North Americans think of war as an aberration which occurs occasionally
and disrupts normally peaceful living. People in most other parts
of the world have had an entirely different experience and look
on war quite differently.
1984 a group of Norwegian researchers counted more than 14,000 wars
that had occurred during the last 5600 years. In general those battles
did not cover as much territory as did the marauding of Alexander
the Great or of Genghis Khan or as did World War II but to the people
who were killed, maimed or otherwise damaged during them they were
just as deadly.
of those wars has been continuing for 1000 years. The United States
Government (USG) has been involved in that war for nearly 200 years.
What follows explains how it came about and continues to this day.
the beginning of the period Moslems controlled the Holy Land. Pope
Sylvester II did not like that. He began developing plans to enable
Christians to replace the Moslems. When two European emperors attacked
Moslems in what is modern day Turkey he applauded that activity.
Later that activity began to develop into the Crusades. The Crusaders
plundered and killed all the way to the Holy Land. Once they reached
the Holy Land they killed tens of thousands of Moslems and completely
destroyed whole cities.
the Crusades morphed into the Inquisition. Both Moslems and Jews
were attacked mercilessly for many years. Napoleon finally stopped
the Inquisition in the year 1808. That did not end the conflicts.
the USG joined and replaced the Europeans in the battles. The people
who were driven out of Europe and managed to escape being killed
settled in northern Africa, along the stretch of land called the
Ivory Coast. Moslems had claimed that territory since the Middle
Ages. Since they considered the Gulf of Sidra, which bordered the
Ivory Coast, to be their waters they began collecting tolls from
ships that passed through those waters.
persuaded the USG and European governments to pay the tolls. In
1801 the USG found itself unable to continue to pay the tolls. At
that point US merchant ships were captured and the members of their
crews taken into custody. The Europeans took this opportunity to
rid themselves of the expense as well. They labeled the Moslems
“pirates” and managed to lure the USG into sending its navy and
Marines to attack the Moslems at Tripoli. (“….to the shores of Tripoli,”
says the Marine hymn.)
the Barbary Wars became an extension of the Crusades and the Inquisition,
with the USG replacing the Europeans as the enemies of the Moslems.
The USG had entered a war that was begun near the year 1000 by Europeans.
Yes, it was the same war. Westerners tend to view each skirmish
as a separate battle. People in the Mideast see them as episodes
within the same war. Further, they see it as a religious war.
people in the United States consider the Crusades to be past history.
Moslems have neither forgotten nor forgiven. The Crusades are as
real to them as something that happened last week is to people in
the West. In addition, they have reminders not just memories. Europeans
built fortresses in the Holy Land that still stand today.
should be noted that most Moslems are not by nature any more warlike
than are you or your neighbors. But some of them have been driven
to desperation during years and centuries past. The people of the
Mideast have also been attacked and oppressed by their own governments.
The region is populated by hundreds, possibly thousands, of tribes.
Over the years they fought for dominance over each other. The entities
that we see as countries on modern maps were not created by the
people who live there.
Europeans began inserting themselves into the Mideast they would
select what they perceived to be the strongest, meanest tribe in
the area and give it whatever military or financial aid that it
needed to subdue everyone else. In this manner the governments of
Libya, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and others were established
by various European governments.
and Saudi Arabia are particularly extreme examples. In each case
the tribe that gained power,
with European help, named the area after itself. For example, Saudi
Arabia was previously Arabia. A large portion of the people who
live there are not Saudis. They are Arabians. We insult them when
we refer to them as Saudis. Most of the people who live in those
countries hate their governments and that hate extends to western
governments, especially the USG, that supported, and still support,
the Mideastern governments.
governments became even more involved when oil was discovered in
the Mideast. They gave whatever support they deemed necessary to
maintain in power the tribes whom they aided to attain power. This
created extremes of wealth and poverty. A small portion of the population
lives in extreme luxury. Most people live in abject poverty. The
poor hate both the local rich and the western governments which
created the situation.
the USG has played a significant part in creating this problem most
of its citizens are unaware of it. They only know that “terrorists”
have been engaging in one small attack after another against us
for several decades and they are angry. They are unaware that the
attacks are really retaliation, rather than unprovoked.
and Soviet Activity Since World War II
the years after World War II Russia forced several Moslem groups
into the newly forming Soviet Union. Both the Soviets and the USG
pressured still other countries to join their respective camps.
The USG supported a number of cutthroat dictators because they claimed
to be against the Soviets. Soviet rulers played the same game.
“balance of power” began to break down after about thirty years.
In Iran the Shah was overthrown by rebels who said that they did
not want anything to do with either power block. Afghanistan split
off from the Soviets. Later several Islamic states broke off from
the Soviet Union and the
Soviets were afraid to stop the secession. When the Chechens tried
to break away from Russia (no longer the Soviet Union) Russia tried
to hold onto them but was unsuccessful.
that time the USG had remained steadfastly opposed to the Soviets
and then to Russia, after the breakup of the Soviet Empire. But
by the late 1990s the USG began to give substantial aid to try to
prop up Russia.
recent years the Islamic governments and some independent Moslem
groups have played the US and Russian governments against each other.
Most ordinary Moslems have at least until recently, tried to stay
on the sidelines but that has become increasingly difficult for
them to do.
leaders may temporarily align themselves with one of the two opposing
blocks to gain advantage only to later declare neutrality or to
switch sides. Egypt had earlier aligned with the Soviets but found
that it could obtain more financial aid from the USG and switched.
the frequent references to Moslems and Islamic governments. This
is a religious conflict, even if we do not generally recognize it
as such. Likewise, the USG denies that it has entered a guerilla
war. In a guerilla war it is impossible to determine who is the
Different Kind of War
often work at various jobs during the daytime and become independent
fighters at night. Guerillas fight by themselves or in small groups.
They have a real advantage because they are defending their own
territory. Now that they have high-tech weapons available that advantage
guerillas are captured or killed there is no way to stop the remainder
from continuing the resistance since there is no higher command
with whom to negotiate. Even if someone claims to be in charge the
independent fighters will continue to do as they see fit.
guerillas are fighting on their own turf, if you are fighting guerillas
you are the invader. The financial cost of killing a guerilla is
enormous. It takes dozens, even hundreds, of invading troops to
overcome each guerilla. The only way to win against guerillas is
to kill the entire population, innocents as well
as fighters. This was done from time to time before the development
of modern communications. In those days people away from the area
could not see what was taking place. The USG killed 220,000 innocent
civilians in the Philippines during the late 1800s. European colonizers
butchered hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of resisters.
The reason for the apparent calm in most colonies was that the resisters
had been killed.
and torture of civilians and prisoners have been common in virtually
every past war. Some current military personnel in Iraq apparently
did not understand that what had been commonplace in past wars would
now be exposed to the world so they continued to engage in it. It
may even be that they considered it acceptable and did not realize
that many people in the general population would be horrified by
wars cannot be won by conventional means, except by mass murder.
Since that is not generally acceptable to the populations of the
United States and Western Europe they are doomed to drag on indefinitely,
until the invaders finally leave.
did we reach the present state of affairs?
time Moslems tried to call the attention of the general population
to what the USG was doing we simply got angry. We considered their
small attacks to be individual incidents. They did not have our
military might so we just looked on each call to attention to be
a separate terrorist incident. They understood that they were fighting
battles in a continuing war. They were telling us to get out of
centuries there has hardly been a five-year period when there were
not European or, more recently, USG military forces on Moslem territory.
During the 1990s about two-dozen USG ships patrolled the Persian
has not been since the early Middle Ages that Moslems have invaded
Europe and they have never invaded the USA. How would we look upon
them if they patrolled some of our waters? How did we
feel when they leveled the Twin Towers in New York City and flew
into the Pentagon? Yet we had been bombing Iraq three times per
week for the past ten years and bombed, or otherwise attacked, Somalia,
the Balkans and elsewhere and feeling righteous about it.
mentioning the Balkans, we might observe that religious wars had
been taking place there for centuries before we involved ourselves.
Three major religions come together there, Roman Catholic, Eastern
Orthodox and Moslem. They have long been “at each others' throats.”
The USG involved us in a religious war when it went into that region.
to Understand the Mideast
is not waged by the same rules or in same way in the Mideast as
it is in the West. One example is that in the Mideast it is usual
to arrange for someone else to be blamed for an attack. If a bombing
or other action is taken against an enemy arrangements will often
be made for another party to be blamed for doing it. When the subject
of the attack retaliates against the wrong party it will create
still more enemies for the object of the attack.
Western governments often rely on interrogation of prisoners for
information. What they do not understand is that in the Mideast
it is common for those who are captured to give false information,
mixed within enough truth so that it is believed, as a means of
causing more attacks on innocents so as to create more enemies of
their enemy. On occasion they will even allow themselves to be captured
so as to be able to do this.
a large scale it might be arranged so that an act against the USG
was wrongly blamed on Russia. When the USG acted against Russia
serious confrontation could develop. Along these lines, the “9/11
Commission” reported that one Moslem group had planned to take over
a Russian nuclear site and to force the Russian scientists to shoot
a missile toward the USA to produce a war between those two of its
enemies. Fortunately, that plan was caught in time.
a small scale, it is possible that many suspects arrested and held
by the USG have been picked up because of intentionally misleading
information that has been planted. The purpose is to anger both
who are detained and their friends and relatives. In the long run
it tends to reflect on the competence of those in charge of the
arrests and incarcerations in the eyes of their own people. A government
loses support when it loses credibility just as it does when it
is made the butt of jokes.
most of the fight against invasions of their territory by the West
Moslems had to depend primarily on primitive weapons such as daggers
and other small, close encounter arms. The recent availability of
various high-tech items has changed the equation. Weapons of mass
destruction have been referred to widely in the news in recent times.
Those weapons are chemical, biological and radiological in nature,
what were referred to as CBR warfare when I was in the army many
years ago. There are other high-tech things as well. One of the
most difficult to deal with is plastic explosives. Plastic can be
molded into the shape of many innocent looking objects and smuggled
into various targeted areas.
September 11, 2001 we also saw how our own materials and equipment
can sometimes be turned against us. The panic that this has caused
in the USG has led to quite a few silly, almost childish reactions.
It also enables the allies of the perpetrators of that attack to
now plant rumors that cause major disruptions of our economy. By
planting rumors they can cause severe damage without having to engage
in another physical attack. However, when we become complacent we
can then expect another physical attack.
my opinion, another attack on airliners is unlikely. The power grid
and the financial system are the most likely targets. We've already
seen what can result from one section of the power grid going down.
I'm told that a barrage of computer viruses could take down the
entire system. If it is all taken
down it would be extremely difficult to get it up and operating
the 1970s, at the time the Canal was turned over to Panama, quite
a large part of the international banking that had been carried
on in New York City was transferred to Panama where security is
much less adequate today than it is in the USA. A few years later
much of the remainder of the banking activity was transferred across
the river to New Jersey. Dirty bombs hitting those two locations,
Panama and New Jersey, could take down the nation's banking system.
Approximately five percent of the money supply is in the form of
coins and paper bills. Imagine what would happen if the other 95
percent of the money supply were vaporized.
are not just a bunch of camel jockeys. Many of them have been trained
in universities of First World countries in a variety of technical
fields. Further, with the breakdown of the Soviet Empire they can
now often obtain high-tech weapons and materials.
warfare has taken on an entirely new dimension.
is frightening to think about just one of the repercussions of the
USG's meddling in nations around the world. Either the gigantic
cost or the growing hostility toward the USG worldwide alone is
bad enough. Considering them both together is almost overwhelming.
Since, as this article demonstrated, the war is unwinnable, one
wonders whether the purpose might be just the use of power.
is the truth about war.
Clites [send him mail] is
a retired economics professor who lives in Tennessee.