Depression: Panic Attacks and Focusing

Depression: Help for Young People is a story about a treatment that worked.  Here is another courageous story that I hope will help those who suffer.

Connie courageously revealed what she experienced and pointed to the healing path she discovered.

“I had debilitating panic attacks since age six and depression as certain situations would make my personality disappear in a self-protection beyond my control.

“I had saved for years to take Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy when they opened a center in NYC but it didn’t reach the problem.

“One day at age 27, I decided I had enough and took the body sense that was so strong and presented possible scenarios and the second day, a cameo of a hateful face of my mother presented itself to me that connected to the body sense.  It was a pre-verbal memory.  When they connected, it released about 90% of the panic attacks.

“I was curious about what occurred and one day read in the NY Times book section a description of Eugene Gendlin’s book “Focusing”.  It turned out that was the process I had stumbled on.

“Years later, I learned Focusing and became certified to teach it.  It is a powerful bodily awareness to consciousness technique that can be used by itself or with other modalities.  So powerful, I have even had body healings from some of the connections – one being a now normal back after 14 years of debilitating back pain.

“Focusing can be done by ones self or more easily with a partner, who “holds” the space as you go within, and can be done via partnering on the phone – it does not need to be done with your partner in person.  It is a little known process, sadly.

“There is a Focusing community.  Gene Gendlin was a contemporary of Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago.  He discovered Focusing by listening to successful sessions of therapists to try to understand what they were doing in their session, but discovered instead it was a process the patient was doing!

“Focusing saved my life.  I, too, did not see myself continuing my life if I had to go on with those panic attacks and depression from the inability to “be” in the presence of others.

“One can learn how to do Focusing from a certified trainer over the phone as one option.”

Focusing looks valuable for everyone, even those who have no depressive episodes at all!

The www.focusing.org website says: “Focusing shows how to … create a space for new possibilities … your body picks up more about another person than you consciously know.  With a little training, you can get a bodily feel for the ‘more’ …  From that bodily feel come small steps that lead toward resolution.”

Thank you so much, Connie, for your bravery and recommendation.

Depression: Help for Young People

I was inspired by Professor Railton’s courage to join him in coming Out of the Closet” to admit that I, too, have lived through debilitating depressive episodes.  

Railton says: “We must call [depression] mental illness because that’s what it is, illness that takes up residence in the mind, but no more of the essence of a person than any other illness.  And when we hear of mental illness, treatment should be the first thing that comes to mind.”

The Facebook link to my “confession” prompted an outpouring of moving stories, mutual support and help that I hope to make more accessible with this and other posts.  

Teenagers are especially vulnerable to depression and are among the least well equipped to get help.  Liz wrote:  “The black dog” of depression and other mental illnesses are part of our common human experience.  We need to be able to openly discuss our mental health, just like we do our physical health: there should be no shame in being in pain.  I was recently gratified to read an article my high-school age daughter wrote for our local paper on this subject; I didn’t know she was that brave!  Maybe it means things are actually changing? 

Liz’ daughter, Katie, is indeed brave and her article “Teen Talk: YouTube can be a valuable resource” offers very practical help.

Katie begins by telling us: “Studies show that the number of teenagers who report feeling regularly anxious and/or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years or so, that children today have anxiety levels similar to those of the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.”

When Katie experienced “a perfect storm of stress and unhappiness” she, like every teenager, needed more help than her parents could provide:  “I am lucky enough to have supportive parents who could sympathize with what I was experiencing, but sometimes sympathy wasn’t enough.  I wanted to feel understood; I wanted a sense of camaraderie with other people my age who were going through similar things.”

What she found is: “on YouTube of all places … a handful of younger people — younger women especially — who made videos on their experiences with anxiety, depression, body image and mental illnesses in general, to spread awareness and encourage recovery …  People … offered authentic and beneficial suggestions on how to manage living with anxiety or depression on a day-to-day basis.”

This is so important because:  “Teenagers who don’t feel comfortable telling anyone that they are dealing with mental illness now have somewhere they are able to get information.”

“That’s not to say,” Katie writes, “that informational YouTube videos are a replacement for cognitive behavioral therapy or any other form of treatment, but they are certainly a step in the right direction — a step that many people would not normally be able to take.”

I hope we can change what Katie points out:  “There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness. Our culture teaches us that mental illness is something we must keep to ourselves, something that is too personal to share or discuss, something we should feel ashamed of.”

But people need help now.  So, everyone who knows a teenager, here’s a way they or a friend can get help when they feel alone, too vulnerable to talk.

Thank you so much, Liz and Katie!

 

Beyond the Media Hype: Jordan

Jordan, Israel and Palestine coexist warily in what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land.  Jordan is east of the Jordan River with Syria in the north, Iraq in the north-east and Saudi Arabia in the south.   It was populated mainly by tribal Arabs when its borders were set.    They are outnumbered now by Palestinians who fled since Israel’s establishment at the end of WW2.

Most of Jordan is plateau and most of that is desert rising gradually in the west to villages in the Jordanian Highlands.  Further west, the highlands descend into the north-south rift valley down which the River Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea to the Red Sea.   Only about 2% of Jordan’s land is arable, half of it permanently cropped.  There is no oil, insufficient water, few resources of any kind that humans value.

Jordan Topography

Jordan is landlocked except where the Gulf of Aqaba gives it access to the Red Sea.  Aqaba was a major Ottoman port connected to Damascus and Medina by the Hejaz railroad.  The WW1 Battle of Aqaba was key to ending the Ottoman Empire’s 500 year long rule of Arab lands.

Gulf of Aqaba

Jordan’s population is around 8 million, about half of whom are Palestinian refugees or their descendants.  It was 400,000 in 1948, about half of them nomadic, but when 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled that year from what became Israel, many went to Jordan, and many more came later.

Since the 2003 war in Iraq, a million refugees have also arrived from there, and, since 2012, more than half a million refugees from Syria.

About 92% of Jordan’s population is Sunni.  About 6% is Christian (the CIA says 2%), down from 30% in 1950 primarily because of Muslim immigration.  Well educated Christian Arabs dominate business.  A 1987 study showed half of Jordan’s leading business families to be Christian.

Since most of Jordan is desert, the population is highly concentrated in the northwest.

Jordan Population Map

When Britain gained control of Jordan and Iraq at the end of WW1 it appointed sons of Hussein bin Ali as their rulers.  Britain had promised Hussein rule of all Arab lands in return for leading the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire.  Faisal ibn Hussein became ruler of Iraq and his brother Abdullah ibn Hussein ruler of Jordan.

Abdullah I established his government in 1921.  Britain granted nominal independence in 1928 but kept a military presence, control of foreign affairs and some financial control.  At the end of WW2, although the US wanted Israel to be established first, Britain granted Jordan full independence.  US President Truman recognized the independence of Jordan and Israel on the same day in 1949 considering them twin emergent states, one for refugee Jews, the other for Palestinian Arabs displaced as a result.

Jordan Relief Map

Abdullah I had represented Mecca in the Ottoman legislature from 1909 to 1914 but allied with Britain during WW1 and played a key role in the Arab revolt.  He ruled as an autocrat.

Recognizing the inadequacy of resources within Jordan’s borders, Abdullah hoped to reestablish and rule Greater Syria, the Ottoman district made up of present day Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.  He invaded Palestine with other Arab states in 1948, occupied the West Bank and formally annexed it in 1950.  Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria then demanded Jordan’s expulsion from the Arab League but were blocked by Yemen and Iraq.  Abdullah was never trusted again by other Arab or Jewish leaders.  He was assassinated in 1951 by a Palestinian who feared he would make peace with Israel.

Abdullah I was succeeded by his son Talal who had to abdicate the following year because of mental illness.  His son Hussein who was educated in Egypt and England then ruled until his death in 1999.

King Hussein recognized that while the borders Britain had set for Jordan with Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia could not be eliminated as his grandfather had hoped, they might with negotiation be improved.  In 1965, he was able to make a deal with Saudi Arabia that gave Jordan an additional 11 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba to expand its port facilities.  The great problem was Jordan’s border with Palestine.

From 1950, near the end of Abdullah’s reign, Jordan administered the Palestinian West Bank.  Then Israel invaded and seized it in the 1967 Six Day War.  What should Hussein do?  He continued to claim the West Bank until 1988 despite its occupation by Israel.  He relinquished it to the Palestinians then, and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.   Jordan is still only the second Arab nation to do so.  Egypt was the first in 1979.

Over the course of his long reign (1953-99) , Hussein kept negotiating for peace and managed to establish a relatively solid footing for Jordan despite competing pressures from great powers and massive immigration from Palestine, but his strongly pro-Western policy meant that he was never entirely trusted by other Arab leaders.

Hussein made less progress on Jordan’s economy, which is among the smallest in the Middle East.  Because there is so little fertile land, agriculture accounts for only 3% of GDP.  Phosphate mining and other industry is around 30%.  Trade, finance and other services make up the balance.  Jordan depends largely on foreign aid, of which the US is the main provider, and the government employs at least a third and perhaps more than half of all workers.

Jordan Land Use Map

Hussein was succeeded by his son, Abdullah II, who was educated both in England and the US and who served in the British army as well as both Jordan’s army and air force.  He has focused on religious coexistence, Israeli-Palestinian peace as well as building a powerful Jordanian military, and especially on Jordan’s economy.

Abdullah II  worked for several years to get agreement on a project that was first proposed in the late 1960s as part of peacemaking between Israel and Jordan.  The Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal will provide desalinated drinking water to Israel, Jordan and Palestine, replenish the Dead Sea whose surface area has shrunk 30% in the last 20 years because nine tenths of the Jordan River’s flow is diverted for crops and drinking, and generate electricity.  In late 2013 the three nations reached agreement to go ahead with the project.

Jordan Red Sea Dead Sea Map

What Abdullah II has not done is make Jordan’s government more democratic.  It is a constitutional monarchy in which the king is Head of State, Commander-in-Chief, and appoints the Prime Minister, Cabinet and regional governors and 75 members of the Senate.  The House of Representatives and other Senators are elected but elections have been seriously rigged.  A new law in 2012 prohibits parties based on religion.  That led the Muslim Brotherhood and others to boycott voting.

Although its military is strongly supported by the US, UK and France, Jordan is also a founding member of the Arab League whose goal is to “draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty” and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation whose goal is to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.”  Jordan is also an active member of the UN and provides the third highest participation in its peacekeeping missions, and is in the European Union’s program to bring the EU and its neighbors closer.

Jordan’s ruling dynasty has good international relations and is well accepted by Jordanians despite autocratic rule, massive immigration of refugees, an economy that is not self-sufficient, and high unemployment especially among young adults.

Because Jordan’s population is so heterogeneous, it is not a nation in the sense of a potentially genocidal homeland.  It is very much a state, however, even though it has no natural borders with Syria, Iraq or Saudi Arabia.  They accept the ones drawn by colonial powers almost a century ago.  It does have a natural border with Israel and Palestine, the Jordan River, that is now accepted by all parties although the status of Palestine itself remains unresolved.

There is much to be learned from Jordan’s history of governance.

Out of the Closet

I was never a good follower.  But sometimes there’s no choice.  Today, I must follow Professor Peter Railton who studies ethics and the philosophy of science.

I highly recommend the transcript of his entire Dewey Lecture but it is 16 pages long so I will be much more brief.  Asked to weave his own life story and developments in neuroscience into a call for action, he spoke of three times of transformation in his life.  I will mention only one, and here is the only bit of neuroscience:  “Memory turns out to be tightly linked to our capacity to imagine alternatives to the ways things are and to meet new challenges—to face the future, where it is still possible to make a difference.  For these purposes, it is better to have a living memory system capable of recombining, relating, correcting, and enriching stored information.”

Railton recreated in his speech “a series of moments from my remembered life,” each of them “a moment of making a transition.”  His hope was “if I can make the experience of these moments real enough to you, even briefly, they might speak to you in ways that go beyond the little stories.”

He followed those three seminal memories with what he hoped would be a new one right there in the lecture hall.  He introduced it this way:  “The stunning reversal of age-old attitudes toward gay marriage came about [because] enough gay individuals courageously … came out publicly.  Within two decades the rest of the population had learned … that among their friends, neighbors, coworkers, children, parents, teachers, students, and favorite movie stars were many gay individuals.  Were these people to be denied the rights of life and love the rest of us enjoy?”

What those courageous gay individuals did was “insisted that privacy should be a choice … made visible … so that heterosexuals could see their gay brothers and sisters for what they are, not for what their incomprehension and apprehensions had made of them.”

Being gay is not a choice.  What must be a choice for everyone who is gay is whether or not to keep it private.

We are still living in another “don’t ask, don’t tell” world, Railton continues So there’s nothing for it.  Those who have dwelt in the depths of depression need to come out as well.”

Our society sees depression as an inner weakness.  We must learn to call it what it is, Railton tells us “We must call it mental illness because that’s what it is, illness that takes up residence in the mind, but no more of the essence of a person than any other illness.  And when we hear of mental illness, treatment should be the first thing that comes to mind, not shame and withdrawal.”

So I, too, must come out because I, too, have lived through debilitating depressive episodes.

The first, when I was 16, is very luckily the only one where I wanted to kill myself.  I walked along the river bank for so long, afraid to continue living, equally afraid of drowning.  Finally I was tired out and continued to live by default.  I went to the doctor the next day and explained my symptoms.  “You’ll just have to get used to it,” he told me.  “Learn to hide it as best you can.”

So I did.  Alcohol was a mixed blessing in some especially severe episodes but I was luckier than my very close High School friend who killed himself.  My experience manifested most often in second-guessing that slowed me down but left me enough strength to keep forcing myself onward.

Shortly before I retired from business, where I accomplished a lot but could have done more, Felicity got me to a doctor again.  There are now plenty of antidepressants and although their effect is poorly understood and/or misunderstood, I have been symptom-free since that time.

If I had been open about my depressive episodes, the business challenges I enjoyed would not have been open to me.  But if more of us reveal our mental illness along with what we accomplished despite it, I hope others will have the choice of openness that Professor Railton, I and so many others did not.  And I hope they will promptly get treatment!

Imperial Conspiracy and the Islamic State

The leader of the self-declared Islamic State vows they “will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes-Picot conspiracy,” utterly destroying “borders that were drawn by malicious hands in lands of Islam.”  It’s important to understand that “conspiracy.”

When the Ottoman Empire joined Germany in WW1, Britain conquered Palestine because it needed a route to move large forces fast from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf to defend its interests in India.  Britain then made a secret pact with France and Russia, the Sykes–Picot Agreement, about how they would divvy up the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces at war’s end.

Britain got present day Israel, Palestine, Jordan and southern Iraq.  France got south-eastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and northern Iraq (Britain later managed to get northern Iraq, too, when oil was discovered there).  But for the Revolution that overthrew its Tsar, Russia would have gotten Armenia and north-eastern Turkey.

This schematic of the original 1916 agreement shows the area Russia would have occupied in green, the area France would occupy in dark blue and the area it would control administratively in light blue, the area Britain would occupy in dark red and what it would administer in light red.  The purple areas were to be international zones.

Sykes Picot Schematic

The agreement was endorsed by Hussein bin Ali, the leader of Hejaz, who, in return for leading an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, was promised a post-war Arab empire from Egypt to Persia excepting only Britain’s possession of Kuwait, Aden and the Syrian coast.  Britain considered Hussein the Arabs’ leader because Hejaz incorporated Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.

Hussein declared himself King at war’s end.  Then in 1924 he declared himself Caliph, political and religious successor to the prophet Muhammad and leader of the entire Muslim community.  His arch-rival, ibn Saud, attacked and defeated his forces and unified what is now Saudi Arabia.

Hejaz Map

The area defined as an international zone in the Sykes-Picot Agreement that is now Israel and Palestine was defined that way because Britain’s Prime Minister had declared himself “very keen to see a Jewish state established in Palestine.”  Israel would, it was thought, be too small to defend itself so it would need the international community’s protection.

Promises were made separately and in secret to Arab and Jewish leaders during the war that were mutually contradictory.  One or the other had to be abandoned.

In 1917, Lord Balfour wrote a Declaration that Britain and its allies were committed to establish Israel.  Then in 1918, Britain and France pledged to “assist in the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia by setting up national governments [chosen by] the indigenous populations.”

Perhaps Arab leaders could have accepted a homeland for Jews who wanted to “come home” but “national governments chosen by the indigenous populations” negated the unified Arab homeland they had been promised.

This is why, speaking in Iraq, ISIL’s leader said: “We have now trespassed the borders that were drawn by the malicious hands in lands of Islam in order to limit our movements and confine us inside them.  And we are working, Allah permitting, to eliminate them (borders).  And this blessed advance will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes-Picot conspiracy.”

The Sykes-Picot Agreement did not clearly define the territory that would become Israel.  How big should it be?  What lands should it encompass?  The Old Testament had placed Israel’s tribes on both sides of the River Jordan, with the Manesseh tribe occupying not just the present day West Bank but also the East Bank, which is the fertile part of present day Jordan.  The Agreement was also less than clear about the eastern border of Palestine.

Israel 12 Tribes Map

In 1919, Chaim Weizmann, who later became President of the World Zionist Organization, made an agreement with a son of the King of Hejaz.  It defined a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation that would include most of the Middle East.  That set Israel’s border within present day Jordan but the agreement was short-lived and would never have been acceptable to most Arab leaders.

Israel Faisal-Weizmann Map

In the end the League of Nations agreed in 1922 to a British Mandate for Palestine supplemented by a Transjordan Memorandum.  Transjordan was the site of most battles during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule.  The Mandate system was to provide government for the former Ottoman Empire territories in the Middle East “until such time as they are able to stand alone.”

The British protectorate of Palestine was to include a national home for the Jewish people while Transjordan was to be an Emirate governed semi-autonomously by Hussein bin Ali’s Hashemite dynasty, which was also to rule Iraq.

Palestine and Transjordan Map

All these agreements, self-serving and/or well-intentioned, were based on ideas more than reality.

The best way to understand the reality is in terms of the Fertile Crescent, the relatively moist and fertile land where some of the earliest human civilizations flourished (the Crescent can also be defined to include Egypt.)  Writing, glass, the wheel and irrigation all originated in this crescent.

Fertile Crescent Map

The idea of nation states with borders to keep “us” safe and “others” out, the framework for the WW1 colonial powers and us now, is very recent.  Empires in and around the Fertile Crescent rose and fell centered on areas of agricultural surplus.

Settled farmers, seasonally relocating herders, and wide ranging tribal folks changed their allegiance easily to the extent they felt any at all to their distant rulers.  Religion was important as an inspiration for individuals — for rulers, it was a lever of power.

Entities we think of now as Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey did not exist for most of history or had different definitions.  Cultures long preexisted nation states and they have far more powerful impact on possible futures.

Beyond the Media Hype: Kurdistan

The Kurds are not a nation and are without a state.  Ethnically Iranian and mostly Sunni Muslim, they live among mountains where Europe and Asia meet south of the Caucasus.

kurdish areas map

About half the 28 million Kurds live within Turkey’s borders, 6 million in Iran, 5 to 6 million in Iraq, and close to 2 million in Syria.  They form about 18% of Turkey’s population, 10% of Iran’s, 15%-20% of Iraq’s and 10% of Syria’s.

Where Kurds live is a battleground at the ever-changing border of great empires based in Turkey, Russia and Iran/Persia.

Ottoman forces that threatened Persia in the 1530s were deterred with a scorched earth campaign in which Kurdish settlements of every size were laid waste, crops were destroyed, resistors were massacred, and all others were relocated.  Destruction of the Kurdish area continued into the 1600s.

Over the centuries and as the fortunes of the great empires changed, Kurds fought sometimes alongside Ottoman forces, sometimes with Iran, sometimes among themselves, and most often against domination by any foreign power.  They remained a tribal people with principalities in present-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish States 1835

The Ottoman Empire’s 1829–1879 centralization campaign had little impact on those Kurdish principalities.  Although flickers of Kurdish nationalism sprang up toward the end of the 19th century, the Kurds never united.

Turkey’s Kurds tried to establish autonomy in 1880.  The central government welcomed it at first, hoping to counter a potential Armenian state under Russia.  But they suppressed the uprising when they recognized that Kurds and Armenians, the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion, had always co-existed quite well.

Unlike Kurds in Turkey who consider themselves different from the majority, Iran’s Kurds did not.  They were treated as part of Iran’s Islamic majority, unlike Armenian Christians or Jews.  The central government was concerned about Ottoman invasion, Britain’s advance from India and Russia’s from the north , not differences among fellow-Muslims.  While the majority of Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria are Sunni, they are about evenly split in Iran between Sunni, Shia, and Sufi.

Iran Map 1900

Kurdish nationalism began to grow in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century because of Ottoman oppression of minorities and WW1’s devastation.  Much of the Kurdish area was laid waste by advancing and retreating troop forces and the Ottoman government drove out an estimated 700,000 Kurds, almost half of whom perished.  They also killed or drove into the Syrian desert a million or more Armenians between 1915 and 1916.

After WW1, Turkey’s Kurds became subject to aggressively enforced secular rule.  Kurds to the south fell under France in newly established Syria and under Britain in newly established Iraq.

To protect its new colonial possession, Britain advocated independent and allied Kurdish and Armenian states as a buffer against Turkey and Russia.  That idea died when Greece and Italy invaded Turkey and its Kurds joined the battle against the Christian invaders.

In 1920, Britain, France and Italy agreed to establish “a scheme of local autonomy for the predominately Kurdish areas” but Turkey’s government was strong enough by the following year to block it.  Then Britain abandoned the idea of a “quasi-autonomous” independent Kurdistan in Iraq in case the French established one in Syria.

Britain next encouraged Turkey’s Kurds to rebel but they stopped that when France ceded its lands north of Syria, which gave the Turkish government a base from which they could easily invade Iraq.   In 1923, Britain signed a treaty with Turkey that made no mention of Kurds.

Kurdish Areas Map 2

But Britain treated Kurds in Iraq well, giving Arabs and Kurds equal rights, Kurdish and Arabic languages equal legal status and dividing the country into Arab and Kurdish regions with separate administrative policies and practices.

When Iraq gained independence, however, the central government set up a unified state dominated by Sunni Arabs that suppressed Kurdish rights, militarized Kurdish regions, and destroyed Kurdish villages, especially where oil was found.  There has been pretty much constant strife in Kurdish Iraq ever since.

Kurdistan Map

Suppression of Iraqi Kurds increased further under Saddam Hussein.   During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, half a million Kurds were sent to detention camps in southern and eastern Iraq, villages were razed and Kurdish towns were attacked with chemical weapons.

After withdrawing its forces in 1991, Iraq’s government imposed an economic blockade on Kurdistan which the UN embargo on Iraq made worse by halting Kurdish trade with other nations.

But Iraqi Kurdistan had achieved de facto independence.

And Kurdistan is now a somewhat functional democracy.  Turkey is becoming its closest ally, major oil companies have made deals with it, and a pipeline to Turkey with a capacity of a million barrels a day is due to come online within a couple of years.

Turkey is also potentially a supporter of a self-governing Kurdish state in Syria.

Kurds only ever wanted to be free from oppression.  Turkey’s Sunni Kurds got on well enough with Christian Armenians, and Iran’s mix of Sunni, Shia and Sufi Kurds were treated as equals by Persia’s Shia rulers, so Kurds can coexist.  They have, however, been greatly abused, violently suppressed by Ottoman Turkey’s Sunni rulers, driven out by Iran in a scorched earth campaign, massacred by Iraq’s Sunni regime, and more.

Their latest battle is against an ever-shifting set of gangs, the worst of which, ISIS, is employing extreme terror to institute what they say will be global religious rule.  Their objectives certainly include temporal power…

What should we do?  Is the solution a nation state whose territory includes all Kurdish areas now in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria?  Should we work to establish that Greater Kurdistan?  And should we then supply it with weaponry to defeat any future threat?

Given what nation states have done in the past, that does not look to be the best idea.  A better approach will emerge when this research is complete.

Beyond the Media Hype: Turkey

Turkey, bordered by water on three sides and high mountains in the east, has lowland only on the coast.  About one sixth of its land can support agriculture, another sixth grazing.  Mountain ridges form a belt just south of the Black Sea.  A ridge in the south borders a central massif in the west and joins the northern mountains in the east.  Narrow straits in the east give Turkey control of the only outlet from the Black Sea.

Turkey Topo

Control of the Turkish Straits is valuable because they provide Russia’s only year-round ocean access.  Its navy is based on the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine.  The Straits also offer the only maritime trade route for Romania, Ukraine, Georgia and their neighbors.  International treaties govern what warships can use the Straits and Turkey’s rights to control the passage.

Black Sea Map

Turkey is where Silk Road routes linked Asian and European traders.  Trade for Chinese silk that began in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) expanded enormously enabling Islamic Empires to become the world’s greatest economic power in the 7th-13th centuries when their trade network covered much of Asia, Africa and Europe.  Cultures carried via the Silk Road helped shape the civilizations of China, India, Iran, Arabia and Europe.

Silk Road Map

Turks from Mongolia, Kazakhstan and other ‘stans began moving west long ago.  Some settled along the way.  Others went on to Anatolia, today’s Turkey, to establish what became the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922).  Many of them continued to live as nomads or moved seasonally between upland and plain in eastern Anatolia but three quarters of the population now is urban.  Almost a fifth of Turkey’s population are Kurds, an ethnic Iranian people, in eastern Anatolia.

The head of state  of the Ottoman Empire was also its religious leader.  Administrative, economic and political systems were guided by Islam, but non-Muslims had substantial religious freedom under the “millet” system that protected Christians in Zoroastrian Iran a thousand years earlier and was retained after the Islamic conquest.  Christians flourished under that system and sent missionaries via the Silk Road even to China and India.

The headman of a millet collected and distributed taxes and set laws for his people based on religion.  All Christians, for example, throughout the Empire were part of the Christian millet.  There was no citizenship based on location within the Empire, nor any ethnic separation.  People of every ethnic background in a millet had the same rights and privileges.  The law of the injured party’s millet was applied to crimes by those from a different millet.

The Ottoman Empire peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries after advancing northwest through Greece and Ukraine and southeast into Iran, and gaining control of the Mediterranean and of trade with east Asia via the Indian ocean.  It lost territory piecemeal in the 18th and 19th centuries then, faced with losses on every side, allied with Germany in WW1.  The Empire was utterly destroyed and Turkey was occupied  by the victors.  They were driven out in 1922 and Turkey became independent the next year.

Ottoman Empire Map

 

The new government was led by Mustafa Kemel Atatürk who replaced Islamic law with a secular civil code, gave women full political rights, and gave Turkey its alphabet along with many other reforms.  Ataturk means “Father of the Turks”.  He is the one who gave Turks their identity, and he remains a strong force even though he died in 1938.

Ataturk established many political freedoms although his was the only political party.  His successor established multi-party elections at the end of WW2, in which Turkey was neutral.  When the Soviet Union tried in 1947 to establish bases in the straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the US guaranteed to defend Turkey and Greece militarily.

True multi-party democracy began in 1950 but it was interrupted by military coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980.  Turkey’s military leaders saw themselves as responsible for protecting Ataturk’s secular state by replacing governments when necessary as a short term corrective.

The 1950-60 government had relaxed Ataturk’s restrictions on Islam.  Then, after short-lived economic growth, it took on huge debt that led to high inflation and dissent that it tried to quell with censorship.  The military took over and executed the Prime Minister.  Unstable civilian governments resumed in 1961, with another coup in 1971.  Violent clashes between ultra-nationalists and communists led to another military coup in 1980 and imposition of martial law throughout the country.

A one-party civilian government supervised closely by the military was established in 1983 and the economy boomed.  Kurdish separatists began an insurrection in 1984 which the government first tried to counter with local paramilitary militias.  In 1987, they placed the entire southeast under emergency legislation that stayed in force until 2002.  Political instability returned in the 1990s.  In 1997, the military forced the Prime Minister to resign, deeming his religious policies a threat to Turkey’s secular nature.

The next government reformed the economy, established human rights laws and began positioning Turkey for membership in the European Union, then the economy faltered again.  Another new government formed in 2002 under Recep Tayyip Erdogan has remained in power.  It arrested military leaders in 2008 and 2010, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the government.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP — Ak means “light” ) is oppressive, corrupt and may be aiming to reestablish an Islamic state.  A 2013 corruption scandal that led to arrests of his close allies provoked riots across the country.  Erdoğan claimed an attempted coup and blocked Twitter and YouTube when he was incriminated in a recording released on the Internet.  Media censorship, electoral fraud, and general disregard for law have branded him in many eyes as a dictator.  Western media are mostly supportive.

The challenges for Turkey are to establish a government that does not depend on military approval and is responsive to civil rights demands from all parts of society, especially Kurds in the east who feel closer to their fellows in Iraq and Iran.  Erdogan’s strategy is the usual strongman approach.  Turkey may not in fact have a better future without its secular military leaders.

Turkey’s relative advantage is that its geographic borders do make it a natural nation state unlike Iraq, Syria and others to its south whose territory was defined in the 19th and early 20th centuries by colonial powers with a ruler.

But what is a nation state?  State implies territory and nation implies culture, so a nation state implies a territory with a common culture.  Several states in this series of posts are multi-ethnic and/or multi-cultural.  They do not have the common culture that makes for a natural nation state and unlike the Ottoman Empire, they have no system to accommodate diversity.

The nation state idea arose from Romantic Age fantasies about racial heritage in early 19th century Europe.  States were replacing dynastic monarchies whose territory had often changed with the marriage of a king’s daughter.  Many states came to embrace ideas about the unique and superior nature of the people within their “traditional” borders.  The concept evolved in the 20th century into the idea of a fatherland, and that led to genocide in some nation states along with a world war over territory.

A different concept of nationalism arose in the second half of the 19th century as the Ottoman Empire declined.  Europe’s great nations were thriving as nation states, why not Arab nations, too?  In the early 20th century when much of the Arab world fell  to Europe’s colonial empires, the idea grew stronger.  All Arabs wanted the colonial powers gone — many wanted to replace their form of rule with a federation of Arab governments.

Arab World Map

When Arab independence came, mostly during or after WW2 and often with a ruler chosen by their imperial master, Egypt, Syria and Iraq made an abortive federation agreement, and there were other attempts, but local priorities and the drive for power always prevailed.

In fact, independent Turkey would never have allied closely with its Arab neighbors whether or not they united, nor would Turkey ally closely with Iran, and neither would Iran with the Arab world.  There’s simply too little history of good self-government, or willingness to trust.

Unsurprisingly, most post-Ottoman states have been stable only under a dictator whose military power subdued ethnic and religious rivalry within an arbitrarily defined territory.

So, how does the future look for Turkey and its neighbors?  Turkey and Iran have good potential as nation states.  Recently independent Kurdistan may have, too, but it has no natural borders.  Syria and Iraq are on the brink of fragmentation.  The Islamic State has no territorial or ethnic history, but its leaders may be sufficiently brutal to thrive for a time.

It is hard for Westerners to see a good future for the people of this area because we can no longer imagine any system of government other than nation states.  We think dynastic monarchies in the Middle East just need to become secular democratic republics like ours.  But the Ottoman millet system, for example, worked better than most nation states.

Hamilton argued in Federalist Paper 25 that power-seeking leaders of US states would make war on each other if they had military capability.  These nation states are doing exactly that.  We should stop arming them to escalate battles we do not understand.

We must also recognize that centuries of abuse by Europe’s colonial powers and now our own wars in Iraq and elsewhere have bred deep and inevitable mistrust of whatever help we may offer.

Beyond the Media Hype: Iraq

A stony plain west of the Euphrates inhabited by a few pastoral bedouins covers almost two-fifths of Iraq, which overall is about the size of California.  Rolling upland between the upper Tigris and Euphrates is also largely desert.  Highlands in the northeast provide Kurds with some grazing and cultivation but three quarters of all Iraqis live on an alluvial plain from north of Baghdad to the Persian Gulf through marshland from where the Tigris and Euphrates meet.    Crops are increasingly limited south of Baghdad by salinity from river-born and windblown sand.

Iraq Topography

Three-quarters of Iraqis are Arabs, most others are Kurds.  Most sources say two thirds of Iraqis are Shia, one third Sunni.  But some claim there’s a Sunni majority.  Kurds (17% of the population) are mainly secular Sunnis as are most Turkmen (around 5%).  What is disputed is how many Iraqi Arabs are Shia or Sunni.

Christianity was brought to Iraq in the first century by the Apostle Thomas and Christians were in 1950 as much as 10% of the population.  Many have fled and there are fewer than 1% now.  The majority of Jews also fled after riots in 1967 when Israel captured Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The forces at work in Iraq now have deep roots in the past.  Centuries of battles between Persian and Eastern Roman empires that exhausted both paved the way for the Arab-Muslim conquest and the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate to be established in Baghdad in the 8th century.  It soon dominated the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, and Baghdad became the leading city of the entire Arab and Muslim world.  It was for five centuries Islam’s center of learning.

Umayyad Califate

That glorious age came to an end in 1257 when Genghiz Khan’s Mongols swept in from the far northeast and sacked Baghdad.  Sunnis had dominated throughout the Abbassid caliphate but Shia were able to convert others when it fell and more importantly, Sufi mystical Islam became popular in Iran, preparing the way for a subsequent Shia regime.   In the mid 1300s, the Black Death halted recovery in Iraq and throughout the Middle East where fully a third of the population died (45-50% in Europe).   Then in 1401, another Mongol warlord came, sacked Baghdad again and massacred the Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq.

The Shia Safavid Empire that arose next in Iran began with a battle in 1499 led by their first ruler when he was twelve.  He captured Tabriz two years later, declared independence from the Ottoman Empire (see below) and held most of present-day Iran by 1510.  He set up a well administered theocracy that brought a nomadic society under control and financed an army that soon conquered much of Iraq, Turkey, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Iran Safavid Empire 2

The Safavid Empire ruled for more than two centuries, and enforced conversion to Shia under penalty of death.

The Ottoman Empire had been expanding in stages from the early 1300s.  Their siege of Constantinople in 1453 brought the Byzantine Empire to an end and left them in control of trade with the Far East.  They took Iraq from the Safavids in 1533.

Ottoman Empire

Iraq remained a battle zone between the Sunni Ottoman and Shia Iranian empires from then until the Ottoman Empire finally fell at the end of WW1.

The result of those centuries of turbulence is a Sunni population where Iraq borders Turkey, Kurds in the northeast, and a Shia population where Iraq borders Iran in the south.

Iraq Ethic and Religious Groups

The British got control of Iraq when the Ottoman Empire fell and established a Sunni government with a king from French Syria.  Iraq gained independence in 1932.  In 1941, Britain invaded to protect oil supplies following a military coup and reestablished the monarchy.  There was another military coup in 1958, and that regime was overthrown by the Ba’ath Party in 1968.

The Iraqi Ba’ath Party formed in 1951/2 was Arab Nationalist, socialist, and primarily Shia but it slowly became Sunni and dominated by the military.  When General Saddam Hussein gained control in 1979, he welcomed the fall of Iran’s Shah, but Ayatollah Khomeini, wanting the Islamic Revolution to spread, armed Shiite and Kurdish rebels in Iraq, so in 1980 Iraq declared war.  After some initial success, its forces were driven out in 1982 and for the next six years, Iran was on the offensive.  The war ended in stalemate with half a million to 1.5 million dead.

The US had broken with Iran when the Shah fell and supported Iraq in the 1980-1988 war, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, US-led forces quickly drove them out.  The Iraq/Kuwait border had been fixed by the British in 1913 and accepted at first by independent Iraq but it was disputed since the 1960s.  In 2003, claiming  that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the US reversed course and led an invasion.  Saddam Hussein’s government  was replaced by a Shia-led one that excluded many former officials and disbanded the mainly Sunni army, then chaos and intense violence ensued between Sunnis and Shias.

US leaders assumed a Shia government would be pro-American because Saddam Hussein had oppressed Iraq’s Shias.  Instead, it cautiously allied with Shia Iran, which the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel saw as a great threat.  VP Cheney warned of “a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world’s supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world.”  Jordan’s King Abdullah warned of an Iranian-led imaginary crescent that would stretch from Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait through Iran to Syria and Lebanon.

sunni shia middle east

Those fears were fanciful.   There is much more in common between Sunni and Shia Iraqis than between Iraqi and Iranian Shia.  Iraq’s Shias are chiefly Arab while only 2% of Iranians are Arab, the majority being Persian (60%+) while those in the north are mostly of Turkish heritage (20%+) and Kurds (10%).  The conflict between Sunni and Shia in Iraq is chiefly about the right to rule.  It results from the Shias’ long suppression by Sunni governments in Baghdad.

Now Iraq’s leader since last September is trying to build trust with the Kurds and Sunnis who were alienated by his divisive Shia predecessor.  His view of Iran and Iraq’s strategic imperatives is clear.  He says he will “take any assistance, even from Iran” against the Islamic State that, in the aftermath of our destruction, now controls large parts of Iraq.  Iran began providing direct military aid to Iraq in mid-2014 and an Iranian General now appears to be commanding both Iraqi and Iranian forces against the Islamic State.

Iraq Military Situation

So…  Our government at this time finds itself supporting Iraq’s Shia government, increasingly less committed to overthrowing the Shia regime in Syria as its Sunni Arab allies want, and seeking to end its estrangement from Iran.

Confusing as that is, it is good to stop escalating bloodshed by arming adversaries whose allegiances keep changing.  I will explore what to do about the Islamic State in a future post.

The chaos in Iraq now is very far from new.   Its future will continue to be determined by its position between powerful rivals, and whether it can establish an effective government for all Iraqis.

Beyond the Media Hype: Syria

Centuries of violence underlie the civil war that has so far killed over a hundred thousand Syrians, driven out two million refugees, and displaced six and a half million internally, and it is just part of a war where we and other powers are fighting for our own conflicting aims.

Syria is where agriculture and cattle breeding began in Mesopotamia around 10,000 BC.  It has been under empires of Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Turkey.  It was held a thousand years ago by French, English, Italian and German Crusaders.  After WW1 when Iraq was taken by the British, it fell under France.  Britain later offered not to establish a Jewish state in Palestine in return for hegemony over a Greater Syrian state but France retained control until 1946.  Independent Syria made a chaotic start and was stable for only forty years.

Mesopotamia and Syria

Syria’s population includes Arabs, Greeks, Kurds, Turks and others.  Roughly three quarters of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, including Kurds who make up 9% of the overall population.  Shia Alawites (12%) and Christians (10%) make up the rest along with small numbers of Druze and others.

Although Sunni Arabs are by far the majority, Syria is ruled by Shia Alawites from the narrow coastal region that is separated by a mountain range from a semiarid steppe zone that covers three-quarters of the country and which is bisected by the Euphrates valley where cereals and cotton thrive.  The east is desert.  In the extreme northeast there is oil and natural gas.

Syria Topography

Newly independent Syria had military coups, twenty different cabinets and four constitutions in its first decade.  Martial law was in place for more than half a century after Israeli, British and French forces invaded Egypt in 1956 to regain the Suez Canal.  Syria signed a pact with the USSR when they were forced to withdraw then united with socialist pan-Arab Egypt from 1958-61.  The Arab Republic of Syria came into being in 1963 in a Ba’ath Party coup emulating one just before that in Iraq.

The Ba’ath Party was established in 1947 by a Christian, a Sunni Muslim and an Alawite Shia Muslim, anti-imperialists who aimed to replace religion with socialism and social reform.

In 1966 traditional Ba’athists were overthrown by Alawite army leaders.  In 1970, air force leader Hafez al-Assad seized control and ruled Syria as a strongman until his death in 2000.  He was succeeded by the present ruler, his son Bashar al-Assad.

In 1967 Syria lost half the Golan Heights when Israel also captured Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. After losing more of the Golan Heights in 1973 when Syria and Egypt invaded Israel, Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 and remained there until 2005 supporting proxies like Hezbollah to prevent Israel from taking southern Lebanon.  Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.

Yom Kippur War map

Syria’s current Ba’athist Alawite regime is based in what was an Alawite State when Syria was ruled by France.  Under the Ottomans, the head of each ethno-religious group — Arab Shia, Arab Sunni, Greek Christian, Assyrian Christian, etc —  administered the laws of his community.  France defined Lebanon’s borders to put Sunni Muslims under Christians who were allied with France, and divided Syria into the State of Damascus at the heartland of the Sunni Arab majority, the State of Aleppo at the trading center of Kurds, Arab Christians, Armenians, and others who felt closer to Baghdad than Damascus, and the Druze and Alawite States where people are “sort of” Shia.

Alawites celebrate many Christian festivals, use bread and wine in their ceremonies, and believe they originated as divine light but were cast out of heaven for disobedience and must expiate their sin over many lifetimes.  Their God has three emanations that manifest in human form, most recently as father of the Shia faith, Ali, the prophet Muhammed and Salman the Persian who was born into a Zoroastrian priestly family, converted to Christianity, heard of the coming of another prophet and found Muhammed.  Salman was the first Persian convert to Islam and the first translator of the Quran.

For political reasons, the Alawites have been recognized as true Shias by Iran’s supreme leader.

French Mandate Syria and Lebanon

The US view of Syria has changed greatly since the civil war began in 2011.  In the early years of our War on Terror we were quite approving.  The Dept of State’s 2006 International Religious Freedom Report noted that Syria’s Government “suppresses extremist forms of Islam [and] made affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood punishable by death [in] 1980.”

We thought Bashar al-Assad was, like his father, keeping his people under firm control: “The generally amicable relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom; however, there were occasional reports of minor tensions between religious groups mainly attributable to economic rivalries rather than religious affiliation.”

Syria

But when Saudi Arabia recognized the Syrian National Coalition formed in Qatar in 2012 as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people and France and Turkey declared it the “only representative of the Syrian people” our State Dept issued a press release saying: “We look forward to supporting the National Coalition as it charts a course toward the end of Assad’s bloody rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future that all the people of Syria deserve.”

The State Dept’s 2013 Human Rights Reports: Syria said: “Syria is a republic ruled by the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Asad … The Asad regime continued to use indiscriminate and deadly force to quell protests and conducted air and ground-based military assaults on cities, residential areas, and civilian infrastructures, including schools and hospitals throughout the country.”

Our media said nothing about the issues, just demonized Bashar al-Assad, the same playbook they used for Nicaragua’s Ortega, Panama’s Noriega and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

The State Dept report continued: “on August 21, the regime used sarin gas and artillery to target […] suburbs of Damascus, and killed over 1,000 persons.”  President Obama asked Congress to approve the use of military force “to deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade the potential for future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.”

But just as there was no evidence for the “weapons of mass destruction” President Bush used to justify invading Iraq, there is no evidence that al-Assad’s regime was responsible for the sarin gas atrocity or has any weapons of mass destruction.

We did supply sarin gas that Saddam Hussein used on Iraq’s Kurds, but the gas used in Syria was not weapons-grade.  It appears to have been used by rebels who hoped to provoke us into helping them topple al-Assad’s government.

Now, four years into the civil war, Syria looks much as it did under the French Mandate except that the government still at this time controls a large part of what was the State of Damascus as well as the Alawite and Druze States.  Most of what was the State of Aleppo is now controlled by the Islamic State while the northeast is held by Rojavan forces.

Syrian Civil War

The Rojavan, aka Western Kurdistan, manifesto says: “The democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a State system, it is the democratic system of a people without a State… It takes its power from the people.”  Kurds want Kurdistan to include parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, too.  Kurds following Ottoman policy in the early 20th century massacred Christians throughout that area and were rewarded with their land.  More than half Syria’s poor are of Kurdish origin.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which controls territory in Iraq as well as Syria began operating under a different name in Jordan in 1999.  When we invaded Iraq in 2003 they attacked our forces, made suicide attacks on civilan targets and beheaded hostages.  They pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004 with the intent: “to free Iraq’s Sunnis from Shia and foreign oppression, and to further the name of Allah and restore Islam to glory.”  Early in 2014 al-Queda disavowed loose-cannon ISIL.

The al-Nusra Front is an al-Queda branch formed in Syria and Lebanon in 2012 that aims to overthrow the al-Assad government and replace it with a fundamentalist Sunni state.  They are focused on that alone and have warned against Western intervention.  ISIL announced its merger with al-Nusra in mid-2013 but fighting broke out between them a year later.

ISIL now controls much of Syria and Iraq while Syrian and Iraqi Kurds dominate the northeast.

Military Situation Iraq Syria

I will delve deeper into Iraq, Kurdistan and the Islamic State which in mid-2014 claimed religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.

So… our air strikes are now leading the battle against the Islamic State, but we destroyed Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist regime in Iraq and say we will also end Bashar al-Assad’s in Syria, which clears the path toward a fundamentalist Sunni regime like the Islamic State.

Does what we’re doing make sense?  Our military can destroy, but will we like what comes next?

This 1993 article by Robert Kaplan is excellent.

Surprised by Jingoism

In 1971, the year Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was born, my neighbor introduced me to a man he thought I would like to meet because “Gustaf was a U-boat captain.”

I experienced instant visceral dislike, which Gustaf seemed to share.

My parents did not hate Germans.  They lived very much in their own world and neither of them hated anyone.  But most English people did hate Germans when I was growing up.  Propaganda instilled hatred in WW1 and WW2 then blaming continued because so much was destroyed.

But my life in 1971 was terrific.  I was so lucky!  I’d moved to America, always my dream, and I was being well paid to develop a precursor to the Internet for an exciting young business that offered what we now call cloud computing.  I never imagined there was jingoism in my mind.

Jingoism, ”the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries.”

Centuries of propaganda about the glories of the British Empire had made jingoism a building block in the worldview of many Brits, but surely not mine!  I was well educated and so very intelligent.

It turned out I was wrong.  I’ve always been grateful to my neighbor, Rusty, who unintentionally made me aware of that dark force lurking in my mind.

Why tell you this?  Because, as this Opinion Piece says, our media “on both left and right … present politics as a battle between the children of light and the children of darkness. Opponents become enemies. Democratic deliberation becomes difficult or impossible.”  And many politicians join in.

Bobby Jindal, the focus of the article, is especially troubling.  In a recent broadcast reported here he warns of “people that want to come and conquer us …  change our fundamental culture and our values … set up their own culture and values … if we’re not serious about this we’re going to see more lone wolf actors … just like you’ve seen in other countries — the horrific shootings in Paris.”

That’s raw meat for the media.  This piece on a Center for Immigration Studies report linked to from that article is headlined “Approximately 2.5 million immigrants from “predominantly Muslim countries” reside inside the U.S. right now.” The report’s numbers actually show a very different reality.

Why would Jindal say such things?  A cynical appeal to those who believe all immigrants with dark skin are a threat and who fear ever-growing terrorist menace?  Or does he also believe what he says?

Jindal is very smart, graduating when he was 20 with honors in biology and public policy, then going to New College, Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar.  But, just as programming overrode my intellect when I met Gustaf the U-boat captain, Jindal is likely programmed, too.

Jindal’s Hindu parents came to the US 24 years after the British left India, the same amount of time as since our First Gulf War.  Fourteen and a half million Indians were uprooted in 1947, Muslims fleeing to Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs to India.  Anywhere from two hundred thousand to a million Indians, Hindu and Muslim, were slaughtered.

1909 India Hindus1909 India Muslims

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terrifying experience when India was partitioned must have been present in Jindal’s Hindu household.  It must have lodged in his mind in the same way Hitler’s war entered mine.

All of us are vulnerable to such ancient hatreds that we may not even suspect are in our mind.  I wish we would all look for them.  They cause such great harm.