FDR’s Last Deal

10/03/2016 § Leave a comment

Wahhabism, Afghanistan, Opium, and Texas, and How These Things Have Shaped the 21st Century

destruction_of_buddhas_march_21_2001The face of Wahhabism

I think its the same God as I worship, just in another way.
Joanne Herring, in an interview.1

This month: a history lesson. Before your eyes glaze over with boredom I would just urge you to get through this as much as possible because this is the most important history lesson anyone in the west could possibly learn, and has implications for the future as well as ignored warning from the past. And check my facts, I don’t expect anyone to blindly accept what I have to say without verification. But its all there, in the history and on the wall. All you have to do is read the signs.

We Americans, much like our British Forebears, are often really just trying to be helpful. Unfortunately the world is less like a Peter O’Toole film and much more like a horror themed Kafka novel.

Well after the British Empire poisoned and rotted China from within using opium in its madness to acquire Chinese Tea at cheap prices, it turned its hungry Victorian gaze to Africa and the Middle East. Both Germany and the Batavian Republic (the Netherlands in the early 19th century) had started their greedy crawl through these areas, the clash of both Britain and the Netherlands led to the Boer War, but the English went further, to the Saudi penninsula, and encountered the Bedouin people, and their religion, Wahhabism. Before the 20th century they were inconsequential to the British, just another indigenous people that plagued and were ruled by the Empire in its constant march toward more and more resources, power, money. But the Bedouin’s religion was and continues to be a powerful weapon, more powerful than an arsenal of nuclear bombs, as we’ll see.

As the 20th century opened up several things happened that have shaped and guided the world, I probably don’t have to go into too much detail. WWI has probably been the greatest engine of change the world has ever seen, more so than WWII in some respects. It redrew the map of Europe in profound and immediate ways, it completely decimated political alliances, rendered ancient ruling European families irrelevant, and rendered the way wars and diplomacy were used and manipulated in forever after. It was the reception party of the 20th century, the bloodiest century for human kind yet. Geopolitical rivalries came to the surface and broke open like puss-filled wounds; the Battle of Sedan is a glaring example. It could be argued that this closing battle of the Franco-Prussian war sowed the seeds of WWI and WWII; leaving Franco-Germanic relations in a jumble. The way the French acted during the Treaty of Versailles conference seemed very much like payback for Sedan, which was still fresh in the mind of both belligerents, and therein may have lain some of Hitler’s motivation, a viper in Germany’s womb.

Elsewhere during the insanity of the first world war the British with maddening self-righteousness defended itself from the indignation of the Ottoman Empire, that decaying bastion of medieval autocracy. And there to aid the British in their struggle with this empire were the Bedouins. With the help of the British army officer/poet T. E. Lawrence the Bedouin tribes of the Arab Peninsula united just long enough to cast the Ottomans out during the Arab Revolt.

One other poisoned pill the war produced of course is the Arab–Israeli conflict in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In this letter from Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild the British Empire declared its support for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. I don’t begrudge the Jewish State but there’s little other way to color this declaration other than one of the most disastrous plans ever implemented in the 20th century.

Once again the west would call upon the Bedouins for help in the form of secure access to petroleum which was flowing like water from the gulf states. It was during WWI and its conversion from agrarianism to complete mechanization that the West decided that petroleum was indispensable to that conversion and the economies it created. Therefore aboard the USS Quincy an ailing president Roosevelt worked out a deal with Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud. This meeting would have great, and grave, consequences for the West and perhaps the entire world, for in it FDR created a deal that would nourish and give legitimacy to the most hostile and anti-western idea the earth has ever known.

fdr_on_quincyThis meeting is described in some detail in Adam Curtis‘ documentary Bitter Lake. According to Curtis the main tenet of this meeting between FDR and King Saud was an agreement that the West would continue to receive oil at cheap prices in exchange for arms, training, and the promise that the west would not touch the prevailing religion of the area; Wahhabism. Many have misquoted the film painting the meeting as King Saud asking FDR for permission to spread Wahhabism throughout the world in exchange for oil. What Curtis’ point here actually is that Saud asked that the West not interfere with Wahhabism. Never the less this doesn’t appear to be what the meeting was about at all; rather the meeting appears to have been more about Palestine and the Jewish Homeland question2. But apples and oranges, Curtis’ main point is still sound; that Wahhabism is a force to be reckoned with, and the reckoning is coming.

Because I doubt Saud asked FDR for permission to spread Wahhabism throughout the world however doesn’t mean the Saudis didn’t try to do this very thing. Whatever the reasons the result is a massive shift of capital from the West to Saudi Arabia.

Afghanistan has been the keystone and gateway of the Silk Road to Europe for millennia. The constant wars for control of this key piece of real estate and its rather rough terrain have made its Pashtun (among other) people some of the toughest warriors in the world. Combined with the uncompromising tenets of Sunni Islam brought by the Arabs in the 640’s and eastern traditions of multi-generational goal building made the people of this Silk Road way post hard as nails.

In early 1950’s Afghanistan was a poor and undeveloped country but was sitting on a nice sum of cash by clothing a war devastated Europe. With this cash Afghanistan’s last king tried to bring his landlocked, backwards little country into the 20th century. American companies like Morrison Knudsen descended on Afghanistan with money, expertise, and dams. Dams to make the Kabul valley into a sort-of bread basket for the middle east. The idea was to turn Afghanistan into a bastion of democracy in the middle east. This may have been what America wanted, but its certain that America didn’t ask the Afghan people what they wanted. The Kabul Valley did indeed however become very fertile.

Continued next time.

1Adam Curtis; Bitter Lake, (BBC, 2015)
2Lewis Lipkin; The Intriguing Meeting of FDR and Ibn Saud, (Think Israel, 2005)

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