Monday, July 12, 2004


Two Interesting al-Ahram Articles

The first article, by Clovis Maksoud, takes a look at Arab perceptions of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Maksoud writes:
The Arabs feel that part of their history is on trial -- and here I use the word trial in its broader sense. Surreptitiously they feel they are being tried also. Saddam Hussein is part of their collective memory -- the illusions they had about him and the disillusionment that followed. While most Arabs feel relieved that Saddam's regime has been removed, a sense of profound embarrassment follows, because they did not do it themselves.

What exacerbated the Arabs' sense of outrage was their exasperation that the invasion of Iraq was totally illegitimate, as has now been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Weapons of mass destruction were never found; Saddam's links with Al-Qaeda were disproved by the bipartisan United States commission investigating the security flaws that made the 9/11 terrorist attacks possible.

But the point which has provoked the most intense Arab anger is the revelation that the attack on Iraq was planned by the pro-Israeli cabal which became an active participant in US policy-making, and no longer consisted of an Israeli lobby confined to exercising pressure. When Arabs and Americans warned that this group of American Likudniks were planning to strike Iraq, many Israeli and pro-Israeli groups dismissed the warnings as "typical Arab conspiracy theories" by promoters and justifiers of "anti-Jewish" trends.


Even the Anglo-American attack sought to suppress the motives of the invasion -- and so long as the justification went unproven, the attack remained immoral and illegitimate. The two powers introduced new reasons for their invasion, namely "liberation of Iraqis" from a ruthless regime. It is the paradoxical duality -- a sense of relief that a reckless dictatorship was removed, and the perfidy of the invasion with the humiliations that it brought about -- that has been at the core of Arab political consciousness throughout this great crisis.
Maksoud finds the silver lining in this cloud:
But there will always remain a lingering question. Could the Arabs have removed the pathetic figure on trial in Baghdad on their own? This question, even if unanswered, can be the means by which the compass can be recovered.

This lingering question can embolden the Arabs to realise their untapped potential and bring about the Arab renaissance that has long eluded them, and exculpate them from the embarrassment and the necessity to keep thinking over that lingering question.
However, the pessimist in me thinks that the "paradoxical duality" is going to essentially diminish any positive accomplishments in Iraq. Long after the euphoria of overturning and punishing Saddam fades, I think the humiliation is going to remain. Part of this is that the world hasn't stopped for the trial. In a 'what have you done for me lately' world, the overthrow of Saddam is going to be old news compared to the latest car bombing in Iraq or the latest home demolition in Palestine. Which brings me to the second article, by Mustafa Barghouthi. In this article, Barghouthi forsees a situation where once again the Palestinians will be put in the position of rejecting a "generous offer" and proving themselves non-partners for peace.

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