Friday, January 25, 2008

Understanding A Complex Reality on Iraq, Muslims, and the West

Dear readers,

Personally, my views would depend on what Bush and American peoples view on things and act in particular time and place. The issues you mentioned are complex, not simple, and thus should be explained from various perspectives. I like to see things from different sides, rather than only one side. I can see why and how the lobbists and Bush administration have had an economic, political, and religious interest in the Middle East. What I see is that Bush and his advisers' decision to invade Iraq was conditioned by various factors: first by their ignorance of the historical and contemporary realities of Iraqis and the Middle East; second, by their political-economic interest in the region. I don't see that Bush intentionally attempted to mislead Americans about Iraq, but his simple naivite and ignorance about facts became the major factors of the invasion and war and subsequent problems arising from such invasion. It is true that Iraqis had been divisive even before American invasion, but it is also true that American presence has proved to make things worse rather than better than the previous times. It is true that Saddam was an authoritarian leader, killing those who according to him were dangerous for his dominance and security, but it is also true that American troops have killed even more civilians and environment in Iraq, not simply combatants. The Iraqi combatans and the so-called terrorists in Iraq would not exist without the presence of American soldiers. In their diverse views, their struggle were not "terrorism"; theirs was anti-colonial. Bush' war on terror has failed in the large part, because it has created more problems than solved them. Bush's leadership was and is not a succesful in Iraq and the Muslim World at large, because of his strong yet indifferent decision to wage the war when other countries disagreed. Now that the war has started and Saddam has gone, and the Iraqis had been even more divisive and violent, the way out becomes difficult. People find it a dillemma: whether to leave Iraq in this current situation, to stay for a while until the Iraqis are relatively stable, or to stay forever without limit of time. This current dilemma is caused by the very nature of war: no one can predict its consequences. The war in Iraq has been a waste of lives, money, energy, and everything. This is when violent way of solving differences becomes the mindset of military leaders. There should be a non-violent way of solving problems: diplomacy, dialogue, etc. The media like CNN, Fox, al-Jazirah, all try to pursue their interests within "political correctness". We don't have the news about fatalities of Iraqi civilians and destruction of buildings of mosques, temples, churches, synagoues in Iraq at CCN, Fox, etc. Nationalistic chauvinism influences media in one way or another. It is difficult to find a balanced picture of the war and conflict in Iraq. Most Indonesians disapprove the Bush' way in handling Iraq from the start until now, but they know that not all Americans are like Bush and his allies. The so-called anti-Americanism is only strong among some Indonesian fundamentalists, but not the majority of Indonesians; as they love freedom, science and technology, democracy that have developed in the U.S. There are many cooperations and dialogues among Indonesians and Americans, bridging the widening perception gaps.

I often talk American culture and politics in the Middle East. I have been seen sometimes as the Voice of America, but sometimes as the voice of moderation, depending on whom I talk to. The fundamentalists see me and my writings as pro-Western, liberal, etc, because I see and appreciate American ways of life such as democracy, human rights, and especially education and technology. When I talk about Arab-Israeli conflict, many wanted me to defend Palestinian cause, and blame Israel, but I have tried to see the issue as complex and not black and white. Most in Indonesia see the Middle East issue as a religious issue, but I have tried to convince them that it is not simply religious, but political, economic, cultural, etc. Of course not many people are interested to see things as complex; most people tend to think in simple ways, not so much different from what happens when many people in the U.S. see one-sidedly about Islam and Muslims. In Indonesia, leaders such as Gus Dur are still heard among modern, liberal Muslim and non-Muslims in Indonesia, but many people don't listen to him. Within NU, there is diversity too. With regard to Israel, informal relationship between Indonesians and Israelis has been going on, although there is not yet a formal recognition of the state until the birth of the state of Palestine. Indonesian government see the issue as the occupier-occupied issue, although religious sentiment is still strong. I personally believe that coexistence is the realistic solution, despite disagreement within each party. No solution in the Middle East please everyone, but the best solution in my view is a peaceful non-violent solution.

January 24, 2008


Anonymous said...

Mr. Ali,

I was aware of things and how they stood in the middle east, at least I thought so. My brother introduced me to a book called "Exile" by Richard North Patterson, It is not an easy read, as he is trying to show just what you have tried to explain, but in more detal. I recommend it to anyone whom needs an eye opener to the complex strife that is happening.

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