We all know the story of the rube who gets sucked into a game of Three-Card Monte on Fifth Avenue and watches his bets disappear in the pockets of the quick-handed sharpie at the folding card table. And what do we have in the Middle East now but a variation of the same obvious sucker’s game, which we choose to call Three Turban Monte?
Can you pick the Medieval headgear under which we can hope to find a winner? Or are we bound to be snookered?
On one end, we’ve got the turban of Muqtada al-Sadr, the evasive but opportunistic clerical leader of the Mahdi militia, which recently dared to take over two Iraqi towns, killing police in the process. Even if Iraqi troops reversed the takeovers, who would call what’s under al-Sadr’s turbano a likely place to find a win for Uncle Sam? The conniver is no doubt calculating how he might one day be able to take charge of Iraq and cozy up to the other two Shiite turbans on the table.
On the other end, we’ve got Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, celebrating the destruction of his own nation as a victory against Israel and eyeing the chance to gain control should the weak government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora become terminally shaky. Anybody expect an American win under his turbanado?
And right smack in the middle, we find in Iran the ever-watchful and cynically supportive Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Guess what our chances for a big win are under his trendy headwear?
Now, if you dare, imagine what is actually going on under these clever occlusions. Do you detect paradisiacal dreams of the three uniting in a turban triumvirate, as a solid building block of their longed-for Medievalist pan-Islamic caliphate?
And we haven’t even mentioned the lurking turban of Omar on Afghanistan’s border. In fact, if you add up all the calculating turbans that might be moved around on the same table, the game we’ve been suckered into becomes staggeringly hopeless.
Given the relative weakness of the civilian governments in the three countries under principal consideration and the ever-weakening power of the civil governments in bordering fundamentalist or fundamentalist-tending countries, how else can we expect the game will to turn out?
Even more consequentially, what are we still doing at the gaming table, hoping against hope to win what is, inevitably, a very real sucker’s game?
So what should we do?
We need to see that our continued presence in Iraq is really based on our own skepticism about the determination of the Iraqi people to establish their own democratic, peaceful, and secure nation. And, terrible as the decision is, we must leave them to their own destiny.
We have freed the populace from a murderous tyrant, which was a great service. What remains is for them to free themselves from their own civil and religious divisiveness and delusions.
A recent poll shows, in fact, that most Iraqis believe the violence will diminish if we depart. And a poll conducted by no less than the State Department concludes that a majority of Iraq’s young people believe that security would improve and violence would decrease if U. S.-led forces would leave immediately.
Despite their apparent desire to go into the future on their own, we expect the long-suffering Iraqi citizenry will go through an even more deadly period of sectarian strife. In fact, there is the very real prospect that al-Sadr and other fundamentalist Islamic clerics may be able to draw the black veil of the Middle Ages over the entire society.
The combined influence of the collected turbanates may, in fact, draw it over the entire Middle East.
Yet such regressive lives are in undeniable conflict with the reality and benefits of the modern world. So there will be an inner tension from the moment the night falls. The hopeless incongruity between the lives they have allowed themselves to be damned to and the lives they might enjoy as enlightened and free people must finally have its way, but only in its time. And allowing the truth to dawn on them in its time is the great lesson we must reconcile ourselves to.
What of the wile the Bush administration uses to continue its loser’s game - that a pan-Islamic state will blackmail us for oil? Then must we conclude that the entire conflict is ultimately, as the cynics have maintained all along, about oil? Shame on us for having sacrificed American lives for such a mean goal.
But the reality is, the repressive societies will be more economically dysfunctional than ever and need oil revenue in extremis. The leaders do, after all, discourage entrepreneurial participation in the global economy, as a dangerous intimation of independence, except as they might superintend it themselves.
Finally, guess what? If all the turbans did assemble themselves into one mighty game of oily blackmail, we and other Western nations would finally have every justification to commandeer it, as long, of course, as ethical merchants we paid them a fair price for it.
What we need to see right now is that we are looking at a region too uninformed in its general populace to understand the historical pitfalls of absolute adherence to every word of a religion and subjection to the unlimited authority of very punctiliously observant clerics.
As we often note, the region has never experienced the Renaissance or The Age of Reason. It is, mentally, still encumbered with the detritus of The Dark Ages. The people there need time to emerge just as the West did and our attempt to stand in the way of their own voyage of discovery is simply a game we can’t win.
It is for the Iraqis themselves, along with the citizens of the other nations in the region, to guess what is under those shifty black turbans and, having finally seen the disappointment that is actually there, to walk away from the loser’s game on their own.
Tom Attea, humorist and creator of NewsLaugh.com http://NewsLaugh.com , has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing delightfully funny, witty, with good, genuine laughs and great humor and ebullience.
Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan demonstrates his Segway scooter at the security fair in Hong Kong, Wednesday, June 4, 2008. Jackie Chan says his Chinese dealership for the Segway scooter is doing well - but Segway's owners are keeping his costs up because they won't let him assemble the upright vehicle in China due to piracy fears. Chan, however, said at a security fair in Hong Kong Wednesday he didn't start the business to make money but to bring the clean technology to China. (AP Photo)"
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 at 9:52 pm
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