It’s often pointed out that the US/UK policy towards the Middle East and our ‘War on Terror’ is highly hypocritical. Our politicians cosy up with the Gulf monarchies – undoubtedly the most oppressive regimes in the world – and trip over themselves to please Israel, whilst simultaneously condemning the more liberal countries in the region.
An often-quoted example of this double standard is the lack of acknowledgment by the Bush administration – or indeed any high-ranking US politician – that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan. However not only is the KSA the birthplace of al-Qaeda, the country’s population are indoctrinated with the intolerant Wahhabi breed of Islamic fundamentalism from a young age.
Schoolbooks in Saudi Arabia are written entirely from a religious perspective: teaching creationism, as well as the virtues of jihad. A 2011 survey found that 75% of Saudi citizens deny the theory of evolution. Maps inside geography textbooks do not include Israel, and instead children are taught that they will one day reclaim Jerusalem from the evil Zionist colonisers. One might think that Washington would strongly object to this seemingly fundamental clash of interests between itself and its foremost Arab ally – following 9/11 George W. Bush did make a halfhearted attempt to address the schoolbook issue – but it seems that this matter is not of great importance when considering that the US government has itself produced such texts.
Between 1984-1994 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent millions of dollars producing textbooks for Afghan children. These books were used to convey militant Islamic teachings and promote violence in order to indoctrinate a generation of kids with hateful and intolerant ideology, instilling in them the belief that communists were infidels. This was part of the Pentagon’s policy to bankrupt the Soviet Union by drawing them into a long and un-winnable conflict against the mujaheddin. A 2002 article in the Washington Post stated:
The textbooks [were] part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation. For instance, children are taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles, and land mines. In the absence of any alternative, millions of these textbooks continue to be used long after 1994, and the Taliban were still using them in 2001. In 2002, the US has started making less violent versions of the same books, which Bush touts will have ‘respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.’ Bush fails to mention who created those earlier books.
Washington Post, 23/03/02
However it should be pointed out that while the Soviet-Afghanistan war has been framed as an invasion/occupation, the Soviets actually became involved at the request of Afghanistan’s communist government, who were themselves under attack by US and Pakistani-backed insurgents.
While it is now accepted that the CIA provided covert support for the Afghan Mujaheddin during the eighties, that they also poured their efforts into raising a whole new generation of extremists is further evidence that radical Islam is being used as an external threat to justify military operations abroad and curtail civil liberties at home.
Additionally, the Pentagon has also infiltrated the US education system with its ‘Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’: a school programme sponsored by the military in order to ‘instill in students in [United States] secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment’. While JROTC’s official aim is not army recruitment, between 30-50% of those who take part do end up joining the military. In reality, JROTC instills young students with militaristic thinking and the blind following of authority; preparing them for future participation in America’s imperial adventures. One quote from a JROTC textbook reads:
Americans generally place a high value on human life. This may not necessarily be the case in other cultures or countries that might be willing to gamble lives for political or economic gains. Certain of the terrorist-sponsoring nations of the Middle East may display such behavior.
This is essentially a form of propaganda that teaches American students that they are exceptional and other cultures – specifically those of the Middle East – are inferior. Such teachings work to discourage critical thinking, and limit resistance to the US government.
The Daily Beast reported earlier this year that the State Department produced a comprehensive study of Saudi school books at the end of 2012, but the contents of this have so far been kept under wraps from the public. A June 2006 cable from the US embassy in Riyadh released by WikiLeaks gives an example of contemporary Saudi educational material. An eighth grade textbook says: ‘God will punish any Muslim who does not literally obey God just as God punished some Jews by turning them into pigs and monkeys’. Elsewhere Christians were likened to apes. As with the missing pages of the 9/11 Commission Report that are said to implicate Saudi in the Twin Tower attacks, Washington seems determined to keep information regarding their close ally’s links to Islamic terrorism a closely guarded secret.
The creation of an external threat through the covert sponsoring of religious fundamentalism, in conjunction with the psychological conditioning of the American population to ensure support for the government and military, are likely a long-term strategy in an attempt to retain the US’s global hegemony.
U.S. Keeps Saudi Arabia’s Worst Secret