Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Rehabilitation:From Faisal I to Paul Bremer

(translated article by Iraqi writer and columnist Abdul Mun'im Al-Assam)

We, Iraqis, are not qualified to administer ourselves. Let us admit it. The time for truth has dawned. The time for confession. The whole world deals with us as minors: When we debate with each other, we do it with knives and sticks. When we disagree we grit our teeth and shake fists. When we love someone we take off the fig leaves that cover us. When we hate someone we hate the adversary up to his seventh neighbour. If it were not so, why did we fill Imam Ali's heart with anguish, if we could truly hear its beats? Why did the Ottomans resort to ruling us with Janissaries, if we could distinguish rights from duties? And why did they have to fetch us the kind Prince Faisal I from Paris to be our monarch, if we did not require someone to rehabilitate and teach us all about politics and parliamentary sessions? Why did they bring us the nice polite Miss Bell if it were not to teach us how to eat with a knive and fork? Why did they push Mishel Aflaq on to us if not to give us lessons on coups? And why do we have to live now under the auspices of Mr. Paul Bremer, with the world's consent, if we didn't need someone to polish our language, teach us discipline, and to respect traffic lights?

And since we are not fit for anything and there is nothing new in that, this isn't self-condemnation, it's a mathematical truth the same as '1+1=2'. Let's take a look at our wars: we fought Iran for Shatt Al-Arab, and in the end we gave them Shatt Al-Arab, more than 100 airplanes, over four million dollars in reparations, and generously open borders. Then we fought Kuwait for oil and a few square miles of land, in the end we lost our oil, our land, and our sovereignty. We also payed for the losses of 40 countries, compensated a million victims, half of whom were frauds, and half of half the rest were not even victims. We left our oil resources as an insurance to these reparations for 75 years in the future. And lastly, we fought the US for one chair, after which both chair and ruler were overthrown, and along with them went the state and ease of mind.

Let us take a look at our practice of politics. We score points against each other with funds and promises from 'neighbours'. We raise our balances with privileges of 'strangers'. And take a look at us when we perform our religious rituals, where we rip our clothes with beating, tear our backs with chains, break our heads with blades, and pierce our bodies with dirbasha*. Then take a look at us now: We have dazed the whole world with our extraordinary battles, our Arabs killing Arabs, our Kurds slaughtering Kurds, Shia against Shia, and Sunna against Sunna. Iraqis against Iraqis and against the rest of the world. We have never fed up, to this day, of chanting the ridiculous hossa (tribal battle cry) of Razenchiya "iltob ahsan lo migwaari"**. We mutilate the bodies of foreigners on tv in triumph, then we bury 600 dead the next day in graves while posing for victory. We never tire of setting up comedic armies, some of which we call the Army of Al-Mahdi, some the Army of Islam, and others the Army of Liberation.

Believe me, we are not qualified. It is time for us to quit ruminating centuries old sayings about our forefathers, who guided humanity to writing, flying in space, algebra, geometry, medicine, and the laws of justice and human rights. Time to quit peering back to our glorious past which will never help qualify us or budge us from the margins of our disability.

We are not qualified for anything, believe me. We have succeeded in exhausting the zealous Amru Musa, in vexing the kind Kofi Anan, in confusing the Pope, in disturbing the sleep of the Ayatollah Khamenei, and in leaving a bitter taste for the noble Arab leaders (I am not excluding any of them).

So let us agree to the idea, and it is an advice which I have given much thought, of being ruled by the Algerian diplomat Lakthar Brahimi.. Let the man try his luck with us, after we have truly turned ourselves into an experimental field with excellence.

*dirbasha, are long skewers used by Sufi sects in their rituals.
**"Which is better? Your cannon or my migwaarr?", an Iraqi tribal battle cry first used at the Razenchiya battle during the 1920 uprising against the British occupation. A migwaarr is a wooden rod with a ball of asphalt tied at its end, a hand weapon used by Iraqi tribes back then.