Last Tuesday, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Israel added a new power to the “Axis of Evil”. According to Netanyahu, “Militant Islamists” (including not only ISIS in Iraq and Syria but Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Al Qaeda groups in Africa and the Middle East)”, want to dominate the world like the Nazis; only unlike the Nazis, they believe in a “Master faith” instead of a “Master Race”
Obama, in his speech four days earlier announcing that he would begin Air Strikes in Syria, also discussed “extreme fundamentalism” in the Middle East. Although he did not specify Islamists as the only fundamentalists, he emphasized the necessity of eliminating these groups and, using a combination of the idea of “American Exceptionalism” and a retread of the colonial playbook where the civilized countries (read mostly white, western) have to quell the extreme militant fundamentalists (read “savages”)in the Middle East. This was of course, his justification for invading Syria and bombing ISIS.
The “Axis of Evil”, originally inspired b the Nazis in World War II, was recreated by George W. Bush in 2002 and initially included three Nation States –Iraq, Iran and North Korea –and became Bush’s excuse to invade Iraq. Under his administration, this concept was later expanded to include Cuba, Libya and Syria. The American president offered no evidence to support what we now know was slander and had much more to do with protecting US oil interests than protecting the American people, not to mention the lives of other peoples of the world.
Of the original six members, Cuba and North Korea are effectively quarantined by Western-imposed embargoes, isolated from balanced international relations and development. Of the other four, Iraq and Libya, were invaded by US-led forces in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism, and have been destroyed and realigned to serve Western interests.
It is no accident that Obama is targeting one of the two remaining members, Syria, while changing the stakes from targeting a specific country to the concept of “extreme (read Islamic) fundamentalism” which is much broader and not hampered by nation state boundaries blurring the lines of what is legal and illegal under international law as well as increasing the threat of endless war since it is unclear what nation state you would negotiate with to end the war.
In analyzing the current crisis with ISIS, an historical analysis provides some perspective. Since the 1970’s, capitalist interests have morphed into a toxic combination of religious fundamentalism and extreme militarism to achieve their economic goals — whether that is the reawakening of the Christian-based KKK and the rise of the Patriots and Tea Party in the United States; the Evangelicals, military dictators and death squads in Latin America; the Orthodox Zionist Jews and the concept of a Greater Israel in the Palestinian conflict; or extreme Islamic fundamentalism in the larger Middle East.
It is unclear why this fundamentalism has such appeal these days – maybe it’s because the world is scarier as we globalize and people want to retreat to the “good old days”, to concepts they believe will not change. Maybe it’s because fundamentalism is unquestioning and based on faith rather than reason and it makes it easier for the 1% to manipulate the rest of us. Maybe it is because religious fundamentalism is not restricted by national borders and makes it easier to rationalize the new global paradigm. Maybe it is a combination of all of these.
Whatever the reason, the drums of war are rumbling again, and we are hoping that the drum beats will be loud enough to drown out the voice of reason by finding a new enemy. An enemy who can be the bad guy — pure evil that must be squelched mercilessly which we can only do with war. We, of course, are the “good guys” and wear the white hat because, as always, “God (and a white supremacist morality) is on our side.”
But I would suggest it is not Islamic extremists, terrorists, drug lords, rogue states, corrupt regimes, authoritarian superpowers or Eastern Block” (the “Red Menace sans Communism)who are “the enemy.” It is the multinational oil interests, the military industrial complex and the American government and its allies who are the real “axis of evil.” It is the system of capitalist corruption, exploitation and enrichment that has put the world into poverty, conflict and on the brink of yet another major war.