Monday, May 23, 2005
Thomas Friedman wrote a couple of editorials expressing his surprise that riots would erupt after the Quran issue while no one moved when thousands of Iraqis were killed and maimed by terrorists in Iraq. When I said that leaking Saddam’s pictures would infuriate the Arab/Muslim world, a number of readers lashed out at me screaming “big deal, a dictator in his underwear, what about those who were deliberately killed in Iraq and the heads that were chopped?”. I fully agree with this rationale and I want to try to offer my 5 cents regarding this particular issue.
The whole idea revolves around the radioactive level of anti-Americanism here. I once said on this blog that here a corpse with an Israeli or an American bullet in it is worth much more than 100 bodies that were torn apart by a suicide bomber in Iraq. This is so evident in the reaction towards the massacres of both the southern Lebanese city of Qana in 1996 and of the Iraqi Shia dominated city of Hilla this year. In Qana, over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed when an Israeli artillery shell hit a UN shelter (Israel said it was a military mistake). The entire region erupted in flames when this tragedy happened. On the other hand, more civilians were slaughtered in Hilla, yet unlike Qana, very few Arabs or Muslims are actually aware of where Hilla exists. Qana happened 9 years ago, Hilla happened 3 months ago. You see the trend? The Qana civilians were killed by Israeli soldiers so we shout and foam at the mouth, the Hilla civilians were killed by a Jordanian terrorists so we go along doing our normal business.
Are we heartless? No. Are we senseless? No. Then why this awful indifference to the lives of the same Iraqis whom we pretended we cared about when we demonstrated against the war in Iraq? The answer lies in the level of media induced Anti-Americanism that anesthetizes our feelings and prevents us from seeing the actual picture of Iraq.
The anti-Americanism* that is running like a drug in our blood stream cripples our ability to rationalize and view Iraq from an Iraqi and not of an American prism. Whenever the word Iraq is mentioned, we tend to think about the “brutal occupation” and how the US is trying to “install a puppet there”. We don’t think about the different sects of Iraq, the perception of each sect towards what happened, the Ayatollahs of Najaf, who supports the US in Iraq, who is against the US, the elections, why did 8.5 million Iraqis go to the booths if it is all an American ploy, etc. The extremely complicated mechanism of Iraqi politics and society is nonexistent in our psyche, to us Iraq is just composed of an American army and “Iraqis” fighting it. This level of anti-Americanism leads to 2 things: either we ignore the terrorists in Iraq and pretend that they are not there or we accept what the terrorists do as legitimate form of “resisting the occupation”.
We cannot talk about anti-Americanism per se without mentioning its main vehicle and enhancer which is our media. The media here talks about how the US is biased towards Israel while it never mentions that Bill Clinton met Yasser Arafat more than any other leader in the world. The media tells us that 911 happened because of the US’ bias towards Israel while it never mentions that the 19 terrorists were in their Florida flight schools while Bill Clinton was in Camp David trying to create a Palestinian state. Victims of American military action in Iraq are paraded on our TV screens and newspapers while victims of Zarkawi and the Sudan regime receive very limited media coverage.
So, Next time someone from the Middle East tells you that he hates the American government because of “Israel’s killing of women and children in Palestine” and the occupation of Iraq”, look him in the eyes, take a deep breath, and say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
* Here our officials tell the west that the hate is directed against the US government and not the American people as a whole. Even though I am not a big fan of what our officials say, I tend to believe this is true. I once said that an American tourist might be more warmly welcomed in Cairo and Amman than Paris and Berlin. On a personal level, I believe we are fond of Americans as people and just like to stick around them.