Sunday, September 21, 2003

What’s Wrong With the Picture?

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

A few months ago — or was it years? — an American president announced in a loud strident voice to an incredulous world at every opportunity that Iraq was a dangerous breeding ground for terrorism and that it had weapons of mass destruction.
If we don’t take action now, he argued, we will soon pay a greater price than that paid on 9/ 11.
Iraq, he assured us, will be liberated and transformed into a showcase for democracy, prosperity and Western-style freedom. The backward and corrupt states of the region will thus learn from the Iraqi experience in order to benefit their oppressed peoples. America will no longer support dictators or betray their subjects who only long for a better life.
Those words were very convincing and many who had at first resisted decided to give America the benefit of the doubt. Besides, who could be sure, Saddam might be the ncarnation of evil who would sooner or later hold the entire world hostage to his nefarious and wicked schemes.
Some months later, America did it. It liberated the Iraqi people from a terrible tyrant. That, however, was all! The day after Saddam fell, anarchy marched in. It seems the US planned very well for war and combat but simply forgot about peace. The US planned for freedom but didn’t pay much attention to the kind security that allows freedom to take root and prosper. Though the Iraqis had once feared for their safety if they angered the regime, they are now afraid even if they anger nobody. Murder, rape and theft are normal daytime activities. Before the tyrant fell, they had taken for granted the basic amenities of modern life — electricity and running water. Now they they have been liberated, they have neither nor do they have other basics such as jobs, hospitals and schools. Jamal Khashoggi was one of those who believed the American promises. He didn’t learn from the events in Afghanistan and argued that the Americans “know-what-they’re doing.” I asked him recently if he still believed in the dream and he stood his ground, blaming everything on “them” — the jihadi, the Baathists, etc. He sounded, once again, like the president and his neoconservative, neo-Zionist team. I reminded him that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had made similar promises after Camp David. Egypt was to become an Arab paradise. Like Nasser before him, the dream and dreamer ended up in history’s cemetery. The way things are going, I fear Bush and Jamal’s promised wonderland will be even a bigger cemetery. Iraq seems to be moving along the same road Afghanistan is taking to, chaos and anarchy. The difference is that we have more wild neighbors, a fragmented society, armed citizens and our gas and oil is a minefield.
- kbatarfi@al-madina.com
- Arab News Opinion 21 September 2003

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