Events in the Arab world have moved into the realm of the
incredible, crossing all the red lines that the Arabs drew for themselves in the
Can Arabs change and remain independent?
Events in the Arab world have moved into the realm of the incredible,
crossing all the red lines that the Arabs drew for themselves in the past.
The most recent example: Facing the prospect of the occupation of Iraq and the
damage to Arab interests, Arabs have been regaled with the spectacle of Arab
leaders discussing the crisis and descending to an exchange of insults.
Today it is clear to the Arab public that their governments are unable to
provide the basic conditions of national security, even to protect the
independence and sovereignty of their own countries. One reason is the loss of
trust between rulers and ruled, the total contempt shown for citizensí rights
and human rights as set down in constitutions, international covenants and
accords. Then, too, there are the factors of corruption, economic weakness and
the total lack of inter-Arab cooperation.
Arab states and people alike have lost self-respect ≠ and the world has lost
respect for them.
Adding to the gravity of the situation, it is clear that the US administration
has had, for some time, a clear road map for a major campaign against Arab
states in the region. While the first signs of this were apparent before Sept.
11, 2001, the political ingredients needed for it to be acted upon multiplied
The aim is to topple a number of the regimes in the region and change the
policies and attitudes of some of the others. This campaign is being made
possible both by the enormous clout of the US on the international stage and the
debilitating cancer that is spreading through the Arab world.
The main goals of this policy are to boost US influence in the Middle East and
to change the regimes in the region. The aim of this change is not to bring them
into the US orbit ≠ because they are already there. Rather the goal is to
change their nature, structure, laws, and political, economic and social
cultures to make them conform to the demands of the neo-conservatives in the US
These conditions, attractive at first sight, will demand living with Israel in
line with the conditions of the Zionist right-wing. They will be ≠ or even more
importantly they will be seen to be ≠ imposed from the outside, in coordination
with a hard-line Israeli agenda.
What are these developments going to mean for Arabs? First of all, the imminent
occupation of an Arab state ≠ a catastrophe comparable in scale to that which
occurred in Palestine in 1948. The tragedy this time is that the occupation is
being carried out by the most powerful state in the world in partnership with
other states with a variety of claims and aspirations in the Arab world. Despite
the welter of explanations relating to the nature of the forthcoming foreign
occupation in Iraq, there will be only one outcome: military rule.
From that moment on, the operative words will be resistance to foreign
occupation, with all that this implies.
This means a long period of unrest and turmoil stretching forward a decade or
more. We will witness the appearance of political movements that are completely
different from the ones we have known in the past. Some will advocate
secularism, others religious extremism or ultra-nationalism.
Others will cooperate voluntarily with the new foreign initiative.
It is vital, then, that contemporary Arab political forces unite to bring large
segments of the public together to achieve an Arab civil and democratic society
in which all people feel they enjoy dignity and equality of citizenship.
Finally, the problem that is perhaps the most difficult to solve: dealing with
our own governments in the region. It is clear there is a gap that cannot be
bridged between the public and the regimes. There is no mutual trust and no
intention to change on the part of governments that deal with the symptoms of
the problem but leave the causes to get worse.
This was possible in the past. But not today. Now, there is impending occupation
and with Arab citizens losing all semblance of dignity, in the region and
elsewhere. Now, exile is the only way to build a decent life.
War will thus only cause an already bad situation to deteriorate ≠ if such a
thing is possible.
Two challenges will face post-Saddam Iraq and the wider region: to check foreign
hegemony, and to carry out internal reform and promote democratic regimes and
constitutional institutions. Failing this, some young people will resort to acts
of terrorism and anarchy, exacerbating the tragic situation that faces us today.
Walid Khadduri, an Iraqi journalist, is editor in chief of the
Middle East Economic Survey. He wrote this commentary for The Institute for War
and Peace Reporting, a London-based independent non-profit organization
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace?
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