FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US / Arab Disconnect

by RAMZY BAROUD

As the Arab Spring continues to challenge dictators, demolish old structures and ponder roadmaps for a better future, the US remains committed to its failed policies, misconceptions and selfish interests.

Arabs may disagree on many things, but few disagree on the fact that there is now no turning back. The age of the dictator, the Mubaraks and Ben Alis is fading.

A new dawn with a whole new set of challenges is upon us. Debates in the region are now concerned with democracy, civil society and citizenship.

The only Arab intellectuals who still speak of terrorism and nuclear weapons are those commissioned by Washington-based think tanks or a few desperate to appear on Fox News.

Put simply, Arab priorities are no longer US priorities, as they may have been when Hosni Mubarak was still president of Egypt.

Leading a group of “Arab moderates,” Mubarak’s main responsibility was portraying US foreign policy as if it was at the core of Egypt’s national interest as well.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Bashar al-Assad was caught in the realm of contradiction. While desperate to receive high marks on his performance in the so-called war on terror, he still sold himself as a guardian of Arab resistance.

When the US took on Afghanistan in late 2001, the term “war on terror” became a staple in Arab culture.

Ordinary Arabs were forced to take stances on issues that mattered little to them but which served as the backbone of US military and political strategy in the region.

The Arab man and woman – both denied rights, dignity and even a semblance of hope – were mere subjects of opinion polls concerning Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and other issues that hardly registered on their daily radar of suffering and humiliation.

The Arab dictator exploited the US obsession with its security. Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh had to choose between a hostile takeover by the US – to “defeat al-Qaida” – or carrying out the dirty war himself.

He opted for the latter and was soon to discover the perks of such a role.

When the Yemeni people took to the streets demanding freedom and democracy, Saleh sent a loyal army and republican guards units to kill al-Qaida fighters, whose numbers suddenly exploded, and also to kill unarmed democracy protesters.

The straightforward but shrewd act was the equivalent of an unspoken bargain with the US – I will fight your bad guys, as long as I am allowed to destroy mine.

Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi exploited US priorities as well. His regime’s constant emphasis on the presence of al-Qaida fighters in the rank of the opposition received a fair amount of validation in Western media.

Gadaffi went for the jugular in his desperate attempts at wowing the West, even suggesting that his war against the rebels was no different to Israel’s war against Palestinian “extremists.”

The strange thing is that the language spoken by the US and that by Arab dictators is largely absent from the lexicon of oppressed, ordinary Arabs aspiring for their long-denied basic rights.

Arabs are not unified by the narratives of al-Qaida or the US. They are united by other factors that often escape Western commentators and officials.

Aside from shared histories, religions, language and a collective sense of belonging, they also have in common their experiences of oppression, alienation, injustice and inequality.

The third UN Arab Development Report, published in 2005, surmised that in a modern Arab state “the executive apparatus resembles a black hole which converts its surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes.”

Things didn’t fare much better for Arab states in 2009, when the fifth volume in the series stated: “While the state is expected to guarantee human security, it has been, in several Arab countries, a source of threat undermining both international charters and national constitutional provisions.”

A Time magazine story published in May was entitled How The Arab Spring Made Bin Laden An Afterthought. It seemed to celebrate the collective, secular nature of Arab revolutions when it reminded readers that “there were no banners hailing Osama bin Laden in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, no photos of his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri at anti-government protests in Tunisia, Libya or even Yemen.”

The truthful depiction, reproduced in hundreds of reports throughout Western media, is still deceitful at best.

The fact is that the al-Qaida model never captured the imagination of mainstream Arab society.

Arab revolutions didn’t challenge Arab society’s perception of al-Qaida, for the latter had barely occupied even a tiny space of the collective Arab imagination.

However, these revolutions are yet to truly challenge the official US perception of the Arabs.

An Arab Attitudes 2011 survey was published last July by Zogby International. It communicated unsurprising views of six Arab nations, including the fact that Barack Obama’s popularity among Arabs had sunk to a new low of 10 per cent.

When Obama delivered his famous Cairo University speech in 2009, many Arabs saw that US-Arab priorities were finally meeting at some points.

But the fact that US policy didn’t go on to shift an iota in any favourable direction made Arabs realise that US policies were fixed.

The US continued with its wars, its support of Israel, and its old alliance with the most corrupt Arab elites.

Arabs discovered – or rediscovered – that not only were there no meeting points between their aspirations and US policy, the two were actually on a collision course.

It is normal for the US to conduct its policies in an oil-rich region like the Middle East based on a set of clear interests and objectives.

But what has in fact been taking place is the complete hijacking of Arab aspirations and the national interests of most Arab countries to fit US priorities.

With the help of Arab dictators, Washington’s unclear, misguided policies brought untold harm to Arab nations. Now millions of ordinary Arabs, whose priorities and expectations were so completely discounted, are showing they are no longer willing to accept that reality.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book isThe Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London). 

More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail