Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Post#146 Dead Meat on a Merry-Go-Round (U.S. Foreign policy and a small moral.)

In one of my favourite episodes of Red Dwarf, the crew encounter a Justice Field. It keeps order aboard a prison ship by reversing the effect of any hostile act and applying it to the aggressor. In one scene Lister is being attacked by a bad guy and uses this to his advantage, allowing the attacker to beat himself to bits by assailing Lister. When he's on his last legs and trying to strangle Lister, Lister considerately helps him to fit his hands around Lister's neck. As the bewildered baddy is choking, the Cat, who hasn't caught on, appears behind him with a shovel and, ignoring Lister's frantic gesticulations, gives the bad guy the good news with it. Cat's eyes roll back and he falls backwards, unconscious.

It's an analogy that occurred to me in connection with United States foreign policy:

In the beginning the U.S. supported Batista in Cuba. Then they supported Fidel Castro because he purported to be U.S. - friendly. They supported the Shah in Iran because he was a bulwark against communism. When the revolution came they found a regime in place which hated them and responded to their sequestration of Iranian assets by taking embassy staff hostage. This humiliated them and caused them to support Saddam Hussein's war against Iran. Coincidental with their agitation against the Iranian Islamic regime they provided support to the Islamic mujahideen in Afghanistan...because they were resisting Soviet occupation.

Meanwhile, back in the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. blind-eyed the supply of materials and equipment to Saddam to further his chemical and biological weapons research. (This led to the cartoon, years later, showing an American spokesperson waving papers in the air and shouting: "We know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction - we have the receipts!!") At this point, things become complicted. In Nicaragua the U.S. had supported the dictator Somoza...because he was anti-communist. He was overthrown by the Sandinista rebellion which was belatedly revealed as communist, in the same style as Fidel. The U.S. Congress wouldn't fund the Contras, the anti-communist Nicaraguan rebels. At this point, a gentleman named Oliver North had a brainstorm. He was trying to obtain the release of American hostages in Lebanon (more hostages - the others in Iran had been released years before) and decided to sell the Iranian regime weapons for use against Saddam. The profits were then used to fund the Contras. This was published to the world in the form of the Iran-Contra Scandal and made North a new career as a television personality. This all took place during the late 1970's and mid-1980's during the tenure of Presidents Carter and Reagan. By 1990, George Bush (Senior) had decided that a small victorious war against the Panamanian despot, Manuel Noriega, would buff his image so the generalissimo (formerly a U.S. protege) was deposed and incarcerated in the U.S. Noriega was accused, among other things, of drug trafficking...a charge also levelled against the CIA and North.

In 1989, the Soviets threw in the towel in Afghanistan and the U.S. lost interest in the place. Then came the civil war between the warlords/former mujahideen. This ended in 1996 with the emergence of an even more fundamentalist Islamic faction which had been nurtured in Pakistan; the Taliban (Scholars). Once victoious, they began a campaign of social reform which provoked the Iranian government to accuse them of giving Islam a bad name! They harboured the terrorists of Al Qaeda who attacked the United States in 2001 and provoked the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies. Now, back in Mesopotamia, Saddam had run out of kudos with the U.S. in August 1990. he had attacked Kuwait and occupied it. Saddam had been too enthusiastic with the weapons of mass destruction and had been making menacing noises at Israel. As this coincided with the petering-out of his war with Iran and the end of his usefulness as a goad against the ayatollahs, the balance tipped against him. He was called a "Hitler-figure" and beaten back behind his palisade. Then began a twelve-year siege which ended with his ouster in 2003 and eventual hanging. Now, way back in 1988, the Iranians (I believe) had bombed a Pan American Airlines aircraft, probably in retaliation for the destruction of an Iranian civilian airliner by a U.S. warship. The original published suspicion was that Syrian agents, acting on behalf of the Iranian regime, had recruited a PLO bomb engineer to make the bomb used in this attack. As the U.S. needed the cooperation of Syria during the 1990/91 Iraq war they developed a scenario to place the blame on Libya for the Pan Am bombing. They never thought that Gaddaffi would call their bluff by allowing his agents to be put on trial...but he wrongfooted them and did just that. One was acquitted, the other's conviction continues to be disputed...

ENOUGH ALREADY!!! Hell, I can't remember half this stuff, let alone make sense of it.

So where is the moral, if any? The enemy of my enemy is probably my enemy? Here's my formula for avoiding rude surprises in foreign dealings:

Do as you would be done by...and trust no one.

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