Curses are like sins, sins are like chickens and chickens are like boomerangs: they all invariably always come back home to roost—in other words, untoward words or inappropriate actions are likely to rebound on and catch up with the perpetrator. At the dusk of day, chickens always come home to roost.
This saying was popularised by Malcolm X. When John F. Kennedy was killed, Malcolm X declared that it was the White Man’s chickens coming home to roost. Those who were made violent in defence of America’s interest abroad were now back to do exactly at home what they had done abroad. And Malcolm X added, not without relish: ‘Chickens coming home to roost never made me sad. [They] only made me glad.’
The metaphor of these chickens is even more apt today. Following the Second World War, there was really effectively only one world that mattered—the First World, led by the Americans; and all the rest of us were a mere supporting cast. There was of course the defeated world of Germany and Japan, and then there was the Wretched of the Earth—the world that was nothing but for the first a sphere of influence.
The victors drew, curved and carved up the sphere, while those of them that were colonial powers had the control of the colonies and the commonwealth that they reckoned existed among them; and they searched for and found strongmen to keep watch over both. They reigned and ruled and governed according to the script of those who put them there.
Governance for the sphere was nothing more edifying than the work of the vassal—keep them working but, more importantly, keep the profits coming. The inevitable result was economic mismanagement and corruption which ensured that the inhabitants of the spheres of influence were always living in grinding poverty and always looking for a way out. There was political repression as the praetorian guards trample democratic values underfoot and descend on their own people who are thereafter left looking for a way of escape.
And the victors once in a while ignite a war to redraw the new boundaries of the spheres of influence and appoint new prefects who will be more effective and more efficient with the hope that the new arrangement will hold out and give the hegemony a new lease of life. And it does not matter at what cost all this will come for the poor inhabitants of this world of spheres.
We have seen their handiwork in the recent past. Orchestrated in part, exploited in part and tolerated in whole, the remnants of the so-called Arab Spring, which, with few exceptions, swept the countries of the Middle East in a broad west-east broad stroke of revolutionary fervour, was apparently all that remained of Western dreams of the New Middle East.
And no matter the kind of cooperation and alliance they brokered between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel, this was a hegemony that would forever remain a pipedream so long as Iran remained Islamic and the West was prevented from installing a client regime in Syria. This was because even if Baathist Syria would not fight Israel—and even in the past it had not and in the future it might not—unlike the other Arab regimes, it had allowed the use of its territory by those who in the past had done so, and would in the future do so again—Hizbullah and Hamas. This was the main reason why Syria was being punished and destroyed in order to eliminate it from the Mideast anti-Israeli martial equation, so that with the blessings of Saudi Arabia, Israel would be integrated as a respectable nation among the Arab states of the Middle East.
But the Arab Spring had only marginal effect in those countries without an established current of a do-it-yourself Islam in which everyone is a fatwa-manufacturing mujtahid. It skipped Morocco, which, with its strong Sufi tradition and alert ulama, had never countenanced the Saudi variety of Islam that would lead and abandon combatants up the garden path. In Algeria, the Armed Islamic Group had bared its fangs and alienated people from the political Islam of emergency clerics. In Tunisia, veterans of the Islamic Tendency Movement had prepared the ground but taken to their heels after having given up on the possibility of an Islamic government in the post-Bourguiba era; and, back even after this unexpected revolutionary manna from heaven, had done nothing to shed any of its famous naivety. That was perhaps why it started—or, more correctly, it was started—there.
In Libya, Strongman Gaddafi had been severely strong in his age-long crackdown on Wahhabi, Salafi, Sufi and Sanussi groups; and when, in the opinion of the forces that put, or tolerated, him there, it was time for him to go, there was no one remaining to fight for him except disappearing preachers green.
It was in Egypt that the so-called Spring had its most spectacular success, which was indeed only a prelude to an even more spectacular failure, in which the Ikhwan forfeited its prize; and, following the convergence of a number of unlikely scenarios—Ikhwan’s superlative naivety, Egyptian military’s no-holds-barred repressiveness, Saudi’s unlimited funding, Israeli understanding and endorsement, and unashamed America’s total support for the stifling of democracy, the Arab Spring was given a befitting state burial in Cairo.
And concerned about the simmering fire over its head and revolution in its underbelly, and hailed by the West as the new regional player—perhaps a fitting but too effeminate a successor to Saddam Hussein—aided by, and on behalf of, a West intent on further dividing an already disunited Middle East, Saudi Arabia saw action in Bahrain and Yemen. And, so, finally, the most repressive state in the Middle East has exported its domestic condition to its neighbours; and, now, it is only a matter of time before its own dijaj comes home to roast.
At the upper reaches, Jordan and Syria, both with castrated Ikhwani shells, one looking West and the other having once looked East and repressive to varying degrees, have become the centre of Western meddlesomeness—the former the camp for training, the latter the unhappy theatre of action. With American expertise, Saudi, Kuwaiti and Qatari funding, Jordanian and Turkish logistics, they created, directed and embedded a new Frankenstein to obviate their own boots on the ground, to avoid having to draw first blood, but to patiently wait until international outrage at a carnage of their own making becomes the new excuse to justify their invasion to come in to correct a result of their own meddling.
But Iraq was in the throes of ferment of a different kind. In an experiment that preceded the Arab Spring, they had imposed a US-manufactured democratic revolution in order to stem an impending Islamic revolution in that country. This badly misfired and strengthened the only adversary that they couldn’t control—Iran; but the subsequent inability of the Americans to control, or be able to live with, the result of their own misjudgement, has led to the development of further destabilisation tactics.
They set fire in Libya to cover up what their strongman did, what his incapable successors have been doing as well as what they are themselves doing right now. They set fire in Egypt that has consumed the child of the Spring and allowed its killer to use the excuse of the fire to deliver the coup de grace. They set fire in Syria to cover up what they are themselves doing either directly or through Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The result has been sorrow and tragedy. Whether it is the despots of Africa south of the Sahara who created waves of hapless Mediterranean Boat People, or the Salafis of the Libyan counter revolution, or the liver-eating cadres of the Islamic State in the Levant, the unending caravans of economic migrants and asylum-seekers that have been pouring into Europe—800,000 of them at last count, and counting—are but one instance of veritable chickens coming home to roost.
The huge exodus of refugees fleeing the war-ravaged countries of the Middle East hoping to reach Western Europe, is not entirely unexpected. The Kurds, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Iraqis and the Yemenis ought to have nowhere to run to other than to the land of the very people who engineered and orchestrated the crises that have continued to ravage their home countries.
From the war in Iraq that was waged on the trumped-up allegation of WMDs that were never found, to the war in Afghanistan on the ridiculous claim of searching for the alleged mastermind of attack on the twin-towers of the World Trade Centre, to the destruction of Libya and Syria, it is very clear that the West is intent on redrawing the map of that region. Clearly, the ISIS crisis has backfired and the world must learn to live with its consequences..
And while Germany has opened its doors wide, Hungary, Austria and other European nations have firmly shut their borders because of feared economic consequences. And this is just the beginning. And to think this is only one leg of an unsuccessful map-redrawing, only God knows what will happen to Europe and to the world should the new unhappy Lords continue with their plot to its logical end.