as infidels were living.
“They hate us for our freedom” is an all-too-common piece of propaganda espoused by those who don’t want to see the error of their ways. Personally I find it hard to believe that a young man or woman, barely into adulthood, would be willing to blow themselves up for “our freedom.” The truth is that many of these people are radicalized as a result of the killing of their family members by American bombs, or by evil dictators backed by America. Bhutto seems to know this history of Western intervention in the Middle East and the Frankenstein monster that this history has created.
Bhutto is aware of the false allegations which state that the sole blame for the regions’ problems lies in the Muslim holy book. Bhutto addresses this misplaced blame, saying “But the responsibility does not lie in the Muslim Holy Book.” The truth is that for over a century, the West, and particularly America, have destabilized Muslim countries due to lack of understanding of Middle Eastern culture and indifference to the effects meddling would have on it. There are obvious instances that most people are aware of such as the invasion of Iraq and the ousting of Saddam Hussein; however, most don’t know the true extent of imposed regime change, political assassinations, backing of extremist groups, and civilian casualties caused by the so-called “Land of the Free.”
Bhutto shows many examples of the undermining of democratic values in her country and the countries surrounding hers. One clear instance of the United States creating a monster that it was unable to control is the funding of, and funneling weapons to, an extremist group known as the Mujahedeen; this group of extremists would later go on to form groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Bhutto writes, “The establishment of the Afghan Mujahedeen by Zia in the 1980s is an example of extremists. (After all, the jihad in Afghanistan aimed to rid the country of Soviet occupation, not reject modernity, technology, and pluralism, and to establish “strategic depth” in Pakistan. That was the political goal of Zia.)”
Although she may not have been referring specifically to the role of America in the creation of the mujahedeen, Bhutto implicitly gets to the heart of the matter as to why the United States backed the mujahedeen. The U.S.A. helped the extremists not out of pity for their plight at the hands of the Soviet Union, but to thwart communist expansion. Once more the West shows no understanding of how things work in other parts of the world, and simultaneously falls for the incorrect assumption that the enemy of its enemy must be its friend.
Once again Bhutto has her finger on the pulse of the problems caused by the West. She states that “After the United States invaded Iraq, these same extremists turned their attention to that country.” Although many warmongers and saber rattlers would have us believe different, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11th, nor did he have any ties to the Al-Qaeda. In fact, Al-Qaeda had almost no presence in Iraq whatsoever due in large part to being enemies with the mostly secular Saddam, who made sure they had no foothold in his country.
Before the U.S.A. invaded Iraq, suicide bombings in that country were almost unheard of. Once the invasion took place, the extremists rushed into the country to take advantage of the American military presence that would surely bolster their ranks with disenfranchised young men who had watched loved ones lose their lives thanks to American bombs; after all, it is hard to convince someone that you are freeing them whilst you are bombing them. According to n, The Guardian, there were over 12,000 deaths caused by suicide bombs alone between the years 2003 and 2010. Oftentimes people who wish to rush to war again will cite numbers like these to garnish support for another invasion; again it would seem that history was non-existent before a certain date to these people. Without seeing that they created the monster before them, they fed the monster again with the invasion of Iraq.
When most people think of reasons why the Middle East is in a perpetual state of chaos, they often think of the terrorist groups; however, an often-overlooked aspect of the chaos is the authoritarian regimes that control many Arab states. Oftentimes, leaders of western nations lecture the world on the need for democracy without admitting that they themselves support many dictatorial powers, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. On some occasions, the United States is the sole reason that a country is in the grip of an evil regime, such as in the case of Iran.
Indeed, at one time the leader of Iran was democratically elected and generally friendly to Western nations. That is until the United States, with the help of Britain, overthrew that leader in 1953 due to a dispute over British controlled oil. The United States then installed a man named Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi who ruled with a much firmer hand than his predecessor. This led to anger in the Iranian population that would go on to force the Shah into exile, and bring the Khomeini regime into power, which rules to this day, albeit with a different head. Again the United states meddled in the affairs of country and a people that it new nothing about, thereby furthering the creation of the Frankenstein of authoritarianism that Benazir Bhutto refers to. According to Bhutto, “Despite often grand rhetoric to the contrary, there has been little real western support for indigenous democratic movements. Indeed, too often there has been outright support for dictatorships.” (186) Quite an apt description I would say.
It is unfortunate that the former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto is not with us today to calm the tensions and help pave the way for the democratically elected governments that people in the middle east so desperately deserve. Unfortunately, until the west stops meddling in the middle east, it is unlikely that anyone, even Bhutto (if she were still alive), could pave the way for democracy in the region. There is still hope however that Bhutto’s dream will not die with her, but live on and come to fruition. Her dream can only be seen if the West stops feeding the monster that is the Frankenstein in the Middle East.