What’s worse than a defeat is a humiliating defeat. Worse than both, a defeat that’s brushed off, as if it never happened.
There are basic facts that some acknowledge and some wish to discount. The war on Iraq was fought for world hegemony, Israel, natural resources and a misguided president who genuinely believes that he was ordained by God to save the world.
But why do we always stop there? It’s also a fact that Iraq was defeated, and in a very humiliating fashion. You’d think that both concepts refer to the same value: defeat is defeat. I beg to differ. What makes Iraq’s defeat a humiliating one, is not only the way the US chose to fight this dirty war, collect the spoils or reveal its “wanted list” of Iraq’s top alleged war criminals on decks of playing cards. The defeat was especially difficult because it exposed our incompetence.
On one hand, the Arab world repeated the same old broken record, angry masses that are quickly dispersed by anti-riot police, and two-faced leaderships: against the war in fiery speeches while doing their best to provide the needed logistical help to aid the invaders.
And, since the war is over, the only country that publicly hailed the war on Iraq, amongst the Arabs, Kuwait, has emerged on top, as poor Arab nations are now seeking forgiveness from the tiny Sheikdom, for opposing the war.
On an Arab satellite television show today, a group of Egyptian psychiatrists and intellectuals met to discuss the “mass depression” suffered by Arab people as a result of the war on Iraq, on Palestine, poverty and every other stressful factor. One advised the audience to “avoid depressed people and only seek the company of happy ones”. That was his solution to the endemic problem. A religious cleric decided that the solution was to “keep on praying”, while a third disgruntled for a whole hour to prove that it’s scientifically wrong to call the feeling suffered by almost entire populations, “depression”. Did anyone think that a mass depression might require a mass movement for change, rather than seeking the company of happy people?
Meanwhile, Arab regimes are scrambling to prevent a war on Syria, again, without any indications that their approach to the new challenge was much different than past ones. I doubt that a serious official stance shall be taken even if US soldiers, a few months or years from now, began handing out decks of play cards with pictures of “wanted” Syrian officials.
Another incompetence, which we hardly address, is the failure of anti-war movements to stop the war on Iraq, or to at least slow down its momentum. Sure, no one expected our signs to change the world, but no one protests for the sake of protesting only.
The anti-war movements worldwide were indeed spirited and uplifting, but they only resolved half of an equation. The missing half was using their numbers to stop a war, translating the power of the masses into a real tool for tangible change.
Western “democracies”, most notability in the US and the UK are clearly oblivious to the anti-war efforts, no matter how massive. Public opinion can always be fabricated to serve the political interests of the ones in control, and can always be dismissed if it fails to serve the interest of the governments. Here comes the missing link: so what do we do now? Anti war activists, intellectuals and educators must seriously move one step forward, to escape preaching and problem-digenesis, into offering solutions, mechanisms, guidelines, and to-do lists, so that the passionate millions know what to do with their passion, to effect change and to foster a more promising vision for the future.
Meanwhile, in the Arab world, facing the problem is the best way to move out of the decades of defeatism and exploitation, by their own rulers first, and foreign exploiters second. American civil rights activist Malcolm X used to say, “you better stop singing and start swinging.” Many in the Arab media, especially on television are failing to realize that, wasting airtime for singing and dancing all day. What’s there to celebrate? Is this the human version of an ostrich hiding its head in the sand? True, tearing our cloths and weeping at the ruins are not the solutions either. Arabs must prevail over their differences, realize the magnitude of the challenges facing them, and move forward toward the problem, rather than away from it.
A precious little Iraqi girl was rushed to the Mansour hospital in Baghdad on a stretcher during the first a few days of the war. She was rushed to the emergency room, covered with blood, as her entire family was trapped under the rubble of their bombed house. The little girl was more overwhelmed by the cameras that greeted her at the hospital’s entrance, than by here own wounds. She reacted with her natural instincts, but while neither calling for “mommy” or “daddy”. The little girl raised her hand with untold pride and flashed the victory sign. The other arm seemed to be missing.
Defeat doesn’t always have to be humiliating. Defeat can be a stage where we gather our strength and fight back, for our world, shattered by cluster bombs, for our fellow men and women, brutalized by exploiters who wear the guise of liberators, and for the sake of that Iraqi girl, who tried to tell us not to be weakened, because she was still standing.
RAMZY BAROUD is the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com and the editor of the anthology “Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion 2002.” 50 percent of the editor’s royalties will go directly to assist in the relief efforts in Jenin. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org