For Arabs, a Cruel Echo of History

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Iraq, Occupation Views: 3347

BEIRUT -- To Washington and London, this week's attack against Iraq is part of a historical process to promote Arab peace, liberty and democracy. To most Arabs, it is a cruel reappearance of demons that have haunted them for centuries.

A small minority of Arabs -- mostly in Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states that have suffered from Iraqi attacks -- assists the United States today; the majority vehemently rejects the U.S. military as an instrument for changing Middle Eastern regimes or reshaping our political landscape.

Of course, Arabs do not speak in a single voice. My own assessment is that most Arabs see this attack against Iraq as sinister in its intent, illegitimate, unprovoked, unnecessary, counterproductive for the U.S. and destructive for the region. This comes on top of long-standing criticisms of America's pro-Israel policies. The result is the powerful anti-American current that predominates in this region.

Most Arab world analysts and citizens believe the U.S. just wants to control Iraq's oil, secure a permanent Mideast foothold from which to dominate and pacify the region, and redraw the region's political map in favor of America and Israel. Steps along the way include securing permanent U.S. military bases throughout the Middle East and directly occupying and retooling a powerful Arab country.

Washington is seen as exacting the biggest of double standards: It musters, for the second time, an Anglo-American armada to enforce U.N. resolutions in Iraq, while applying no comparable political, economic or military clout to implement 50-year-old U.N. resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or others.

Washington is further criticized for unilaterally determining which regimes to change, along with when, how, why and by whom. Many Arabs fear that a regime change in Iraq will lead to continuing instability and violence. A shakeup of power structures and ethnic/national balances may spark new power and land grabs, jockeying for supremacy and possible ethnic cleansing, especially in northern Iraq and Turkey, southern Iraq and Iran, Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands and other contested areas.

For many Arabs, this revives historical ghosts from 1915-22, when British and French armies brazenly rearranged our region into strange- shaped countries with Euro-made power structures. The Arab view is that this was done mainly to protect Western colonial interests, divide up local spoils and promote Zionist national goals, largely ignoring indigenous Arab, Kurdish and other local interests. The consequences have been catastrophic: nearly a century of chronic wars and insurrections, unstable frontiers, underachieving and distorted economies, and the most persistent modern legacy of political autocracy anywhere on the planet.

This attack on Iraq may be novel and noble for Americans, but for many Arabs it is seen as yet another return of the Western armies that have regularly marched into our lands over the last two centuries to establish a political-economic order that is unsatisfactory to most of us, or to create a new political order aiming mainly to serve the interests of the U.S., Israel or the tiny elite of Western-created Arab wielders of power and amassers of wealth.

As we watch this war on television, most of us in the Arab world see just another Arab power being sacked by another Western armada; Arab armies and rich states watching helplessly or assisting the attackers; a U.S. - backed Israel again battering Palestinians and taking more of their land; mass Arab anger and humiliation welling up, only to be suppressed by U.S. - backed Arab regimes; and a hapless U.N. and its spirit of the rule of law expediently used, then discarded, by Washington.

This is the recurring historical horror show that most Arabs see as they watch the bombing of Baghdad. This terrible and haunting saga of Arab weakness, failure, vulnerability and chronic humiliation cumulatively has led to mass degradation and dehumanization that leaves most Arabs numb in disbelief. We desperately want change, reform, democracy, prosperity and modernity, but few of us believe that this will come through the barrels of Western guns. Those guns have been firing at us for centuries, and all we have is continuing failure, perhaps now to be repeated in Iraq.

Author is executive editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Iraq, Occupation
Views: 3347

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Older Comments:
what an amazing article,
every word of it is true

I would only wish that you really understood and knew the history of the region. It has nothing to do with religion or oil.

I read all the rhetoric in the comments and what I devine from it al is ...
A hatred of all non believers
A mistrust of all non believers
The Idolisation of an Arab leader who has slaughtered more Believers tha both the zionists and the Americans put together..
This wart is right, but it is being faught by the wrong people, The house of Saddam should have been cleansed years ago by an army of the true believers, maybe then there would not be the scepisism and mistrust of the Arab world and the muslim faith which is so prevelent today.
Cleanse your own house, determine your policy in Palestine, present it to the UN and watch it founder on the rocks of a Western nations Veto, then go ahead and ignore the UN as did the USA, because this threat of a veto made a vote irelevent.
Then implement your solution, if it is a just one, and I believe that the Muslim nations do have potentially great leaders to makeb it so, then you will have the support of many of the Unbelievers you purport to distrust.
But please do not continue to lower your moral beliefs in order to make political capital by supporting a man who commits or tries to commit Genocide in his own country, when I see some condemnation of Saddam and some solution being proposed by the majority of Arab countries, then I will take seriously your intentions to make this world a better place.
Nowhere do I see condemnation of the war from the Kurdish population, nor do I see any proposal to stop the war and to at the same time stop the genocide in Iraq being put on the table, by the Arab nations,
So instead of the Hatred and anti American prose. Can you please put some ideas for solving both Palestine and Iraq on the table.
Once you start to identify Unbelievers, that is when you give them Identity and reasonm to strike back, there are very few unbelievers, everyone has a belief and that belief should at least be respected.

maa salaam in the qur`an and sunnah one can't find anything about democracy or nationalism,but it seams that we love,crave and justify them as if they were the guidance that ALLAH and HIS RASUL left us so that we would'nt stray.As muslims we have something much better! As long as we keep chasing after jahilyah and dunyah we will always get these same results (it was prophetized) by rasulullah(s) and as far as I know he never lied. And ever muslim worth his salt knows all the ahadiyth about these issues. As muslims we'er told our form of government is KHilafah it always worked for us and always will as promised.We had a government revealed by Allah and applied by rasulullah(s),ashabe kareem,and all the muslims until march of 1923 we can't see that when we lost our KHalifah we broke our bayah and to die the death of jahiliya and we are all in a state of sin until we correct this matter so sayeth Rasulullah(s). We betrayed our KHalifah,the Ummah,Rasulullah(s)and our Lord.We choose to through the qur'an over our backs.We gave the kufr power over us when Allah forbid it We broke the peace helped the kufr against each other even though we were commanded and worned ont to.Funny how we wonder why we are in the shape that we are in...It was the muslims who put this administration in office.With out the muslim vote the white house might look deferent and Allah knows best,but one thing I know I did'nt vote for any of that.I choose Islam and tried to worn others to do the same,but they aspire to best (follow) the jewish lobby.So think are we wonting to be maghduby also? So sayeth Rasulullah(s).The muslims who did vote must be wondering what they answer when asked about this on qiyyamah ... Did they not think of ayats like: do not let your own hands contribute to your own destruction.The only method is the method of Rasulullah(s).In a democracy man is the supreme authority in Islam ALLAH is.Call for Islam,call for the KHilafa.


Lets look at this in a rational way.

Popular reasons in the past for war are greed, religion, and hate.

Iraq was greedy in 1991 and is now using religion as their new weapon. It's Iraq or the non-believers! The Zionist!

Palestine suicide bomber paid by Iraq is an example. What is a Palestinian worth? Iraq has determined that price!

When Sept 11, 2001 happened, a new reason for war was created "Self defence".

Iraq and Palestine applauded Sept 11. God is great (Sadam is great).

Unfortunately, this is now. What is an American worth? Priceless.

I believe what is happening now is our hate from that event. It's payback time!

Islamic countries don't have the balls to admit it's their own problem!

Remember, the violence of war can be escalated to unimaginable proportions. All dead everywhere world-wide!

Nuclear War may still happen! Thanks to Sadam! Dead or alive!

Dear Friends,
I greatly appreciated reading Rami G. Khouri's article.
I have dedicated a large part of my life to the study and understanding of other people's cultures, religions and languages, and to the building of bridges of understanding and communication. To see this go down the toilet as the result of Mr. Bush's SHAMEFUL "War in Iraq -- Part II" is truly dismaying.
I have been at odds with American Foreign Policy for years (decades, really!), especially concerning the Mid-East and particularly regarding the Palestinian-Israeli Issue.
As I see it, the United States (as no other nation on the face of the Earth can) could have and should have pushed Israel to make a suitable peace (suitable to ALL parties involved) with ALL of its neighbors many years ago (indeed, several generations ago). Instead, the U.S. Policy has been one of retaining an extremely dangerous status quo, which is in the interest of none of the parties involved, including the United States.
From my perspective here in the U.S. (and I am SO grateful to be able to read ALTERNATIVE news reports and viewpoints via the Internet), the repercussions of this War, even if it lasts only a
"few weeks", will affect this nation for years (perhaps generations) to come. The Government of the United States (and 70%+ of its extremely misguided population) are, indeed, engaged in what will result in (in fact, what has already led to) the creation of a huge level of resentment in the Mid-East, the Arab and Muslim World, and in many other parts of the globe. Why, even Canada and Mexico (our neighbors) don't approve of this War.
The actions of the U.S., Great Britain, and the FEW other nations supporting this aggression against Iraq will only result in a much more unstable and dangerous world in which we will ALL have to live.
I am vehemently against this War, I will NEVER support it, I will protest against it in the streets, and I will work and pray for peace.
Sincerely yours,
Kenneth R. Wilso

I hope my country will follow Quran (4:92) - in paying blood-money, etc. - as closely as possible in wars, regardless of religion - because my country is secular and therefore should be following the Quran for itself but not requiring it of others as a condition for payment, is what I am thinking. I am hoping this will also be applied "retroactively" to Afghanistan, Vietnam, Mexico (defeating Santa Ana was not the same as "defeating Mexico"), Native Americans and the numerous other peoples I am forgetting to mention.

Also, Muslims are missing a BIG OPPORTUNITY in not pointing out to "Christian warriors" (oxymoron) that their ideals of righteous war are supported by the Quran , evidently better so than by the Bible. Turning one's enemy to serve Allah - when one has their full attention, so to speak - is an opportunity to serve Allah - at least that is what I am thinking.

Also, Please consider making a small effort to discourage shirk among Christians - if you feel comfortable doing so in this or that situation - and especially with Evangelists (invite them to dinner, then watch them run). Indeed, the Quran does seem to indicate that renouncing shirk will be of benefit to those who don't embrace Islam (Quran 4:171, 5:77).

Please encourage who ever you might take as friends (both Muslim and non-Muslim) to bow/kneel/humble themselves before Allah (God), to be consistently charitable and to pray on a regular basis. If Christians seem hesitant to refer to God as Allah it might be helpful to remind them the Latino name for "God" is "Dia" (spelling?). The word "God" is a Germanic derivative from the word for good, for example, "gute Gott," is Hollander/Dutch for, "good God." In support for that name for Allah is Mark 10:19 which reads, "And Jesus (pbuh) said unto him, 'Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.'"

As Salaamu Alaikum.


I just want to say that what is happening in the world today is a disgrace on Islam. Why are the Arab nation not doing anything. Look at kuwait, they might aswell share their beds with Americans.

I am a muslim born in England but my ethnical background is Indian. I do not understand Arabic and the Arabs are so lucky to have Arabic language their mother tongue. Yey they pretend to care and say that they will do something.

They have got so much money, all of Allahs blessing. Why dont all the Arab Nation get together and attack Israiel. Im sure we will be destroying Weapons of Mass Destruction.

But i dont think that will hapeen as the Arabs are too high on their horses to see whats happening below.


Dear brothers & sisters,

I would like to add what I perceive it to be missing from the comments section. I have noticed that all of you have given their share and input in response to this good article and covered almost everything... I just want to correct one little mistake that I blame on the lack of understanding of the arabic text and language. In this case the ayah in the qur'an "Ya ayuha ladina amanu la tatakhidu Alyahooda wa nasara awliaa min duni lahi..." was translated "O'Believers,do not take for masters,jews and christians,they are friends of each other..."
The use of the word friend in the translation is incorrect. Wali meaning Responsible Wilaya therefore is responsability, Wilayat Alamr is taking charge of someone or a nations affairs.
It is undisputedly not friendship in anyway. It solely means responsability. I hope you are not reading Sale's translation of the holy Qur'an.
Furthermore, Allah knows best that muslims can have a good jewish or christian etc friend and a bad muslim friend. It is simply logical because every race and nation is comprised of good people that can be good friends and evil people that can be evil friends. Allah meant in this ayat that we muslims should never put non muslims in charge of our affairs but that does not mean we can only have muslim friends...Islam is a rational just makes sense.
On onother note, I would like to add that all the non muslim nations of this world are indebted to the muslim civilisation. One historian stated that if was not for muslim scientists, western civilisation's progress may probably waited for another 600 years. He added that if it wasnt for the barbaric crusaders and the mongol hordes, today's technological achievements would 've been reached 600 years ago.
We Arabs must remember our Jahiliya (the age of ignorance) and that we were worse off than the vandals. This moroccan saying says it all: "Arab-Islam=Zero.

Wa Salamu Alaykum,



We're responsible for our own shortcomings...shame on America, they have hawkish and dovish leaders...but in Muslim countries especially the Arab countries..we've rich, fat "chickenish" leaders...these selfish individuals have a lot to answer their people and to the Lord

Quran 16:125
Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.

As Salaamu Alaikum.


I think Muslim oil exporting countries should build factories in Muslim oil importing countries. Boycotting might perhaps be a good start towards economic independence for Muslim countries but building trade between Muslim countries puts more money in Muslim households, providing Muslim youth with brighter futures.

Jews should retaliate on German for their holocaust but not Muslims ??? still wonder

Hey Robert... If you remember correctly... It was the United States that let 200,000 Muslims in the Balkans die at the hands of the Christians (in an attack by the Serbs and Croats (who were well-armed as opposed to the Muslims)).

Nobody saved the Muslims, BUT the Muslims...

After the Muslims in Bosnia started regaining great vasts of land...It was the U.S. and European allies who told them that they would suffer AIR ATTACKS if they did not halt.

How fair is that?

now don't tell me about Christians ever saving Muslims or Jewish Zionists for that matter...

If you look throughout history... you will see how it was the MUSLIMS that harbored and SAVED the Jews from persecution... Spain, Balkans, etc. etc. etc.

Go ask those who lived in the basement of my grandfathers in Sarajevo.

I am sick of these Jews asking for such pitty for the Holocaust and such... I ask myself why were they singled out??? Maybe jews should ask themselves the same thing...

Except of course... Jews live for THIS life...

ROBERT21191 FROM U.S.A. said:
if the Arab world has the memory to remember 1915-1922, why is it that they can't seem to remember just a few years ago when the U.S stopped the Butcher of the Balkans from murdering thousands of Muslims? I guess that was a "Zionist" goal, as well?

ALI FROM U.S said:
Assalamu alaikum,
The Arabs, the Arabs, the Arabs, since when were the Arabs anything. Arabs are nothing. Their brothers, indeed Muslim brothers get salutered beside them, and they watch them on Al-jezeera over tea. Give me a break, we were the greatest civilization with Islam in our hearts and firm belief in Allah, we are opperssed, our lands stolen, resources tooken, leaders corrupt, because
we have abandoned Islam. Don't talk to me about Arabs, they are weak. Our future and success can only come from GOd, and until we follow what Allahs premitted and follow Mohammad(pbuh)we will continue in our state of affairs.

this is a very nice of the important things that we all must understand is the fact that muslim leader of present times who have no knowledge of islam are also equally responsible for the present crisis of muslims....may ALLAH give us all toufeeq and power to select leaders who are genuinely interested in muslim issuses and who works to unite us... Ameen

Even though our gov'ts won't listen to us, we can do a lot, because of our numbers, but the key would be unity. United we stand, divided we fall, and right now at an individual level you can do a lot, boycott anything that is American and stop trading in US currency, cause you now have the option to trade in Euro. It is the decision by Saddam to trade in Euro that has gotten the US administration vowing for war against Iraq.
It is time that all the people of the world should unite, and face this aggression. It is not time to divide ourselves due to color, race, or even religion, cause Bush is of no religion. Bush is not a Christian, he is a capitalist/zionist and money is his god. Bush is not only against Islam but also East, we should not forget that regardless of which religion we come from, what makes us non-western is our traditional social values. We all share the value of respecting elders, praying for our parents who have passed away, and collectivism, which is opposite of american individualism, which is just another world for selfishness. Bush is not only a threat to our religion but a threat to our way of life. I am really glad that our non-muslim friends in Asia and Africa are condemning this invasion force. I have also heard that all the different Church community in Iraq is also against the US aggression and have vowed to fight against this aggressor. May Allah show his mercy on us.

I would certainly agree that Muslim youth MUST have a deliverance from corruption - not matter who else might happen to say the same thing (pbuy). Note, however, that I would not ask anyone to endure, for the sake of my religion, circumstances I would not request for my spouse, my children, my neighbors (or whoever else has a claim on me) or myself.

If you don't trust the political agenda I support then for all I know that is probably better for me, personally. Please note, however, that my intention is to support what I personally think Allah (SWT) would have me believe is good - and to oppose what I think I should believe is bad (Insha'Allah).

If you are supporting a political agenda then please understand that I may (or may not) support (or oppose) that same, particular agenda. If your motive, however, is fear of Allah (who is unequaled and without partner) then please know that I certainly hope to share the same motive with you. May your dreams, in the cause of Allah, be fulfilled.

As Salaamu Alaikum.

Thank you.

Nice article. Arab leaders of Middle East and North Africa must unite together.
United you are stronger, devided you are will be weaker and will be pushed around no matter how honest you are.

Get united Arab leaders and leave your differences aside.

Kind regards.

Assalaamualaikum.My brothers and sisters in Islam.I am a African American Muslim.I lived in the US,born here.My heart is for Allah and His Messenger,Prophet Muhammad(PBUH)his Sunnah.Recited in Al-Bukhari,narrated by Abu Huraira "When Muslims stray away from Allah,Qur'an and the Sunnah,they become weak,humilitated and in dismay".Recited from Al-Qur'an:O'Believers,do not take for friends,jews and christians,they are friends of each other.Do not follow the footsteps of Shitan,he is your open enemy." O'Muslims,Unite,Unite!!! "A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim".Do you fear unbelievers than Allah the Almighty?" Allah will test you with your wealth,property and your personal lives,if are true believers. So my Muslim Rulers....why do you stand in Idle state? when Allah will send down to you 3000 angels to help you.Jihad is Sunnah,so help your Muslim brothers and sister from the slaughter.There are 1.8 billion Muslims world wide,outwieght the combined forces of US/British.Force the Kafir out of your lands before they take away your women,making them naked and prositutes like the US/british non muslim women.And rape your daughters and mothers.Men stand up and seek Al-Hikmah(guidance)from Allah,All Powerful,All Mighty.This war is not lead by any gospel from Isa(Jesus)teaching of christianty.O'Muslims,Unite,Unite!!! Mobilize!!! Jennah is Allah Reward.

This is a very good article, and it is sad that the Islamic power house with the likes of Saudi Arabia and others are just sitting and helping united states to kill our Muslim brothers and sisters. Why doesn't United States do anything to help Palestine, Israel is killing our people everyday and there is no reports here in United States, but if one Palestinian kills and Israeli the whole world has to know.

This has to stop

Rami G. Khouri's article ref: IV0303-1905
I am a U.S. citizen and I do want more articles
from an Arab point of view to be published in
U.S. mainstream media. This is a good
example of a view which might be heard in the

I think that the arab people should be discusted with the fact that saddam is a MURDERER

The article is an eye opener to the destablised regions of Middle Est . Allah did said " Do not take non believers as your advisers and friends , If u do it you will be undermined and defeated " in day one , Mid Est country was too obessed with mordernity and comfort of life in the expense of weakening Allah-believers relations & help , where on earth this kufr America & its west ally helps and advised the Muslim Counrty , they exploited & statisfied the few & privileged ,& the rest remained improvished , oppressed , disregards , worse still to make the Mid Est as the battle grd, killing fields , civilisation destruction and more divisions among Muslims country & leaders , wake up !!! Arab go to Allah and repent of any past sins and sure Allah is your salvation & dignity as the Great Pro. Muhammad PBUH & Sahabah PBUH did 1400 yrs ago to unite You under one brand Islam ... Allah..

I read your essay with great interest and feel there is a lot of truth in it. I am interested in Islam, as I am in all major world religions. I am a practising Christian and I live in LA, CA where there is a wonderful diversity of faiths. There is a beautiful new mosque only a few minutes from my home.

I am deeply troubled by the War on Iraq, but I am also deeply troubled by the 9/11 attacks on USA. I onced lived in a high rise in Jersey City, NJ overlooking NY harbour. All of downtown Manhattan, including the Twin Towers was the magnificient view out of my 33rd floor apartment. I will always be grateful that I moved to CA long before the 9/11 attacks. I don't know how I would have dealt with the searing image from my home of the burning smoking and falling towers.

I feel deep respect for the cultural and religious beliefs of others. While living in and around NYC I regularly attended Hindu and Buddhist worship and meditation services. I'm sorry to say my interest in Islam had not begun to develop then, but I have done some reading in the Koran and about Sufi belief. Having studied art and architecture I think Islamic contributions in both areas are among the world's most enduring and impressive achievements.

Having said all this, I feel a major reason many Americans support the war in Iraq is the disturbing and distinct feeling that a lot of otherwise right-thinking members of the Islamic faith at least feel some complicit endorsement of terrorism. While the historic transgressions by the west continue to contribute to the complex set of problems troubling the Middle East, I feel that the only way the regions ills will ever be effectively addressed is if the vast majority of its citizens start making unambiguous and loud denunciations not of Israel of the USA but of terrorism. In addition, I do not believe a lot of the Islamic faithful fully understand how their Anti-Zionism rhetoric sounds to American ears, the spouting of viscous anti-s

when can I see the "Operation Palestinian Freedom"? I hope that I'm still slive to see that.

Very well written and accurate assessment.Unfortunately, those who administer American political decisons here seem to have no sense of their repetition of previous history, nor the results of such bad judgement. It is puzzling as to what they are embarking on. Many American citizens are distressingly clear as to the ramifications of these policies, but feel powerless to stop them. Education in historical matters is imperitive for clarity, but is seldom taken into consideration on most media outlets. This in itself raises many questions in regard to who is controling our country. It seems we have our own challenges with the "regime" that is in power. It is so sad so see such a waste of America's opportunity to set a postiitve example in the world. The lack of stewardship with the blessings given our country has been going on for decades. It will indeed take a true conversion of heart and soul towards Almighty God to redirect the U.S. away from narrow eyesight and into a more noble path of balanced and honest administration. May God's mercy grace us all with wisdom and peace.