ODVV interview: It is largely hypocritical to...
Prof Nahla Abdo believes the approach taken by the U.S. administration to the Middle East as a "troubled region" is predicated on interventionist attitudes, which largely characterize the U.S. foreign policy.
"Any attempts by any Middle Eastern country to defy the U.S. and Israeli interests in the region is punished by military invasion, devastation, destruction and massacres," Nahla Abdo said.
Nahla Abdo is a Professor of Sociology at Carleton University, Canada. She has published several books on women, racism, nationalism and the Middle East affairs, with a special focus on Palestinian women. She had worked as a consultant on gender and women's rights for the United Nations and the European Union.
In an interview with the Organisation for Defending Victims of Violence, Prof Abdo shared her views about the recent partnership between the United States, Britain and France to attack Syria and the U.S. government's approach to human rights and relations with the Muslim world. The following is the text of the interview.
Q: In his April 13 speech at the White House announcing partnership with France and Britain to attack Syria, President Donald Trump called Middle East a very troubled region. Do you think the extensive military presence of the United States in the Middle East has helped with establishing peace and order in the region while the people of Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and a few other countries still complain about terrorism and instability?
A: For Trump and almost all previous U.S. presidents and state officials, a “troubled region” or country refers to the country which fails to follow American – read imperialist – dictates and fails to safeguard the U.S. interests. U.S. imperialist interventions worldwide have long characterized its policies. The U.S. constructed “Middle East trouble” represents the former’s ways or means in which it handles this strategic and “oil rich” region and ensures the constant flow of oil and capital. Any attempts by any Middle Eastern country to defy the U.S. and Israeli interests in the region is punished by military invasion, devastation, destruction and massacres. The examples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria and Yemen are just an example. The trouble, the terror, the chaos and so-called conflicts are themselves the product of U.S. intervention. It is no news to suggest that most, if not all, terrorist organizations in the Middle East have been armed, supported and created by the U.S. itself and its oil sheikhdoms, like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. It is no surprise, therefore, that in return for the U.S. protection of these countries through U.S. military bases there, they pay for the very weapons, planes, missiles and other destruction forces the U.S. uses in its wars, directly or by-proxy against Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
The recent U.S. imperialist, including Britain and France, attack of Syria was not the first one. For the last three years, especially after the Syrian legal request of Russia and Iran to help in the former fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and the other terrorist organizations, many of whom were unleashed from all over the world and the continuous successes of the Syrian state and army to quell most of these terrorists, the U.S. involvement changed from one by-proxy into a direct one. Both, the U.S. and Israel, and at every turning point in the Syrian fight against terrorism, would strike Syria by planes and missiles to quell its achievements and prevent it from liberating the country. A few examples include September 2017 U.S. attack of the Syrian army in Deir el-Zore; U.S. establishment of military bases in the Eastern part of Syria; the recent U.S.-led attack on Damascus and repeated Israeli airstrikes after almost every Syrian success in defeating the terrorists. Israel’s May 9th massive missiles attack on Syrian army posts, under the pretext they were “Iranian” bases, followed with the Syrian retaliation and continued Israeli missiles attack are just the most recent, and probably not the last such imperialist intervention.
Q: Do you think the United States has the moral authority to talk about or issue prescriptions for the situation of human rights in the Middle East while some of its policies and actions are highly questionable, including massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia and ignoring the rights of women, children and immigrants in this country?
A: It is largely hypocritical to even speak of U.S. concern for human rights, whether nationally, within the U.S., or internationally, especially when it comes to Arabs or Muslims in general. Similar to Israel, the record of U.S. human rights of many American citizens is marred with violations, breaches and disrespect. We only need to remember the U.S. extermination of indigenous peoples, the enslavement of African Americans, the exploitation and marginalization of Latin American citizens, and since the 1980s its systematic attack on Muslim and Arab citizens. Ample literature on these stark violations of American citizens’ human rights is available to all those in need of evidence. As for the claim that the U.S. is concerned for “human rights” and “democracy” in the Middle East, I find this to be a big myth if not lie. It is constructed with the intention to camouflage U.S. imperialist designs, and has also become clear to many. If anything, as Mahmoud Mamdani and many others pointed out, the U.S. is interested in dictatorships and not in democracy and human rights. In other words, the U.S. does not only lack any moral authority to speak of human rights anywhere; it, in fact is concerned with one “morality” only, namely, serving its own imperialist, capitalist and expansionist interests.
Q: How much do you think the people of the Middle East are being involved in decision-making about their future and are given self-determination to make their choices? Some of the regional states have adopted very tyrannical policies in their domestic issues and don't consider themselves accountable before the international community. The Western governments who come up with solutions for these problems also rarely take the interests of these people concerned into consideration. Does the people of the Middle East have any voice and do their votes count?
A: The freedom of choice available for most Arab and Muslim peoples is clearly heavily curtailed by the existing regimes. But this statement cannot stand on its own, it needs qualifications. The more the country is dependent on the West, especially, the U.S. today, for its security and survival, the more tyrannical and not-responsive to its citizens it becomes. This qualification enables us to understand the strength of anti-U.S. sentiments, resentments and protests of Arabs and Muslims against U.S. intervention in the region. This resentment is clearly expressed by many Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Yemeni and definitely Palestinian peoples who see U.S. imperialism and Israeli colonialism as largely responsible for their predicament.
I would take the term “international community” with a grain of salt and ask, what has this international community, and what has the UN and its various human rights organizations done for the Iraqis when they were invaded based on U.S. lies? What has the international community done when Libya was destroyed by the U.S. and its Western allies, without even referring to the UN for an international consent? What has the international community done to the Palestinians, or to the tens, if not hundreds, of decisions made on their behalf and ignored by Israel? Israel has turned its back on every UN decision in favor of the Palestinian rights to self-determination and liberation from occupation. Almost every UN report by its Special Rapporteurs to investigate Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights have been rejected, the rapporteurs called anti-Semitic, liars and some even banned from entering the West Bank. This is true whether the rapporteur was Jewish, such as the case of Richard Stone or not such as Richard Falk who was detained at the Israeli airport for 15 hours, banned from entering Israel and Palestine and then expelled, or this year with Canadian Rapporteur Michael Link.
With this being said, the real interest of the U.S. and the Western governments in the Middle East is largely concerned with one issue: the security of the settler colonial state of Israel. This year Palestinians commemorate seventy years of the Nakba, genocide of their people by the state of Israel. Seven decades of continued settler colonialism, of occupation, expropriation of Palestinian land, killings and massacres, and, what has the “international community” done so far?
Instead, Israeli and U.S. belligerence continue unabated. The U.S. declares the Palestinian capital for hundreds of years, Jerusalem, as the capital of the self-declared “Jewish state”, with little to no response from the international community or even the Arab or Muslim countries, especially the so-called savior of Islam, Saudi Arabia, doing. Finally, Trump topped his decision on Jerusalem with his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal signed between Iran, the U.S. itself, European members of the Security Council, under the auspices of the UN Security Council. It is an oxymoron to speak of morality, being it political, economic, social or cultural when it comes to Israel or the U.S., as long as settler colonialism and imperialism continue to characterize these policies.
Q: In major military and immigration decision-makings by the superpowers, human rights are among the first things that are compromised. For example, President Trump's Muslim ban shattered thousands of lives and made thousands of people helpless at the airports across the world and in the States. In the wars and military expeditions, also, it's impossible to measure the human cost and the civilian lives that are lost. What's your take on that? Are the world powers living up to their obligations before the people, families and women or are they using "human rights" as nice words only to advertise certain values and ideals?
A: Capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, which characterized and continue to characterize western superpowers, especially the U.S., have never been nor are they interested in human rights, in peoples’ choices, or in true democracy, internally or externally. These regimes are interested in maintaining, reproducing and expanding their hegemony, even if at the cost of human rights, indigenous peoples, immigrants, refugees and the poor. Trump’s Muslim ban is but another racist political decision and practice intended at controlling the capitalist gains already made by this imperialist power. The term democracy used in the West must not be taken for granted or unchallenged. Many segments of the population, say of the U.S. and other European countries, including immigrants, women, political and other refugees do not enjoy equal citizenship rights or human rights in their host countries. It is preposterous to see how the U.S. has been defending and protecting countries like Saudi Arabia, for example. This despite the fact that the latter does not only have the world’s poorest record on democracy and human rights. The people in this Kingdom are not even citizens, they are still treated as the “subjects” of the kingdom and its Saudi ruling family. The U.S. knows well that Saudi Arabia is the primary source of terrorism, extremism and Wahhabi ideology that has been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond. But as long as the U.S. can still milk Saudi Arabia and drain it of its petro-dollars, the latter is allowed to reign over the whole population and export terrorists all over the world, including to the U.S., an example is the 9/11 terrorism. Hypocrisy, double-talk, double standards, mythical constructions of excuses and lies, rather than human rights, women rights, democracy and morals, seem to be what characterize this “new world order”.
By: Kourosh Ziabari