A Stitch in Time

We live in a relational universe.  Everything in the universe is in a fragile tension with everything else.  Pull on one thread and the whole world can unravel, perhaps without much notice at first but that thread pulled creates a larger and larger hole in the fabric.

Our Unitarian Universalist faith teaches us that we are interconnected, interdependent not only with each other of the Human species but with the entire universe. This relational aspect of our existence makes it difficult to know how to right the wrongs of injustice.

Unfortunately, what may have worked as an intervention as a child when defending a friend who is being beaten up by the schoolyard bully begins to not work as well when expanded to a neighborhood, or a community, a state, a nation, many nations.  Bernard Loomer, theologian from the mid-to late 20th century, stated that the potential for doing both good and evil expands the larger the size of the entity.  So the fight between two individuals is easily seen in the simple contrast of right and wrong but when right and wrong are extrapolated to the size of governments, the right and wrong actions become harder to discern.

They become harder to discern because the notion of what is good is harder to decipher.  What may be good for the USA might not be good for the other country, in fact, it could be downright evil.

Such was the case when Iran elected to office as Prime Minister in 1951, Mohammad Mossadegh.  Oil was discovered in Iran by the British and they developed the processing of it but paid very little of the revenue to the Iranian government.  The British also were abusive to the Iranian workers paying them sub wages and treated them horribly.  Mossadegh sought to nationalize the oil industry in Iran but Britain and the USA were opposed to this action.  Mossadegh believed that in order for a nation to be politically independent and democratically free it must first be economically independent and free from foreign exploitation of its resources.[i]

The CIA began a smear campaign against Mossadegh.  They not only stirred anti-Mossadegh sentiment in Iran, they stirred anti-Iran sentiment in the USA as well through the media. All of it fabricated and false in order to cause a coup in Iran and topple this government so that oil revenues will continue to flow into US and British coffers.  The CIA were successful in 1953 to oust Mossadegh, a democratic leader and put into power, the Shah of Iran, a ruthless monarch.

The good for the US was evil for the Iranian people. The 26 years of harsh rule by the Shah fueled the religious right’s anger.  Khomeini’s rise to power, the 1979 revolt against the Shah, the US hostage crisis, Khomeini’s calling the USA the Great Satan, the rise of terrorist groups against the USA; all of these events are consequences to the 1953 USA supported coup. The limited good, if securing oil for 26 years is considered a good, is outweighed by the evil it has spawned.

There are additional seemingly unrelated actions and events that are facets to this gleaming diamond of evil in this region brought on by the belief that such would be good for the USA.  For example, during the Iraqi-Iran war, Iraq used chemical warfare against the Iranian people. The USA supported the use of such weapons and gave Iraq satellite targets for their chemical war campaign.  The USA was still smarting from the year of stalemate with the US Hostages in Iran. The USA was terrified of the thought that Iran could win this war and shut down another source of oil and therefore sought to give Saddam Hussein the advantage and allowed this war to be punishment on Iran.  When it was advantageous to us  we used as one of the many excuses for our invasion of Iraq in 2003 Saddam’s use of chemical warfare during the Iraqi-Iranian War.  We neglected to remind the American people of our complicity in their use. We chose to support his use of chemical warfare and then we punish him for doing so years later.

The USA needs to learn the lesson from these events and soon.  We are about to step into a mess that is far more complex than the world was in 1953.  It is more complex precisely because of this history of USA’s foreign policy of only doing things that will benefit the USA and no one else.

There are no clear sides in the Syrian civil war.  The rebels are not a unified entity but made up of several factions.  Some backed by Turkey, others backed by Saudi Arabia.  Bashar Assad is backed by Iran and Russia.  Some of the rebels are backed by terrorist groups like the Moslem Brotherhood while other terrorist groups like Hezbollah are supporting the Syrian government.

While it is atrocious that Assad would use chemical warfare against his own people, a military strike by the USA will not convince him of the errors of his ways. It will only strengthen his resolve.  It will only serve to recruit more terrorists who believe we are indeed the Great Satan who gives with one hand and destroys with the other. It will only result in more deaths of innocent people living in Syria.

Given our history in this region, any good we might do will be seen with suspicion and rightfully so.  We have never done anything in this region that was not motivated by profit for corporations.  Our addiction for oil has caused us to be erratic in our foreign policy.

As others have also voiced, we must end our dependence on oil, remove that motivation from the equation.  Syria does not have oil, one might argue.  True, but Syria is roiled in internal conflict in a region where such conflict has spilled their borders before and in a region where access to foreign oil remains crucial to the USA economy makes any intervention in Syria as a potential benefit to our oil interests.  We need to be clear about our motives here, the public may be outraged in the use of chemicals, but the USA government is outraged this may prohibit access to our drug of choice, Oil.

Our oil companies must begin converting their products to alternative clean energy sources like solar and wind. The time has come not only in stopping our addiction to fossil fuels but also to stop the destruction of our planet.

We must use whatever diplomatic measures available to us to urge Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, and Iran and foreign terrorist groups like Hezbollah from supporting the civil war.  If they can be convinced to remove their support in ground troops, in arms deals, in monetary support, then the oxygen in this war will be removed and it will be snuffed out.  But such an action takes resolve and every current player and potential players need to be on board to take this bold action.

We cannot repeat the mistakes of our past.  The fragile interconnection and interdependence that we have with one another depends on our being willing to seek to strengthen relationships and not destroy them. When one strand of a spider’s web is broken and not fixed, it only takes a gust of wind to tear the web further into dysfunction.  A military strike does not fix the web; it destroys it with untold suffering and generational consequences of untold damage.

If we had not intervened with another people’s right to self-determination, then so much of today’s world would be the better for it.