Two Little Boys

000b0f0b-642Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Galip, died yesterday when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey.


I showed my son the image of Aylan washed up on the beach this morning and we began a discussion about the Middle East. I confessed to him that I really didn’t have a clue about politics in the ME.

Well, he launched into the history of the region. I was gobsmacked that he knew so much and asked him where he got all of his information. The BBC! I wanted him to write a two-page synopsis for me but he told me to watch a certain video. And I did. Apparently, the youtube version below has been edited to keep it short. It still is over an hour long. It is called Bitter Lake.

Courtesy of The Guardian:

The Bitter Lake of the title refers to an actual saltwater lake through which the Suez canal flows, and presumably also to what you would find inside Adam Curtis’s head if you were to cut it open. In 1945 President Roosevelt met King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia (whose son Abdullah died last week, to be replaced by yet another son, Salman) on board a warship on the Great Bitter Lake. It was a meeting that would have extraordinary, far-reaching and unintended consequences, for the west, for the world.

Curtis’s story unfurls from there, taking in America, Saudi Arabia, Britain, the Soviet Union. And Afghanistan, which found itself not just at the centre of the world, but the centre of a snowballing – and ongoing – international scandal. It’s a story that includes the spread of Wahhabism (no wasabi jokes, thank you); the oversimplification of the world, by Reagan and Bush (Sr) and Bush (Jr) and Blair, into a kind of fairytale of good v evil; the banks, inevitably; Bin Laden and 9/11 too, also inevitably; and now Islamic State, who want pretty much exactly what the Wahhabists wanted over half a century ago.

It’s a story full of violence, bloodshed, and bitter ironies, mainly about how the west, through misunderstanding and oversimplification, repeatedly achieved pretty much the opposite of what it was trying to achieve. America protected Wahhabism through its thirst for Saudi oil, and in doing so helped sow the seeds of radical Islam today. In Afghanistan they built dams to irrigate the Helmand valley, making it perfect to sow actual seeds, opium poppy seeds. The past is strewn with patterns, and warnings, if only anyone had bothered looking and tried to understand. But history is a bit too complicated for today’s politicians.

So, if you, like me, were/are confused about just what the hell was/is happening in that part of the world, then this may enlighten you.

My son read my post, and he cautioned me that this doesn’t explain everything about Syria. It is just some background to what is happening in the ME. And most of you probably know this.


He is the cute little fecker with two teeth. The other little fecker is probably now in CO.

I am so glad that I am not Bristol Palin’s mother. Imagine being schooled by that?

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5 Responses to Two Little Boys

  1. 40Watt says:

    I haven’t got time to listen to the video right now, but I will. Thank you so much for taking this up. This is an increasingly dangerous situation and needs more attention than it’s getting in the US media.

    What I do remember from Constitutional law and History (UK), back at the beginning, Britain was/is highly culpable. The destruction of the Ottoman Empire during WWI, together with the arbitrary division of the lands between the French and British by the League of Nations, ended up with an insane situation wherein political boundaries were drawn regardless of people’s ethnicity or religion. Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis and so on are peoples artificially created precisely to keep Arabs divided against each other, because that’s how the British, in particular, kept control of their colonies and interests.

    The Zionists got to settle in Palestine as per the Balfour Declaration and that’s another whole mess. It’s all so complicated it’s hard to grasp – and that’s even before the US got into the mix. 😦

  2. lindak1961 says:

    I should have time to watch the video this weekend, IG, thanks for posting. I know a little bit about ME history, for instance, Lawrence of Arabia had the dumb idea that the various Middle Eastern groups should have their own countries after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Brits and Yankees thought it better to arbitrarily draw national lines to suit business interests, especially Big Oil. Had Lawrence had his way, we wouldn’t have such a mess now. Heck, keeping the Ottomans in power would probably be better than what we have now.

    Your son and his friend are cute, and their picture makes me smile, but the pictures of Aylan and Galip make me cry. They are cute too, but won’t grow up to start school, much less finish it, fall in love, get married and have children of their own.

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