Michael Lüders is a Middle East expert and was for a long time Middle East correspondent for the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. He has already published various books on Middle East issues and will be known to many readers of Current Concerns. As the title suggests his latest book entitled in German “Die den Sturm ernten. Wie der Westen Syrien ins Chaos stürzte” (Those, who reap the Whirlwind. How the West wreaked havoc on Syria) is linked thematically to his earlier work “Wer den Wind sät. Was westliche Politik im Orient anrichtet” (He, who sows the wind. The consequences of Western Politics in the Orient): He, who sows the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. Published in 2015, in his penultimate book Lüders focuses on the political and strategic implications of the West throughout the Middle East and on the contribution of the West under US leadership to the current misery. In his brand-new book, Lüders concentrates on developments in Syria.
Lüders starts his book with the remark that wars are “told like other stories” and this is what he will be talking about. He wants to look on the other side of the story, the one that is deliberately omitted or distorted in Nato biased reporting of our leading media. He compares the story of “values” for which Western policy supposedly stands, and which are said to be defended in Syria, with the strategic and economic “interests” of the actors. A hundred years ago, the exploitation of whole earth regions by European powers was justified in bringing the blessings of “civilization” to the “natives”. Today, in the name of so-called Western values, entire regions are destabilized by means of soft- and/or hardpower, in order to rob their resources and exploit them for own hegemonic interests. If “values” are an alibi for hegemonic policy, they cease to be values.
Michael Lüders clearly states that the war in Syria could never have triggered the greatest refugee movement since World War II without massive intervention from outside. The acts of terrorism in different European countries as well as the refugee crisis are direct consequences of a violent intervention policy. “Without the mistakes of the West, especially the US in Iraq, ‘Islamic State’ would not have arisen.” [Translation of all quotes Current Concerns]
To understand current developments and to guard oneself against the propagandistic war cries of the Nato media, one has to look at the historical background. This is illustrated by Lüders in detail. It starts with the intrigues of the imperialist powers England and France after the First World War, and continues with the American hegemony struggles after the Second World War. It is a history of constructed coups, coup attempts and clientele regimes; and it is a history of discouraging any development towards an independent policy based on one’s own traditions. In the Middle East, there have been concepts towards such a policy – a policy, which is committed to the interests of its own people; these concepts would still exist today if only the people could be left in peace and thus could exploit their intellectual and cultural potential. But, according to Lüders: “Given the social and political conditions of today’s Arab world, conditions of poverty, lack of freedom, state collaps and terror, there is no room for reform theories. People are fully concerned with their own survival.”
A peaceful development in the region would be possible if intervention from outside stopped and the people were given the necessary time. According to Lüders, for such a renewal the faith of those who live there must also be taken into account: “From Morocco to Indonesia, faith in God plays a central role in the life of the individual as well as of society. Anyone who thinks the region could be renewed without the factor Islam thinks in western categories”. Islam and Islamism are not the same. The fact that at first the latter was cultivated by the West in order to fight it then “for the joy of armaments industry”, and probably also in order to create a pretext for permanent intervention policy, should always be emphasized with regard to today’s low intellectual level in our countries. “Ultimately, no one has a real interest to defeat ‘Islamic state’ once and for all. It provides the lowest common denominator of all intervention powers [...].”
Michael Lüders does away with almost all narratives, being endlessly repeated in our leading media. For example, with the narrative that in Syria there is a struggle of the people against an evil regime. “The Western narrative, that the entire Syrian population, or at least the overwhelming majority, had arisen against Assad, is clearly false […] neither the religious minorities, […] nor the Sunni traders” have joined the uprising to this day. About half of the Syrians still stand behind Assad. “Western perception of a Syrian ‘opposition’ representing the whole or even numerous parts of the Syrian people lacks any factual basis. This does not reduce the value of the opposition’s criticism of the regime – but even in free elections, they hardly would have any chance of victory”. Most Syrians prefer the rule of the present government with all restraints to the rule of jihadists. They, like the persons responsible in the West, are aware that the rule of the jihadists would be the alternative if Assad had to go.
Moreover, the reader gets a lot of background information about the various war parties, which help to get a better understanding of the sometimes contradictory developments. Interesting in this context is the role of Britain with its striking bellicist and interventionist tirades throughout all the Syrian conflict until today. Incidentally, the reader gets to know that Great Britain has become the second-largest weapon supplier of Saudi Arabia, where it is doing big business with death. Furthermore, Great Britain is leading and coordinating the illegal international air raids on Yemen. So much to the values which Foreign Minister Johnson regularly recalls for himself. The fact that those who “declare being committed only to human rights” cry out loudly in Syria but are silent on Yemen is a different chapter.
Especially topical are Lüder’s comments on the poison gas attack on Ghouta near Damascus in 2013: “The poison gas attack on Ghouta and the reactions to it are a lesson, how easily the public can be manipulated in such an elementary question as war and peace [...].” Even today, the blame for this crime is put on the Assad government without any proof.
How loud were the cries in favor of US bombing Damascus, especially then, as now again, from Hillary Clinton and her contact man with the jihadists
John McCain, who finally made possible the transfer of weapons from the Libyan arsenal into the hands of Jihadist fighters.
Lüders points out: “Evidence suggests that it is not the Assad regime who was responsible for the gas attacks on Ghouta, but the Nusra front, directed by the Turkish government.” Considering the latest events, once again we can see how reasons for war are created and how an unsuspecting population is manipulated by means of mass media for mere political interests – here in the West as well as in the countries of the Middle East.
Michael Lüders concludes his book with the call to establish a “world order endeavoring to balance and compromise among the various actors and leading a dialogue at eye level”. The legal foundations for peaceful coexistence on our earth exist, indeed. They could be relied on, if there was the will.
What can each individual do? Lüders argues for distrusting official pronouncements and for critically reading of media publications. It is frightening how little it takes to “produce political enemy concepts or keep them alive”.
Lüder’s book helps to guard oneself against the permanent manipulation attempts of the war party. It helps to develop an own inner position on the question of war and peace, on the question of right and wrong, and on the question of equality of all people. In the end, the author invites us to renounce the logic of power and dominance, and to think us differently, with all those who are of good will. Perhaps it requires “indeed a fundamental change in consciousness, the realisation that we have no choice but to create our future ourselves”.
It is a book worth reading, a book that informs, that encourages discussion and that is an emotional antidote to war propaganda. It should be widely spread among the many fellow citizens who, like us, are committed to a world of peaceful coexistence. •
km. The new book by Michael Lüders has triggered very different reactions in Germany. A few widely disseminated German leading media have sharply polemicised against the author and tried to question his seriousness. But that was not the end-to-end response. Michael Lüders is invited to numerous readings and lectures throughout Germany. The ARD’s cultural magazine, “titel, thesen, temperamente”, acknowledged the author and his book on 30 April. Conclusion of the programme: “Lüders’ book is important, you should listen to him and talk to him.” The University of Trier, despite a protest letter, support the book author as a guest professor. And the commentary of two university lecturers responsible for the lecture series speaks for itself: “The authors [of the protesting letter against Michael Lüders] are obviously concerned with obstructing the freedom of science at university by calling for the unburdening of someone who represents uncomfortable opinions.” Impressive also the report and commentary of saarland-fernsehen.de after the first lecture by Michael Lüders in Trier: “He unmasks the narrative of Western politics, – primarily to do good –, as a cover for geopolitics led by interests and power. […] The great powers are not led by humanitarian benevolence but by geopolitical consideration. […] If we follow Michael Lüders’ lecture, it [the Middle East] is extremely close to the West when it is about its interests there. But its also very afar, if people and their well-being should be the centre of attention.”
Although the Deutschlandfunk [German public broadcasting] had, above all, lectured the criticism concerning Lüders, they also let him speak himself. After that the author characterised this procedure : “Basically one must say that someone who is opposed to the mainstream and who questiones prevailing certainties in politics, but also in the media report, must of course be prepared for the fact that he meets with resistance. It naturally does not please everyone that there is somebody questioning an official reading that is perceived as right.” And: “I notice, that those who share my view, or generally the people who do not serve a certain mainstream line, are often critisised as a person and not in the substance.“
However, apparently many people in Germany are no longer impressed by that. The mistrust of “mainstream” has grown very much, campaigns refer to people who have to say interesting things. That’s all around.
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