Published: 2003/03/31 07:33:29
Iraqi resistance 'restores Arab honour'
By Martin Asser
BBC News Online Correspondent in Jordan
It pains them as they watch the latest shocking images of bloodshed from Iraq, beamed to their homes without hesitation or censorship by Arabic satellite TV.
But viewers across the Arab world are not watching the news with their usual sad resignation - with events proceeding beyond their control or the control of their political leaders.
"Look, the Iraqis are fighting back," says Khalid proudly, as a news item reports on how four US marines have been killed by a suicide car bombing in southern Iraq.
Khalid, a Palestinian living comfortably in a well-to-do district of the Jordanian capital, sums up the feeling of many Arabs that - in Iraq - the US might finally be paying for years of "double standards" in its Middle East policy.
"The Americans thought they were going to be greeted by celebrations and ululating women as they walked into Basra," Khalid says.
"But what they don't realise is that people hate and fear them even more than they may hate or fear Saddam Hussein."
Candidates for liberation
The reason for this fear and hatred, Khalid says, stems from the perception that Washington gives unqualified support for Israel, a country known here for gross human rights violations of Palestinians, threatening its neighbours and possessing weapons of mass destruction.
"These are exactly the things the Americans and British accuse Saddam Hussein of doing - so why don't they go to Palestine and liberate the Palestinian people from Israeli occupation, instead of 'liberating' Iraq - from an Iraqi leader?"
Our Iraqi brothers are showing us that we can stand up to American, British, Zionist aggression
It is a view that has currency across the Arab world - with the notable exception of Kuwait, where the US has won many friends for liberating the country from invading Iraqi forces in 1991.
But other Arabs feel that every day that Iraq holds out against the western armies, Arab honour is being restored and Arabs' sense of helplessness to resist foreign domination diminishes.
To paraphrase the observation of one commentator, in 1967 it took six days for Israel to overrun the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights; the Iraqis have already held out for 10 days against the might of the world's only superpower.
"Our Iraqi brothers are showing us that we can stand up to American, British, Zionist aggression," said a marcher at one of the many anti-war demonstrations held in Jordan last Friday.
"I am prepared to go myself to Iraq and carry out a suicide attack against the invaders," said another.
How do you liberate people by killing them?
~Zainab, Jordanian mother
Such entrenched and hostile attitudes must surely concern US military planners, tasked with winning what's described as an "effects-based" campaign in Iraq.
That means they're not here just to defeat an enemy army, but to bring about effects on the ground: Liberation, democratisation, regeneration and implanting peaceful attitudes towards the US and Israel.
But American and British efforts to target the apparatus of Saddam Hussein's leadership and spare civilians - to drive a wedge between the regime and the population - count for little in Arab minds.
"How do you liberate people by killing them, and making them cower in their houses under aerial bombardment afraid for their lives," asks Zainab, a Jordanian mother and housewife as she watches al-Jazeera TV's coverage.
"The Americans are so stupid," her husband chimes in. "Yesterday they bombed food stores in Basra. What they're doing is having exactly the opposite effect of what they say they want, to make the region more peaceful and pro-American."
It is no surprise that everyone here watches al-Jazeera, with its focus on the civilian casualties in Iraq and its track record of refuting statements from that other Qatari-based media operation - coalition central command at the al-Sayliyah base.
With typical ingenuity, al-Jazeera's latest video montage promoting its coverage of "The War on Iraq" draws parallels between the Anglo-American intervention in Iraq and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The sight of British troops doing house-to-house raids in Basra, tanks patrolling the streets of Um Qasr and helicopters clattering over Iraqi civilians' heads does little to dispel the potent parallel of Palestine.