Sunday, March 30, 2003

Exclusive: America’s Credibility

Dr. Khalid M. Batarfi,

A frequent question confronts me in my communication with American diplomats, intellectuals and readers: Why do Arabs and Muslims sympathize with an oppressive regime like that of dictator Saddam Hussein? Why do you defend a country that invaded a fellow nation only 12 years ago? We have defended you with our blood and remained in your country to prevent another invasion, they add, and we have come now to rid you and the Iraqi people of an evil regime, and to spread democracy and freedom in your region. Despite this, you greet us with hatred and rejection, refusing to cooperate with us or support our war of liberation, democratization and freedom.
Every time I answer, I start by reminding them of the question used as an illustration of wrongful assumption in both law and media schools in America: “When did you stop beating your wife?” The wrong assumptions here are many, the most important related to American mentality and logic: We are always right because we are people of principle, and our way of life is the right one. Anything contradicts with our way needs to be rectified.
The basis for this logic is the confidence in the American constitution, which embodies in its language and clauses the dream that led millions to the New World to escape tyranny and suffering, the denial of rights and resources and opportunities for growth and development. This great constitution is based on the individual’s right to pursue happiness, and emphasizes the duty of the government to provide for and protect such endeavors.
But the eternal human problem remains. Leaders tend to take advantage of these principles and hide behind their lofty banners — whether religious, ideological or constitutional — to achieve self-serving objectives. The American administration is no different.
The colonizers justified the occupation of countries, robbing their resources and enslaving their people with the divine duty of spreading (and implementing) the principles of Christianity and civilized in the primitive world.
Today, the American administration is using the same excuses to explain its invasion of Iraq and its war on a regime they had long backed and incited into war with its neighbors. Not to mention the American cover up when Iraq used weapons of mass destruction, including chemical bombs made with British technology, against both its enemies and its own people.
Besides, a great project requires a great credibility. How much of this does the American administration have? Hasn’t the president asked Sharon time and time again, and in the strongest language and clearest terms, to get out of Jenin? What happened when Sharon refused to get out? Instead of insisting, the president defended Israel’s actions, and shifted the blame on the Palestinian victims.
How can we trust a US that sets out to discipline a country for going against the will of the UN and the world community, when the enforcer itself is in contravention?
What is the difference between the shifting excuses the Iraqi regime used to explain invading Kuwait and the American ones for invading Iraq? Wasn’t the first justification of this war an alleged Iraqi link with Al-Qaeda?
Then, when no evidence could be found, the excuse became the development of nuclear weapons. When the head of the inspections team exposed Colin Powell’s evidence in the Security Council, the target became the destruction of Iraqi missiles and chemical weapons. And after Iraq cooperated, the requirement became changing the regime within 48 hours. Doesn’t this mean the US meant to invade Iraq come what may? Is there any difference between this line of argument and the Soviet Union’s pretext for invading Afghanistan — and, as I mentioned, Saddam’s own excuse for invading Kuwait?
Still more questions remain. Why Iraq? Why now? If Iraq is in contravention of 17 UN resolutions, Israel has breached more than 70. If the possession of weapons of mass destruction is the reason, are we blind and deaf to the fact that what hasn’t been established in Iraq is very much in evidence in Israel, and that North Korea has even boasted of possessing such weapons?
I tell those who object to our stand on this war: Be honest with yourselves before you demand that the world put its trust in you. Implement justice, before you promise justice. Clean up your own backyard before you demand others do the same. Then you can ask me anything you like.
Arab News Features 30 March 2003

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