Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,
It seems that all the Arab world — except for Kuwait — has nothing but expressions of anger toward both the United States and Britain. My recent articles, as many noted, are good examples. I went from praising America and writing about my positive experience in the US during my graduate years to bashing its foreign policy and focusing on its historical failings.
Many readers say that I am hypocritical and ask: Why do I so energetically point a finger at American mistakes, failures and biases, but fail to address those closer to home? If I accuse America of applying “double standards” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, am I not doing the same when I record Fox News bias and forget about Al-Jazeera, or when I talk about America’s racial discrimination and religious extremism but not ours, or when I tally American crimes, past and present, but forget those committed by Arabs and Muslims?
All the above are good questions. The Arab world does feel angry, sound angry, and look angry. The reason: We are angry! Why? The answer is to be found in history books as much as in Al-Jazeera and Arab News. The key words in this long story are: Israel, Israel and Israel.
In short, we cannot trust the intentions of a country that sees us through the Israeli lenses, which has vetoed some 80 Security Council resolutions that would have given us back what Israel owes us, and attacks a sovereign nation to disarm it of “alleged” weapons of mass destruction, while helping its neighbor (Israel) to improve on many more of them. We cannot trust a president who claims to care about the Iraqi people but not the Palestinians, the Turkish Kurds, the Chechens or the Kashmiris; and who enforces 17 UN resolutions on Iraq but ignores more than 70 on Israel; who calls Saddam a dictator and Sharon a “Man of Peace.”
As for the first Gulf War, it was different, totally different. Iraq then was the invader and occupier-the buster of world law and order. When USSR invaded Afghanistan the world acted the same way. So, we are being consistent when we give US the same treatment, this time. Add this to our “mistrust” of US intentions for the above reasons and you understand why the negative reaction.
It doesn’t help the optimists among us that the plan to invade Iraq and redraw the region’s map is public record. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary Doug Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and neo-conservative high priest and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle are not shy about the “why” and “how.” Please check the plan at the http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm.
After all, they had to sell this plan, submitted to and turned down by Israeli former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, to practical politicians, business and military hawks (and fanatic fundamentalists), not to Jeffersonian Democrats, libertarians, and idealist intellectuals. Knowing these published intentions, we cannot, for self preservation, help being against such imperialist-fundamentalist scheme.
As for our faults, yes I agree. We should focus more on our failings, problems and mistakes. It is natural, but not wiser, for people under attack to play victim. And it is easier for a victim to cry foul and blame the world for everything including his own blunders. Wrong! We should, now more than ever, start working on the problems that brought us this low. If the Ba’ath regime was the product of its own soil, the choice of its own people, and the benefactor of its own country it wouldn’t have been so easily defeated. Most Arab regimes are likewise.
I hope, but am not very optimistic, that they learn their lesson. The guarantee of national sovereignty, solidity and solidarity is the same everywhere. Governments should be representative of their peoples. They should acknowledge, respect and work to protect their rights and achieve their aspirations. The Arab world is still after half a century of its independence a permanent member of the Third World club, and dependent on its former colonizers for all its needs from bread and cheese to computers and Mercedes. Most countries are in debt, many on aid, and few live in oil-for-cash luxury.
Our education system is poor, investment and business environment overly protective and bureaucratic, governing and legislative system dictatorial and corrupt. Our media is biased, rhetoric stupid and our attitude toward the world and the other is in need of much maintenance. Most of us claim to be Muslims, but few are good ones. Too many of our intellectuals are either fanatically religious or radically liberal. The rest are caught in the cross fire.
For my fellow Arabs I say: What was done is done. America is “officially” here, and we are in for a long run. Whether we give it the benefit of the doubt or don’t trust its intentions, whether it is going to be the feared hell or the promised paradise, we have one, and only one course of action to take: Reforms.
To all my American friends, I say: Against all the odds I am willing to give the US the benefit of the doubt. But you must encourage your elected government to meet the world’s best expectations and live up to its advertised goals. Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict must be a priority. Rebuilding an Iraqi model of freedom and prosperity is another. Doing so will restore the American image the world have always admired — that of civility, generosity and principled policies. To this day, to this kind of America I long and salute.
Arab News Features 20 April 2003