By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
Berkeley–Two weeks ago your reporter relayed the interview of the Beirut-based British expat commentator, Robert Fisk, produced by the Middle Eastern Childrenâ€™s Alliance (MECA) here. This organization provides relief to children in Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq. Hatem Bazian of U.C. Berkeley and the new Islamic college, Zaytuna, here was the chief inquisitor. The Observer passively took notes.
The story your narrator brought to you a fortnight ago was only half the commentary. The rest your chronicler shall convey today. The first half of the interview dealt mainly with the Arab-Israeli struggle. The second half will deal with our subjectâ€™s musings over the rest of the Middle East.
Fisk thought that â€œAmericans have a pretty good concept of the Middle East, but their [our] government doesnâ€™t.â€ After the First World War the British and French chopped up what might be called Greater Arabia, a section of the former Ottoman Imperial State. If the Americans had a stronger policy ninety years ago, the Arabs might be united today!
Fisk claims that many â€“ if not most â€“ reporters are honest and as accurate as they can be, but â€œAll journalists want to be Marines, and all Marines want to be journalists.â€ When a correspondent is â€œembeddedâ€ within the Army to portray the War, they become part of that â€œEmpireâ€ who commissions them.
The United States believes Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of the Middle East for strategic reasons to Washington. To London and New Delhi (who have benefitted greatly from the recent situation in Kabul by â€œsurroundingâ€ their old enemy, Islamabad) is a section of South Asia. Almost all of the area has historical roots in the Hindu Kush, for all but one wave of peoples (the British) had to move through the Khyber to the (now) Indo-Pakistani plains below, and in so doing had gained much of their cultural heritage from the Mountains â€“ including Islam. The Russians have felt that Afghanistan was part of Central Asia, and, after the 1989 demise of the Soviet Empire, Pakistan and Afghanistan are becoming much closer to the regionâ€™s former Tsarist Colonial holdings left over from the Nineteenth Century because of their commonalities in religion (Islam) and civilization.
Fisk declared, â€œI donâ€™t presume that there will be a Battle for Kandaharâ€ as (U.S.) General David Petraeus predicts. Whatever, Dr. Fisk is of the opinion that the (American) military should not have a say in the formation of foreign policy (there or anywhere else). Although the Chinese challenge for influence in the Middle East (as in Africa â€“ again to capture the majority of known reserves of liquid fossil fuel) â€“ is a very dangerous development for the geographical expanse and, also, for the West. Of course, Israel under the present political regime(s) is the severe acerbating wound within the zone of Islamâ€™s birth.
Yet, Mr. Robert Fiskâ€™s conclusive question â€“ curiously reversing the role inquisitor — was what will happen if we leave, though?