News & Views from 465 California Street

A Dangerous World

Clint Reilly
Jul
15
2008

To understand our shrinking planet, it is necessary to experience its complexities firsthand. But traveling the globe doesn’t always reassure us about the ideological and religious conflicts that still afflict the human race. A recent family vacation was a case in point.

Last Monday morning, my wife and I took our two young daughters to the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Visitors from all over the world, including the French themselves, jammed every wing of the museum. We had similar experiences at the Prado Museum in Madrid and almost everywhere else.

But behind the unrelenting tourist crush, police armed with machine guns lurked in the shadows. Heavy security checked every bag that passed through the gates.

A cadre of Angolan oil executives sponsored a conference at our hotel in Madrid. Police vans parked outside the entrance.

Nearby, OPEC – the Arab-dominated oil cartel – held a summit. The streets were filled with police guards in armored trucks.

In Istanbul the blue water of the Bosporus Strait resembles the San Francisco Bay. A bridge much like the Golden Gate connects the two sides of the city and incredibly, the continents of Europe and Asia.

Istanbul is a modern city that was once Byzantium and capital of the Ottoman Empire. A Muslim dominated democracy, Turkey is growing economically and politically and is working toward admission to the European Union.

Why then, the armed guards at every major shopping mall with security as tight as any Bay Area airport?

Machine guns, metal detectors and X-ray machines greet every patron who enters the marbled malls. Coordinated terrorist bombs killed 50 people in 2003 attacks at a Jewish synagogue, British bank and other targets.

Just days after we left Turkey, the government arrested two generals for allegedly plotting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Islamic-leaning President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Simultaneously, a case is being prepared for the nation’s highest court to outlaw Gül and Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party on grounds that its pro-Islamic policies violate Turkey’s historic division of church and state. The case has a chance of winning.

Finally, on July 9, a terrorist attack on the American consulate killed three police and three terrorists. I had driven by the consul’s residence only two weeks earlier with my wife and daughters.

Earlier in June, we visited the ancient temples of the Nile and Cairo’s majestic pyramids. We experienced the time-ravaged grandeur of 4,500-year-old monuments and the relics of the Egyptian Empire. They are a marvel as well as a reminder of the fragility of America’s world preeminence.

But in this 90-percent Muslim nation, a palpable concern remains that the 1997 terrorist attack that killed 63 tourists at Luxor could be repeated.

Armed guards wait at every stop. Army and police vans filled with weapon-wielding officers fill the streets from Cairo to the pyramids, and even within the austere temples along the Nile. At several major Cairo museums, armed police stood behind cast iron shields for protection.

My wife and I were chagrined to learn the anonymous gentleman accompanying our group to the airport was a police officer.

Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak understands that his country depends heavily upon Western tourism to bolster its weak economy and declining standard of living.

To this end, tranquility must be maintained. But even Mubarak himself must look over his shoulder. His predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated for engineering a peace treaty with Israel 29 years ago.

The unresolved conflict between Islamic extremists and Judeo Christian culture was tattooed onto every security device, machine gun, soldier and police officer we passed on our trip.

The message was clear: Although globalization has hastened progress, the world is still a dangerous place.

Comments (3)

  • As Islam conquers Eurabia through demographics and the imposition of shar’ia law one of the likely consequences, such tourism may one dayy be a thing of the past.

    Posted by: Jerry Carroll | July 16th, 2008 at 1:06 pm

  • as well as a reminder of the fragility of America’s world preeminence”

    That is an unnerving insight and I think closer to reality than we want to admit. It’s uncanny that while you were experiencing danger abroad that at home our banking system was contributing more to the unravelling of the threads of the ‘American Dream’. Whether leadership under an Obama presidency, which would require dedicated support and hard work in critical roles (perhaps an Al Gore in charge of the environment, someone like Senator Leahy in charge of the justice department, perhaps a Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and maybe a Bill Bradley as Chief of the economy) can shift the direction of our nation toward redemption and peace is at best a toss of the coin. (Perhaps your readers have some better suggestions for supportive leadership)

    Bottom line is that the amount of our national budget which goes to and is controlled by the Pentagon as well as the power of the lobbyists of special interests locally and nationally is bringing our nation to its bloody knees. Living in fear and using our military resources to protect the same people who are bleeding us as they fill their international coffers
    is going to continue and instead of a world of nations we are becoming a world of wealthy special and corporate interests who will rule us through the netherworlds.

    Posted by: Steve Dells | July 17th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

  • “Whether leadership under an Obama presidency, which would require dedicated support and hard work in critical roles (perhaps an Al Gore in charge of the environment, someone like Senator Leahy in charge of the justice department, perhaps a Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and maybe a Bill Bradley as Chief of the economy.”

    Add Bill Clinton Ambassador to all of the Middle East. I’ll retrieve articles soon enough to show proof how adept he was as a Chief Diplomat and how effectively he represented us in dealing with the OPEC nations all the while maintaining prosperity for all parties, including them.

    Add T. Boone Pickens (former Oil man) Chief of Alternative and Renewable Energy.

    Instead of Bill Bradley as Chief of the Economy, insert Mr. Reilly.

    Hillary was right when she wanted to create Green collar jobs. Free market entrepreneurialism will inevitably bring to the market something novel and revolutionary yet again, and spawn new cottage industries to replace what’s now considered old, like gas-powered cars, etc. and the market will naturally rebound. In the meantime, we need to improve on what we have with an emphasis on Environmental preservation. Hopefully, China follows our example.

    Historically, the Economy has prospered more often under Democratic leadership as compared to Republican authority.

    Posted by: Don Nguyen | July 21st, 2008 at 2:24 pm

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