Sunday, May 30, 2004

Iraq and the Arab illusion

(translated article by Dr. Shakir Al-Nabulsi)

During the second half of the 20th century, and after gaining independence, the Arab world lived the illusion of being a great and victorious nation (umma), capable of making history again after the end of colonialism which was purported to be the sole reason for this umma not to play its envisioned historical role.

It was proven later, however, after the end of colonialism, that this umma was extremely weak in its scientific, cultural, economical, and military abilities, incapable of achieving progress in any field, and due to the media blackout, and the absence of vital social statistics and information excluding, of course, the false misleading information regularly released by official governmental circles for appropriate propaganda and political purposes, the Arab society wallowed in their grand illusion.

The Arab world lived the illusion that it would have the power to achieve unity after the end of colonialism. It was proven, however, that the Arab world attempted over 20 unity experiments during the second half of the 20th century all of which were met with failure for several different reasons, the first being the illusion itself of the ability to achieve unity.

The Arab world lived the illusion that it would be able to bring freedom to its peoples after the end of colonialism. It was proven, however, that the Arab world has been ruled for decades by dictatorships and tyrannies which brought even more misery to the Arab people than the rule of colonialists, to the extent that some are now longing for the days of colonialism, wishing they would return.

The Arab world lived the illusion that it would be able to implement socialism after the end of colonialism. It was proven, however, that the Arab world was immersed into a system of state capitalism which dealt with sales and purchases starting from Felafil sandwiches to refrigerators, automobiles, washing machines, and houses. Corruption flourished in industry and commerce, and the 'general sector' was reduced to both a sad and funny example of this economical failure, the Arab world sunk in debts (over 300 billion dollars), when in the past a nation such as Great Britain owed a country such as Egypt over 500 million pounds worth of cotton and other unpaid goods, and now Egypt imports 80% of the ingredients of Felafil as the Egyptian Supply Minister stated days ago!

The Arab world lived the illusion that it would have the power to achieve victory over Israel and return the Palestinian right to its owners after the end of colonialism. It was proven, however, that the Arab world was unable to win not even one battle, or part of one, even though it went through 3 major wars and tens of secondary ones, and that the first half of the 20th century witnessed the loss of a quarter of Palestinian land, whereas the Arabs after gaining independence lost the other three quarters in the second half as we can see now. The Arab world lived the illusion of victory in every one of their lost battles, and to this day we refuse to admit our defeats. We still call the 1967 war the naksa, as we did before in the 1956 Suez war.

The Arab world lived the illusion that it would be able to successfully exploit its vast natural resources after the end of colonialism. It was proven, however, that the Arab world after briefly appearing prosperous during the seventies reverted suddenly to its past poverty due to its flawed financial management, high consumption rates, the explosion of population growth, unemployment, and flourishing of the terrorism market paid in sparkling yellow gold as announced by Bin Laden recently.

Illusion remained the major player of the incredible Arab scene. Illusion remained a drug that allowed us to sleep in delicious numbness until the information revolution exploded and exposed the Arab situation. The Arab world was classified in all fields at the bottom of the list of the world's nations, as revealed in UN reports for 2002-2003. The Arab world was shocked for living under a false illusion.

Religion did not lift us from the bottom.
Pan-Arab nationalism did not lift us from the bottom.
Our glorious ancestors did not appeal to prevent us from falling into the pit.
Our Hamasa and heroism poetry did not save us from falling.
Our Friday prayers sermons which assure us that we are "khaira ummatin ukhrijat lilnas" (the greatest nation brought out to people) did not save us.
The fiery speeches of leaders immortalised in the collective Arab memory did not save us.
Sorcery, magic, djinn, Sufi hymns, Darawish prayers, fatwas, and blessings of saints all did not help save us from falling into the void.

***

Today, the Arab world lives the illusion again in regard to the situation in Iraq, which is an extension to the Pan-Arab, unifying, socialist, democratic, military illusion that Arabs have been living in for over half a century.

A week ago I returned from Beirut where I attended the 'Arab Institution for Intellectual Modernisation' conference in which more than a 150 representatives of the Arab intelligentsia from all over the Arab world participated. I had the opportunity through this conference and my stay in Beirut -which is the mirror of the Arab world- to be closely informed about the different viewpoints of Arab intellectuals on the Iraqi situation. It appeared to me that the Arab world still lives in a huge illusion regarding Iraq, and other Arab issues. The majority of Arab intellectuals still live the illusion of unity, the illusion of freedom, the illusion of democracy that will come from inside on the back of an Arab camel or a white Arab horse, that Saladin will reappear to return the lost glories of the umma, that Al-Mahdi will turn the pitch black night of this umma into shining daylight, and that the destiny of this umma is this bloody conflict with others. It appeared that the rhetoric of the 21st century has not much differed from that of the fifties and sixties of the 20th century, the tongues have changed, but the words remain the same, the masks have changed, but the minds remain the same.

The Arab world, in its entirety, still bets on the return of Ba'athist rule to Iraq, and another part of the Arab world, even more deep in illusion, still bets on the return of Saddam, describing him as the 'the symbol, 'the leader neccessity', or the Shahid who has not died yet. And the Arab world, still living in illusion, believes in the Iraqi muqqawama ('resistance'), which is in fact a terrorist muqqawala (contractors) and not a national resistance, meaning that they are composed of groups of armed contractors, and defeated Arab mercenaries from Afghanistan and the Arab streets, which have lost all hope in the future, and all the bets of the present, dreaming of achieving the myth of the Islamic Khilafa (Caliphate) all of which was oppressive and bloody including the Ottoman Caliphate and the Taliban Emirate. That Arab world believes this terrorist muqqawala will win in Iraq over the will of the Iraqi people, and over the Iraqi future. That same Arab world living in illusion, believed that the army of Muqtada Al-Sadr will join forces with the remnants of the armed 'contractors', posing a significant threat to coalition troops forcing them to pull out from Iraq leaving it to be ruled by these groups. Today the Army of Al-Mahdi is backing and the illusioned Arab world is biting its fingers grieving over its lost hope. That same Arab world living in illusion believed that a scandal caused by a group of sick demented soldiers from the coalition such as the scandal of Abu Ghraib prison will tip the balance in favour of the armed 'contractors' in Iraq which announced recently that it will pay their wages in pure gold, instead of bank notes, fixing the prices of 'necks' in a statement by Bin Laden himself.

The question here is: Why did the Arab world live in all this illusion throughout the last half century?

The answer to this question is that the Arab world acts cowardly with itself, self-delusionary, lacking the neccessary courage to recognise and admit to the facts on the ground as was done in Japan and Germany after WWII, and that the Arab world lacks the necessary courage to admit to its self-insufficiencies, its weakness, poverty, ignorance, and its poor scientific and practical capabilities. Therefore, the Arab world will never advance as long as it regards itself advanced and not behind, it will never learn as long as it regards itself learned and not ignorant, it will never seek power as long as it regards itself powerful and not weak. This neurotic swelling, this pathologic tumour, this nostalgia of submitting in humiliation to the dead glories of the past in the Arab psyche, and this phobia were all reasons that we live such a grand illusion. Since the Arab world believes to this day -as told by its civil and armed religious institutions- that the road to the future passes only through the holy cities, that the past is the nerve of the future, that who has no first has no last, that heritage is better than modernity, that ancestors are better than the inheritors, that the rule of ancestors from the grave is better than the rule of inheritors today. The Arab world believes to this day -as told by its civil and armed Pan-Arab and religious institutions- that Andalus (Spain) will be returned, that Palestine will be liberated from the river to the sea, that Iskenderun will be returned, that Al-Mahdi will reappear, that the rule of Saddam Hussein and mass graves will return to Iraq, and that Saddam as he won before, with the support of Pan-Arab and religious institutions headed by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ba'ath party- in the first Gulf War from behind trenches, will win again today, from behind bars!