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Iraq

The Arab Press and the War in Iraq

Extended excerpts from nine Arab newspapers in Baghdad, London, Jerusalem, Dubai, Amman, Muscat, and Kuwait City

A British soldier watches oil fields burning in southern Iraq
A U.S. soldier watches oil fields burning in southern Iraq (Photo: AFP).
Jerusalem Who Will Lose this War?
The first loser in this war is the rule of international law. The United States and Britain have introduced a war into the world with no justification. The flames of war have been lit without any sophisticated argument or realistic goal. In the absence of logic, a dangerous precedent has been set. This precedent is ludicrous to the point of allowing any nation to make war on another merely because the leader of one country does not like the eye color of the leader of the other.

The second loser in this war is democracy, which is premised on respect for the people’s opinion. Everywhere the people have said no to war. And yet the U.S. leadership hasn’t acknowledged the opinion of even its own people. And so we have lost democracy as a political principle. In democracy, elected representatives are supposed to manifest the will of the people—not vice versa, as we are currently seeing.

The third loser is the collective group of mothers, wives, and children who are losing their sons, husbands, and fathers in this war. This war will bring about the ruin of beloved souls, whose destruction is without recompense. This ultimate sacrifice of the dear and beloved is happening without any legitimate reason or real gain.

The fourth loser is the earth and those who live on it, be they humans or animals. War spreads pollutants, corrupting the air with sand and dangerous fumes that spew forth from war machines. Add to this the smoke of fires resulting from the exploding targets of the guns of war. Lastly, the air is clouded with the putrid odor emitted from the corpses of killed soldiers and innocent civilians.

The fifth losers are the warmongers themselves, who are destroying civilization and wasting money and resources….These are the greatest losers.
—Azzam Tawfiq Abu al-Saud, Al-Quds (Palestinian), March 25, 2003

Dubai: Harsher than Sept. 11
This war borrows the slogans of the age of European imperialism, when great powers invaded other countries and colonized them for long periods of time. This is clearly evident in rhetoric that promises the West will deliver of these people from their backwardness. In the past two centuries in particular, this type of rhetoric was a cover for plunder, the domination of human potential, and the crushing of national institutions….The influences of this imperial age are still manifest...as neocolonialism.

The United States and Britain have not been saying that their war on Iraq has only the goal of ending the current government in Iraq and creating a new one. They have proclaimed that they are coming to teach the Iraqi people—and after them the whole of the Arab World—Western democratic principles. In other words, the United States and Britain are describing a process that will “civilize” these people as a means of extricating them from oppression and heralding a “modern age” for the Arab world.

One of the many suspicious problems with these lofty goals is that everybody has skirted the issue of what will happen to Iraq’s resources—especially its oil reserves, which are the second largest in the world—after the war…except to say that Iraq will pay for the war and for its democratic “civilizing” and “modernizing” from its oil profits. It will buy an escape from its own backwardness. According to the Bush administration, Iraq will then enter a new age. Is this believable? Doesn’t this sound familiar?

These dangerous American actions spell future instability and resentment. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, American political leaders described a “hatred of America” as the motive behind the terrorist attacks. This kind of talk is uninstructive. It is no more than an empty slogan, a simplistic argument meant to demonstrate the supposed validity of the question, “Why do they hate us?”

Yet whenever anyone tries to answer this question directly by saying that the hatred much of the world, including the Middle East, often exhibits is not directed at the United States, but rather at U.S. foreign policy, Bush and his clique of hawks stop up their ears and refuse to listen. The denial of any complexity or historicity of American policies in the Middle East allows the United States to carry out its current policies, which include the latest “solution” to the Palestinian question....If we look at U.S. plans for the Palestinian question, or the U.S. approach to solving any other Arab issue, there has been no fundamental change in policy, despite Sept. 11, 2001.
—Muhammad Mashmushi Al-Bayan (government-owned), March 27, 2003

Baghdad: The Balance of Iraq’s Victories and the United States’ Losses
We maintain that the Bush “Administration of Evil” has already lost its aggressive and abominable war in advance. In saying this, one can discern the truth of the matter and hold no doubts. Both the political and military losses will follow in quick succession. This is because the facts that support this assertion are not found in a theoretical framework of what awaits the United States, but rather are plainly evident from watching current events and divining what they portend.

The first loss of the American “Administration of Evil” is the international isolation that it will suffer. This was already apparent after the United States failed to secure even the bare minimum of international consensus it needed from the U.N. Security Council to proceed in its aggressive plans.

In a similar manner, the United States lost in its campaign to draft into its ranks any major world leader except submissive Prime Minister Tony Blair. His compliance with U.S. dictates has resulted in more than 85 percent of the British public standing in opposition to him, as well as many members of his own Labor Party. It also caused the resignation of the former foreign minister Robin Cook, who made the famous statement that he didn’t want to be a part of the “collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support.” [Quote translated from the Arabic—WPR]

Likewise, the American “Administration of Evil” failed to secure any important information proving Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction program. The information it did provide was paltry and cannot justify its aggression. It didn’t present anything except lies and slander.

At this point, the American-British aggression on Iraq is now completely denuded of any legal or moral cover. It is similarly without any chance of success…as the Iraqi people have the will and experience to resist.

The lies, slander, empty promises, and display of force will not manufacture victory. Rather, the things that will create victory are our faith in the justice of our position, the inherent justice of our position, and the bravery and profundity of national and human will that is particular to the Iraqi people.
‘Adl Sa‘d, Al-Thawra (government-owned), March 20, 2003.

London: Yes, It Is the Moment of Truth
President George Bush’s decision to go to war without a resolution from the U.N. Security Council puts him in the same category as the mafia bosses who take the law into their own hands and behave without moral impediments. The withdrawal of the proposed U.S.-U.K.-Spain- sponsored resolution from a vote in the Security Council is a diplomatic disaster for this threefold Axis of Evil. As this retreat from the Security Council was happening, it was clearly evident that the world favored the side of truth in a confrontation with the aggressive and arrogant position of the United States. Thus spells the beginning of the end of the American Empire. Similarly, it has revealed its true imperial intentions in occupying Iraq, which include its desire to dominate Iraq’s resources and redraw the map of the region.

We send warm salutations to the impoverished nations of Africa and Latin America who refused to sell their consciences and moral values, and these include Cameroon, Angola, Guinea, Mexico, and Chile. They inflicted a grievous diplomatic defeat for the “Axis of Evil” in the Security Council and forced them to withdraw their resolution in humiliation.

The historic position of these brave nations presents a lesson in integrity and morality for those Arab leaders who sold their honor and faith and have colluded with American aggression on a sister Muslim country. These Arab leaders were covetous for a fistful of American silver or fearful of the sword of Bush. Yet look at Mexico, just a few steps away from the U.S. border, and Chile, both in drastic need of American aid. As for Guinea, it is plagued with poverty and dire needs. Yet despite all of this, the leaders of these nations refused to vote in favor of the second resolution in the Security Council. They are neither Arab nor Muslim. Meanwhile, Arab and Muslim leaders opened their bases for the American aggression, and have sent delegations to Baghdad to try to pressure its president—for the sake of stability—to surrender his country to American occupation without any resistance.

The overwhelming majority of world leaders and peoples are actively striving within a moral framework to reject aggression. Some of them have even risen to the highest levels of sacrifice, becoming more Arab than the Arabs. Simultaneously, our leaders slink away and hide from sight….
—Abdel Bari Atwan, Al-Quds al-Arabi (Palestinian exile), March 18, 2003. 

Jerusalem: What Bush and Blair Must Understand
It is obvious from the proclamations issued from Washington and London by those hawks who agitated for war and destruction that they have previously resolved to ignore the voices of reason and logic. They have decided to reject all calls and appeals to avoid bloodshed and the mistake of plunging this region into a horrible catastrophe. They will not spare the whole world the dangers of the schisms that come with the weakening of international authority and the international legal framework. Neither will their plans preserve the security and peace of the whole world.

The United States and Britain must understand that the peoples of the Arab and Islamic world strongly reject this fake democracy thrust upon them from the turret of a tank, which is the antithesis of true democracy. In reality, the ugliness of the goals of the United States and Britain forces them to conceal their plans behind the spurious slogans of “democracy and freedom,” and “peace and global security.” Ironically, it is those two countries themselves which are the ones threatening these very principles today.
—Al-Quds (Palestinian), March 22, 2003.

London: The First Casualties
The war on Iraq drew casualties even before the battlefront was set ablaze. The very first casualties, and they remain the most important, are the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council, and the role of its Secretary General Kofi Annan.

What has just happened in Iraq is almost exactly what occurred in 1967, when [Egyptian President] Gamal Abd al-Nasser requested the withdrawal of international U.N. forces from the Straits of Tiran [located at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula], and the U.N. Secretary General at that time, U Thant, hastened to withdraw immediately. When the troops were withdrawn, the door was open for war [the outbreak of the 1967 War between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria]. Even today, some say that if U Thant had not hurried to comply with Nasser’s request, the face of history would have been changed or at the very least delayed its change.

Exactly as in 1967, our present Secretary General, Kofi Anan, just withdrew international forces from the Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders as well as pulling out the inspectors. Simultaneously, the United States requested the evacuation of journalists, and no foreigners were left remaining except the employees of the Red Cross, which is the last form of international cover for the Iraqi people. As for the “human shields”—nobody knows anything about them anymore. In any case, their abandonment of Iraq was an informative precursor and no more.

Regardless of all these events, the most important have been the fall of the United Nations and the concept of international law. This was made crystal clear when Colin Powell refused to even attend the emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. This is because he doesn’t want to hear the voices of his colleagues in the Security Council, the club of the greatest nations, but prefers instead only the voices of his compatriots in the American administration. And what is also evident is that these other American officials said to Powell in the beginning of this month that in front of him was only one option and not two: Either he is in unity with the clique of hawks in Washington or he can go home. No voice can rise higher than the voice of war.

Compared to the United States, the U.N. Security Council has been reduced to the likes of a municipal council in an Italian village. Either it falls in line completely behind the U.S. president or the municipality will be disbanded and the village mayor will be dismissed. The provincial police of this Italian village are being transferred from administering justice in the village square to guarding the vineyards and scaring away foxes. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, we are truly facing a new world order. It isn’t the order that George Bush I promised on the cusp of the Kuwait War but the order that George Bush II has begun to achieve in his execution of his right to a war of maps.
Samir ‘Ata Allah, Asharq al-Awsat (Saudi-owned), March 20, 2003.

Amman: History Is Repeating Itself
The war that has broken out today targeting Iraq and the Arab region, wrecking destruction and mayhem, isn’t the first such war in Arab history. We have seen this before. History is repeating itself. But the results, shape, and extent of this war remain to be seen. The outcomes will depend on the people of the world and their ability to deal with the conflict.

Hulegu and his Mongol hordes attacked this land before in order to destroy Baghdad. Hulegu accomplished its destruction and in the process created an empire that ruled over a great portion of the world. The empire he built stretched from China as far west as the eastern reaches of Europe, including Moscow.

Hulegu approached Baghdad after his complete victories over armies to the north and south. In March 1258, he sent an announcement to the Caliph al-Mustasim saying: “We exhort you to throw down your swords and surrender Baghdad. Tear down your forts and fill in your trenches. We will send to you someone who will verify your dominion and certify your acknowledgement of our command. If not, we will teach you a lesson and bring war upon you and kill you in our manner.”

And today, we have heard the same request and in perhaps the same exact words used by Bush to the Iraqi leadership. This all occurred in the same month of March, precisely 775 years after the Mongols’ history-changing and devastating massacre of Baghdad.
Faleh al-Tawil, Al-Ra’i (pro-government), March 22, 2003. 

Amman: This War Isn’t the Crusades
It could be said that the war on Iraq is a war of imperialism, oil, or even right-wing Zionist interests, but it is absolutely not a crusaders’ war. The evidence for this is that all the major figures of the Christian faith in the world, especially in light of the leadership of the Pope and Vatican, have vigorously stood against the war. Furthermore, the great majority of the leaders of Christian nations, especially Russia, France, and Germany, have taken strong positions against the war in a manner much more effective than the actions of Islamic nations. And let us not forget that millions of Christian demonstrators have flooded the streets of the cities of the world rejecting war—and their numbers have been greater than the amount of Muslims who have demonstrated. Even in the United States, all of the churches and different denominations that are not in coalition with the evangelical-Zionist lobby have united in opposition to the war. And in addition to that, a large number of moderate Jews have been active against the war.

The announcements issued by many Islamic organizations and fronts that describe the war on Iraq as an American-Zionist “Crusade” threaten to transform many friends to enemies and puts all of us exactly in the clutches of those Americans and Israelis who aim to create a war of civilizations between Islam and Christianity to serve the interests of Israel.

This war on Iraq isn’t the last, rather it is possible that we may call it the “War of Iraq First,” which will be followed by other wars against other nations of the region and organizations that have not climbed into bed with American policies. And this long war will not only be military in scope, but also cultural, economic and social—it will be a war that Arabs and Muslims will not be able to tackle alone. When we truly decide to take up the gauntlet, we will realize that we are in need of those millions of Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and secularists who have rushed to the streets of the world and who have guided their nations to at least take a moral stand against the naked American aggression. And these people have strengthened the integrity of our global civilization, for truly we are all in the same boat. It is idiocy to characterize some as enemies or to inculcate doubt with the usage of such terms as “crusaders.”

And even if some of us organize to stand up to the American and British, this doesn’t mean—as a few have called for—to kill Americans and British “wherever they are found.” Such a strategy deliberately ignores the millions of Americans and British who are themselves against the war.
Batir Muhammad Ali Wardam, Al-Dustour (pro-government), March 23, 2003.

Muscat:  The Meaning of the Demonstrations
These outspoken demonstrations occurring in some Arab capitals have a great significance. They smash open the gates of both the supposed meaning and reasoning behind the war and challenge the silence of Arab leaders. The demonstrators won’t allow their heartfelt feelings and humanity to be silenced as their Iraqi brothers and sisters are slaughtered, nor will they remain indifferent and act as if they are unable to express themselves freely. Without doubt, these demonstrations have great significance for local, national, and regional politics. And it should be assumed that at this point, many of these people rejecting war now are united around the Iraqi president even if they are not pleased by Saddam Hussein’s remaining in power. Regardless, they feel it necessary to rally around the Iraqi nation during the war.…

And did you notice that none of the Arab authorities have yet to issue a clear pronouncement about their stance on the course of events and the circumstances that caused it? In this respect, their silence does not have any other explanation except that it is coming from a position of bafflement and helplessness. They have to choose between being against the war, and this means against the United States, or supporting the war. This indecision is what drives and fuels the popular demonstrations, which will continue until the very end—even if they do not obtain any concrete results.
Zuhayr Majid, Al-Watan (pro-government), March 23, 2003.

Kuwait City: Defending Despotism
The huge demonstrations that were organized in many parts of the Arab world demanding the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and the protection of the Iraqi people from the woes of war lead one to wonder about the awareness of the Arab masses. Do they really know what it means to aid the oppressed Arab peoples in our Arab nations?

These demonstrators, who flooded the streets in much of Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Bahrain to defend the Iraqi people didn’t budge when the despotic regime in Iraq killed more than 5,000 citizens in Kurdish Halabja, Iraq. The masses didn’t lift a finger when Saddam Hussein expelled more than 100,000 Iraqis in the beginning of the 1970s, claiming they were of Iranian origin. The Arab masses didn’t organize protests when Saddam Hussein killed more than 200,000 Iraqis in the war with Iran, nor did the masses budge when more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed during the liberation of Kuwait…What are the real reasons for the Arab masses’ demonstrations today? Who is motivating these simple-minded forgiving masses?

We argue that those who lead these masses all over the Arab world against the United States under the banner of defending the Iraqi nation are Arab political parties and movements—nationalist and left-wing parties as well as right-wing and religious parties. How is it that all these contradictory forces can join together in the Arab world? We can say that what unites them are ultimately fascist politicians who don’t believe in democracy or political pluralism, and who don’t respect human rights. They believe in the regime of one party and reject manifestations of intellectual pluralism.

The problem with Arab organizations such as these is that they don’t understand what the events of Sept. 11, 2001, mean to the United States and why the United States wants to change the despotic regimes in the region. After Sept. 11, 2001, the United States feels that its honor and greatness were humbled by the acts of a handful of Arab terrorists in their killing of more than 3,000 innocent citizens simply because those terrorists didn’t agree with American policies….Ultimately, it must be said that the U.S. forces came to liberate Iraq from the rule of oppression.
Shamlan Yusuf al-Isa, Al-Seyassah (pro-government), March 24, 2003.

Kuwait City: The World’s Failure
Many people think that…the war should be considered a war of choice and that it wasn’t inevitable. These people doubt the sincerity of the intentions of the United States because it is in search of cheap oil. They doubt the U.S. assertion that Saddam Hussein is connected with Al-Qaeda. They also believe that the inspectors were doing their job, and so do not agree with the justifications for rushing to war.

They are wrong. Consider this first truth: The inspectors had been doing their work in Iraq for 12 years without being able to say that their task had been successfully completed or that they could verify that Saddam Hussein’s regime was entirely free of weapons of mass destruction. This failure requires us to say that the inspectors alone weren’t enough. How many years do the inspectors need in order to prove their failure to maneuver around the cunning wiles of Saddam Hussein? Another 12 years?

The second truth: The U.N. oil-for-food program has also been a certifiable failure. The program became an oil-for-palaces program. The Iraqis never got their food. Another truth is that Saddam Hussein has profited from the economic embargo that was supposed to constrict the chokehold around him. We say that he has profited while his people have starved. The responsibility for this falls upon the international community.

The international community has proved itself incapable of dealing with the destructive wiles of Saddam Hussein. The failures have failed. The economic embargo has failed. Even the international community’s ability to decide unanimously to go to war has failed.…We can also add to this list of failures the Iraqi people’s previous failure to rid themselves of Saddam Hussein a hundred times.

Therefore, logic dictates that a person of such conniving as Saddam Hussein needs someone with willpower to force him out. It is the tools of war that are needed and not dialogue. Who possesses this will? Obviously the United States does now, arriving at this juncture after unsuccessfully trying peaceful means. And no one will lament Saddam Hussein’s passing….Iraqis especially, but also Iranians and Kuwaitis, have paid the price for his remaining in power. So we say to the international community with one voice: Enough of this oppression and outrage.
Haifa Musa, Al-Qabas (independent), March 23, 2003.

Kuwait City: No to “Behind-the-Scenes” Diplomacy to Rescue Saddam Hussein and His Bloody Regime
Arab diplomats have been quietly bustling to rescue Saddam Hussein and his bloody regime from ruin and legal prosecution by proposing he go into exile….These diplomats seek to resolve the crisis in Iraq peacefully. But their efforts propagate the lies of “political settlement,” “dialogue,” a “new constitution,” and “national interest.”

All of these delusions, falsehoods, and hoaxes propagandize and sell out our Iraqi people and their real strength of resistance—and we are not talking about the secret police disguised as “regular Iraqis,” such as those led by Abd al-Jabbar al-Kubbaysi [a longtime Baathist political opponent of the Iraqi government who lived in Syria until recently returning to Iraq]. Often, these behind-the-scenes activists are among the squires and brokers of the beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein’s regime, or are at least tied to it by economic relations and trade deals. Weaving our way through imaginary companies and organizations, the last links of the chain bring us to the mafia, smugglers, weapons merchants, and oil dealers, as well as so-called “Islamic” societies that don’t differ with Saddam Hussein’s regime in their bloodiness, opposition to democracy, and enmity toward human rights. They are even more inflamed after the fall of regimes such as the Taliban gang in Afghanistan and [Sudanese Islamist] Dr. [Hassan Abdullah al-]Turabi’s front in the Sudan. This strange mix of atheists and agents, zealots cum propagandists of “religion” who are actually devoid of any religion, are working feverishly behind the scenes to advance their goal of rescuing Saddam Hussein and his bloody regime from ruin. They use adulterated and spurious slogans like “defend the Iraqi people!” and “Fight against the war of crusaders!” and “Islam against the unbelievers!”

But they don’t talk about the terrorist practices of Saddam Hussein and his regime. They don’t mention how he transformed Iraq into a big prison and killed numerous Muslim scholars from all sects and even Christians. They don’t list the great massacre that Saddam Hussein’s regime perpetrated in the village of Suriya in the state of Mosul, which was the greatest evidence of his usage of terrorism. Therefore, we must ask whose “crusade” are they talking about? Which “Islam” are they defending? Sure, Saddam Hussein is a Muslim. But is there anything left of his Islamic faith, having committing these awful massacres, sins, evil, and wars…As God says in the Quran: “Don’t place your trust in those who oppress.”
Hamid al-Maliki, Al-Taleea (center-left), March 22, 2003.

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