Aylan 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?