A Statement To The Nation
by Bechara Nassar Charbel, Al-Hayat, 2003/04/29
Suddenly and without reservation, the Third General Arab Conference, held in Beirut, closed with "a statement to the nation" that called for establishing a culture of resistance to replace the culture of defeat. There is nothing wrong in this, because the nation does indeed need a statement; and even if it doesn't address its mind, then at least it touches upon its emotions and boosts its morale. But this message - which is addressed to several countries across different continents - has sent a contradictory idea to a very confused public, even though the conference was supposed to mainly discuss a specific issue, which is the current situation in Iraq.
With their analyses and discourses, certain officials and representatives of pan-Arab and Islamic parties have not evolved since the 1970s, and certainly did not deserve to have people travel to attend the conference and listen to them. But the event deserved to be attended, if only for a certain vitality that emerged during the debate, through brave voices calling for self-critique.
Needless to go over the statement's refusal of any "tendency to compromise" with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or its denouncement of the "colonial ambitions" in Iraq. Needless to criticize the tough language and attacks waged against the Gulf countries. But still, one paragraph in the statement is worth mentioning and that it the part that expressed the need to deploy efforts towards preserving Iraq's unity and building national unity, on the basis of plurality and freedom of expression, taking into consideration that "the Iraqi people know best how to define the nature and form of their resistance."
In fact, when the statement calls upon the Arabs to respect the Iraqis' choice in running their own affairs, this implies an understanding that the people needed to get rid of their dictator and thus, felt grateful towards the occupation forces. Although the pan-Arab/Islamic call for armed resistance in the same statement is contradictory to this call for 'forgiveness,' a peaceful resistance could be led by the Iraqis to expel the occupation. So this contradiction seems 'positive' indeed and much better than a basic, suicidal incitement that pays no heed to the political reality on the ground.
With the conference of the Iraqi opposition in Baghdad, the participants in Beirut's 'emergency' meeting grew aware of the distance separating the reality of the Baghdadis and the contradictory ideas issued by the pan-Arab/Islamic conference. It is this same distance that explains why an Arab satellite channel shot for twenty minutes a decorated plate in an Iraqi museum, and just a few seconds, a mass grave dug by Saddam's regime.
Participants at the Beirut conference, who included individuals concerned with Iraq's national interests as well as partisans of Saddam, discovered that the Iraqi people's first priority was to gain control over the situation, despite their differences. The Iraqi political forces know by experience that the American presence, in volume and time, is related to its expenditure potential. These forces suffered enough to avoid a new war, and seek a compromise that will contribute to drawing the future of a democratic Iraq. The national conference calling for the formation of Arab resistance committees could spare the Iraqis, even if for a while. For the formation of a transitional committee or a representative government will force Washington to consider the new reality and will call the UN to play a vital role. If Washington ignores the Iraqis and if its hawks insist on being the exclusive decision-makers, then there is no doubt that the Iraqis will move from objection to resistance, and that is when everyone would be praising the insight of the "statement to the nation."
The 'Arab street's' spokesmen can be reassured that the American presence in Iraq is technically and judicially an illegal occupation. However, it is clear that the best way to end it as fast as possible is a wise policy and peaceful opposition, not just because of the balance of power, but also because of the real fear that violence can lead to internal wars threatening the unity of Iraq. Iraqis will pay the prize of these wars from their blood, and their hope to build a civil and modern state will vanish. Statements needing to be redrafted or even more, will not be able to stop them, for they really need to carefully think them over in order to establish a deep-seated will to cease civil wars and set the foundations for a culture of tolerance, before moving to a greater ambition - that of expelling the occupation or preventing it from happening one other time.