Although hundreds of nameless refugees from Africa and Middle East have perished in the Mediterranean in the last one-year, the world will never forget the image of the three-year old, cute and well-dressed Aylan Kurdi in a red shirt and blue pants, whose body was lying face down in the sand of Bodrum in Turkey. He died last week along with his mother and five-year old brother. Everybody seems to have said everything possible on this tragic death. Don't we have anything new to add to the story? Of course, we have.
Aylan's death has brought us to the Dickensian threshold of history: We have entered our “best of times” and “worst of times”; we are going through a season of “Light” and “Darkness”, and through the “spring of hope” and “winter of despair”. The cute little boy has proven through his death, the Arab World is more volatile now than while Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi were around. Thanks to the electronic media revolution, Aylan's image has entered people's living rooms, bedrooms, and workplaces. He now lives in people's heart. Now, Western Europe's love for Arab and Afghan refugees has overpowered Islamophobia.
How can any Muslim thank Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minster Juha Sipila of Finland enough for their generosity? Merkel said: “Every person who comes is a human being and has right to be treated as such.” And Finland's Prime Minister has offered a room in his house to a Muslim refugee family. Germans who were once imperialists – invaded countries and killed millions for their lebensraum or “adequate living space” for the German people – are now providing lebensraum to non-German Semitic Arabs, Kurds and Afghans.
“Who Failed Aylan Kurdi?” the question Ross Douthat has raised recently (New York Times, Sept 5, 2015) is the most pertinent one today. We all failed Aylan Kurdi, collectively. I agree with Douthat: “… the United States chief among them.” Since the US is mainly responsible for all the major post-World War II problems in the Third World, it “had a responsibility to prevent the Syrian war from developing, and a responsibility to protect its victims once it did.”
As his death has evoked global support and sympathy for him, his family, Syria and humanity, it has also agitated millions across the world. Sensible people don't give a damn to Arab monarchs, dictators, and their promoters. People now question why millions of innocent people – women, children and elderly – got killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and elsewhere during the last four decades; and people are still getting killed in civil wars, aerial bombings, drones and missile attacks. The way innocent people are dying at the hands of Islamist terror outfits, especially by the mysterious Islamic State, is beyond any explanations.
We have reasons to believe that the sudden rise in anti-US sentiment within and beyond the Muslim World has something to do with the image of Aylan Kurdi's body, lying face down in sand. People seem to be carrying more anti-US signs and banners in Western cities than before! One such banner has become viral in the social media: “You lied about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya – You are lying about Syria and Iran.” The Obama administration must pay heed to what the ordinary people say and think in the East and West. Only by restoring a just peace in the Middle East, the US can sell itself as a protecter of freedom and democracy.
Despite the surge in pro-Syrian and anti-US sentiment in the world, the Obama administration seems to be overreacting to some unsubstantiated claims of a Russian military build-up in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry has already threatened his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov over phone that additional deployment of Russian troops and military aircraft in Syria would lead to an armed conflict between the two largest nuclear powers. Meanwhile, France and Britain have declared they are stepping-up bombing in Syria, and Australia is likely to follow suit.
Aylan Kurdi's death has re-affirmed the following facts: a) the beneficiaries of imperialist and neo-imperialist designs are still around in Syria and beyond; b) nobody is going to win an all out war in the Middle East; and c) only a just peace in the region can save the world from the ongoing long war, which began in Palestine, not long after the end of World War II. The US intervention in Syria – since 1949 – has further aggravated the situation.
In March 1949, the CIA-sponsored coup d'état toppled the nationalist President Shukri al Quwatly and installed Colonel Husni al-Zaim – the “American Boy” – to power. Between 1949 and 1955, America staged five military coups in Syria to complete the de-democratisation process in the country. In 1953, a CIA –sponsored coup in Iran toppled the democratically elected nationalist government of Dr Mosaddeq to re-instate the pro-Western Shah.
In view of the above, it seems as if Aylan Kurdi's death is a by-product of the decades-long neo-imperialist interventions across the region, so is his death a catalyst of change in Syria, Europe and the whole world, which we are going to witness in the coming decades. What Washington, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and their satellites in the Arab World have failed to notice is the growing resentment of the ordinary people against neo-imperialist balderdash, lies and conspiracy theories. Even people in the US have started questioning the logic of invading countries to usher in democracy à la Iraq, Libya, or Syria.
Last but not least, the courage, desperation, dexterity and defiance of people – as are evident in the hazardous mass migration process of tens of thousands of Arab, African and Afghan refugees quite for some time – make one wonder if the process is the harbinger of what former Algerian President Houari Boumediene predicted would happen, in the UN General Assembly in 1974:
One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. . .
Boumediene's above assertion, on the one hand, reflects Muslim (or the Third World) desperation for equal opportunity and human dignity, presumably denied by the West; on the other, this also conveys the ominous message to the West that the Third World has been aggrieved and willing to fight for their rights and dignity. Has Aylan Kurdi's tragic death further precipitated the process?
The writer teaches Security Studies at Austin Peay State University. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.