Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Islamophobia, and other ways to lose a war

Warda Jawad applied for a job as a psychologist attached to the New Zealand Defence Force, but was rejected after she was deemed a security risk. Jawad was born in Iraq, but left that country for New Zealand when she was three. She is a Muslim. 

The news that foreign-born Muslims are viewed with suspicion by the Security Intelligence Service, the agency charged with assessing would-be recruits to the military, has prompted a variety of responses. Labour Party spokesman Phil Goff and National Party pollster and blogger David Farrar have both called the rejection of Jawad stupid, but at right-wing blogs many commenters have insisted that Muslims should have no place in New Zealand's public service, let alone its defence forces. For these commenters, people like Warda Jawad can serve no conceivable purpose in the forces, and might even endanger the safety of the Kiwi troops stationed in Iraq. The Islamophobes at David Farrar's Kiwiblog condemned their host for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The negative reactions to Jawad show how little conservative New Zealanders have learned from the failure of the West's recent military adventures in the Middle East.

In 2001 and 2003 Western armies occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and guerrilla campaigns against their presence began. Armies of occupation faced with an insurgencies always need local collaborators and high-quality intelligence, but it’s often very difficult for them to get these things, because of the vacuum that tends to exist between occupier and the occupied. 
In his account of the Iraq war, which he witnessed as an embedded journalist, George Packer shows how the US initially tried to respond to the Iraqi insurgency with simple force. This approach was an extension of the ‘shock and awe’ strategy that had characterised the first phase of the war, and had seen the Americans aim missiles and mortars at anything resembling an enemy combatant or position. For more than a year after it occupied Iraq, the Bush government refused even to use 'insurgency' to describe the armed resistance it was facing. The word was associated with Vietnam.

As American casualties rose, though, local commanders became desperate, and began to improvise their own counter-insurgency campaigns. Packer shows the Americans flicking through old manuals of counter-insurgency produced by the British, and trying some of the same tactics - propaganda, fraternisation, cooption, intelligence gathering, anthropological surveys - that helped the British subdue the armed uprisings that strew the history of their empire. The more daring American commanders began to live amongst Iraqis, to learn Arabic, and to cultivate local tribal and sectarian networks. Sometimes they were able to take advantage of old divisions and disputes, as Iraqis hostile to the insurgency because of blood or theology passed on news about planned attacks or drew the locations of ammunition dumps and training bases on maps.
The British Empire lasted as long as it did largely because its administrators were so skilled at coopting local leaders and creating intelligence networks. As Tony Ballantyne shows in his book Webs of Empire, the British ran thousands of spies and won many local factions to their campaigns during their nineteenth century conquests of India and Aotearoa. In 1863, when he was planning his invasion of the Waikato Kingdom, Governor George Grey was opening letter after letter from chiefs opposed to the Waikato. Iwi hoping for booty or wanting to continue old wars volunteered to fight under the Union Jack. Grey and the governors of Britain's scores of other colonies knew that ruling meant dividing. 
Packer describes how an increasingly coherent anti-insurgent strategy gradually developed in Iraq during 2005 and 2006, as local American commanders swapped tips and interpreters and fragments of intelligence. But this strategy never got very far, partly because of the gap between the American top brass and local Iraqi culture. When local American commanders were able to make connections and win intelligence, they were often pulled up by their bosses, who distrusted any close collaboration with Iraqis and Muslims. American troops were increasingly withdrawn into enormous bases, from which they ventured occasionally in helicopters. Iraqis who had assisted the occupiers, like the hundreds of interpreters employed by the American army, were either abandoned or flown out of Iraq.  
The new Western military adventure in Iraq also relies upon huge bases and a soldiery insulated from the Iraqi population. As Phil Goff pointed out last week, when he criticised the rebuke to Warda Jawad, the New Zealand defence forces are flying blind in Iraq, because they have few members who can even speak the local language, let alone interpret the local culture. 
The anti-Muslim feeling that has grown up in the West, and which is perhaps particularly strong in parts of the security forces of Western countries, ultimately makes the defeat of insurgents in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan impossible, because it prevents the creation of alliances with local forces, and prevents the gathering of quality intelligence. The old British imperialists were more subtle and intelligent than today’s variety. They would have sent Warda Jawad to Iraq, and put her to work. As someone who thinks that the world would be better off if every last Western soldier, oilman, and economic adviser were to leave the Middle East, I’m pleased by the ineptitude of the neo-imperialists.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


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3:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm interested in this but I have difficulty reading text on a screen so I will photocopy it and then comment when I have read it.

Without having read it, the US, in my view, have replaced Communism with "terrorism". I also think they engineered 9/11 with aid of agents provocateuers. But in any case, the US Governments from 1945 have been guilty of continuous war crimes of greater severity and barbarism than that of the Nazis.

I think that they continue to aid and abet terrorism and their so-called wars on terrorism actually increase terrorism or disaffection so that we now see an increase in those moving to fanatical molemism or whatever. In fact, throughout the world, there is an increase in people seeking religious solutions as the political and politics are seen to fail. Humans heing flawed, and overall barbaric, hopeless, mired.

11:32 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, now I can read it, eyes cleared. It is good. Yes, the British were more subtle. The US, and indeed the Soviets, and others, will fail. The more they interfere in the Middle East and in other places, the more they will encourage terrorism. There may in fact be factions in the various secret services who are gambling on just that. In some cases because, like the military, they want to keep their jobs. Whereas, had they left Vietnam and Indonesia and all the South American nations alone, we might have been able to sought out some of the muddle and lives perhaps not wasted. As it is, if their aim was to stop or limit terrorism then they are failing as they create resentment and foster the thing they supposedly oppose.

But of course, this doesn't bother the right wing. Goff is astute to use the phrase: 'Flying blind.' They are Polyhemi.

[If that's the plural in Greek]

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