episode 154: the middle eastern nation ranking listicle

not to make too much reference to unfortunate events, but today’s article was inspired by three things, not least of which was a day in which, after trying to help attend to a house fire (i am not entirely sure what i accomplished, but hey, never let it be said that i won’t be there for people if their house was on fire), i proceeded to spend the rest of the day drinking a less-than-heroic amount of mixed drinks while watching Lawrence Of Arabia. and this got me to thinking: hey, Lawrence Of Arabia is REALLY, REALLY long! and that is when i vowed to write the longest update ever!

but also, when combined with an alias or two of mine, this document screening i did of a Pakistani named Muhammad Ali (seriously, i can’t make something like that up) and the fact that i resort to lists (or listicles, if you will) in the face of lacking better update ideas… well, hey, why don’t we rank all those middle eastern countries in terms of awesomeness?

but wait, as previously established, i’ve got rules to my shit when i throw down! anyway, since the concept of the “middle east” is somewhat, i think it’s important to discuss the countries that i am disqualifying despite their status as being “a nation once or twice called Middle Eastern.” this may be completely arbitrary and/or random, but fuck it, that’s how these nations got IN in the first place:

01. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia: sorry, dudes, but you’re basically like Russia’s attempt to have Middle Eastern provinces, especially in the case of Georgia; note that i will not allow the birthplace of Stalin to be considered “Middle Eastern” (and if i did, it’d be right off the list, because Stalin sucks). nations of the Caucasus will be called “Asian,” not “Middle Eastern.”
02. Cyprus: seriously, Cyprus? you’re too Greek to get in here. think of yourself as a resort island for people who like “somewhat tense situations akin to civil war.” and where’s your oil? FAKE EDIT: supposedly on the seabed near Lebanon. eh, whatever.
03. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan: didn’t you guys see what i said to Georgia? for crying out loud, you’re Central Asian, not Middle Eastern! postscriptum: hey, Uzbekistan, thanks for helping to create my single favorite moment from Borat.
04. Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti: wow, really reaching here. i demand to know what idiot declared these nations to be Middle Eastern. okay, i will grant that Djibouti is less of a reach because they’re building a bridge from the Middle East to it… but still.
05. “Iranian plateau”: Afghanistan and Pakistan: not only to i object to them being called Middle Eastern, but also, i object to this “Iranian plateau” term; we could at least use “Persian plateau.” anyway, Pakistan is just India where everyone is more about Islam and less about stable government, and Afghanistan… well, does it FEEL Middle Eastern to you?
06. Turkey: okay, i get it, you’re RIGHT THERE and once the Ottomans took over everything they could get their hands on, which included a) Turkey proper and b) essentially the entire Middle East. but guess what, Turks: if you wanted me to call you Middle Eastern, you shouldn’t have made your nation synonymous with “constantly sodomizing prisoners, possibly including Lawrence Of Arabia.” YOU’RE OUT OF HERE!
07. the Maghreb: Morocco, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria: i get it, there’s a lot of desert and Arabic-appearing nomads in robes and, most important, oil. but you guys are too spread across Africa to be Middle Eastern; also remember that Libya’s “ultimate leader” (to steal a Shanahan descriptor) Gaddafi once famous declared that the Middle East didn’t care about them and that they were henceforth all about Africa and Libya was an African nation and all that. but i WOULD like to extend my warmest affection to the Kabyle smile, which we all know is cooler than a Glasgow grin, no matter how cool the Joker makes it seem. anyway, the list!

“or, imagine, being able to be magically whisked away to… Oman. hi. i’m in Oman.”

honorable mention: Oman
Oman, it’s like this: counting you, i have 14 countries to rank, so someone has to be the odd (and honorably mentioned) man out. i mean, what can you say about Oman? it’s… well, it’s right there in the Middle East and i never hear anything about it. huh. so you see my situation.

13. Syria
ah, Syria: the one nation that the entire world can basically agree on how much it sucks, which is a lot. actually, i can say in complete seriousness that i have never heard anyone say something nice about Syria, and i have heard people defend Zimbabwe and, even more ridiculously, Stalinist Russia. so this is saying something! also, there’s this chapter in Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut To Jerusalem (a good read, for the record) entitled “Hama Rules” and elaborates on the term which, for the sake of brevity, is all about shedding blood and being super-harsh. if that kind of thing sounds “awesome” … well, okay, Syria’s where the city of Hama USED to be.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Syria: well, i can think of an incident where some bad-ass Syrian commandos took an Israeli stronghold at Mount Hermon, so while i can’t name names, eh, let’s say it’s one of those dudes.
hey, Syria, thanks for: Damascus steel. all you edged-weapon nerds out there know that there are basically four preeminent centers for making the metal for those weapons: Toledo, Solingen, Japan (in general) and Damascus. and that’s about all Syria’s had to offer.

12. Bahrain
not to be confused with the Ridley Scott film “Black Rain,” Bahrain’s proper name (Mamlakat al-Bahrayn) means “the kingdom of the two seas.” something more excellent, like “the kingdom of the trampled bodies of our foes” would probably have helped them get a better rating. yeah, it’s got a free economy and that’s nice, but it’s not AWESOME, you know? plus, women can vote there now, and i don’t think that’s the awesome concept people seem to think it is: you know they’ll just vote for the sheikh who’s best looking! well, maybe not a sheikh, i mean, i don’t know everything about Bahrainian politics.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Bahrain: literally no one springs to mind.
hey, Bahrain, thanks for: uh… letting Michael Jackson flee there so that he wouldn’t molest American children anymore? i mean, it’s SOMETHING.

11. United Arab Emirates
ah, the UAE, home of the ridiculous big spenders of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. there are also some additional emirates (Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain) who are NOT known for building things like “the most expensive airport EVER” or “the largest shopping mall EVER” or a fucking man-made archipelago of 300 islands that looks like a map of the globe. seriously, what the hell is wrong with these UAE dudes?
baddest dude i can think of that comes from United Arab Emirates: again, i strain to think of someone, but the area WAS once known as the “Pirate Coast” back in the day. so i imagine there were a couple of fiercely bearded Arab pirates there you didn’t want to mess with.
hey, United Arab Emirates, thanks for: well, remember when W was all “it’s not a horrible crime if a UAE corporation runs a port” and everyone in America freaked out about the Arabs? well, Bush and i were apparently the only two people that agreed on this issue, so, UAE, thanks for bringing me and an unpopular president closer together!

10. Qatar
this country’s name may come from an Arab word (qatura) that means “to exude?” seriously? anyway, Qatar is mostly known for two things: being the home of Al Jazeera, the best and/or worst news station ever, depending on who you ask, and being a challenge to pronounce for most Americans. KA-tar? “cutter?” personally, i prefer to refer to it as the “Q-Zone.”
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Qatar: well, Qasim ibn Muhammad Al Thani once crushed a town for “piracy” and chased out Ottomans that subsequently came to depose him, so you know what? he wins by default.
hey, Qatar, thanks for: well, like i said, Al Jazeera. everyone either loves it a lot or hates it a lot, and that kind of heated political and social discourse has NEVER been bad for anyone! okay, fine, i guess i should just say “thanks for additional oil, Q-Zone.”

Hassan-i Sabbah, a notable Iranian
upon hearing that Bushwick Bill had declared himself to be a “motherfucking assassin,” Hassan-i Sabbah decided to roll over in his grave

09. Lebanon
ah, scenic Lebanon: one of those countries we make jokes about being so scenic and beautiful before all the warring factions blew the entire country up. plus, it’s notorious for being the location of a massive bombing that killed Marines, which downgrades Lebanon’s status severely. but they have a cool flag with a cedar on it to make up for that: the red represents the blood spilled through history to attain independence and the cedar is… uh, a cedar.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Lebanon: whatever guy put a fucking CEDAR on their flag and wasn’t immediately stoned to death.
hey, Lebanon, thanks for: well, they tell me that Phoenicians come from what is now Lebanon, and that said Phoenicians are the fathers of all alphabets. and as i have an English degree, i love the alphabet! so that’s cool.

08. Kuwait
you know that tiny little country with that massive amount of oil located under/near it? that’s Kuwait! since they funded Iraq’s war with Iran to some extent and then had the audacity to not immediate forgive the loans (and maybe turn over some land for good measure), i SUPPOSE they had that war coming to them, but i like to give them some solid marks because they’re pretty down with the free press and cosmopolitan culture and all that.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Kuwait: well, frankly, if they were known for having a nation filled with bad dudes (as in, dudes bad enough to rescue the emir of Kuwait), Iraq might not have tried to take all their shit. i think you see where i am going with this. but Kuwait DID give us the basis for Generation Kill’s hilarious translator Meesh, dudes.
hey, Kuwait, thanks for: well, aside from the oil, Kuwait once hosted a spectacular show of light and sound around 1990 or so that gave us hours of entertaining video. so, thanks for that, Kuwait!

07. Iran
Iran mostly serves as a default villain, what with their Persian legions (including the excellently-but-inaccurately-named Immortals) being the stock foes for Greeks throughout the ages, Ahmadinejad currently serving as a top-notch heel for George W. Bush, and even the Joker being granted diplomatic status as their ambassador. i mean, come on, the Joker? seriously, Iran, i doubt he even has any expertise in international relations! oh, wait, i think they retconned Iran into some fictional nation. anyway, the thing is that everyone needs a hilarious villain to seize your embassies and talk nonsense, so, in effect, that Joker thing was appropriate because Iran is American’s Joker. they just better not take naked photos of our paralyzed daughters!
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Iran: though some dispute the actual shadiness of his historical record, Hassan-i Sabbah still remains the dude from Qom who’s known for founding that whole Hashshashin thing that is known for being the basis for our word “assassin” and which gets credit for knocking off numerous historical figures and/or fucking with Saladin himself. at least thank him for inspiring that Assassin’s Creed game. i heard it was short but rocked regardless.
hey, Iran, thanks for: okay, the basis for one of my running jokes (and the title(s) of my mixtapes) is that Iran had a military operation during the Iran-Iraq War called Operation Undeniable Victory, which turned out to be just a successful but small part of a war that no one really won. so, thanks for that awesome title, Iran!

06. Iraq
Iraq seems to mostly specialize in being in the news for the wrong reasons: invading countries, invading other countries, absorbing a massive amount of America-dropped munitions, that whole thing about Saddam Hussein and his kids being out of control, and so on. hell, Iraq’s even managed to up their “number of times we’ve lost a war” count by jumping on conflicts that were supposed to be unfair fights with Israel that ended in tears. still, i will always have a soft spot for the land of Abd al-Baqi Abd al-Karim Abdallah, whose likeness i supposedly resemble, thus resulting in me getting the “Five Of Diamonds” nickname at work.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Iraq: Saladin (or, if you prefer, Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub). oh, i don’t know, he was only just about the best military commander of all time, which makes you a pretty bad dude. what, you thought i was going to run with Saddam Hussein here or something? i mean, i guess i could have gone with Gilgamesh, but i hear he might not have been 100% real. like, wasn’t he immortal and/or known to fight fucking DRAGONS? that shit never happened!
hey, Iraq, thanks for: dear Iraq, thank you for allowing us to use your country to train a couple of generations of American combat personnel in actual combat situations to increase their efficiency! also, i heard civilization comes from Mesopotamia, so thanks for that as well!

Auda abu Tayi
“does Auda serve? does Auda abu Tayi serve? i carry twenty-three great wounds, all got in battle! seventy-five men have i killed with my own hands, in battle! i scatter, i burn my enemies’ tents! i take away their flocks and herds! the Turks pay me a golden treasure… yet i am poor! because i am a river to my people.”

05. Egypt
ah, Egypt, land of supposedly the only human creation that would remain visible 10,000 years after us if we were all wiped out suddenly: the pyramids. and i guess those pyramids are pretty cool. plus, their leaders apparently constructed a massive system of tunnels and traps to amuse and confuse old British men with glasses and short pants for years and years during their search for “gold” and “additional gold in the form of death masks.”
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Egypt: so, the story goes that at Kadesh, Rameses II was surrounded by foes (in this case, Hittites) and cut off from the Egyptian lines (possibly by being deserted by his men)… so he killed almost ONE HUNDRED Hittites SINGLE-HANDEDLY before returning to his men uninjured. now, granted, one of the sources for this is Rameses II and he also claims to have had help from gods (which would make the feat slightly less impressive)… but still, you go kill one hundred men and show him up. plus, in that movie where he was played by Yul Brynner and took issue with Charlton Heston, he takes a nonchalant attitude towards fighting a god. so there’s that as well.
hey, Egypt, thanks for: okay, so, i know i am supposed to thank Egypt for being the birthplace of all kinds of agriculture and writing and society, plus all those ancient artifacts. and everyone loves mummies! well, at least until they watch Mummies Alive or whatever the fuck the show was called and get incredibly bitter. still, i must mostly thank Egypt for being the place this CRAZY fucking lamp i have had since i was little came from. it’s way colorful and pro-Muslim and out of control. thanks again, Egypt!

04. Jordan
i’m going to be frank and say that i’m giving Jordan high marks because they always seem to be the country that wants its neighbors to just mellow the fuck out and behave, such as in the cases of “hey, why don’t you guys just chill and recognize Israel” and “hey, why don’t you guys just chill and not be crazy fedayeen.” they have, like, a positive mental attitude. and i dig that. they also had the cooler name of “Transjordan” at one time, which i really miss.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Jordan: Auda ibu Tayi. does Auda serve? NO! seriously, Jordan achieves a major blow by having the man who is clearly the most bad-ass dude in Lawrence Of Arabia actually hail from Jordan (by virtue of being a Howeitat). you can note his most spectacular declaration of awesomeness (which i cannot personally top) above; i think he also plays some random Arabic version of the dozens in that film, which is just cool.
hey, Jordan, thanks for: like i said, that positive mental attitude. hey, someone in the Middle East has GOT to be chilled out occasionally.

03. Saudi Arabia
ranked third is the country that figures prominently in films like the Kingdom, which mostly impart the message that “SA has a lot of oil” and “SA is full of mostly good dudes and a couple of royal assholes,” with the royal there being more about the degree of their asshole behavior and not about their princely status.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Saudi Arabia: i should probably roll with Muhammad on this one: he conquered shit, he founded Islam, and he inspired countless unoriginal people to name their children after him. however, he talked shit about dogs and was pampering of cats, which leads me to believe he may have sucked at life more than most Muslims believe. so i’m going to run with Abu Bakr: he was Muhammad’s buddy, he was the first caliph, he dominated the shit out of numerous adversaries, and you could play him in Civilization III (though i prefer the Saladin of Civ4, i’m just saying).
hey, Saudi Arabia, thanks for: okay, so this is the country i was saving “all that oil” for. thanks again, Saudi Arabia: my Civic doesn’t require that much of it, but it loves your oil! also, good job keeping Mecca clean and all that.

02. Israel/Palestine
that’s right, i am sidestepping the thorny issue of “what’s the deal with Palestine not being its own country” by just claiming it’s all one big, friendly, loving nation. now if only all those Israelis and Palestinians could do this… anyway, we all know that Israel has to get a solid ranking because they control all Americans, and frankly, i think the Dolphin-submarine-enhanced Samson Option is pretty cool.
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Israel/Palestine: didn’t Jesus come from around here? well, if he did, who cares, because Moshe Dayan killed a lot more people (though often indirectly), and he had a much cooler eyepatch. his runner-up would probably be one of the Olympians who fought it out with the terrorists in 1972 (Moshe Weinberg or Yossef Romano), which mostly proves that guys named Moshe will fight like crazy to avenge their nerdy-sounding name. also, i think those Operation Wrath Of God guys are overrated, despite the awesome name for their operation.
hey, Israel/Palestine, thanks for: well, Israel provided me with this sweet Jericho pistol (something that makes me overlook the whole Desert Eagle thing), and that’s awesome. and Palestine… well, thanks for making the kaffiyeh socially-popular attire, even with Rachel Ray. kaffiyehs are excellent… though not as excellent as a fine-quality pistol.

welcome to Yemen
“just as you have your tie, the Yemeni will carry his gun.” amen, brother.

01. Yemen
the champion of this list belongs to the Middle Eastern nation that infamously came in second to the US on that small arms ownership thing in 2007 that, frankly, struck me as bullshit (it’s based on “known” firearms), but i’m not going to hold that against Yemen. as Robert Kaplan once said, it’s possible that Yemen has more assault rifles per capita than any other nation. gentlemen, we have ourselves a winner!
baddest dude i can think of that comes from Yemen: okay, TECHNICALLY, Avigdor Kahalani was an Israeli, but his parents were off the boat (or whatever) from Yemen and other Israeli personnel used to direct racial slurs at him all the time. and then he helped kill a shitload of tanks for Israel in the Yom Kippur War. so, uh, he wins!
hey, Yemen, thanks for: all those sweet jambiyas! i got mine as a young man (huh, this doesn’t help that “he looks like UBL” nonsense) and it still rules; it’s good for making your waist look audacious and, also, settling disputes. also, uh, apparently a lot of guys like chewing khat, so i am sure they appreciate its export.

so, there it is: Yemen rules! and i used the word “seriously” a LOT in this update. seriously.

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One Response to episode 154: the middle eastern nation ranking listicle

  1. Blackout says:

    The world does need more old testament style naming of military operations.

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