By Nauman Sadiq
What bothers me is not that we are unable to find the solution to our problems, what bothers me more is the fact that neoliberals are so utterly unaware of the real structural issues that their attempts to sort out the tangential issues will further exacerbate the main issues. Religious extremism, militancy and terrorism are not the cause but the effect of poverty, backwardness and disenfranchisement.
Empirically speaking, if we take all the other aggravating factors out: like poverty, backwardness, illiteracy, social injustice, disenfranchisement, conflict, instability, deliberate training and arming of certain militant groups by the regional and global players, and more importantly grievances against the duplicitous Western foreign policy, I don’t think that Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the likes would get the abundant supply of foot soldiers that they are getting now in the troubled regions of Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Moreover, I do concede that the rallying cry of “Jihad in the way of God” might have been one reason for the abundant supply of foot soldiers to the jihadists’ cause, but on an emotional level it is the self-serving and hypocritical Western interventionist policy in the energy-rich Middle East that adds fuel to the fire. When Muslims all over the Islamic countries see that their brothers-in-faith are dying in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, on an emotional level they feel outraged and seek vengeance and justice.
This emotional outrage, in my opinion, is a far more potent factor than the sterile rational argument of God’s supposed command to fight holy wars against the infidels. If we take all the other contributing factors, that I have mentioned in the second paragraph out of the equation, I don’t think that Muslims are some “exceptional” variety of human beings who are hell-bent on killing the heretics all over the world.
Notwithstanding, it’s very easy to distinguish between the victims of structural injustices and the beneficiaries of the existing neocolonial economic order all over the world. But instead of using words that can be interpreted subjectively I’ll let the figures do the talking. Pakistan’s total GDP is only $270 billion and with a population of 200 million it amounts to a per capita income of only $1400. While the US’ GDP is $18 trillion and per capita income is in excess of $50,000. Similarly the per capita income of most countries in the Western Europe is also around $40,000. That’s a difference of 40 to 50 TIMES between the incomes of Third World countries and the beneficiaries of neocolonialism, i.e. the Western powers.
Only the defense budget of the Pentagon is $600 billion, which is three times the size of Pakistan’s total GDP. A single multi-national corporation based in the Wall Street and other financial districts of the Western world owns assets in excess of $200 billion which is more than the total GDP of many developing economies. Examples of such business conglomerates are: Investment banks – JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, HSBC, BNP Paribas; Oil majors – Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, RDS, Total, Vitol; Manufacturers – Apple, Microsoft and Google.
On top of that, semi-legit wealth from all over the world flows into the Western commercial and investment banks: last year there was a report that the Russian oligarchs have deposited $800 billion in the Western banks, while the Chinese entrepreneurs have deposited $1.5 trillion in the Western financial institutions.
Moreover, in April this year the Saudi finance minister threatened that the Saudi kingdom would sell up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets if Congress passed a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for any role in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. And $750 billion is only the Saudi investment in the US, if we add up Saudi investment in Western Europe, and the investments of UAE, Kuwait and Qatar in the Western economies, the sum total would amount to trillions of dollars of Gulf’s investment in the US and Western Europe.
The first and foremost priority of the Western powers is to save their Corporate Empire, and especially their financial institutions, from collapsing; everything else like eliminating terrorism, promoting democracy and “responsibility to protect” are merely arranged side shows to justify their interventionist foreign policy, especially in the energy-rich Middle East.
Additionally, the irony is that the neoliberal dupes of the mainstream media justify and validate the unfair practices of the neocolonial powers and hold the victims of structural injustices responsible for their misfortunes. If a Third World’s laborer has been forced to live on less than $5 a day and a corporate executive sits in the Wall Street on top of $18 trillion business empire, neoliberals are okay with this travesty.
However, we need to understand that how does a neoliberal mindset is structured? As we know that mass education programs and mass media engender mass ideologies. We like to believe that we are free to think, but we aren’t. Our narratives aren’t really “our” narratives. These narratives of injustice and inequality have been constructed for the public consumption by the corporate media, which is nothing more than the mouthpiece of the Western political establishments and the business interests.
Media is our eyes and ears through which we get all the inputs and it is also our brain through which we interpret raw data. If media keeps mum over some vital structural injustices and blows out of proportion some isolated incidents of injustice and violence, we are likely to forget all about the former and focus all of our energies on the tangential issues which the media portrays as the “real” ones.
Monopoly capitalism and the global neocolonial economic order are the real issues while Islamic radicalism and terrorism are the secondary issues and itself an adverse reaction to the former. That’s how the mainstream media constructs artificial narratives and dupes its audience into believing the absurd: during the Cold War it created the “Red Scare” and told us that communism is an existential threat to the free world and the Western way of life. We bought this narrative.
Then the West and its Saudi and Pakistani collaborators financed, trained and armed the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” and used them as their proxies against the Soviets. After the collapse of the Soviet Union they declared the former “freedom fighters” to be terrorists and another existential threat to the “free world” and the Western way of life. We again bought this narrative.
And finally, during the Libyan and Syrian proxy wars the former terrorists once again became freedom fighters – albeit in a more nuanced manner, this time around the corporate media sells them as “moderate rebels.” And the lobotomized neoliberal audience of the mainstream media is once again willing to buy this narrative, how ironic?
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and MENA regions, neocolonialism and Petroimperialism.