Here’s an extract from an essay I penned back in Spring 2015, published on Kindle. You can find the full Caliphate essay and words on Go-pro bike vigilantes, Simon Cowell’s circus of fear, London vs The Rest of the UK economy, Putin the Red Monarch and more, all in Notes From Margins.
THE FALL OF MIDDLE EASTERN DICTATORS LEFT A HUGE VACUUM
But these great `isms’ of preceding centuries, (communism, imperialism and fascism) which caused so much conflict and conveniently fuelled the great technological leaps that global capitalist empires needed to prosper, and expand, have run out of steam.
Although it seems obvious to anyone with half a functioning brain that constant economic growth, increasing consumerism and ever fatter people, gorging on convenience foods, is unsustainable, it remains the central plank of the free market capitalism that empowers modern democracies. In short, without ever cooler looking cars, bigger KFC buckets, more sugary snacks and fancier iPhones the general population doesn’t see any great benefit in modern democracy as a concept. The whole point of living in a `free’ democracy is that you get to own things (on credit) and your wages are high enough to buy leisure time, which is something that about half the world’s population simply do not have. The world’s poor work brutally long hours, struggle to find food and shelter and then they become horribly ill and die, much like our ancestors in Europe did before the late 19th century. This is how life was for many people in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt and Syria under the regimes of powerful dictators for much of the last 30-40 years.
Dictators like Mubarak of Eygpt, Gadaffi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, kept order with brutal efficiency. Political opposition was crushed without mercy, political opposition ringleaders were often tortured and their families executed. These great dictators also stirred up an abiding hatred of the West, to distract attention from their own greed and corruption, as they asset-stripped their own country’s wealth and hid it in Switzerland. All the strong men of the Middle East tolerated Islam, but rarely encouraged it, preferring to publicise themselves as a kind of Soviet personality cult instead.
Everything was sweet until Saddam Hussein went berserk and decided to annexe Kuwait, in a very similar way to say Britain grabbing the Falkland Islands in the 19th century, Hitler anschlussed Austria, or Putin’s Russia absorbed Crimea. Alarmed, the Saudi monarchy lifted the Batphone and called in the Marines, in case their oil wells were next on Saddam’s wish list. Suddenly, Western democracies were engaged in two major military operations, which eventually required the full-scale invasion of a heavily populated country, in order to nail one annoying, moustache-dyeing man.
The second Gulf War featured laser guided, video air strikes, special forces acting undercover, and a motley coalition of regular soldiers battling their way into towns and villages, shooting civilians almost at random. Gulf War 2, which might well be termed `The Hunt For Saddam’ in Hollywood parlance, was a watershed moment in geo-politics. For the very first time, people in the Middle East could see, in all its naked shame, the endgame of modern western democracies; regime change to suit the global oil and consumer industries.
Did a LARGE SCALE coalition force invade Congo, Zimbabwe, Uganda or Somalia to stop civil war, ethnic genocide or other horrors? No, of course not. Did the USA and its allies go in hard against China to give Tibet its longed-for independence, or clean up the drug baron economy of Colombia once and for all? Nope. No cheaper gas prices to be had there.
When Saddam Hussein was conveniently found alive, and then tried and hanged by his own Iraqi judges, the West was satisfied. Mission accomplished. But the world was already changing as a new generation of Middle Eastern muslims utterly rejected the core ideas of western democracies; consumerism, equality of men and women, technological progress for its own sake and the toleration of other religions. At exactly the same point in history as the old `strong men’ of the Middle East were being swept away, a new generation of radicalised young muslim men began to flex their muscles and rally round the black flag of ISIS. The idea of nationhood was being replaced by the concept of a global caliphate – a true global nation, a family of Islam.
It’s easy to think that these demagogues of jihad, Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law were automatically against the dictators of the past like Ben Ali in Tunisia, Assad in Syria, or higher profile ones such as Gaddaffi and Hussein. But the idea of an Islamic State – ISIL, or IS if you like – is of course nothing new. It is essentially a rebranding of the idea of an Islamic Caliphate, which once stretched from Afghanistan to Southern Spain. This idea never went away; it remained underground, discussed in mosques where the secret agents employed by dictators feared to tread too heavily. For organised religion brings great comfort to those who have very little in terms of material possessions, and so it was – and is – tolerated by Middle Eastern dictatorships today. Indeed you could argue it is a necessary prop for many regimes, because without faith, order via Imans, and strict rules such as no drinking, gambling or fornicating with loose men or women, such states would be more difficult to control.
So the explanation of why the time for a new Caliphate is right, is complicated by the lip service that western politicians pay to democracy itself. In supporting the idea of `freedom’ and tacitly supporting those activist groups willing to take on dictators like Gadaffi, Assad, Mubarak et al, the West undermined their own empires by encouraging a blossoming of almost medieval hatred. Many who opposed the great dictators found it briefly expedient to promote, or support the idea of an `Arab Spring,’ to chime the bell of freedom in Washington, London and Brussels, as armed gangs stormed into palaces, and exacted bloody revenge on local Police, military officials and associated regime hangers-on. For a brief moment it was all heady talk of democracy, women in Egypt having careers and babies and new political parties being formed, even `parliaments.’ But those who led the actual armed gangs doing the dirty work, the fighting in the streets and souks, weren’t interested in cosy EU style committee discussions on fishing quotas, or British parliamentary debates, conducted by overweight buffoons in badly fitting Marks and Spencer suits. Instead, these men wanted the wrath of God to empower them, for the very first time, to chase away every white face from their countries. To take back what was stolen from them centuries before, by the Christian proselytising soldiers of Imperialism. And who can blame them?