September 9, 2002
"Ever Since David slew Goliath, being small and winning has been a question of strategy."
Pohakuloa, Hawaii Island. Site of an army training area in the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Hawaii's two great mountains. Sacred to Hawaiians. A Cathedral of Hawaii.
Pohaku are big rocks, special stones, monoliths assumed to have and to hold significant powers. Akin in geomantic terms to the ancient Tors of England, Stonehenge and similar configurations of stone and rock known to many cultures throughout the world.
When the island as a whole is known to be the body of a great mother, the saddle at Pohakuloa symbolizes and exists as that warm and comforting area between that great mother's breasts. A very special place, indeed. There a child is nurtured. Here people are nurtured. Grounded. Adults may forget, however.
Such matters are of little pragmatic concern to non-Hawaiians, Christians for the most part, disconnected, rootless, ungrounded. Few such areas anywhere are given much respect when dominant scientific, commercial or military interests conflict. Hawaii and Hawaiians are not alone in that regard.
The American military is on a roll. Their bad times after the end of the Cold War are over. Glory days are back with clear establishment of a new enemy. We got Terror. We got Ragheads. We got budgets without limit. We got a bright green light and a great new word: "Transformation!" NewAge Rumsfeld (via Kauai-born General Shinseki)! Politicians are hoping to ride the coattails of terror into more years of power.
Shifting from a Cold War set-piece kind of army to a rough-and-ready up close army shakes the very foundations of US military doctrine. The War Colleges are in great ferment. Clausewitz and von Moltke, Sun Tsu and all the great gurus of war are hot. High-flying bombers, screaming modern Stukas and smart missiles can demolish ground but not hold it. To capture, to hold, sooner or later foot soldiers, infantry, have to go in. The new army doctrines want to give them wheels to get around easier and faster, too. Tie every soldier into an electronic web, too. Sophisticated.
As hardly anyone talks much about civil society and world peace at the moment other than in terms of war, transforming a military may make good sense.
Whenever a universe of thought, military doctrines and technologies are restructured, great opportunities abound. Opportunities for career advancement. Opportunities for profit. Opportunities to seize power. Compelling incentives. Catnip for politicians, too.
Trying to solve problems using the tools, thoughts and techniques which create them is silly although prevalent. Who can quarrel with Transformation?
Transforming armies assumes transforming strategies, tactics and processes.
People galore all needing training, indoctrination, acclimation, inculcation, transformation. And all that new equipment to introduce and to learn to use. All of which demands expansion. Militaries love expansion. New word for expansion is transformation.
Training in transformed circumstances assumes new dimensions. To activate a learning curve presents an upfront bulge of requirements. A tiny bit of that translates locally into expansion of the training facilities at Pohakuloa on the Island of Hawaii, up in that precious area between the great mother's breasts.
Big dollars are dangled in front of job hungry people trapped between a cash economy and a desire to stay, malama 'aina (care for the land) and 'ohana (extended family) and that sort of stuff.
Big dollars are the fuel of political incumbencies. Big dollars are big profits for contractors. Politicians, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development agencies, developers, housing providers, wholesale distributors, retail stores and everyone who stands to profit from Transformation, expansion of Pohakuloa Training Area, clambers for a seat on the bandwagon.
Tree-huggers be gone! Hawaiians face up!
A given is that the army insists it needs more training space within which to transform. If not here, then somewhere else. Ease the pain here and increase it there. "Not in My BackYard" doesn't work as well anymore.
Superficially, there is nothing much up in the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea except scrub, rocks and that hot and cold wind. Some feral goats, pigs, too, maybe. Cattle scrabble at a dry clump of grass here and there.
The greater good is served by expansion, by transformation. If you don't believe that, ask the Army. "We deeply regret a few, sincere, perhaps, although seriously out-of-touch folks are put off by this evident truth of military actualities. Look at our specialists on environment and cultural matters. Look at our nice greenhouse with native plants." Nice touches which don't really change anything about the situation, though. "They" just don't get it.
OK, so downwind dust can be a problem to those fancy folks in their fancy houses and mega-resorts just down the slope. Maybe silt up now and then. The folks in those places got their money from someplace to buy the houses and to stay at the resorts.
As likely as not that money is tied into the military somehow. Millions of jobs depend directly or indirectly on military budgets. Good patriotic folks whipped into anti-terror frenzies are not going to quarrel about a transforming army needing a few thousand more acres of west Hawaii scrub.
Where is West Hawaii? Near Waikiki?
In actuality, is there any abiding reason to deny the army? When it is all over, if it is ever all over, the military guarantees to clean up the areas and bulldoze them back into a semblance of how it was. Just like the Kahoolawe clean up, right? Yeah, right! (1)
Lots of folks do pretty nasty things to their mothers when they grow up.
Who pays any attention to all this animist business? I mean calling some pretty barren land your mother. Come on now!
The unexamined actuality may be that this island is a great mother.
And that ignoring her as we tend to do actually has some consequences which may be triggered if she does lose patience.
Mauna Loa is active. Through her Kilauea vents, presently Pu'u', the mother, through Pele (volcano deity), is presently creating. Latest big eruption started on Mothers' Day, no less.
Mauna Kea, considered dormant, may be stimulated to throw off her encroaching astronomical observatories also housed on lands sacred to Hawaiians.
Few places on this earth are privileged with these acts of creation.
Few peoples are blessed that way. No great cathedral or temple or mosque or pagoda anywhere else can make this claim of active creation and support it with facts.
Few can doubt, evidence abounds, that it is the unintended consequences of unexamined assumptions and actualities which so thoroughly and so consistently undo the works of humankind. Does further expansion threaten to awake forces of creation? Is that risk included in calculations, Environmental Impact Statements, abundant sophistries and so forth and so on?
Do we now have a strategic design within which to question and around which to transform the expansion of Pohakuloa Army Training facility? Is the potential for cost from this expansion given new perspective? May be ho'om una, wasteful, as much as anything.
However, more than mere millions of dollars are at stake. Indeed, is the overall good for island, state and country better served by containing rather than expanding Pohakuloa Army Training Area?
Let the great mother heal! Win-Win anybody?
OK, Back to Basics
Strip away everything to get to core, center, essentials of modern society. Get this point and you get details like Iraq. Where are the guts, the gore and the slimy actualities to be found?
The one word answer, simplicity itself, is resources. No matter how far and how wide one wanders up the ladders of abstraction, down at the bottom, on solid rock, connected to any and every core, you will find resources.
Without control of resources, without control of conversion of resources, without control of distribution of resources there is no power, no might to make right, no right to make might.
The capitalist forms of economic and societal organization rest firmly and irrevocably on resources (as do any alternatives). The only actual question is control.
The Silk Road to and from the Orient was all about resources: silk, spices and other luxuries for the privileged of those times. Columbus and all his European successors wandered the seas to find what? Resources. The various stock companies which initially financed and staffed takeovers of most of the world outside Europe were organized and sent out to find and to control resources. Slaves were drained from Africa to be resources, inefficient machines to dig, plant and harvest resources to be sent to Europe for conversion and distribution. Colonial expansions were dictated by needs to acquire ever cheaper resources. Resources which were to be processed in the near slave conditions of early industrial revolutions primarily in Europe.
Gradually, chattel slavery and serfdom were replaced by wage slavery and now credit cards. Folks are presently suckered by toys such as SUVs, made from and fueled by distant resources. Folks will fight for their SUVs, etc., just like they will fight to keep their god(s). American way, for god's sake!
Today we have Globalization which is about resources, their conversion and distribution -- their control. Poverty is a function of resource control. All of the opposites to poverty are also a function of control of resources.
The overall system functions little differently than in the days of Silk Road. Better transportation. Better communication. It is run to benefit the few at the cost of the many. History repeats ad nauseam that the few, although more, are never satisfied nor guided by the niceties they propound endlessly. Hence "bubbles" and dot.com debacles now and then. "Necessary corrections" in the slang of the few. "Sorts out the nouveaux!"
Also, there have always been the functionaries, the flunkies, the clowns and jesters who serve the few. We now call them Middle Class, bureaucrats, administrators. Like me, then.
Never has there been any lack of folks quite willing and eager to serve. Never has there been any lack of folks quite willing and eager to beat up on their peers to serve the few. The exalted among these folks now get to sit in cockpits at 30,000 feet while doing their versions of beating up. Very sanitary.
Daniel Quinn of Ishmael repute (2) says, also simply, that it involves locking up the food (resources). Whoever holds the keys runs the jail. Pretty fundamental, no? Doesn't really make much difference whether it is plutocrats, politicians or priests who hold the keys, the food remains locked up. Whether sacks of grain, bags of rice or MREs in yellow boxes trucked or dropped to famine areas, the food stays locked up, under control.
Take a look at your local mega-market, Safeway, Sam's, CostCo, et al., and notice the shelf control and pricing involved. The long aisles of pet food and breakfast cereals. Notice where today's version of Dicken's England is to be found (Clue: PRChina -- the loop swings back to Silk Road basics.)
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 financed in part with resources taken from Jews expelled from Castile (the lucky ones spared Inquisition treatments). Rather a naked form of resource conversion, one not without precedent or future, to be sure. Sailing the ocean blue was an end run, a flanking maneuver around the Silk Road oligopolists of Venice and Genoa who in turn had shoved aside the potentates of China, Central Asia and Near East to control the pipelines of that time. I won't comment on the opium trade of India and China, now Golden Triangle and Afghanistan.
You may notice, if you will, that Saudi Arabia's ruling family and clerical surround are finally being correctly identified as Wahabi and Islamci (which means fundamentalist). As the Wahabi core of Saudi Royalty and associated clergy is and never has been secret, why now? "The easiest secret to keep is the one no one wants to hear."
Wahabi Islamci (they are not the only fundamentalists, just the richest) are quite convinced Islamic proponents with a high convergence of interests related to bin Laden and crowd who are now USA Public Enemy No. One.
Across the great swath from Adriatic to Bering seas, the common word for Islamic Fundamentalists is Wahabi. There is a very high convergence of Wahabi behavior and belief with the now deposed Taliban of Afghanistan. Get it?
Parenthetically, one may note the resource qualities of a bin Laden as demon and uncaptured demon which has parallels with Saddam Hussein as demon and as yet uncaptured demon. Can't get one? Get the other.
Iraq sits on the second largest known reserve of petroleum, oil and gas, in its many manifestations after Saudi Arabia. "Regime change" (don't you get a even a little smile at the circumlocution for unilateral aggression?) in Iraq may be presumed to end the embargo, restrictions on oil sales, etc., no matter what happens to the folks who happen to be under the bombs and so on and so forth. It also may be presumed to assert control of Iraq resources by Capitalists with purest of motivations, no? As was said of Afghanistan, "We don't want the people, we want the resources." Makes sense, no?
Benefits? End run on Saudi Arabia. Control of Iraqi resources. Facilitation of Caspian resources reaching the West and East through more secure pipeline routings. Who benefits? Who has the keys after the dust settles?
Want to bet there will be Bushes on the boards, among the leaders of the key holders?
OK, back to Islam
Islam, in common with all religions, is not a monolith (a single rock). The rock on which Peter is alleged to have built the Christian Church has been reduced to rubble if not dust. Same with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Ka'aba in Mecca looks like a big rock with a black table cloth -- who knows what is actually underneath now? Pohaku, any one?
The key divisions within Christianity are said to be Protestant and Catholic. The key divisions within Islam are said to be Sunni and Shia. The key divisions within Judaism are said to be Orthodox and Conservative -- or is that Reformed?
Any reasonably aware Christian, Jew, Muslim knows full well that the splinters within their religions are like spines on a porcupine, numerous, sharp and pointed. Utterly true of Islam, believe it or not, to repeat.
Is it a measure of general gullibility, historical ignorance, dumbing down, or simple displaced power lusts that Americans assume otherwise about Islam? No comment.
There are divisions within Islam which relate to Sunni and Shia. These are differences in interpretation of the words of Holy Qur'an -- channeled, to use the NewAge term, from Allah to Mohammed. Differences in lineages, too.
It is, actually, only within relatively modern time that an observant Muslim dared to interpret the Holy writ. To question what was meant by a section or word was purest heresy. Now, in the appropriate bookstores, interpretations, commentaries, translations are almost as numerous as the Christian, Judaic, Buddhist, Hindu, et al., musings about their texts. Some folks hate all that most passionately. Call them Wahabi, maybe?
Sufis have always had an uppity attitude, said and did what came along, having a good time all the while -- that is, when not suffering righteously, squirming in holy abandon over love of Allah.
Christian texts began in now dead languages such as Aramaic, worked onward through various versions of dead and dying Greek. The earliest versions, sections in actuality, historically discoverable, begin some time after Jesus Christ did Easter the hard way. Along the ways and byways to today, in evolutions of Hebrew and numerous other languages in passing through to modern language translations, Bibles emerged. The beginnings of what are named Bibles today, started to coalesce around the mid-400s C.E. or A.D, if you prefer. Bibles' extent match in general terms only.
Yet, Christian fundamentalists (also hardly monolithic) will assert dogmatically, with utter certainty, that The Bible (that is, their version of The Bible), however and by whomever translated into contemporary American English, is The Word of God (Christian variety or varieties). At least the Koran (variant spelling, similar pronunciation) has always been written in quite limited evolutions of Arabic.
In terms of present events, perhaps a more meaningful set of divisions within Islam flow along lines marked on one extreme by the Wahabi Islam demanded within Saudi Arabia (the State Religion, in fact) and the rather loose confederations known in English as Sufi. The essential conflict, for that is what it is, between Wahabi and Sufi has to do with control of the symbols of Islam.
Curiously, with the aid of colonial British interventions, by the mid-1920s, the Wahabi/Saud alliance had pretty much driven out competitors from the Arabian Peninsula. The Brits of the time were trying to outflank the remnants of Ottoman Empire which had ceased to exert authority by the end of WW I (1918). Mecca and Medina passed into Wahabi control then.
For historical preservationists among readers, it is noteworthy that the Wahabis have torn down and rebuilt all, yes, all of Mecca and Medina. Oil money will do anything, no? Nothing left predates the Wahabi takeover under the house of Saud except possibly the Ka'aba (who actually knows?). Find that in your history (?) Books! Mecca and Medina are now Wahabi theme parks, no less. Wahabiland handles upward of a million or more pilgrims from all sects of Islam during the annual Hajj. Beats the season on Cape Cod or Martha's Vineyard, I'll tell you.
Urban Islam, philosophical Islam and branching out and across to the secular aspects of Islam, passed, into, in Western mind and geopolitics, and then became identified with the Sunni/Shia splits rather than Wahabi/Sufi splits. Critical lack of insight.
Oil was discovered under the Wahabi/Saudi sands in the 1930s. The rest become the perversions of history with which collectively we remain shackled today.
Rural Islam, tribal Islam, country Islam tends to stick with the Sufis. Now, dear reader, you may begin to get an inkling why fundamental Islam is called Wahabi in the great swath from Adriatic to Bering seas. Which also tells a great story about how much of this swath of nations and peoples is actually operated. Notice I did not say controlled. States come and go. The brotherhoods persist. The Sufi brotherhoods annoy governments about as much as they annoy the Wahabi.
Sufis are joyous folks, for the most part. Rumi is much in American favor at the moment with numerous translations appearing in English by Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Nadir Kahlili, et al. Who hasn't heard of the Whirling Dervishes, for example? Sufis, yep, from one of the first tagiqa or brotherhoods going back into early Islam. Sufis dance, whirl, chant, sing, laugh and love with an abandon quite foreign to general American ideas of proper religious behavior. See if you can find some Sufi dances in your area. I love 'em.
Wahabi folks are dour, grim, American Gothic Islamic style. In actuality, Wahabi have much in common with our Religious Right and Christian Fundamentalists. The all want to control us and to impose their beliefs as literal truths, you better believe it. Questions? Just ask them for the answer.
Muhammad ibn-'Abd-al-Wahab is a historical personage who lived according to Western calendar years from 1703 to 1792, just in time for the hated American and French revolutions.
Around his name and ideas or interpretations of Islam gathered some of the fiercest, least compromising, most brutal and barbaric warriors of all time. It is a gentle phrase to say that they developed and manifested an uncompromising hostility to contamination of Islam by non-Muslim imitations or practices borrowed from Christianity or introduced by Sufi tagiqas. (3)
The old Ishmaili hashashins (assassins) were but children in mayhem comparatively. Those folks did their jobs and then came home to party. Check out today's Aga Khan, head of the Ismaili sect, for some good folks in Islam.
Osama bin Laden merely dusted off the Wahabi fanaticism and ferocity. Polished it up a bit. No wonder the Wahabi elite of Saudi Arabia dote on him!
Infidels in the holy land, on sacred land, really get to these Wahabi folks (guess who is based there now). Yep, same folks based at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Island of Hawaii. No Wahabi among the Hawaiians, though.
To understand what holds the apparently anarchic tribals of the Great Swath from Adriatic to Bering seas, understand the critical roles played by the many Sufi brotherhoods of those areas. The Sufi brotherhoods are a stabilizing force of great significance. They are a counterbalance to Wahabi Islam and Islamci. They are also quite pluralist in many significant ways. Shrines to Sufi saints dot the landscapes of central Asia. Wahabi hate them.
Read your Rumi. Pull out your well-worn works of Junayd, Ruwaym, Abu Yazid al-Bistami, Sari, Ma'ruf, Dhu al-Nun al-Miski, et al. Then curl up with a good copy of Kabir for a restful evening while others plan war based on ignorance and the zealous fundamentalisms of Resource control.
Got a spare minute? Check out Zealot in your dictionary. Refers to some old Hebrew Wahabi.
Note: Any one who chooses to be offended please note that the choice is theirs.
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References and Notes
1. Kahoolawe: Hawaiian island west of Maui. Long used as military target. Turned back to Hawaiians a few years back. Clean-up passing $400,000,000 and barely done. (back)
2. Quinn also said, "The easiest secret to keep is the one no one wants to hear." (back)
3. Paraphrased from Malise Ruthven's Islam in the World, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-513841-4 (back)
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, comes from a classic Eastern Establishment background culminated by a Harvard MBA. Perversely, however, he learned to think. Applying thought, he sees beyond and tries to write about what he sees. He now lives in the rainforest of non-tourist Hawaii near the lava flows.
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