Dear Mr Susman
You were recently quoted in The Times as stating ‘we need to reach out to the Muslim community, in a way that isn’t superficial and that is real. I intend to talk to people in the mosques and the academic community and the student community” (22 September).
This will probably translate to various forms of patronage and ‘hospitality’ for many of our young leaders, maybe through programmes such as ‘Muslim leaders of tomorrow’ (www.muslimleadersoftomorrow.org) or the British-American Project (www.baponline.org).
Mr Ambassador, the British empire too had its ’empire loyalists’ who were prepared to gloss over the miscarriages of justice and wars of occupation. But eventually the voices of their consciences held sway.
No doubt your empire loyalists will be urged to celebrate ‘the values we share’ and subtly told that any ‘anti-americanism’ was irrational – echoing Tony Blair who felt that this tendency was ‘madness’. They will be lulled into an acceptance of US ‘exceptionalism’.
But there will be a large number amongst them who will be more discerning. For a start they now have the records from the Cold War: the intellectual battle was fought through covert CIA support of magazines such as Encounter, sponsoring the publication of books (e.g. The god that failed), funding the Congress for Cultural Freedom , and through grants to up-and-coming Muslim intellectuals. They would have read books such as ‘Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War’ by Frances Stonor Saunders.
A new post-Cold War intellectual war is underway. How it is being operationalised can be found in government announcements and new organisational units, think tank reports and nurseries to produce Muslim leaders.
For example, there is the Muslim World Outreach (MWO) programme “that will reach out to and support organizations and institutions that are in line with the administration’s policies on moderation, tolerance, and democratization. Funds will support the development of moderate Islamic media, educational curricula, think tanks, and even schools and mosques.” It has $1.5 bn at its disposal ‘with more allocations to come’.
So Mr Strusman, you will find that the young British Muslim you have talent-spotted to be well-informed.
For them, unless there is a decisive break with the past, US values will mean the following: Hiroshima; Viet Nam (use of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, still resulting, 35 years later in deformed births);covert operations in Latin American to destabalise democratically elected governments (Chile’s Allende), within a list that includes other US actions
– over 40 vetoes in the United Nations to shield Israel, turning a blind eye to ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestine in their occupied lands, including most recently the UN resolution condemning Israel’s Gaza offensive
– the havoc caused in Iraq by the regime of sanctions. Remember this exchange – reporter Leslie Stahl to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “We have heard that a half million children have died (as a result of sanctions against Iraq). I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”. Her response: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”
– the post 9/11 occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan – the former under false pretext (leading to the resignation of minister John Denham), and the latter against international law. In his book, ‘Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent’ Professor Cohn notes ‘under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men – 15 from Saudi Arabia – did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is illegal.’
– Guantanamo’s tortures and subsequent show trials ñ most recently documented in Andy Worthington’s report in Antiwar.com
– the gangster tactic of ‘Rendition’, which mocked the concept of due process of law by kidnappings of individuals to countries where they were interrogated and tortured; the senior FCO civil servant Elizabeth Wilmhurst resigned over this in the UK
– the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Bagram
– the use of hired guns, ‘private military companies’ like Blackwater (now Xe) in Iraq in which the line of accountability for upholding the Geneva Convention is obscured
– the siege of Falluja in 2004. Naomi Klein told us about US marines arresting doctors at its general hospital; now we know that men were dragged from their hospital beds. At the time your predecessor in London was writing to Muslim organisations calling such reportage as false!
Mr Susman, please convey to the State Department that unlike the past, there is a wealth of information now in the public domain, and much less naivete.
You will find the new British Muslims interlocutors drawing up certain red lines as parameters of their engagement:
– no aggression against Iran
– zero tolerance on Israeli’s ethnic cleansing
– zero tolerance on any further civilian deaths in Afghanistan