Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pirate's Treasure

I want to shed a little "lyte" on memory.  I have blogged before about how short America's collective memory is.  We are a nation built upon the idea of a fresh start.  When Andy Warhol made his famous statement about the duration of fame, little did he know that the phrase "fifteen minutes of fame" would be enshrined in our collective consciousness.  I bet most people who use the phrase have no idea who coined it.  But that's the way we roll here in the United States.

Across the world, not so much.  Especially in the Middle East.  There is a strong persistence of memory in that part of the world.  They hold on to grudges and remember slights and insults for generations.  No, make that for millenniums.  And that makes our reaction to 9/11 so dangerous and short-sighted.  No one argues with the invasion of Afghanistan.  But the detainment and torture that took place at Guatanamo?  That's a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come.  Our great-great-great grandchildren will be in danger of retaliatory attacks for what has happened there.

But the biggie is our invasion and occupation of Iraq.  The crimes that we committed at Abu Ghrarib will haunt our nation for thousands of years.  Yes, I said thousands.  Now, I can hear the chorus, "Come on, surely you exaggerate!"  No, I'm not.  Muslims are still arguing and killing each other over who was supposed to succeed Muhammad.  He died 1500 years ago.  

A little history; don't sigh and roll your eyes, this is important.  When Muhammad died, Islam was ruled by series of rulers called caliphs.  The first three are referred to as the "Rashidun".  But there were Muslims who thought that members of Muhammad's family were the rightful leaders of the religion, these leaders where called "imans".  The Sunnis are the largest group and follow the Rashidun.  The Shiites are the second largest and follow the imans.  And the two groups have been murdering each other ever since.

Now, Al Queda is a Sunni organization.  Iraq is a predominately Shiite.  Remember when President Bush insisted that we had to invade Iraq in order to prevent Al Queda from gaining a "terrorist foothold in the region"?  He was lying.  There is no way that Al Queda could do that, the Shiite majority would hunt them down and kill them.  Al Queda can thrive in Afghanistan, the Sunnis are the majority there.  But Al Queda will never take over Iraq.

So, every Muslim knows that our country invaded and occupied Iraq illegally.  Our ignorance is not a defense, it only enrages them further.  And these people hold onto their anger like pirate treasure.  They pass it down from generation to generation.  And the anger does not dim over time, Muslims a thousand years from now will be just as angry as Muslims are today.  So we are not safer, in fact we gave them enough emotional ammunition to last lifetimes.

This is just part of the legacy that we inherited from the previous administration.  The economy will bubble and burst.  Our civil rights will wax and wane.  But the consequences of our actions in Iraq will be with us for a long, long time.  Future generations had better learn these hard lessons and more importantly, remember them.


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