Editorial: Delusions and Realities
Arab News, 11 April 2003
The shock and dismay at the fall of Baghdad seen in parts of the Arab world seriously damages Arab credibility. Like it or not, perceptions are what matters in this media-dominated world — and the perception that the rest of the world gets from Arab anger at the easy overthrow of Saddam Hussein and resentment at the sight of Iraqis welcoming Americans is that Arabs do not care about the decades of oppression suffered by the Iraqis.
It sends the message that they supported Saddam Hussein and that, while on the side of justice when it comes to the Palestinians, they do not care about tyranny if it is an Arab who is the tyrant, even when other Arabs are the ones being tyrannized.
These are dangerous, self-defeating views to project. The idea that Saddam Hussein could be a modern Arab Napoleon — sweeping forth, crushing the Israelis and bringing about Arab unity — was a delusion then and forever remained a delusion. Tyranny and freedom can never go hand in hand. Justice for Palestinians can never be built on injustice for Iraqis.
A world that sees Arab dismay at the dictator's defeat will not be sympathetic. Even if part of the present anger is directed as much at Saddam's regime for its deceitful boasts that it could withstand American might when in the end his army melted into thin air and proved little more than a paper tiger, there has to be a change in popular Arab attitudes. Distrust of US foreign policy is no excuse. Instead of dismay at Saddam Hussein's downfall, Arabs should stand side by side with the Iraqis and celebrate the removal of their oppressor. That goes for Arab governments as well.
If not, there will be scorn and derision from the outside world, even from those who were opposed to this war in the first place. Iraqis too will not thank fellow Arabs. The Arab world may end up being more divided then ever as a result. Yesterday's impromptu demonstration in Baghdad against Al-Jazeera TV station, accused by demonstrators of having been pro-Saddam, suggests that that may be already happening.
The fall of Baghdad is no reason for loss of Arab pride. There is no national Arab humiliation. This is not a war between Arabs and the US, or between a faithful Muslim state and a crusading, militant Christian West. It is a war between a dangerous tyrant — Saddam Hussein — whom Iraqis are glad to see the back of, and the US, whose motives for carrying it out are dubious.
That is not to ignore potential future dangers for Iraq — the danger that the US will be loath to hand over control to the Iraqis. A stable, law-abiding Iraq, too, may take considerable time to rebuild. But that the US involvement might possibly lead to occupation is not to say that it definitely will. That stability may take time to achieve is not to say that tyranny should not have been overthrown.
Iraq is not the black-and-white issue presented by some Arab politicians and people in the media — of Zionist-supporting Americans invading and occupying an independent Arab state. The issues are far more complex. To look at things in black and white rather than deal with complexities is blinkered — and those who are blinkered will never see the real picture. The Arab world needs to be more sophisticated in its judgments.