Can Arabs Wash Their Hands of This Blood?
Dr. Buthaina Shaaban, Special to Arab News
In the early morning of the first day of the aggression against Iraq,
Dennis Ross, director of the Washington Institution for Near East Policy,
wrote: "While many European leaders remained aloof from support for the war
on Iraq, many weeks ago the Arab leaders began to acclimatize themselves to
the new situation. They not only ceased any attempt to prevent the war but
they began to show signs that they did not want to be on the side of any
opposition to the United States in the region."
Ross goes on to say: "For example, think of the official Egyptian
information channels which still assure us that Saddam is responsible for
the present dispute. On his visit to Berlin, President Hosni Mubarak
confirmed to his hosts that the time had come to put an end to the dispute
and to change Saddam."
There is not enough space to list the glorious deeds of some of the Arab
organizations which opened their land and air space, including their
coastal areas, to the British and American forces.
Iran, however, has refused to provide such access.
Even Iran, which in its war with Iraq suffered more than any Arab country
refused to open its air space. Belgium, Germany and Turkey refused
permission for American forces to use their territories to embark on an
unjust and unfair war against Iraq, despite the millions of dollars they
were offered and in spite of the pressure, incentives, threats and
In other words, at the most decisive and difficult moment, some Arab
leaders deserted a sister Arab country, while some neighboring countries
supported it, and Western countries without any historical, linguistic or
cultural ties to the Iraqi people did likewise.
What does it mean to talk about Arab solidarity? What do all these
meetings, resolutions and final communiqués mean? Why the pretense of a
deep concern for the Arabs and Arabism?
The masks have come off, and we are confronted with the painful historical
reality that this aggression on the people, land, skies and wealth of Iraq
would not have been possible if the Arab countries had barred their
facilities to the invader. This is what President Bashar Al-Assad asked the
Arab countries to do at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit.
These Arab countries must bear responsibility for this aggression along
with the United States and Britain.
The Arab peoples are weary of the use of meaningless phrases. The time has
come for all of us to call a spade a spade. Arabs understand the difference
between truth and fiction very well: They see, hear and read. And they know
that they are paying a high price because their leaders have abandoned
Their leaders have left the Arabs to fend for themselves, having ruined
their standing and honor among nations. It is no wonder that the world does
not respect the Arabs.
Most Arab leaders do not respect their people and the peoples do not
believe the words of their leaders. The leaders believe that they are
deceiving their people, but the people are not deceived. The people respect
only leaders who are truthful with their people, even if they disagree with
them. All this is in contradiction to the basic principles of our life and
the principles of Islam. Allah told the Muslims in the Qur'an: "Oh you who
believe! Why do you say what you do not do? It is most hateful to Allah to
say what you do not do."
When the bombs started to fall, I was watching from New York via satellite.
I saw correspondents mobilized like combatants. All were happy to talk
about smart weapons and the achievement of US technology. The deserts and
capitals of the Arab countries are deemed to be lawful targets for this
The battlefield appeared to me the launching pad of an army of aliens. It
was as if an Atari computer game was being created, directed and played in
a land of people without will and without power of decision. But in the
intense blackness of the moment, there was no doubt that the whole of the
Arab people were poised for change. Truthfulness with ourselves and others
was not a luxury but an absolute necessity, from which there was no escape.
Another certainty is that the time has come to put an end to the situation
that pervades in the nation, and which the Arab media has regrettably done
much to spread.
The people of the world are raising their voices against everything they
disagree with, even if in so doing they risk being destroyed by the most
fearful power on earth. A new beginning will be a return to the basic
principles of life, the most important among them truthfulness and courage.
(The writer is director of External Information, Ministry of Foreign
Arab News Opinion 23 March 2003