W hoever really runs things these days for the semi-mummified royal administration down in Saudi Arabia must be leaving skid-marks in his small-clothes thinking about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his ISIS army of psychopathic killers sweeping hither and thither through what is again being quaintly called “the Levant.” ISIS just concluded an orgy of crucifixions up in Syria over the weekend, the victims being other Islamic militants who were not radical enough, or who had dallied with US support.
Crucifixion sends an interesting and complex message to various parties around this systemically fracturing globe. It’s a step back from the disabling horror of video beheadings, but it still packs a punch. For the Christian West, it re-awakens a certain central cultural narrative that had gone somnolent there for a century or so. ISIS’s message: If you thought the Romans were bad…. Among the human race, you see, the memories linger.
ISIS has successfully shocked the world over the last two weeks by negating eight years, several trillion dollars, and 4,500 battle deaths in the USA’s endeavor to turn Iraq into an obedient oil dispensary. Now they have gone and announced that their conquests of the moment amount to a Caliphate, that is, an Islamic theocracy. In that sense, they are at least out-doing America’s Republican Party, which has been trying to do something similar here from sea to shining sea but finds itself thwarted by hostile blue states on both coasts.
More to the point, the press (another quaint term, I suppose) is not paying any attention whatsoever to what goes down with ISIS and the other states besides Iraq and Syria in the region. I aver to Saudi Arabia especially because Americans seem to regard it as an impregnable bastion against the bloodthirsty craziness spreading over the rest of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is, of course, the keystone of OPEC. Saudi Arabia has had the distinction of remaining stable through all the escalating tumult of recent decades, reliably pumping out its roughly 10 million barrels a day like Bossy the cow in America’s oil import barn.
Or seeming to remain stable, I should say, because the Saud family royal administration of mummified rulers and senile princes looks more and more like a Potemkin monarchy every month. 90-year-old King Abdullah has been rumored to be on life support lo these last two years, his successor brothers already dead and gone, and other powerful Arabian clans with leaders who can walk across a room and speak itching to kick this zombie Saud family off the throne. To make matters worse, the Sauds have also managed to sponsor much of the organized Sunni terrorism in the region (around the world, really) in their role as the chief enemy of the Shia — as represented by the politicized clergy of Iran.
Things are happening at lightning speed over in the region and beware of how the turmoil spreads from one flashpoint to another. This would be an opportunity for ISIS to put the Saud family on the spot regarding the just-announced Caliphate — as in the question: who really calls the shots for this new theocratic kingdom? (Answer: maybe not you, doddering, mummified, America suck-up Saudi Arabia). What’s more, what happens to the other kingdoms and rickety states in that corner of the world? For instance, Lebanon, which has been a sort of political demolition derby for three decades. The founder of the group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), pre-cursor to ISIS, was the Lebanese Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi — blown up in a USA air strike some years ago. Lebanon has been under the sway of Hezbollah for a decade and Hezbollah is sponsored by Shi’ite Iran, making it an enemy of ISIS. Might ISIS roll westward over Hezbollah now to capture the pearl of the Mediterranean (or what’s left of it) Beirut? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Then there’s Jordan, and it’s youngish King Abdullah, another notorious USA ass-kisser. Those crucifixion photos coming out of Syria must be making him a little loose in the bowels. And, of course, Syria, where this whole thing started, is a smoldering rump-roast of a state. And finally, that bugbear in the bull’s-eye of the old Levant: Israel.
It is miraculous that Israel has managed so far to stay out of the way of this juggernaut. Of course, among its chief enemies are Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s foster father, Iran, which happen to be the enemy of ISIS and, of course, in that part of the world the enemy of my enemy is my ally — though, I’m sorry, it’s rather impossible to imagine Israel getting all chummy with the psychopaths of ISIS. One thing is a fact: all other things being equal, Israel has the capability of turning any other state or kingdom in the region into an ashtray, if push came to shove. Voila: World War Three.
Coming in August
World Made By Hand 3
Published as an E-book for the first time!
The 20th Anniversary edition
With an entertaining new introduction by the author
Bargain Price $3.99