Every Man in this village is a Liar

In my last blog I referred to this outstanding book by Megan Stack, a young American journalist working for The LA Times, who was sent to Afghanistan to file reports – and later to all the other Middle East war zones. The subtitle is “ An education in the emotional toll of War”.

At the beginning she says it was a rush. She was excited by the danger, and thrilled at living in important times. “It was an adventure, an exhilaration”. But the horrors she saw every day, and the arrogance of her own government using the taxes she paid to cause those horrors, ground her down – and made her ashamed to be American. She concludes “You can survive a war, and not survive a war”.

You can come home physically safe and sound – but you always carry with you what you have done, or what you failed to do. “There is no redemption”, and I would add to that “There are always consequences”. Only the young and foolish – and the terminally naïve – think that there are no consequences.

Here, there is an echo of Graham Green’s THE QUIET AMERICAN – probably the most prescient book on the consequences of America’s naïve and adolescent foreign policy blunderings.

I was at one with Megan until I read her chapter on Saudi Arabia, where I lived and worked for 12 years. Her article is off-target. Not by a lot – but definitely off. She just did not get it – or maybe not have all the information. So what if all her articles are a little off-target? And who would be surprised?

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” my protaganist is a freelance foreign correspondent, resident in Bahrain, and a specialist in Gulf politics. He reacts violently to celebrity journalists parachuted in, collecting stories from stringers eager to please and earn money (remember “every man in this village is a liar”).

The journalists are under pressure to file dramatic stories , meet deadlines – or feed their nightly TV news slot. And, even if they manage to grasp elusive truths, they are at the mercy of editors who can cut and change the slant of their stories to fit the page, or the TV slot, and perhaps most importantly, the media owners’ agendas.

Specifically in Saudi Arabia Megan covered the sudden sharp shock when Saudi Arabia, relatively calm and peaceful, suffered an outbreak of internal terrorism with attacks in Jeddah, Riyadh and in particular on the OASIS compound in Al-Khobar. But, contrary to the slant of Megan’s essay, this attack was not targeted at Americans.

Immediately after the OASIS attack, an American woman living in the compound circulated an email saying she was safe. She had foolishly gone outside her villa when she heard the shooting and had been wounded by a ricochet. The shooters asked if she was American. When she said yes they told her to go inside and lock her door – and she was left alone. The majority of the 22 people killed were non-Muslim Third World Nationals – Indian, Sri Lanakan and Filipino.

The attacks were designed to discredit and embarrass the Monarchy. The Monarchy’s response was typically brutal and efficient. They identified the 25 ringleaders of terrorism in The Kingdom, and within 12 months hunted down and killed the top 15. The other 10 fled to Yemen. But the Monarchy’s response was also humane.

The Saudi Army called all expatriate consultants to meetings and pleaded with us to move to identified private compounds that they could protect. I moved to a walled compound for Western males only. The outer perimeter was guarded by Saudi Army. The inner perimeter by Saudi Police – and the Compound had its own Security inside the walls. No more terrorist incidents.

Megan understood why the wretched and dispossessed in Afghanistan, or Egypt and elswehere, could breed terrorism – but could not understand why affluent Saudis could support it.

I mentored 12 young Saudi engineering graduates. All had spent 4 years at American colleges. Apparently Westernized, they came to the office in Western clothes; but in the evenings and weekends they changed back into a long white thobe with a chequered ghutra on their heads. And when we were traveling, at prayer times they a either found a local mosque – or we stopped at the roadside while they found a clean place, performed ritual ablutions with bottled water – and prayed. They are believers, without Western sceptism or irony.

They believe that the Holy Q’ran is the true word of Allah (God) passed down to Mohammed the Prophet (PBUH), – and it is the Third and Final Testament for The People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims alike). Some would come with me to the fleshpots of Bahrain – but did not drink alcohol. And they always liked to end the night at a shiska house, smoking a hubbly-bubbly and drinking mint tea. Surprisingly they prefer their quiet way of life.

They do not believe in cold-hearted blind justice, and dog-eat-dog free market capitalism. Their first loyalty is to Islam, then to their family, then to their clan, then to their tribe. They are not like us. Whenever they are allowed elections they vote for a deeply conservative society based on Islam, guided by Imams.

All men (and women) in this (global) village (invented by the West) are liars. Whether deliberate liars like Blair, and Bush and the Neo-Cons with their lust for war, or like journalists and their editors filtering what dubious “facts” they have to hand through their own Western pre-conceptions. They understand the problems facing the Third World – they do not understand the people.

If you want authentic insights into the Middle East then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.

You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book order the paperback direct from my publisher

www.feedaread.com

Think small . . . think Medieval

In Australia the debate about so-called asylum seekers continues to polarize public opinion, with the young (and foolish) saying all should be welcome, causing a flood of immigrants ill-prepared for life in a sophisticated economy, and all the consequences of having a large minority of alienated people who feel discriminated and dispossessed.

And whenever the problem is pictorialized we see a good looking young couple with pretty children, ignoring the fact that 70% or more of the so-called asylum seekers are males between the ages of 18 and 40. Very few of them are eligible for legitimate refugee status which assures them entry to Australia.

What is even more relevant is that more than 90% of asylum seekers worldwide stay within their region living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Wouldn’t we be better off spending our money helping them to build a better life, and returning the 90% of international asylum seekers flooding Europe (and Australia) who are not bona fide refugees to help them build that better life? How can that be achieved?

Read Rory Stewart’s book, OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS. He was an interim Govenor of a Province in Southern Iraq after the Second Gulf War. His book contains many insights into the situation on the ground outside of the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the delusional interim government hid away in their luxury villas with MacDonalds,and Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts, for comfort.

After some time living in a very dangerous and chaotic environment Rory managed to persuade the State Department Yahoos in the Green Zone to send a gunship to his main town. He declared a curfew, and the gunship, fully armed and equipped with night vision circled the town all night, shooting anybody who broke the curfew. Within 2 days “normal life” returned to the town. Street markets sprang up selling fruit and vegetables from the surrounding countryside – and shopkeepers lifted their shutters and began trading again.

In medieval times people lived inside the walls of fortified towns, and at dusk they withdreww from the fields, or from the sea if they lived on the coast, and stayed safe within the walls. Surely in these Hi-Tec times we could build a series of safe and secure walled towns in the refugees’ home regions, patrolled at night by armed drones controlled by computer from a command centre within the town?

It is those lacking in emotional intelligence who see the world as a Hollywood uniformity of young and beautiful people, living in the artificial environment of huge cities, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, locked into their mobile phones/tablets twittering away their days. Just as 90% of all refugees stay in their region, 90% of the human race wants to live a life that is grounded in their culture and history.

Western Governments understand the problems facing the Third World – they do not understand the people. Just as the Movers & Shakers in The Green Zone did not understand Iraq. Read Rory Stewart, and if you want some more insights into the Middle East then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.

It is written from the perspective of Western expatriates who washed up there from the 1970s when the price of crude oil jumped from $5 to $25 per barrel and gave the Gulf Emirs wealth (almost) beyond the dreams of avarice, until the events 9/11, which were a direct consequence of that wealth,

You can preview THE GULF at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition with free delivery worldwide from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

Using the ISBN number is 978-1908147097

or direct from my publisher

www.feedaread.com