The toxic threat to Islam!

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Cartoon by Ziyad Nabil from Iraq

Synopsis: Many of the intellectual strata of the Muslim world have found that Islam as depicted by political Islamists is unworthy of trust and belief. There has been a gradual move away from all religions and move toward atheism.

Over the past few years the news media has focused on the threat of political Islam, or Islamism, as I prefer to call it. In many respects, it seeks to transform Islam from a religion to an ideology. Movements such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State (IS), and the Muslim Brotherhood, or even Shia Hezbollah, are the tips of the Islamist spear. The most toxic aspect of Islamism is not the threat to the Western world but to the religion of Islam itself.

 

These kind of movements have undermined Islam and the Islamic community in several ways and caused some irreversible damage to the image of Islam not only in the western world but also inside Muslim countries. Many of the intellectual strata of the Muslim world have found Islam as depicted by the extremists as unworthy of trust and belief. There has been a gradual move away from all religions and move toward atheism.

 

Those who speak Arabic are probably familiar with how many social media accounts that are now promoting atheism openly. Such trend seems to echo the frustration of the Muslim community especially in countries where political Islam failed to improve people’s standards of living such as Iraq’s Dawa or Egypt’s Muslim Brothers.

 

This has had another adverse effect in that while the upper intellectual classes move away from Islam, the great mass of the poor and destitute, the homeless refugees, move closer to a more extreme version of Islam. They have nothing else to cling to.

 

Furthermore, with the illusion of a caliphate, an unattainable fantasy based on a tribal confederation 1300 years ago, Islamists are undermining the unity and patriotism of the modern state system. Even the dream of a unified Arab world, envisioned by the dreamers in the 1960s, has proven to be another chimera.

 

The way states have been ruled in much of the Islamic world has been execrable, but there is no viable substitute for the state concept. The problem has not been the concept of the state, but rather the authoritarianism inherent in the Arab/Islamic culture. Despite all the academic and journalistic blather forecasting the end of the state system, and erasure of the “colonial borders” it has not happened. States have shown amazing viability.

 

By constantly emphasizing the fantasy of a unified Umma (Islamic community) they seek to undermine the state system and secular leadership advocating some sort of rule by powerful clerics.

 

Equally, the Islamists and their hatred toward other religions, as well as Muslims of other Muslim sects, such as the Shia, Ahmadiya, Alawi, Druze, etc. have created a disunited sectarian society. Even Sunnis who do not follow the archaic rules and regulations of the Salafi/Wahhabi doctrine are considered not true Muslims.

 

The sectarian violence has been greatly exacerbated by the intolerance and selective use of hadiths and passages of the Quran to justify violence against those who refuse to conform to their totalitarian concepts. A recent example of this sectarian tension is the case of a well loved Kuwaiti comedian Abdul Hussien Abdul Ridha who was in a London hospital with a serious medical problem. On social media among the many hoping for his recovery there is also vicious vituperation hoping he dies, for the simple reason he is a Shia Muslim. Such hatred was ignited by extreme Sunni clerics from Saudi Arabia and even some Kuwaitis.

 

The status of women in most of the Islamic world has declined in the last 50 years. The women I knew in the Arab world in the 60’s and seventies do not have the freedom they once enjoyed. One could say that the women’s dress does not fully indicate their status. But in fact it does, From pants and short skirts to Abayas did not come about because of some mass religious fervor. It came about due to political, cultural pressure, the pressure exerted by the men and the all-important cultural factor, which dictates that the woman carries the honor of the family.

 

 For instance, take the case of an Egyptian female swimmer Farida Osaman who won Egypt’s first ever medal in an international swimming competition. Social media users were busy criticizing her “non-Islamic” swimsuit ignoring her winning events. Not surprisingly much of the criticism came from female users as one columnist observed.

 This is not surprising for many women are brainwashed from infancy by fathers and brothers, and then husbands, to believe they have only a specified role in society, but more importantly as carrier of the family honor.  A minor indiscretion can blacken a family’s reputation and lead to a drastic decline in the fortune and well being of the family.

Meanwhile, Islamist propaganda seeks to convince the young impressionable people that living within a cloistered extreme fundamentalist society will not prohibit any activities or enjoyments of the secular world such as Islamist female “Dear Abby” types that dispense advice on love, relationships, and especially sex, to create the impression that embracing Islamist ideals does not entail much sacrifice and loss of freedom. In fact such approach has been used ISIS lure young Muslim women in western countries for the purpose of recruitment. It has also been used widely to attract youthful local audiences by Egypt’s Islamists as well.

Few days ago I came cross a video that so many Egyptians ridiculed that it went viral. It showed a woman wearing Niqab while giving instructions on how to dance Zumba, for physical fitness. The Islamists’ total emphasis on the outward displays of religious piety, some based on dubious Islamic literature or disputed hadiths, actually ridicules the essence of Islam as many are debating nowadays in the Arab social media. This absorption in what color underwear men should wear or what the length of their beards should be, and the detailed proscriptions on women’s wear, etc,. trivializes Islam, creating it as a topic for jokes and cartoons, not only in the western world but also inside the Islamic community.

 

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Cultural Insights into the Middle East: Are Muslims or Arabs Racist?

 

 

Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston, 1965 World Heavyweight Title

Most famous black Muslim Mohammad Ali Clay

The newsworthiness political aspects of the Middle East have receded to a point where the general public, even those who closely follow international events, rarely become interested in the seemingly endless intramural bloodletting. A wide yawn and a shrug of the shoulders greet each (daily) recitation of mindless violence and sectarian murder. That may be unfortunate because we still have vital interests in the region and cannot withdraw into fortress America, mainly because fortress America no longer exists.

It has been my primary interest in the Middle East to examine the culture, especially the military culture of the Arab world, but in this post I am describing the Middle Eastern attitude toward race. Let us put that in the context of the Middle East, Arab, and Islamic world.

Race (and racism) is one of  those words bandied about so often by  left wing academics and political ideologues who dominate the public discourse. Reading the Western  press which has largely declined to a third world standard,  and listening to  a puerile sensationalist media,  one would think that racism is exclusive to the Western world, especially the United States. Self-flagellation by an elitist class of privileged  academics and their students, has become the epitome of the zeitgeist and most importantly, a really cool and academically safe thing to do.

As a soldier I have spent a lot of time in foreign countries. It was always my observation that Asian and Middle Eastern countries were far more race conscious than the American society, and I can say that as a southerner who went through a segregated school system and did not go to school with Black Americans until I went to West Point in 1955..

Serving in Vietnam I  observed how the elite women carefully protect themselves from the sun darkening their skin.  They were rarely without the their umbrellas and  I saw the same custom in Korea. Woman with dark skin were considered peasants, people who worked in the fields. I recently read that face bikinis are all the rage in China to protect women from darkening the skin from the sun.

But in terms of hypocrisy, the Arab world and the Islamic world, has to be the top example. For some reason Islam is often considered  a “religion of people of color.”  In the United States,  organizations line “Black Lives Matter” align themselves with extremist Islamist groups.  Islam, like Christianity,  has absolutely nothing to do with the modern connotation of racism. As many Orientalists, such as Bernard Lewis, aver   the Qu’ran expresses no racial or color preference.

In fact, when asked about what does Islam say about racism, many Muslims would recite a saying (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad that states: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

Nevertheless my  nearly  nine years of living and working in the Arab world convinced me that they are far more color  conscious than Americans: Particularly among women for which fair skin is a big plus.

Let me present some examples here:

I use to subscribe to a periodical called the Muslim World. There is a section in the magazine  for those seeking matrimony. The ads are presented by the parents, usually the father.  In the ad there is inevitably a phrase that describes the young lady as well educated, a pious Muslima, and “light skinned.”  Most of these subscribers were Indian or Pakistani .

I traveled in Egypt with a black American officer and he commented on the prejudice against those considered black by the Egyptians. He met one very beautiful young lady working in a store and commented that she would no doubt have many suitors. She  lamented  that such was not the case, as her black origins had condemned her to a lower class marriage.

Egypt is one of the most racist of the Arab counties I have lived in. As one columnist in a small Egyptian newspaper wrote, an Obama could never be elected president in Egypt. In fact many Egyptians especially those who were supporters of Nasser (The president Jamal Abdul Nasser) joked about his dark-skinned successor Anwar Al Sadat, who was ridiculed for years as “Nasser’s black poodle.” Sadat’s mother was Sudanese, and therefore he did not look Egyptian enough for them.

Sadat replaced Nasser as a president after the latter’s death due to a sudden heart attack. He wasn’t elected. Many Americans and westerners saw Sadat as a great Egyptian leader particularly following the peace-treaty with Israel which he initiated. Yet, when I arrived to Egypt in 1981 I was surprised by the animosity of the people toward him. His death was not lamented by many.

In fact, Sadat’s second wife, Jihan, said in a TV program on Al Jazeera4few years ago that “even though he was dark skinned, more than the average Egyptian,”  she thought he was “the most handsome man”.

After a documentary about the Egyptian army in which I appeared in and was aired on al Jazeera few months ago, a number of Egyptian soldiers emailed to thank me for helping  highlighting the execrable  treatment of the Egyptian soldiers in their armed forces.

One in particular, a Nubian of the south of Egypt, described how Nubian soldiers that were considered “African”  were systematically  mistreated. That was not a surprise as this has been well known to anyone who has spent considerable time with the Egyptian military.

This  aspect of  Egyptian society is repeated throughout the Middle East.  Jordan, Lebanon, and particularly Iraqi society  all evidence a history of exclusion and prejudice toward  those of African origin.  A few months ago on the social media was a poignant  appeal by a black Iraqi girl who lamented that she could never be a popular singer despite her excellent voice, because of prejudice toward people like her.

This is not an exception in the Iraqi society, in which some of the  sectarian and virulent prejudice of the Sunni toward the  mostly Shi’a southern  population is perhaps partly based on their supposed  intermixture with the descendants of the famous but little known,  “Zinj (African slave) Revolt.”

 

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Wahshi ibn Harb was a ٍZinj slave best known in the Islamic history for killing prophet Muhammad’s uncle Hamza at the order of his owner Hind bint Utbah. It is said that Muhammad told Wahshi that he does not want to see him ever again even after the latter became a Muslim.  (Scene from The Messenger/ 1976)

According to the great orientalist Theodore Noldeke, the Zinj rebellion was “the bloodiest and destructive which the history of western Asia records.” From 870 to 883 the war in the marsh lands of  southern Iraq raged. Hundreds of thousands  of  slaves, mostly Africans, were employed as slaves (Zanj or Zinj in Arabic) working salt mines near Basra.  They were led by an Arab professing the Kharajite doctrine, which like the ISIS of today, including the killing of all prisoners especially other Muslims. A detailed history and analysis of the revolt is found in Alexandre Popovic’s book, The Revolt of the African Slaves in Iraq.

In Arab history the concept of black became embedded with the  institution of slavery which  existed  until the 1940’s in Saudi Arabia. Bernard Lewis, the reknown American Orientalist, chronicled this history in his book, Race and Slavery in the Middle East .   Glubb Pasha in his book  War in the Desert refers frequently to the lot of slaves among the bedouin tribes being better than that of  black “free” persons in the city. He was writing of his time in the Arab Gulf in the  late 1920’s.

As he wrote, ” The tribes of Arabia were literally sprinkled with Negros , imported during the centuries from Africa as slaves. The lot of the slave of a prosperous family was one of the happiest of the bedouin community.” He goes on to write, “The Negro obtained reflected honor from the fame of his “uncle” (master) ; their interest and glory coincided. His race debarred him from leadership on his own merit.” In fact, as he wrote, the word “abid” in Arabic meaning the color black was also used to denote a slave.His book presents an excellent description of the Arab attitude toward blacks, and blackness in general.

Bernard Lewis wrote about the  famous black humorist , by the name of Nusayb, solicited the  promise of safety from  the great  Ummayed Caliph Abd al Malik by  denigrating his race saying,

“My color is black, my hair wooly, my appearance repulsive. I did not attain that which you have vouchsafed me by the honor of my father, or my mother, or my tribe. I attained it only by my mind and tongue.”  As  Bernard Lewis expounds, the passage, “vividly illustrates the association already accepted at the time of blackness, ugliness, and inferior station.” It also points out a salient point in the story of race and class in the Middle East.  In the Arab world, an individual reputation is based more on the reputation of his family than his/her individual  merits.   The skin color is not the basis of the distinction, but more on the assumption that he or she is descended  from a slave family.

When one looks at the portraits or depictions of the Arab notables they are always depicted with fair skin, with a white halo about them. A  particularly warm  compliment   is to say that a man has a “white shiny face.” I remember the Palestinians said this about Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian  movement.  A “white face” was a connotation of honesty and fairness in dealings.

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The Prophet Muhammed as a young man. A painting by an Iranian Woman

The extremist Islamist view of their heaven inhabited by houris, to satisfy their every need,  exhibits an extreme view of  fair skin. These houris, virgins awaiting the shahids, (martyrs) killed in battle against the Kufr (unbelievers)  are described as having skin so fair that their veins show through the skin.

Racial prejudices are present everywhere in the world, as I have indicated earlier and have arisen very early in history , a construct  of man and not his religion. In Galatians , (3:28)  it reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In the Qu’ran Chapter XLIX verse 13 it reads, “O people. We have created you from a male and female and have made you into confederacies and tribes so that you may know one another. The noblest among you in the eyes of God is the pious, for God is omniscient and well-informed,”

The point here is not to condemn the Arab world for racial attitudes that exist everywhere, but to dispel the illusion  that the Islamic/Arab world is color blind. They are not and far from it.  The hypocrisy  of recent ideological  movements to equate analyses of Islam and its relation to terrorism as “racism” is an example of the ignorance of history by so many who believe themselves to be the intelligentsia.While  many in the West lie out  tanning in the sun, the women of the East seek to shield themselves from the same sun. In race discussions no society has the right to cast the first stone.

 

 

 

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Blowback from the AlJazeera Video?

A friend in a position to know these things recently wrote and informed me that the   video al Jazeera ( My TV Interview with Al Jazeera put together on the Egyptian army in which I participated is one of the reasons the Egypt along with most Gulf states have broken ties with Qatar. Of course it was a very minor one…like the straw that broke the camels back. The main reason of course is the Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Arab leaders mostly all recognize, unlike many Western politicians, that the Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist movement in sheep’s clothing., In the West it is al Qaeda in suits and ties.

Qatar is like Monte Carlo, a Middle East principality, with the difference that it has immense amounts of oil money, which it uses liberally to promote movements and organizations, which tickle the fancy of the Ruling family. The family has been in power since the early 19th century. Originally a Sheikhdom under the Al Thani family and a Wahhabi pirate state, it became a British protectorate following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. It has been lauded by the UN for its human rights development but a more descriptive fact about the State is that 80% of its inhabitants are not citizens, and with the exception of a few Western expats, few derive much from the oil and gas wealth. Most are little more than indentured servants.

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Queen mother of Qatar. When she speaks people listen and look !!

Al Jazeera that originally was seen by the Western media as some sort of Arab media breakthrough, a independent media source, and it has done some good journalism. I consider the piece on the Egyptian army (in reality on the Arab armies) to have been done very well with an obvious point of view.   But one has to understand like most Arab media, it is just part of the State-run media. The irony is that although Arab armies are part of the State repressive system they usually enjoy popular appeal by the public. I did receive a number of text messages from active or former Egyptian soldiers expressing their appreciation for airing the video.

ISLAMIC SCHOLAR AL-QARADAWI POSES IN LONDON.

Sheikh Qarawadi Firebrand Islamic televangelist preaching  Islamic Sunni supremacy  and spreading the Muslim Brotherhood message. Close to the present Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

There is no doubt that Qatar has funded terrorism and Sunni supremacy organizations for years, and its wealthy citizens continue to do so. Including Hamas in the Gaza strip, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and of course the Muslim Brotherhood centers all over the world.   It also tends to cozy up to Iran, which of course infuriates most Arabs, and especially Saudi Arabia. It also hosts a huge American airbase, part of the Arab proclivity to have two opposing ideologies/ interests reside in harmony among them. Something we have a problem with, being unable to come to grips with this nuanced mentality.

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Qatar:   proof that Size doesn’t count

On the video itself the military problems and issues depicted in the film are prevalent throughout the Arab world, In all their armies, Syria, Iraq, the North African states, and particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, despite the vast amounts of money these Gulf States have poured into the military they are unable to punch themselves out of a wet paper bag. But as I have written it l keeps our weapons assembly lines running.

I remember being in Qatar for about a week returning from Iraq during the 2004 holiday season, and the glass world of fancy malls with artificial Christmas trees. I found it to be a boring place, a world of illusionary reality, like a Matt Damon movie set. The large British community seemed to enjoy their lives there with plenty of beer, nice restaurants, and lot of hash house harriers, beer busts etc. Just not my cup of tea.

But the break with  the Arab states is more theatre  than real. So stand by for the next episode

 

 

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The Security Assistance Agreement with Saudi Arabia 

Foreign aid has never been popular among Americans and the military component of it even less. When that military aid is destined for Saudi Arabia, it elicits general disapproval from both endangered American of the political spectrum. The history of U.S. arms transfers to Saudi Arabia has nearly always been accompanied by vitriolic debate. Since 9/11 and knowledge of the hijackers’ origins, and the less than enthusiastic Saudi support for our efforts in Iraq, it is legitimate and reasonable to ask how this furthers our national interests.
As one who served in the U.S. Army security assistance arena (Arms transfers) for a number of years in the Middle East, my view is from the ground level. From my observations there are basically ten reasons why the 100 + billion dollar arms sale to Saudi and the Gulf States – and all similar sales are of vital importance.

  1. First and foremost it must be recognized that these arms transfers are not intended to build a first class fighting machine in Saudi Arabia. Those who have served in the Kingdom know how culturally resistant the Saudis are to the societal changes required to produce a military tradition of excellence. It is simplistic but understandable that the Administration would tout it as a conventional military build-up against an aggressive Iran. It is equally simplistic to say this is merely a “bribe” to get Saudi support for better support of the U.S. policies in Iraq. In actuality it is a strategic psychological weapon.  When we precipitously withdrew from Iraq under President Obama, and concluded a “nuclear agreement” with Iran it  basically gave an irredentist Iran a free pass to create havoc all over the Middle East. obviously the Gulf rulers  had doubts  about U.S. staying power in the Gulf region.  In particular It was  natural that the Saudis would be very nervous as to our overall intentions in the Persian Gulf region. This  arms agreement is a signal that we intend to be involved, and also a signal to Iran that days of appeasement to Iranian provocations is over. Our priority enemy in the Middle East is not ISIS, It is Iran as they press their ambitions for a new Persian empire.

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  1. We cannot afford to be seen a backing away from unspoken commitments to a country vital to our security. In a book entitled Thicker Than Oil. America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, the author, Rachel Bronson, makes the point that our partnership with Saudi Arabia is based on far more than oil. Our track record for steadfastness has steadily declined since Vietnam, and more recently in Lebanon, Somalia and now Iraq. A disengaging America will invite the same international challenges as it did in the Seventies when we were viewed as the toothless tiger, taunted by terrorists and despots all over the world. It has true that Saudi Arabia is an exporter of ideological terrorism, That cannot be soft pedaled away. The export of Wahhabism, the father of ideological Islamist terrorism, has been part of the Saudi  Foreign policy  for decades, supporting radical Imams and clerics all over the world.  Even when curtailed by the Saudi government,  many rich  Saudis have contributed immense amounts of money to counter what they view as Shi’a infidels usurping the Sunni Islamic doctrine, and establishing an Islamist base in the Western world.  We. as Americans have to understand that we have to become more nuanced in the world. As Americans we like to paint   in terms of black and white, evil and good. In essence there are two Saudi Arabias. There is the ideological Saudi Arabia, exporter of ideological  Islamism, which we must continue to reign in and closely monitor, and the state of Saudi Arabia which we must support as an ally, not a friend, but an ally.

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  1. As with every arms deal the equipment delivered is only one part of the process. The training and spare parts to use and maintain the equipment is a vital part of the arms delivery. Should the U.S. become unhappy with the foreign policies of the regime, the training and spare parts can be turned on and off,  to be used  as leverage. In other words, with every arms delivery to country X they become that much more dependent on us. It gives us a much greater amount of influence.
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Me shaking hands with King Hussein in 1971

4. With this arms flow of training and spare parts come U.S. advisors going to country         X  , as well as their officers coming here for training. This is one of the most cost-effective and unheralded parts of the entire security assistance program. This is a people-to-people program wherein some of the most talented and politically well-connected officers of country X attend classes here. In my many years working with international student officers both here and in country, it is very rare that an officer returns to his country with a jaundiced view of America. What they see is a real revelation, particularly to Arab officers, as they are constantly bombarded with vitriolic anti-American propaganda from their media and it is reinforced by the salacious Hollywood presentation of American life. In my own experience these close personal relations with the senior officers of country X pay huge dividends in times of crisis

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My great and good friend Captain Sayil Reshaday of the Jordanian Army, Graduate of our Armor School

.5. Arab culture is secretive by nature, and the regimes compound it with their hyper-sensitivity to anything remotely resembling gathering information. There is a clear divide between the job of the Defense Attaché in- country and those who work the security assistance programs. Nevertheless it is important that we know how our equipment (and other actions’ as well) is being used. The security assistance teams in country give us a measure of the transparency.. I recall quite vividly in 1971 when the Indian Attache stormed into my office in Amman, Jordan, handing me the tail numbers of shot-down F-104 Starfighters that we had delivered to Jordan and had been transferred to Pakistan by the Jordanian government.

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President of Egypt  General Al Sisi. Like Mubarak probably not too popular but he stands against the Islamist terror of the Muslim Brotherhood. Very important to US policy in the Middle East. He was a graduate of our US Army War College.

6.There is no doubt that in almost every Arab State the military is a double-edged sword. It protects the regime and at the same time it threatens it. The number of military coups (or attempted coups)  in the Arab countries are numerous. Iraq alone has had four successful and several unsuccessful.  One of the requirements of the regime  is to keep the officer corps happy. The perks of living and benefits is part of it, but another is to ensure that the generals receive the very best obtainable, in terms of armament. Some might sarcastically call them toys for the regime to show off. It is not far from the truth.  It is not a matter of whether they can use it. It is more a matter of the priority the regime can demonstrate they put on the military establishment. In effect, it is a tool to obtain stability.

Egyptian Air defense soldier with our HAWK missile system

Egyptian soldiers training with Hawk Missile system

training with Arabs

Top right; drinking tea with bedu and Trucial; Oman Scouts, Trucial Coast 1969. top left; Egyptian Ranger training 1982 Midle Left. Myself with Egyptian officers. bottom right; With Egyptian air defense during HAWK shoot. right middle;Jordian soldiers in Ghor valley Bottom left. Egyptian rangers on slide for life. A dog and pony show.

7.Domestically the arms industry is not just an important economic consideration; it is also a vital national security issue. When our services are not buying, our arms assembly lines would have to be shutdown were it not for foreign contracts. Few recognize what happens when an assembly line for a major item of equipment shuts down. Most, like the Abrams tank produced in Lima Ohio, have many dozens of subcontractors. Many are mom and pop shops to  produce  small but vital parts of the tank. When these close down the skilled workers move on and it takes months to revive a “cold” assembly line in a time of crisis.

8. The Saudis and Gulf states pay in hard cash, unlike many other allies such as Egypt which basically  buy using loans which essentially are never repaid..

9.In coalition warfare such as Desert Storm, and in the operations in Iraq today it is an immense advantage to have allies using U.S. equipment, understanding U.S. doctrine and our military culture. Nothing is more heartening to an American officer working with allies to realize that they understand our military lexicon and our way of war.

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Member of US trained “Golden Division”  The best unit in the Iraqi Army and a bulwark for the  Al Abadi Government against Iranian control of Shi’a militias.

10. If we do not sell to the Saudis, the British, French, Chinese and Russians, and a host of others are more than happy to fill the void. What have we gained by that?

11.  So president Trump  is absolutely right that the arms agreement with Saudi Arabia will keep and expand jobsm , but more importantly, it will bring a host of other benefits to  our military
update: Brookings Institute, a very liberal organization  has written that the 110 abillion “contracts” that Donald Trump supposedly  concluded with the Saudis during his recent visit were not really contracts at all, but were rather penciled signatures on papers, letters of intent ,and heartfelt promises. But nevertheless the truth (a loose term these days) is that the die has been cast, and  Saudi Arabia knows exactly where Donald Trump stands, and unlike the previous president, Barack Hussein Obama, who saw Iran as the new hope of the Middle East,  supposedly ridding them of their desire to produce nuclear weapons,   but giving them a free hand in the Middle East to do pretty much as they pleased. As for myself I’m quite pleased with the Saudi deal, as I said earlier, one cannot   not make of friends of them. They have been dumping suicide bombers and cutthroat killers in the hinterlands of Syria and Iraq for  years. The individual wealth of Saudis enabled them to support terrorist activities, with the government turning a blind eye to their  activities. Saudi wealth enabled  the Islamists to buy expensive gear and weapons., and buy more radio and social media access.

Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi

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https://vimeo.com/218484759

This one was done a week ago and was titled syria II. It is about my continued trip to Aleppo with my observations it was previously posted and then somehow I deleted it

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https://vimeo.com/218397440

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Syria Part II

I got twisted around my tongue on how Basil was killed. He was killed in an automobile accident in Jan 1994.  I just can’t remember much about Aleppo. It seemed lethargic and without much life, The famed Suq was rather disappointing and the Mosque…well once you have seen one, you have mostly seen them all. The same with Churches and Cathedrals. I’m just not much on archeology except as how it affects the cultural life. In Aleppo the people there seemed lifeless and spiritless as they did in most of Syria. I remember leaving Syria for Cyprus and how happy I was to leave it. As I sat in the airport waiting, across from me was a Syrian woman in abaya and wearing a hijab, Running around and all over her were three little boys. As I noted boys are often ill disciplined in the Arab world until they reach puberty. Don’t ever sit next to them on an airplane.  Their mother will just look at them with adoring eyes as they trample all over you. Anyway the lady seemed so stressed and unhappy as she gazed with vacant eyes out of the airport window,   a  mess of never washed glass, flyspecked and smeared with fly goo.  I thought to myself…so much for the oft quoted Arab Muslim argument that their women happily trade some freedom for security. What security?

( God.  I was so happy to get to Nicosia and life again)

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