Thesis: Iraq Afghan Culture the War on Terror

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Iraq Afghan Culture

The War on Terror and the Imposition of Cultural Change

The War in Iraq began on March 19th, 2003, when American bombers began a 'Shock and Awe' campaign designed to 'decapitate' Iraqi Republican Army leadership and to pound the civilian population into preemptive submission. The attack preceded the arrival of a deadline by which despot Saddam Hussein had been given the ultimatum to vacate Iraq with his sons to make way for democratic reform or to face the wrath of the United States. The purpose of this invasion was proposed quite singularly as the disruption of a regime which 'could' aid terrorists in destroying the United States, its friends and its allies. The final justification for this war was that, to that end, Iraq was guilty of acquiring and maintaining Weapons of Mass Destruction for potential sale to terrorists for use against the United States. Ultimately characterized as an invasion connected to the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States, this would be the follow-up to a continuing conflict already raging in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces had unseated the Taliban and continued a vain search for al Queda mastermind Osama bin Laden. Reflecting now, eight years since this first invasion, it becomes increasingly clear that both wars have failed in their stated goals to establish democracy and to instigate the embrace of Western cultural values. Both nations are steeped in violence, disorder and resentments, all of which are features that now readily define the culture of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are few ways to take the invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan that don't suggest an explicitly intended change in the prevailing culture of each. Indeed, though distinctly different from one another, both nations re presented a sharp departure from western political values, religious philosophies and social priorities. This break is best understood by the hostility perpetuated between the United States and the Muslim world. In Afghanistan, for instance, a history of Cold War occupation by both the United States and the Soviet Union had helped to create a brutal theocracy in which the Taliban ruled through an ultra-orthodox and rigidly punitive form of Islamic rule. Its extremity would make the government the only one in the world willing to shelter bin Laden. By contrast, Iraq was a military dictatorship overseen by Saddam Hussein, frequently demonized in political discourse for the political brutality levied against his enemies. In both were leaders reflective of cultures driven by resentment for the United States, Europe and the modernity that had so frequently been confronted in the form of military capability.

Certainly, these are the cultural qualities that have been emergent in the aftermath of such attacks as those on September 11th. To the point, when Islamic extremists used American commercial airliners as missiles and felled the World Trade Center in New York City while simultaneously using the same method to punch a whole in the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the Western World came to understand the extent to which hatred between the modern and tribal worlds had grown. The ultimate implication of the events of 9/11 is that Islam has become, as a result of American foreign policy, economic patterns and military endeavors, a hostile and radicalized culture. This is largely based on perceptions in the Islamic World that the Western World acts with favoritism toward Israel in diplomacy, demonstrates a tendency to exploit Arab states with military acts and pursues opportunistic relationships based on its dependence on Mid-East oil. One of the reasons that is most noted for anger with the Western World by Muslim leaders of state and by the average Islamist residing in the Middle East, is the fact that the United States has so strongly supported Israeli statehood.

The Mamdani (2004) text captures this geopolitical disposition particularly well, indicating that the United States, the U.S.S.R. And other global powers helped to create the current Islamic cultural tendencies toward violence and armed resistance. Mamdani notes that "as the battleground of the Cold War shifted from southern Africa to Central America and Central Asia in the late seventies, America's benign attitude toward political terror turned into a brazen embrace: both the contras in Nicaragua and later al-Qaeda (and the Taliban) in Afghanistan were American allies during the Cold War. Supporting them showed a determination to win the Cold War 'by all means necessary,' a phrase that could refer only to unjust means. The result of an alliance gone sour, 9/11 needs to be understood first and foremost as the unfinished business of the Cold War." (Mamdani, 13)

This is an important way of framing the discussion because it distinguishes the political and military objectives that were inherently related to the goals of armed Islamic jihad. Recognition that the United States and other imperialist nations had played a key role in fomenting the violent proclivities which are today regarded as somehow historically Muslim suggests that we are under a misimpression to view Islamic extremism as religious in nature. This is a perspective that Gottschalk & Greenberg (2005) regard derisively, identifying this as a false cultural stereotype emergent in western media which holds that "ultimately, religious beliefs and acts not only distinguish the terrorists, they motivate the terrorists' irrational violence. The implicit message, then, is that Muslims who do not act religiously can be good, normal Americans, while Muslims who perform Islamic rituals and espouse Islamic beliefs also commit terrorist acts." (Gottschalk & Greenberg, 62)

Of course, the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq would suggest very little recognition of these patterns, instead taking an approach mirroring those which had helped to radicalize both cultures. The result is, of course, a continuing disruption of the positive cultural aspects of either nation as military struggle and political disorder come to define a shared experience. Certainly, when the United States entered into Iraq, it did so with rhetorical expression of its desire to introduce Iraq to a culture not defined by dictatorship. The symbolic act of its invasion would suggest as much, while simultaneously obscuring an intention with very little to do with the production of positive cultural outcomes. So denotes the Iraqi News (2008), which would indicate that

"when U.S. forces stormed Baghdad on April 8, 2003 and, in a carefully staged propaganda stunt, tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, the first center of the former regime the GIs occupied was the Oil Ministry." (IN, 1)

This contrast between symbolic and actual behavior would be revealing of American priorities and simultaneously predictive of the actual culture realities that would be instigated by the invasion. As the text by Vlahos (2004) tells, there was in the aftermath of the invasion a palpable sense that though the United States had only superficially permeated the country, that it was prepared to declare the achievement of broad and unrealistic cultural goals. Vlahos characterizes the attempts at foisting cultural change upon the Iraqis as both poorly conceived and philosophically misguided. As the Vlahos article observes, "victory itself has been fundamentally misunderstood. In war the relationship with the enemy and his world defines both the narrative of the conflict and the parameters of victory. In Iraq the United States ignored the centrality of its relationship with the Muslim World and instead reflexively replayed its own cherished story line of World War II. In doing so we are unconsciously participating in -- and legitimating -- the enemy's story." (Vlahos, 1)

Such is to say that the perception of the Iraqi and Afghani people -- that the United States was a ruthless and greed-driven foreign invaders -- was being shown as warranted in the conflict. The cultural perception of the West would taken on even more monstrous proportions, directing those formerly of a moderate theological or military disposition toward a far more dramatic cultural stance against the U.S. In the midst of this distortion of intrinsic cultural values, the invasion of Iraq would set off another kind of cultural destruction as well. The centuries of human history which earned the Iraqi region the moniker, 'the cradle of civilization,' would be evidenced by artifacts throughout Iraqi museums and universities. The vacuum of power or interest in the preservation of culture would set off a looting epidemic that continues unabated to present day. Indeed, "Matthew Bogdanos, a New York assistant district attorney and a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps reserve who served in Iraq in 2003, said on March 18 that the smuggling of stolen antiquities was helping finance insurgent groups in Iraq." (IN, 1) Essentially, a priceless array of artifacts detailing history well prior to the founding of Iraq have been lost to oblivion. In this very material respect, the war has helped to erase the evidence of years of human evolution simply through a failure -- perhaps willful or perhaps simply through disinterest -- to protect existing Iraqi culture.

That said, there can be evidenced no greater impact on Iraqi culture than that produced by the outright desperation created in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Iraq Afghan Culture the War on Terror.  (2009, November 20).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/iraq-afghan-culture-war-terror/693381

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"Iraq Afghan Culture the War on Terror."  Essaytown.com.  November 20, 2009.  Accessed May 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/iraq-afghan-culture-war-terror/693381.