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    Middle East
     Oct 27, 2007
Page 1 of 2
SPEAKING FREELY
Gulf renamed in aversion to 'Persian'
By K Darbandi

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

"In some parts of the world, the nation state, on which the existing international system was based, is either giving up its traditional aspects, like in Europe, or as in the Middle East, where it was



never really fully established, it is no longer the defining element." - Henry Kissinger, June 2007

Various branches of the United States armed forces have issued directives to their members to use the "Arabian Gulf" when operating in the area. This is claimed to be due to increased cooperation with Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but also to follow local laws that ban the use of "Persian Gulf". In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which consists of seven emirates - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain, public use of the name "Persian Gulf" is illegal.

The nationalistic sensibilities of the UAE's ruling families do not go much beyond waging this nominal jihad. The name of the body of water is most important to Arab nationalism, but what is actually in the water apparently is not a matter of national concern: the UAE ports host more US Navy ships than any other port outside the US [1].

In this federation of hereditary sheikhdoms, referred to by the US government as a "constitutional republic", only 15-20% of the population are considered locals and enjoy some form of social security and public services, and there is no electoral system to express the "national" will of the privileged citizens.

The nation is practically absent in the nationalism of the sheikhs. The military branch of US government, however, does not have any operational directives on how to deal with the total absence of even a Saudi-style electoral process in this Arab host nation. The UAE hosts, for example, the Air Warfare Center, established in 2003 by the US, along with Britain and France, to serve as a regional training center for all Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

American universities in the region have also dropped references to "Persian Gulf" in their teaching materials. [2] While these institutions have shown immeasurable flexibility in adapting to the sensibilities of their hosts, they are totally silent to the plight of the majority of people living in the UAE: the other 80% or so who make the economic wheels turn and who are considered so alien to the identity of this Arab "nation" that they cannot stay in the country after retirement age without a job, and they are officially labeled "deportable aliens" by the UAE government.

Once there is nothing left to extract from these migrant slaves, their prematurely aged and worn-out bodies will be shipped back to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be secured by the non-existent social safety nets of their countries of origin. While the UAE, thanks to the maps created by the British, has the second highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, its million-plus guest-slaves are grossly underpaid as they are held hostage, their passports in the hands of their Arab employers. [3]

American universities in the region, affiliated with major universities in the patron-state, turn out engineers and managers for the biggest construction boom in the world currently underway in the UAE, but have not said or done much for the labor force that is employed in the construction industry. [4]

By law, teachers in UAE public schools are prohibited from uttering the phrase "Persian Gulf" in classrooms, so as to keep the mind of the Arab children on their "national" identity, which traces its roots back to 1971; historical maps of the Gulf are vandalized to erase the "Persian" word, and school children are deprived of original depictions and documents.

The UAE, posing as a leader in Arab national identity, had been a British protectorate since 1850s, and was previously called the "Pirate Coast" by the protector, for it was the den of pirates attacking trading ships of the East India Company passing through the Strait of Hormuz. It never fought any war of independence, but through back-door dealings was granted independence by the British in 1971, along with its army of British-educated officers.

This artificial meta-bazaar is also host to an unnatural society: there is less than one female to every two males. The US State Department refers to the UAE as a "modern, developed country".

The UAE is an exceptional example of gender inequality and barbaric economic exploitation; it's one of the last states in the world devoid of an electoral system, and it's a point of entry for US military expansion in the Gulf.

Since the Gulf War of 1991, Jebel Ali port in Dubai has become crucial to US naval operations in the Gulf; it is the safest liberty port in the region and the only harbor in the Gulf deep enough to berth an aircraft carrier. [5] And the showcase UAE army, originated by the British-educated top brass, is a major financial lubricator of the military industy in the United States. [6]

US policy towards this super-wealthy stain of inequality and inhumanity is clear from the manner in which US institutions, from its military to its universities, play the naming game.

The gulf of 'little-big sheikhs'
The 19th century German dialectician-philosopher, F W Hegel, was familiar with the grapplings and spiritual struggles of 13th century Muslim poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: the infinite struggles of the mind to settle the tension of contradictions in the resolution of the unity [7]. In one of his essays, he showed how erroneous thinking is abstract thinking, and it is indeed the way most people are driven to think. [8]

The prevalent utterances on both sides of the Gulf naming game, to some racist, to others nationalistic, are manifestations of this common, demagogic, abstract thinking: to distract people of the region from thinking in real and concrete terms. So let's raise the question again: Is this an "Arabian" or a "Persian" Gulf? To get real, let's ask: What is the real character of this Gulf? Let's turn the naming game from abstraction to concreteness, flip it on its head and then play.

Why don't we call it the "Hindu Gulf", or the "Gulf of The Unknown Worker"? Let's pay respects to the millions of South Asian enslaved workers in the UAE and other members of Gulf Cooperation Council [9]; who's going to recognize them when their drained corpses are vomited back to the sub-continent?

Let's call it "Gulf of Central Command", or simply the "Gulf of America". Let's recognize the reality of the complete occupation of this invaded body of water by the 100-plus warships and missile-armed nuclear submarines, the bases and the Air Warfare School. But then, the old British name for the UAE was Pirate Coast, so how about "Gulf of Captain Hook"? In this way, American children's culture is memorialized as well.

Playing the inverted naming game, thinking of the Filipino domestic workers raped by Arab desert princes, and evoking an Iranian suggestion, "Islamic Gulf", and using a Koranic term, let's call it: "Gulf of a Thousand and One Kaniz [10]"! It is exotic, real and Islamic.

OK, give me back my "deported aliens" and I will bury my unknown and numerous dead in the Indian subcontinent; I promise I won't ship my little children to ride in your camel races any more; I am sorry to have sent my daughters to work in this wretched cheap whorehouse - call it what you want - I will heal her wounds in my village back in the Philippines if she ever makes it back. I did not know ... but I have now figured it out: you are big for us and little for the Americans: let's call it "Gulf of Little-Big Sheikhs"!

But who inverted the reality and invented this naming game? Is the Persian chauvinist playing the game too? Be warned that if you don't play it, you are faced with reality: and then you just might scream in rage from the bottom of your guts, and like the Gulf itself throw up dead dolphins and whale corpses to the shores, or you might, for a rare, realistic glimpse, see this "Filthy Pool of Toxins":
Iranian officials and Iranians in general are very sensitive about the term "Persian Gulf" as the official and recognized name for the waterway separating Iran and the Arabian peninsula. They are upset when Arab states or journals do not cite it as such - particularly when the term "Arab Gulf" is used. And yet a far smaller number of Iranians appear concerned that human activities could turn that object of national pride and diplomatic contention into a filthy pool of toxins. [11]
They said it ...
Transcript of the Charlie Rose Show for the US Public

Continued 1 2 

 


1. Attack Iran and you attack Russia

2. Oil: The sovereignty showdown in Iraq

3. US soldiers shy from battle

4. Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy

5. Turks have might, but it will be a fight

6. Pakistan's nut that won't crack

7. 'Indians are bastards anyway'

8. By the light of a Chinese moon

9. China agonizes over its fistful of dollars

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Oct 25, 2007)

 
 



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