Murphy's Law: Lies That Kill

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January 23, 2016: Interviews with refugees from the fighting in Iraq and Syria as well as people still in those countries shows that over 80 percent believe the Islamic terrorists in general and ISIL and al Qaeda in particular are creations of the West (particularly the United States) and Israel as a means to destroy their countries and Islam. This is nothing new and while all this is unbelievable to most Westerners and largely ignored by Western media and politicians it is very real and has been for a long time. Media in these countries is full of even more fanciful (to Westerners) inventions. This has caused problems for Western troops operating in those countries, although some have figured out how to take advantage of it.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed because “sorcery” is a capital crime under Islamic law. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts and this is often found useful in countries that are hostile to other forms of sorcery.

For example back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when Moslems, particularly women and children are among the victims. In response many Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Moslems again blamed Israel for staging those attacks. A favorite variation of this is that, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, a secret message went out to all Jews in the area to stay away. Another variation has it that the 19 attackers (all of them Arab, 15 from Saudi Arabia) were really not Arabs but falsely identified as part of the Israeli deception. In the United States some Americans insist that the attack was the work of the U.S. government, complete with the World Trade Center towers being brought down by prepositioned explosive charges. While few Americans accept this, the CIA and Mossad fantasies are widely accepted in the Moslem world. Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks, in an effort to trick the U.S. into attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are shocked at this, but the Moslems expressing these beliefs just shrug when confronted with contradictory evidence.

American troops arriving in Iraq after 2003 went through a real culture shock as they encountered these cultural differences. They also discovered that one reason for this, and many other Arab problems, is the concept of "inshallah" ("If God wills it"). This is a basic tenet of Islam, although some scholars believe the attitude was a cultural trait that preceded Islam. In any event, "inshallah" is deadly when combined with modern technology. For this reason, Arab countries either have poorly maintained infrastructure and equipment (including military stuff) or import a lot of foreigners, possessing the right attitudes, to maintain everything. That minority of Arabs who do have a realistic attitude towards maintenance and personal responsibility are considered odd but useful.

The "inshallah" thing is made worse by a stronger belief in the supernatural and magic in general. This often extends to technology. Thus, many Iraqis believed that American troops wore sunglasses that enabled them to see through clothing, and had armor vests that were actually air conditioned. When they first encountered these beliefs, U.S. troops thought the Arabs were putting them on. Then it sank in that Arabs really believe this stuff. It was a scary, or amusing, moment for many Western troops.

However, many troops learned to live with and even exploit these odd beliefs. When troops at one base discovered that they weren't being attacked much because many of the locals believed that the base was surrounded by a force field the troops would casually make reference to their force field. They would do this inside the base if any Iraqis were nearby and especially when they were outside the wire and among the locals. This reinforced the force field myth and made the base safer. Other troops would invent new fantasies, like pretending that a handheld bit of military electronics was actually a mind reading device. That often made interrogations go much quicker. Not all Arabs believe in this stuff, and those that didn't and worked for the Americans, often as an interpreter, could only shrug their shoulders when asked about it.

This easy acceptance of fantasies is exploited by leaders throughout the Middle East and the Moslem world in general. Leaders who know better build on these fantasies as a way to maintain their control over the population. The problem is a dirty little secret in the Moslem world, that leaders and academics don't even like to discuss it openly, much less with infidels. But it is real and you can read all about it in the local media, or overhear it in the coffee shops.

 

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