Robert Fisk: Al-Qa'ida cashes in as the scorpion gets in among the good guys

 

Share

A Damascus friend of mine called this weekend and was pretty chipper. "You know, we're all sorry about Christopher Stevens. This kind of thing is terrible and he was a good friend to Syria – he understood the Arabs." I let him get away with this, though I knew what was coming. "But we have an expression in Syria: 'If you feed a scorpion, it will bite you'." His message couldn't have been clearer.

The United States supported the opposition against Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, helped Saudi Arabia and Qatar pour cash and weapons to the militias and had now reaped the whirlwind. America's Libyan "friends" had turned against them, murdered US ambassador Stevens and his colleagues in Benghazi and started an al-Qa'ida-led anti-American protest movement that had consumed the Muslim world.

The US had fed the al-Qa'ida scorpion and now it had bitten America. And so Washington now supports the opposition against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was helping Saudi Arabia and Qatar pour cash and weapons to the militias (including Salafists and al-Qa'ida) and would, inevitably, be bitten by the same "scorpion" if Assad was overthrown.

My friend's sermon was not quite in line with Syrian government policy. Assad's argument is that Syria is not Libya, and that Syrians, with their history, culture, love of Arabism, etc, did not want a revolution. But the Arab fury at Hollywood's obscene little anti-prophet video has occasioned almost as much rewriting of history in the West.

The US media has already invented a new story in which America supported the Arab Spring saved the city of Benghazi when its people were about to be destroyed by Gaddafi's monstrous thugs – and has now been stabbed in the back by those treacherous Arabs in the very city rescued by the US.

The real narrative, however, is different. Washington propped up and armed Arab dictatorships for decades, Saddam being one of our favourites. We loved Mubarak of Egypt, we adored Ben Ali of Tunisia, we are still passionately in love with the autocratic Gulf states, the gas stations now bankrolling the revolutions we choose to support – and we did, for at least two decades, smile upon Hafez al-Assad; even, briefly, his son Bashar.

So we saved Benghazi with our air power and expected the Arab world to love us. We ignored the composition of the Libyan militias we supported – just as Clinton and Hague don't dwell on the make-up of the Free Syrian Army today. We pay no attention to Assad's warnings of "foreign fighters", just as we largely ignored the Salafists who were moving among the brave men who fought Gaddafi.

Go back further, and we did pretty much the same in Afghanistan after 1980. We backed the mujahedin against the Soviets without paying attention to their theology and we used Pakistan to funnel weapons to these men. And when some of them transmogrified into the Taliban and nurtured Osama bin Laden and the scorpion bit on 9/11, we cried "terrorism" and wondered why the Afghans "betrayed" us. Same story yesterday, when four US Special Forces were murdered by their ungrateful Afghan police "trainees".

The tragedy of this pathetic cycle of events is that the Assad regime is horrible and its secret police thugs have tortured and murdered thousands of innocents, its personnel have committed war crimes and Syria's civil war is consuming a generation who should be building a nation rather than destroying it. And Turkey has now taken on Pakistan's role as an arms funnel and rest-and-recreation centre for Syria's mujahedin. Will Turkey turn out to be the Pakistan of the Middle East?

Syria's war is now taking on the carapace of Lebanon's 1975-90 conflict: sympathise with Palestinians and you were anti-Christian – express Christian fears and you were pro-Israeli. In Syria, the government's brutal snipers are killers of children. On the other side of the front line, the Free Syrian Army sniper is romantic; he gets married to a frontline nurse, only too sorry the family can't attend their nuptials. The mere suggestion that the opposition might be committing the occasional atrocity, and a reporter is asked – as I was – how much he is being paid by the Syrian mukhabarat intelligence service.

So over to the Department of Home Truths. When he was murdered, Osama bin Laden was a has-been. No Arab revolutionary carried his picture. But this wretched organisation has now decided to cash in. Hence this weekend's al-Qa'ida call to Egyptians to continue their protests against the anti-Muslim video. Hence Benghazi. The scorpion has got in among the good guys. All you need then is a Hollywood crackpot. And a bit of hypocrisy. For Washington reluctantly says it can't ban the video since this would endanger free speech – the same free speech which America's dictators forbad their Arab people for so many decades.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes