Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up - A Woefully Incomplete Guide

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Overview

The daily news gives you events but rarely context. So what do al-Qaeda, North Korea, and Iran really want? Which faction is which in Iraq and who’s arming whom? What’s the deal with Somalia, Darfur, and Kashmir? Fatah, Hamas, and Hezbollah?

Finally, here’s Who Hates Whom—a handy, often stunning guide to the world’s recent conflicts, from the large and important to the completely absurd.

• Which countries are fighting over an uninhabitable ...

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Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up - A Woefully Incomplete Guide

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Overview

The daily news gives you events but rarely context. So what do al-Qaeda, North Korea, and Iran really want? Which faction is which in Iraq and who’s arming whom? What’s the deal with Somalia, Darfur, and Kashmir? Fatah, Hamas, and Hezbollah?

Finally, here’s Who Hates Whom—a handy, often stunning guide to the world’s recent conflicts, from the large and important to the completely absurd.

• Which countries are fighting over an uninhabitable glacier with no real strategic value—at an annual cost of half a billion dollars?
• Which underreported war has been the deadliest since World War II—worse even than Vietnam—with a continuing aftermath worse than most current conflicts combined?
• Which royal family members were respected as gods—until the crown prince machine-gunned the king and queen?
• Which country’s high school students think the Nazis had a “good side”? Which nation’s readers recently put Mein Kampf on the bestseller list? And which other country watches itself with four million security cameras? (Hint: All three are U.S. allies.)

Detailed with more than fifty original maps, photographs, and illustrations, Who Hates Whom summarizes more than thirty global hotspots with concise essays, eye-catching diagrams, and (where possible) glimmers of kindness and hope.

In which bodies of water can you find most of the world’s active pirates? Which dictatorship is bulldozing its own villages? Where exactly are Waziristan, Bangsamoro, Kurdistan, Ituri, Baluchistan, and Jubaland—and how will they affect your life and security? Find out in Who Hates Whom, a seriously amusing look at global humanity—and the lack thereof.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The geopolitical equivalent of scorecards that get hawked at ball games. Only Bob could make a user’s guide to our increasingly hostile world this absorbing, this breezy, and—ultimately—this hopeful.”

Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac

“It takes deft touch to combine this much-needed research with a razor-sharp wit... You’ll laugh ‘til you cry, but at least you’ll be one step ahead of CNN.”

Gus Russo, author of Supermob and The Outfit

“If you read one book this year, be like me and choose this one.”
Emo Philips

“Bob Harris, perpetual Jeopardy underdog, now turns his polymathic curiosity to the subject of GLOBAL CONFLICT—the result: this handy history of violence that is at once surprising, fascinating, enlightening, and surprisingly: NOT TOTALLY DEPRESSING. A gimlet-eyed look at the world we endure that’s also suitable for enjoying with a gimlet.”
John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise and correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307394361
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/25/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 442,667
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Harris
BOB HARRIS is the author of Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!, and has written for media ranging from National Lampoon to the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN
•Mujahedin (Pashtuns, other local factions and foreign fighters)  v. Soviets (defunct) •Taliban (Pashtuns) v. other local factions (pre-9-11) •Waziris v. Pakistan (treaty, 2006) •Taliban (Pashtuns), Al-Qaeda (foreign fighters), and some Waziris v. U.S., NATO, and some Waziris, ongoing

To make sense here at all, let’s walk through this one step at a time.

THE PASHTUNS
Borders drawn along ethnic or cultural lines don’t necessarily equate with peace—compare the homogenous Korean peninsula to multilingual Canada, for example—but cultural loyalties trump colonial boundaries every time. So here’s how the British drew the 1893 Durand Line through the Pashtuns, the dominant people of the border area: Why all the divide and conquer? The British had a vast empire to the southeast, including modern Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.* Worried about Russia to the north, the British spent the 19th century trying to set up Afghanistan as a buffer zone, yet without empowering the Pashtuns enough to create yet another threat. Thus the Durand Line. However, the Pashtuns had once ruled much of this whole region themselves, and they’ve been here for centuries. Alexander the Great (for whom Kandahar is named), Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Mughals, Brits, and Soviets have each rolled through, but Peshawar and Kandahar have nonetheless remained firmly Pashtun. (Pashtun survival stems in part from Pashtunwali, a complex two-thousand-year-old code of honor. Grossly oversimplified: befriend a Pashtun and he will die for you. Piss off a Pashtun, and his neighbor’s great-grandchildren may hate yours.) Not surprisingly, in 1949, a Pashtun loya jirga (a tribal council, like the end of Survivor with longer beards) denounced the Durand Line, which has been ignored in some areas all along. Point being: in some areas, the border is porous to nonexistent. So you can’t really discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan as separate deals. They aren’t.

THE MUJAHEDIN, AL-QAEDA, AND THE TALIBAN
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” may work on playgrounds, but the enemy of your enemy can be your enemy, too. This will be good to keep in mind. In 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to support their puppet government, which tortured and killed thousands. Seizing a chance to weaken their enemy, the U.S. armed Islamist mujahedin (“holy warriors”; notice the word jihad in the middle), Pakistan provided training, and Saudi Arabia financed religious schools (madrasahs) to use extreme Islamist ideology as a recruiting tool against communism. (Pursuit of Islamic governance—whether by violent or nonviolent means—is described as “Islamist” as opposed to garden-variety “Islamic,” which just refers to the religion in general. Two letters, big difference.) This worked too well, creating a generation of radicals who saw enemies of their freshly brewed puritanical Islam not just among communists, but everywhere—including the U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Whoops. In the 1980s, a Saudi trust-fund kid moved to Peshawar, using family money to bring fighters worldwide into the madrasahs and Afghanistan. This was Osama Bin Laden; Al-Qaeda (“the base”) refers either to a specific camp or a database of foreign fighters (sources disagree). Bin Laden eventually split from his mujahedin allies, focused his hatred on the Saudi government for allowing U.S. bases on Saudi soil, and wound up exiled to Sudan for a while (see “Sudan,” page 000). After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, various factions (several funded by opium) fought over the pieces. Pakistan still had an unstable neighbor, and the mujahedin still didn’t have their Islamist state. Making common cause, Pakistani intelligence organized a Pashtun faction of madrasah-trained Taliban (“students” in Pashto) to stabilize Afghanistan. (Stabilize here means “invade and oppress.”) Pakistan hoped that by holding the purse strings of extremists like Mullah Mohammad Omar, they could keep a lid on things. However, while not all Pashtun are Taliban, virtually all Taliban are Pashtun. And Pashtunwali means that many non-Taliban Pashtuns—plus Waziris and other related Pashto speakers—will favor the Taliban over non-Pashtuns. So this was a recipe for spreading extremism. In 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul, hunted down the last Soviet ruler, ripped off his testicles, shot him, and hung his body from a streetlamp. Then they got nasty. For obvious reasons, the Taliban were recognized as a government only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi-influenced United Arab Emirates. But soon Osama bin Laden returned from Sudan, settled into Kandahar, married one of his sons to Mullah Omar’s daughter, and started funding and providing personnel to the Taliban. In turn the Taliban let Osama and his motley foreign Islamists hang out.

EXTREMIST BELIEFS
Taliban consider themselves pure traditional Muslims, but their ideology is influenced by the relatively recent works of an Egyptian named Sayyid Qutb, whose writings from prison in the 1950s and 1960s are like a bizarro Letters from a Birmingham Jail, replacing Dr. King’s nonviolence and compassion with violent contempt for most of humanity. Qutb’s world was utterly simplistic: to him, Islam was already dead, having wandered far from its pure, narrow path. A few remnants fit into Qutb’s harsh version of Islamic law, but everything else was inherently evil and corrupt. Therefore, for Qutb, the non-Islamic world—including not just the West, but the vast majority of mainstream Muslims and all secular governments, especially in Muslim countries—was the enemy. “You’re either with us or against us,” in other words. Egypt hanged Qutb in 1966, but his works continue to provide deceptively simple, emotionally satisfying answers to complex social questions. Followers, including Osama’s pal Ayman al-Zahawiri, have amplified his ideas, building the case to abolish all democracies and even nationalities. Instead: a worldwide Taliban-plus, forever. But be reassured: Qutb is considered a heretic by most mainstream Muslims. The notion that the Koran can be so radically interpreted is usually seen as a serious insult to 1,300 years of tradition. And despite wide disdain for U.S. policies amplified during the Bush years, only a small bit of the Islamic world identifies with this stuff, and only a teeny percentage of those would engage in any violence. Even the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Qutb’s home team, has moved away from his rhetoric in recent years. In short, most of the world’s hundreds of millions of Muslims are not part of a extremist offshoot that seeks its own destruction. The West can either earnestly pursue relationships with moderate Muslims in difficult countries, or simply slur them all together as enemies, a move as sloppy and hostile as it is self-fulfilling.

THE TERROR AND DRUG WARS  AT CROSS-PURPOSES
When not attacking civilization, harboring Bin Laden, and oppressing women, the Taliban also eradicated opium. (Supposedly this was out of Islamist fervor, but they’re dealing in it now, so this looks more like it was a consolidation of power: opium was a possible source of financing for rivals.) As part of the U.S. drug war, the Bush administration rewarded the Taliban with $43 million in May 2001. This looked amazingly bad at the time, but went off the charts four months later. After 9-11, the West aggressively allied with the Taliban’s opposition, the mostly non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, who were in opium to their eyeballs. Whatever, said the Pentagon, and by December 2001, the Taliban were in the hills, where the guerrilla war continues. Meanwhile, Afghanistan now produces about 90 percent of the world’s opium, financing both sides. Some big drug players in NATO-controlled areas are also potential military leaders, so arresting them hurts the alliance. Outside NATO control, the opium money often winds up in Taliban hands, which are currently making AK-47s the most popular fashion accessories in Waziristan.

WAZIRISTAN
Don’t expect to thumb through Lonely Planet Waziristan anytime soon. While the region is ostensibly under Pakistan’s rule, Waziris, kin to the Pashtuns, have lived in these mountains, unconquered, for at least six centuries. After 9-11, Pakistan’s military tried to limit Taliban movements in Waziristan. This failed; instead, Pakistan just pissed off the Waziris (remember Pashtunwali), who started killing Pakistani informants and even their own tribal leaders suspected of pro-Pakistan sympathies. Seven hundred dead Pakistanis later, in September 2006, Pakistan backed off, agreeing to let North and South Waziristan run their own affairs. In simple terms: on the Pakistan side of the 1893 Durand Line, the Taliban now have a quiet place to clean their guns and eat soup, returning to the Afghanistan side to fight as they choose. In response to NATO complaints, Pakistan recently began  building—what else?—a fence on the border. Almost no one expects this to help (c.f. “Mexico,” p. 000). The West has few choices here. Indiscriminate bombing or suicidal ground operations would create even more enemies, even if they had Pakistan’s permission. So for now the West plays defense, watches from satellites, and lobs in the occasional Hellfire missile, while Al-Qaeda and the Taliban expand their influence, install Sharia law, sing the praises of suicide bombing, and generally illegalize fun. It’s still possible that Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Waziris will fuss with one another; after all, Al-Qaeda and the muj once split, and fanatics do tend to piss one another off. Waziris are reportedly fighting their guests-cum-oppressors already. But this region could dearly use much of the support and focus currently diverted into Iraq, and ongoing civilian casualties have led to growing local resentment of NATO operations. If history is any guide—and it has that rude habit—the Western alliance may not leave soon with democracy in their wake.

OTHER CONFLICTS, FUTURE PROSPECTS
There’s enough here for another book. In resource-rich Baluchistan, nationalists are blowing up gas pipelines, demanding a share of the profits. While relations with India are calm for now, Pakistani intelligence is frequently accused of supporting numerous anti-Indian separatist groups. Kashmir is a frequent stress, which gets its own section, later. In 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, head of Pakistan’s armed forces, seized power in a widely condemned coup. Musharraf initially supported the Taliban, but after 9-11, caught between a regional power and a superpower, Musharraf rolled with the big boys. However, Pakistan’s people range from Westernized technocrats of the 21st century and rural tribesmen still living in the 14th, and Musharraf’s dictatorial tendencies tend to alienate the former. To retain power, he is often forced to appeal to Pashtuns and other conservatives to retain power. After two assassination attempts traced to Waziristan, Musharraf insists there’s a clear split between the Taliban (“good guys” to many Pashtuns) and Al-Qaeda’s assortment of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Arabs, Chechens, and other foreign fighters. As Taliban attacks and influence spread, the stability of Pakistan’s government may depend on that wish becoming true.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    Well, its a primer for a violent world.

    Its a shame that Mr. Harris opens with his commentary on the U.S. war in Iraq (he's not a fan). A shame for him that'll he'll probably turn off a number of potential readers and lose book sales. But really its more a shame for those who forgo his book. The rest of the book is largely apolitical. Intentionally so, since he worries that the people who 'blow stuff up' may blow him up for what he writes. A bit of cowardice? He concedes as much, but after all, this book is not a brave work of investigative journalism. Mr. Harris's point in writing this book seems to be to help you out: so that the next time things go pear- shaped in a country with too few vowels for your liking, you'll have some background information other than what governments or which ever camera-friendly-media- darling -with-an-agenda tells you. And he covers a great deal of material because frankly, who knows who will kill whom next? And by the time you start getting information, one party or another has probably already won the media war and is shaping the spin to their liking. So here comes Mr. Harris, with some credible research. He's a bright guy, did well on Jeopardy and all that, and, other than on Iraq, he doesn't appear to have a bone to pick or agenda to sell. Well, he seems some what distraught about the slaughter and I guess that's an agenda of sorts. About the book, its an enjoyable read. For a student of International Relations (that's me) there's not TOO much new information, although as I said, his research is thorough and he covers a lot of ground. Mr. Harris ranges from amusing to downright hilarious, and given the subject matter, that's a small wonder. But, yes, he tends to distill complicated topics down and even left out my personal favorite conflict (which are probably the reasons he calls the book 'woefully incomplete'). For non-IR students, the book gives you some good introductory information, doesn't make you feel stupid for not knowing it and it doesn't read like a textbook. It would also make a fine gift for adults interested in current global affairs or a teen student who is thinking about international relations as a career path (urge them to reconsider - government money isn't that good and NGOs can be a bit loopy). I actually did give a couple of these as gifts and the recipients emailed me for the next few months with choice quotes. This book can be found in the Humor section of Barnes and Noble, which is a bit of shame because although its funny, its really better researched than a lot of the Current Affairs titles.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I LOVE BOB HARRIS

    This was my second Bob Harris book and I loved this one as much as the first. He is entertaining, funny, informative and at times profound. I only wish he could write faster because I will soon be done with his books and will be left wanting more!

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