12/15/2014 10:50 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

The Crocodile and the Scorpion

Some 60 years ago, I read a Roald Dahl short story about a crocodile and a scorpion. As I recall it, the scorpion was searching for a way across the Nile River or the Red Sea or some such waterway. The scorpion finds a crocodile basking along the waterway's edge. He asks the crocodile for a lift across the water to the other side. At first, the crocodile refuses, he tells the scorpion that he doesn't trust him, that he fears the scorpion might sting him. The scorpion replies that if he stung the crocodile they would both drown, and that would make no sense. The crocodile acknowledges that and agrees to carry him over on his back. When they reach the middle of the waterway, the crocodile feels the sting and as he flounders in the waves says; "Now we'll both die, why did you do this?" The scorpion replies, "This is the Middle East."

I have been reviewing this story mentally over the last 30 years when I followed newspapers and television down a road that reached through Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan to Iraq, Iran, and Syria and now into Libya, Tunisia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. I am afraid that the entire area is poisoning itself. ISIS is only the latest toxin.

As for who started the process, it's a tough question. At times, I think it goes all the way back to 1956 when the Dulles brothers pushed France and England out of the area, which enabled the US to take full control of and responsibility for the Eastern Mediterranean. Or did it really get hot when Israel invaded Lebanon and then Ronald Reagan intervened, resulting in the death of 241 US servicemen who were killed by Hezbollah, an offshoot of the Iranian Republic?

Somehow I don't hold any of the above fully responsible. I think the roles of the scorpion and the crocodile were both played by United States citizens. The critical moment, the river to be crossed was Iraq, and with the defeat of the United States in both that country and Afghanistan, the toxin has been released into the entire area.

As to who played the scorpion and who played the crocodile, I'd give the first title "Scorpion" to Dick Cheney and share the second, "Crocodile" between Bush Jr. and Obama. Cheney injected the venom and Bush and Obama have been drowning in it ever since. Why did all this happen? The best answer I can give is the same one the scorpion gave to the crocodile -- This is the Middle East.