Lebanon and Palestine have struggled with their statehood for half a century; Somalia has quietly dropped out of this game; Kuwait vanished in 1990 and quickly reappeared; Yemen split, reunited, split, fought a war, and reunited; Sudan spins like a centrifuge, with national and tribal forces pushing away from a centralized state; Morocco and the Western Sahara dance gingerly around their logical association; and internal tensions plague other Arab countries to varying degrees.
And what is the cause of all these problems? Khouri has the answer:
...the driving force behind the loose coalition of anti-American and anti-Israeli forces in the region is, precisely, American and Israeli policies in the region.
Here is an article with that authentic and unique Middle East flavor. You can taste and smell the coriander and the coffee with hel, and you can smell the camel and donkey dung too. You can almost swat the flies. As you read it, you can imagine that you are sitting in the Suq in Beirut or Damascus, in a cafe, with pictures of Nasser, Nasrallah and Osama Bin Laden on the walls. Outside, one can hear the chant of the crowds, "Death to America, Death to America!"
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was the fault of the Israelis no doubt. The bandits in Yemen are fighting the Zionist occupation. The assassination of Rafiq Hariri in Lebanon was a great patriotic protest against American influence. Likewise when a Janjaweed guerilla rapes yet another woman in Darfur, it is an act of resistance against the Zionists. He is doing it for Palestine, you see. As Khouri tells us, the Middle East is:
...a region trying to define itself and liberate itself from the modern legacy of the American, British and Israeli armies.
How is the region trying to define itself and what is the region? Is Somalia in the Middle East? Is the Sudan? Are the Janjaweed guerillas the model that Mr Khouri wants to follow? Does he define himself according to Hassan Nasrallah and Osama bin Laden?
And what is this terrible legacy? Verily, before the coming of Israel and the evil Americans and British, the peoples of the Middle East lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of malaria, trachoma, schistosomiasis, child marriages, 90% illiteracy and 30% neonatal mortality, under the benign rule of the Ottoman Turks and the progressive Iranian monarchy. Evils such as women's liberation were unheard of. Homosexuals were hanged. Adulterers were stoned. Until they were disrupted by the gunboat diplomacy of that enemy of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, the barbary pirates did a brisk trade in African slaves. In Saudi Arabia, slavery was legal until 1961. But a great tragedy befell the Arabs. To paraphrase a certain famous movie:
"There was a land of Cavaliers and Desert called the Old Middle East. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind."
This paradise on earth was disrupted under pressure from the evil west and the Zionist conspiracy. When the Arabs have driven out the evil infidels, they will restore the status quo ante no doubt. And that seems to be the plan. Khouri notes:
A learned British friend reminded me this week of the mixed legacy of countries manufactured by Europe at the Paris peace conference after World War I: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Iraq.
The last movement to bemoan the results of the Versailles treaty was the German National Socialist Workers Party. Saddam insisted that Kuwait was an illegitimate state created by the West, and Syria insists that Lebanon, Jordan and Israel are such artificial creations. Like them, Adolf Hitler was obsessed with the idea that "Tchechia," an artificial creation born of German defeat, must be wiped out. Hitler also blamed the whole mess on the Jews.
It does not occur to Khouri, that the forces of chaos and reaction are simply using xenophobia to manufacture an issue out of the United States and Israel, and that if even the United States and Israel and Britain are really beaten, the forces that threaten his own liberty will unleash a reign of terror that will make Darfur look like amateur night and end his own liberty forever.