Does Defeat Always Have to be so Humiliating?

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, Iraq War Views: 2713

What's worse than a defeat is a humiliating defeat. Worse than both, a defeat that's brushed off, as if it never happened.

There are basic facts that some acknowledge and some wish to discount. The war on Iraq was fought for world hegemony, Israel, natural resources and a misguided president who genuinely believes that he was ordained by God to save the world.

But why do we always stop there? It's also a fact that Iraq was defeated, and in a very humiliating fashion. You'd think that both concepts refer to the same value: defeat is defeat. I beg to differ. What makes Iraq's defeat a humiliating one, is not only the way the US chose to fight this dirty war, collect the spoils or reveal its "wanted list" of Iraq's top alleged war criminals on decks of playing cards. The defeat was especially difficult because it exposed our incompetence.

On one hand, the Arab world repeated the same old broken record, angry masses that are quickly dispersed by anti-riot police, and two-faced leaderships: against the war in fiery speeches while doing their best to provide the needed logistical help to aid the invaders.

And, since the war is over, the only country that publicly hailed the war on Iraq, amongst the Arabs, Kuwait, has emerged on top, as poor Arab nations are now seeking forgiveness from the tiny Sheikdom, for opposing the war.

On an Arab satellite television show today, a group of Egyptian psychiatrists and intellectuals met to discuss the "mass depression" suffered by Arab people as a result of the war on Iraq, on Palestine, poverty and every other stressful factor. One advised the audience to "avoid depressed people and only seek the company of happy ones". That was his solution to the endemic problem. A religious cleric decided that the solution was to "keep on praying", while a third disgruntled for a whole hour to prove that it's scientifically wrong to call the feeling suffered by almost entire populations, "depression". Did anyone think that a mass depression might require a mass movement for change, rather than seeking the company of happy people? 

Meanwhile, Arab regimes are scrambling to prevent a war on Syria, again, without any indications that their approach to the new challenge was much different than past ones. I doubt that a serious official stance shall be taken even if US soldiers, a few months or years from now, began handing out decks of play cards with pictures of "wanted" Syrian officials.

Another incompetence, which we hardly address, is the failure of anti-war movements to stop the war on Iraq, or to at least slow down its momentum. Sure, no one expected our signs to change the world, but no one protests for the sake of protesting only.

The anti-war movements worldwide were indeed spirited and uplifting, but they only resolved half of an equation. The missing half was using their numbers to stop a war, translating the power of the masses into a real tool for tangible change. 

Western "democracies", most notability in the US and the UK are clearly oblivious to the anti-war efforts, no matter how massive. Public opinion can always be fabricated to serve the political interests of the ones in control, and can always be dismissed if it fails to serve the interest of the governments. Here comes the missing link: so what do we do now? Anti war activists, intellectuals and educators must seriously move one step forward, to escape preaching and problem-digenesis, into offering solutions, mechanisms, guidelines, and to-do lists, so that the passionate millions know what to do with their passion, to effect change and to foster a more promising vision for the future.

Meanwhile, in the Arab world, facing the problem is the best way to move out of the decades of defeatism and exploitation, by their own rulers first, and foreign exploiters second. American civil rights activist Malcolm X used to say, "you better stop singing and start swinging." Many in the Arab media, especially on television are failing to realize that, wasting airtime for singing and dancing all day. What's there to celebrate? Is this the human version of an ostrich hiding its head in the sand? True, tearing our cloths and weeping at the ruins are not the solutions either. Arabs must prevail over their differences, realize the magnitude of the challenges facing them, and move forward toward the problem, rather than away from it.

A precious little Iraqi girl was rushed to the Mansour hospital in Baghdad on a stretcher during the first a few days of the war. She was rushed to the emergency room, covered with blood, as her entire family was trapped under the rubble of their bombed house. The little girl was more overwhelmed by the cameras that greeted her at the hospital's entrance, than by here own wounds. She reacted with her natural instincts, but while neither calling for "mommy" or "daddy". The little girl raised her hand with untold pride and flashed the victory sign. The other arm seemed missing.

Defeat doesn't always have to be humiliating. Defeat can be a stage where we gather our strength and fight back, for our world, shattered by cluster bombs, for our fellow men and women, brutalized by exploiters who wear the guise of liberators, and for the sake of that Iraqi girl, who tried to tell us not to be weakened, because she was still standing.

Ramzy Baroud is the editor-in-chief of the and editor of the book entitled "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, Iraq War
Views: 2713

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Older Comments:
The article addresses quite rightly the apathy of the Muslim world to the plight of the follwers of Islam. "Muslim" governments are blinded by the quest for monetary gain and would sell out at a measly price.
But one has to comment on Michael Hollifield's commentary - the big murderous ones are the so-called leaders of the "liberating" nations. No the US did not help in Bosnia - they allowed the Bosnians to be murdered on a huge scale never offering supprt but denying them arms to defend themselves saying it would have led to more killing. No the US has not ever stopped the murderous Sharon from daily killing and bmbing Palestine. Do not ever use this in yur arguments. You are the ones who have been blindly led my the media. Where are these WMD's that this war was based on.

Gearge Bush is a liar and a cheat and was only after one thing - OIL. He is the murdering coward Michael.

Right on. Completely and whole heartedly agree. Good job and v. articulate!

As if you have poured out from my heart, the same thoughts have been in there too for some time. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Fallahi Jazeekum Khair

The defeat of Saddam Hussein's wretched, murderous regime, was somehow a defeat and "humiliation," for all Arabs, because you were foolish enough to buy the Middle Eastern media's exaggeration of the internal support for his regime, the will and ability to fight of his soldiers, and to ignore the complete superiority of the U.S. and British forces in every aspect of warfare.

But once again, why don't we hear of the conflicts between and among Islamic nations and peoples that have brought death to many more Muslims than the United States and Israel, the two nations that are virtually the sole focus of moral blame by Islamicity? It is Islamiss, who have obligingly practiced the "politics of slaughter" everywhere they have appeared, as Paul Berman noted, from Khomeini's "human wave" attacks in the Iran-Iraq war, to the devastation wrought by the Algerian and Sudanese civil wars, to the suicide missions of "holy martyrs" in the Middle East, the United States and elsewhere, the toll in human lives has been in the millions--mass death on a scale that would have made Hitler and Stalin proud. But WHERE are the cries of protest? Where among Muslims does one hear of the efforts of the United States on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia and Somalia? Certainly not in Islamicity. A massive omission and a massive hypocrisy on your part. You are rendered morally blind by your hateful religious ideology.

I am sorry to say this but most Arabs quite deserve this humiliation. As long as they keep singing the praises of Arab nationalism, they will continue to suffer. Arabs were not a great nation before Islam. Islam gave Arabs the greatness and they have forgottren it. They must leave this disease of Arab nationalism and become Muslims again and stop thinking about themselves better than other Muslims. In God's eyes nation does not make you great but your taqwa (fear of God)does.
Salaams and sorry if I am a little harsh on my Arab brothers. I love them all too but they must wake up.

i feel that if the arab countries had done something about the obviously cruel regime of saddam, then this could have been avoided. this humiliating defeat stems in some significant part from our own refusal to uphold justice to our own brothers and sisters. if arabs do not show justice even against someone who is arab like saddam (i.e. look the other way just because it's a 'muslim' leader doing the injustice) then how can we expect to demand justice for our people treated badly by non-muslims? it is a muslim's responsibility to declare the truth and not defend injustice, even if it is against one of our own. if we don't do it, we lose credibility in the eyes of others as is happening now, not to mention having to reckon it with God afterward.

To be humiliated by the enemy is only half as bad as being humiliated by one's own conscience. Nowadays, as so many Muslims are thinking that they will get a clean conscience in front of god because they have been brave enough for killing unknown people together with their own self, their getting humiliated by the US army really is a bagatelle, isn't it.

I'd like to hear Muslims talk about that, and I'd like to hear what those Muslims who think terrorism is not a good interpretation of Muhammad example propose to do about it. For it is a law of nature: the strongest imposes his will. Are terrorists the stronger Muslims and are the others too coward for reacting against this real danger and prefer to howl at an enemy (democratic governments) they know won't touch them? Doesn't this faith give strength to its believers? Or does it give strength only to killers and not to thinkers? What is that faith good for? Singing and killing? And dreaming of some long buried past?

God, let them wake up!

There is no 'we' in the Arab world. There are people with and witout power. The ones in power have made the rest pay for it. Only when muslims feel and act as one, rid of kings and dictators, will all muslims (arab muslims included) prevail and even lead the way to a more just world.

No way, I'm glad Iraq lost. Saddam was pure evil, killing innocent people, including MUSLIMS, everyday. He was a brutal dictator, no doubt about that. Many Muslims complain that America is a "devilish" country, but I think that mostly stems from jealousness. Saddam was CLEARLY an evil person bringing great HARM to the ummah, and yet no "rightous muslim" is sending children to blow themselves up to kill him. Makes me so angry and sad at how crazy and backwars our Muslim ummah has become.

Why is this defeat more humiliating than the terror of the
last 25 years of Iraq for the Arab world? Surely what was
happening in Iraq was not a secret. The Arab world chose
not to do anything about the situation. That's humiliating.


Although the anti-war protests were large in the U.S. there was still a 70% approval rating for the war in Iraq. Even if you had 5 million protestors show up in a country of 3000 million that is a very small number. Just because supporters of the war didn't run around in the streets with rediculous signs, and a pro-socialist agenda. Doesn't mean there numbers weren't much more significant than those of the anti-war protestors. Sounds like democracy in action to me.

Wao! I am one of the bewilder spectators. You are right about some of the Middle East rulers. They condemn the U.S activities while at the same time help them in the military campaign. It makes no sense, such hypocrisy! No wonder Iraq lost the war. Maybe one should start with taking down those rulers first. Giving up now will be disastrous not only for us Muslims, but for the entire human species.

I agree with you. We need leaders who unite us and guide us to do, not just talk. Muslims of today have bad leaders and worst followers. We are living dead. Who do we follow? Muslims are worst for their own people. Look at any Muslim country and you will find them at each corner.
Thanks for thought provoking article. We need dedicated leaders and foot soldiers of action for justice and humanity.

This article is misguided. The defeat of Saddam Hussein, whose mass murder of Muslims is becoming ever clearer with the discovery of huge graves in Iraq, is not a defeat for Arabs. It is not a defeat for Muslims. It is not even a defeat for Iraqis. It is a defeat for brutal dictatorship. Iraq will soon re-emerge from the unfortunate situation Saddam Hussein has created. It will re-emerge as a proud, democratic Arab nation run by Iraqis, be they Shia, Sunni, Christian or Jew. This article on humiliation completely misses the point. Freedom has costs, but it is worthy of pride, not shame.

The Arab word NEEDS to change. The Islamic spirituality is alive and vibrating, but the countries where Islam dwells are pools of decay, corruption, dictatorship and ignorance. This MUST change, exspecially because more and more European and Americans are converting to Islam, loving the Islamic religion but hating the filth, ignorance and hopelessness in wich many Islamic lives. And I am one of them.

Have you seen how many huge statues and pictures Saddam had everywhere in Iraq? Isn't that a personality-worshiping that deserves humiliation. On the hands of whom? It may not matter. How indifferent the Iraqi people became toward what is going on in their country during and after Saddam? How many Iraqi 'leaders' sold to the invading power? A system that has no roots,can't sustain the wind. UN and the such are just tools in the hands of the powerful who dictate their will.

Until Arabs & Muslims stop betraying each other to their enemies, they will never rise above these humiliations. Even a partially united Arab world can dispel world superpowers. Remember when Syria & Egypt united? Only traitorous intentions redivided them and resulted in Israeli dominance in the region.

A very powerful article. Jazak Allah Khairun


Why defeat of Iraq by US is more humiliating than other defeats Arabs have suffered? Why lament this defeat. After all, in 1948, mighty Arab armies of established Arab countries got defeated by a band of jews who were just coming out of holocaust, were just trying to get on their feet, and had to beg, borrow and steal weapons and food to fight for their very existence. Was that defeat not more humiliating than defeat of Iraq where Iraqis had no chance; but then Iraqis chose not to fight. Remember Vietnam; she defeated two imperialist powers on the battlefield, first France and then US. Yes, Ho Chi Minh's government was brutal, but at least it organized the country to fight enemy bravely. Arab governments are brutal but have shown no capability to organize their people.

Where is the real analysis, Mr Broud; may be sitting in the comforts of US, you are too afraid to do any serious analysis. Only thing left behind for you is to lament and lament. Well, Arabs have been lamenting for the last 55 years, and what have they got; more defeats. May be they should keep up with their lamenting; in 50 years, may be, there will be no independent arab governments left behind; then they will not need to lament at all.