Daily News 28 June 2011 – http://www.dailynews.lk/2011/06/28/fea15.asp

Palestinian militants from Hamas

I used to wonder about how the United States could possibly support Israel so excessively , to the extent of blocking UN resolutions which even the Europeans supported. Surely they must understand that what seems such blatantly unjust partisanship will continue to upset the Muslim world, and contribute to increasing radicalization of all those with political or moral understanding. And while many people, even though they feel a burning sense of injustice, will think that nothing can be done, and keep quiet, those with devout religious fervor will feel obliged to act. What they do might be appalling, but they will excuse themselves on the grounds that they are not acting but reacting.

A bright if somewhat cynical British friend provided one explanation when he said that American politics is dominated now by what he termed Premillenial Dispensationalists. These believe that the end of the world foretold in the Book of Revelations requires that Israel expand massively, after which we shall be visited by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The world as we know it having been destroyed, God will then resurrect the Chosen, though according to my friend this will not include any of the Jews, since they have not accepted Christ.

Right-wing Israeli extremist Baruch Marzel (C) leads a provocative march with flags March 24, 2009

The theory seemed to me quite potty, but he assured me that, while possibly even the most extreme Israeli politicians would be content simply to take over all of Palestine, the American extremists wanted them to conquer much more of the area, extending downwards into Africa too. Their aim would ultimately lead to the destruction of the Jews, but meanwhile they needed extremist Israelis, who were quite happy to go along with them, if not only for the ride.

Dotty though all this sounds, I found what I can only describe as a more nuanced version of this approach when I read ‘Murder in Samarkand’ by Craig Murray, who had served as British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was sacked for his pains, largely he believes because he objected to British connivance in gross human rights abuses by the regime. The book he published in 2006 suggests that this was largely because the Blair government had fallen in completely with American policy in the region, and that the Americans, and because of them Tony Blair himself, were actively involved in his dismissal.

The book deserves greater attention, which I will bring to bear in another article. Here however what interests me is his account of one reason for the United States being so devoted to the regime of President Karimov, who had been a member of the Politbureau in the Soviet Union of old. Murray claims that Karimov had supported the hardliners who had tried to overthrow President Gorbachev because they disapproved of his liberal reforms, but when the coup failed, Karimov and others like him ‘became converts to national independence. But they now left the USSR in order to keep the Soviet system, not to destroy it’.

Murray is harsh on Karimov, but he reserves his greatest contempt for what he terms conservative politicians in the US, who he suggests are short-sighted, with no sense of history. What his book makes clear though is that knowledge and clear understanding are no match for a policy based on what seem immediate benefits in terms of particular prejudices.

Between 2001 and 2005 the United States Air Force used the base, also known as K2 and "Stronghold Freedom", for support missions against al-Qaeda in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In this case what was most obviously desirable was the airbase at Karshi Khanabad, which had been used to support the incursion into Afghanistan. It was being expanded when Murray served in Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004, as part of what he describes as a strategy ‘to ensure control of the “Wider Middle East’’. But one reason why Karimov was so cherished, despite his regime according to Murray seeming utterly obnoxious, was that ‘Karimov was such a strong supporter of Israel.’ According to the Israeli ambassador, he ‘had been a good personal friend of Ariel Sharon for over 20 years.’

Murray cites as his source a research analyst in the British Foreign Office who ‘was the first to point out to me that the neo-conservatives in the Bush camp, particularly the so-called  intellectuals of the religious right, were talking of a United States-Israel-Uzbek axis driving a military wedge into the heart of Islam.’ Towards the end of Murray’s stay in the country, Donald Rumsfeld, fresh from the invasion of Iraq, visited Tashkent for ‘talks with President Karimov on making the US base permanent and on support for Israel at the UN. The Americans had hit on the happy idea that it was a strong propaganda coup for a ‘Muslim’ country like Uzbekistan to support Sharon’s partition plans – as Karimov duly did’.

I was reminded, on reading that, of the desperate efforts of the Europeans – not the Americans, I hasten to add, –  who were setting up a Special Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in May 2009, to persuade Muslim countries to support them. Bosnia indeed succumbed, given its anxiety to join the European Union, after being reminded of the need for European solidarity, and we were told too of efforts at strong-armed persuasion in Azerbaijan. Fortunately the Muslim world as a whole backed us solidly.

The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an 1887 painting by Victor Vasnetsov. The Lamb is visible at the top.

I suspect we will see more of such efforts by the Americans to persuade themselves that it is only unreasonable Muslims who object to Israeli expansion. It is possible indeed that the creation of Kosovo, contrary to commitments to Serbia when NATO and then the UN intervened, was partly for this reason, in addition to fears about a resurgent Russia. But it does not take much intelligence to work out that, Muslims as Muslims will always feel greater solidarity with their co-religionists, and it will only be an authoritarian regime that, for a limited period, will toe the Western line on Israel.

Incidentally, Murray’s research analyst told him that ‘many of the research analysts despaired of our blind support for Bush in Central Asia, which had somehow been subsumed into the US notion of the ‘Wider Middle East’.  The policy of backing nasty dictators was bound to rebound on us – it always does – but they just couldn’t see it.…

I had always found our research analysts to be very bright, with a strong reputation in the academic world and a lot of personal integrity. It was therefore beyond me how they had signed up, as they must have, to the claims in the soon-to-be-published dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). I asked my visitor whether there was knockdown evidence I was unaware of. He said he reckoned that the claims were indeed the rubbish it seemed. There were no Iraqi WMD. History has proven him right.’

I should note, given New Labour’s desire for an international inquiry against Sri Lanka, that Murray refers to the ‘elegant cover-ups by Hutton and Butler’ of the official inquiries that were held. They ‘failed, whether accidentally or not, to call the right people or ask the right questions. Ministerial desire railroaded the civil servants into producing what they knew to be rubbish on the Iraqi threat’

Daily News 28 June 2011 – http://www.dailynews.lk/2011/06/28/fea15.asp