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If ?This Is Not Who We Are,? Who Are You Then?

[ If the public in the U.S. were to read this Saudi woman’s column with an open mind, untainted by the Administration’s promotion of arrogance, fear, and xenophobia, it would understand that this battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East has been lost, and cannot possibly be won by Bush. She underscores Bush’s blindness, unnoticed by most Americans, which prevents him from seeing the plank in his own eye even as he points out the splinter in his neighbor’s. In Bush’s Al-Hurra interview, he told the Arab world that the US soldiers accused of abusing prisoners were considered innocent until proven guilty.

[E]ven as he promised that the perpetrators would be punished, he managed to fit in yet another patronizing remark about how ?In America a person is innocent until proven guilty.? I wonder what the prisoners in the pictures were doing then — posing for the latest issue of Vogue? It does seem fashionable these days to beat, shackle and murder Arabs.

Indeed, it’s worth asking about the thousands of Iraqi innocents in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, and about the vast majority of innocents among the Guantanamo detainees. Are Arabs to presume their problem is that they are not “in America,” where the value of the presumption of innocence is recognized? –BL ]

8 May 2004 | Arab News

by Moodhy Al-Khalaf

When President Bush appeared on Al-Arabiya TV station, I and many other Arabs were eager to see what he had to say about recent events in Iraq. This was his chance to ?speak directly to people in the Arab nations? as the US media put it, and we were all ears.

The main reason for the 10-minute interview was to comment on the repulsive acts of US soldiers at Abu Gharib prison. In all honesty, I do not think the president could have said anything to mitigate the feelings of pain and anger that we all felt as we saw the pictures of our brothers in Iraq being humiliated. At the same time, it is obvious that even Bush with his lack of eloquence could have done a better job. Not once did he apologize for the acts of his soldiers.

Moreover, even as he promised that the perpetrators would be punished, he managed to fit in yet another patronizing remark about how ?In America a person is innocent until proven guilty.? I wonder what the prisoners in the pictures were doing then — posing for the latest issue of Vogue? It does seem fashionable these days to beat, shackle and murder Arabs.

The US president had said in a prior press conference that he was ?deeply offended,? and that ?this is not who we are.? Who are you then, Mr. Bush?

Starving a nation for over 15 years, is that who you are? Bombing innocent people because of one man?s actions, is that who you are?

You, too, kill innocent people for selfish reasons. Al-Qaeda in Arabic means, ?Base?. How many bases do you have around the world?

How many people do you train and pay to bomb and torture innocent people?

In Wednesday night?s interview, Bush did not forget to ?reassure? the Iraqi people that America would not leave until it has finished its job. I am sure the Iraqis were thrilled to hear that. The president also mentions that ?haters of freedom? will not scare America away.

Haters of freedom?

According to my limited knowledge of politics, what is happening in Iraq today is occupation — at its ugliest. And hence these ?haters of freedom? are simply trying to free their lands from the clutches of a monstrous and terrorizing force. A force that has killed their brothers, imprisoned their fathers and robbed them of every basic human right and dignity.

After Sept.11 , the whole world mourned the death of innocent civilians along with the American people. Who is mourning our people today? I applaud your media for portraying the lives and deaths of the victims of Sept. 11 in a way that made all of us weep with sorrow. I wonder how your media would portray what is happening in Iraq today if the roles were reversed. If an occupying force invaded your country, with the claim of freeing the world from your oppressive leadership, how would your media portray it? Wouldn?t the men and women trying to free your country from this invading force be heroes? Wouldn?t the soldiers of this invading force be murderers? I think we know exactly how it would be portrayed.

We all saw ?Pearl Harbor?; didn’t we all cheer Mel Gibson on in ?Braveheart??

Our Arabic media may not be as good as yours at making our victims more human by giving names and lives to the bloody faces and bodies we see every day. But make no mistake about it, we weep for our loss every day. We all cried when your planes bombed Baghdad.

We all screamed with rage at the pictures we saw last week. But for us Arabs it was not the pictures that exposed the atrocities going on in Iraq. We did not expect anything better, for what is to be expected from an occupying force?

That is why every day, since the day Americans set foot on Iraqi soil, we have been praying for our brothers and sisters there. We still pray for the day that they are freed from the clutches of their occupiers.

When the US first invaded Iraq, many Arabs, Iraqis included, welcomed the action. Many others, however, were more skeptical. Unfortunately, America has proven the skeptics right. All the promises made by America seem to have evaporated as reality surfaced. Today, no one can defend American presence in Iraq.

Finally, from even the most painful experiences, there is always one gain: A lesson learned. I hope we have all learned our lesson. Positive change cannot come from anywhere but within. I hope that this message gets across to everyone, especially those of us calling for change with the aid of America.

Mr. Bush, the soldiers in the pictures may not represent America, but you represent the American government. Enough said.

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