July 14, 1996
The Wisdom Fund

Khobar Barracks Blast No Surprise

by S. Amjad Hussain

Most Americans are shocked and surprised at the brutal bomb blast in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996. Should we be shocked? Yes. Surprised? Not at all.

At their recent meeting in France the G7 nations took note of the tragedy and charted a forty point agenda to combat terrorism. It is a wishful thinking on their part. The Western democracies, including our own, have had a knee jerk response to such tragedies. Find the group, pin the blame and then retaliate. In this simplistic evil versus good scenario the evil is something that doesn't agree with our way of thinking.

Most of us have a rosy, comfortable picture of our country in our minds. We see us a compassionate, humane and generous people. This idealized vision however is not shared by many people around the world who see America as a neocolonist super power pursuing its own goal. The inherent goodness of the American people is often over shadowed by the policies of their government. A common thread runs through the Dhahran bombing, the upheaval in Lebanon, the elections in Algeria and Turkey and the isolated and shunned regimes in Iraq, Iran and Libya. And that, according to the conventional Western wisdom, is Islamic fundamentalism. The term, vague as it is, has assumed a sinister negative connotation and is applied to any Muslim group at odds with the policies of the West.

In its fifteen hundred years of history Islam, like other faiths, has gone through periodic and cyclic reformist movements. A perceived departure from the ideals of the faith has always spawned indigenous movements for revival. In the later part of the last century and throughout this century there have been many attempts to undo the undesirable religious and cultural changes that centuries of colonial rule had wrought on Muslim societies. Such efforts have always been opposed by the West.

And the West has always supported and protected dictators and strongmen in those societies. Zia of Pakistan, Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussain of Iraq, Mubarak of Egypt and an assorted bevy of kings and rulers that we supports give credence to this view. Ditto Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

In Saudi Arabia a corrupt family dynasty rules over a sparsely populated desert state that sits on biggest single oil reserves in the world. To us it really doesn't matter how the royal family plunders the national wealth as long as we are assured of a continuous supply of oil. Our own ideals of democratic traditions and human rights have never been the basis of our relationship with those countries.

Then there is the so called high moral ground in international affairs that our government is fond of preaching but practices only selectively. We condemn Saddam Hussain's brutality towards the Kurds but look the other way when Turkey does the same to its Kurdish population. We condemn Hizbullah for waging a war against Israel in Southern Lebanon but we supported similar efforts by the Afghan Mujahideen to oust an invader. Viewed from a different perspective the high moral ground appears neither high nor very moral.

We need to reasses our attitude towards the Muslims world and try to understand the frustration a great majority of Muslims feel towards us. Desert Storms have a tendency to cloud the skies for a long long time.

The recent nightmare in Arabia, like the earlier bombing in Riyadh and the carnage in Beirut a decade ago was the result of our own policies of our own doing. Oil is not that cheap after all.

[Surgeon-writer S. Amjad Hussain lives in Toledo, Ohio where he writes a bi-weekly column for the Op-Ed pages of The Blade.]

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