I’m a little uncomfortable with something. While I believe everyone on either side of the aisle genuinely supports the French after this horrific event, there is an “elephant” in the room. Is this unified sympathy and resolve to fight back against the terrorism that is ripping at our civilized seams a shared belief in allied friendship or are some seizing an opportunity to turn this into more Islamophobia?
I ask because I didn’t see a lot of love for France 12 years ago when the French government chose to stay out of a pre-emptive war against Iraq. Many Americans castigated them for what they saw as a betrayal. After all, we liberated them in WWII, and many believed that demanded any and all compliance from then on.
The French were called “cowards” for not joining a dubious invasion and “Freedom Fries” replaced French Fries to illustrate indignation toward France’s perfectly well-reasoned position. I can recall scores of articles deriding the entire history of the French for being the people of “retreat’ (George Will being one of the more vocal) and unworthy of being an ally.
And today, many of those same people are covering their Facebook portraits with the Tricolours.
There is an irony inherent to tragedy as the catastrophe itself brings out the best in us as we communally reflect upon the worst of human actions, and so, again, let me be clear: I don’t question the sincerity of the outpouring of support across party lines and country borders. But, this historical contradiction does compel me to suspect that for some it is a convenient new love to justify a new war.
Many of us have always loved the French, even when their foreign policy was contrary to American involvements. I even liked my semi-rude French waiter years ago because I knew that his attitude stemmed from the fact that he cherished his culture (all I had to do was make an attempt to order in French and everything changed). It is for him, and for everyone who cherishes respect for life and culture that I mourn. And for which I share the cause to protect.
What I fear is monotheistic extremism that turns religious ideology into monstrous doctrine. And I fear imperialistic self-interests that turn decency on a dime and destroy moral authority.
Even a cursory glance at the Middle East can tie a brain into knots. The Iraq/Taliban/al-Qaida/ISIS/Iran/Syrian/Afghan/Russian/US/Saudi/Israeli/Palestinian/Egyptian/British/French quagmire….is a quagmire. There is no straight line to the unraveling of hundreds of years of conflicting interests, confused nationalism and religious claims. A history generously peppered with shahs, war lords, dictators, mandates, imperialists, and military coups on oil rich land that simultaneously made kings of some and peasants of others, is not easy to understand. But, we must try.
Many of the complexities bewilder Western diplomacy, but there is a thread that binds history with interests, and interests with people. That thread is power. Power fueled by fortunes, and the currency for the past 50 years has been oil. ISIS is not funded by religion, but by donors in countries like Saudi Arabia, where bankers and oil rich kings send money to Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS, not to propagate a religious war, but to sustain their own political power.
The “War on Terrorism” will be won when the money stops. It will be won when the flow of money from Gulf states fails to reach the extremists, and when the flow of black market oil from ISIS controlled fields in Syria and Iraq is blocked.
We must place aggressive sanctions on any country that buys oil smuggled from Syrian/Iraq oil wells controlled by ISIS. Turkey is the biggest offender, as they have turned a blind eye to their border with Syria because ISIS oil is cheap.
The US State Department has known for years that the main financiers to extreme militant groups have been from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and from oil smuggled into Turkey. All countries posing with Western-friendly opportunities, but are laundering funds through government sanctioned charities and funneled to terrorist groups. The United Nations must freeze the assets of these organizations cloaked in the virtue of charity. Their identities are no mystery.
For the record, this is public record, not a dramatic fairytale. We learned this from WikiLeaks 5 years ago. Chalk up another one to freedom of information.
ISIS knows what they are doing. They know that fear causes us to diminish our own freedoms and they know that the airstrikes that will result will cause civilian casualties that they will exploit. They will exploit them to recruit more militants and to attract more money. There is an evil brilliance to their strategy. But, it can be stopped.
It is stopped when the money is stopped. The money can also be stopped by reducing our own reliance on oil. We can diminish our financial involvement in a political chess match that is a stalemate on its best days. Cheap gas at the pump is not worth lives being lost at the hands of terrorists.
I’m not saying that we don’t strike back militarily. America, France, and Russia have stepped up airstrikes, and I feel that there is no choice but to unveil our united resolve and our overwhelming force. But, we must also accept that it is a reaction and not a singular solution. There is an even deeper and perhaps more powerful inspiration that can unite us, and it comes from the innocent victims themselves.
This letter from the husband of a victim was posted online today: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/husband-of-paris-attack-victim-sends-defiant-message-to-isis/ar-BBn5txw?li=AAa0dzB
Take a moment to read it. This man has given all civilized people a statement for the ages. “If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.”
So, as we collectively, and sincerely, support and mourn for our friends from across the Atlantic, or from any culture on the globe that cherishes life, let us also, collectively and sincerely, measure our resolve to move toward a genuine solution and away from a genuine hate.
Some interesting reading: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/12/06/wikileaks.terrorism.funding/index.html