News and opinions on situation in Iraq
30/04/04 U.N. envoy connects dots between Iraq, Israel by Haroon Siddiqui
 
Anarchy reigns in Iraq, dishonesty in Washington, outrage across the Middle East and anti-Americanism everywhere.

Such is the legacy of George W. Bush, so far. The situation is likely to get worse, especially if his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, does kill Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Americans continue to botch just about everything they touch in Iraq — militarily, administratively and politically.

The twin rebellions of the Sunni north and the Shiite south have been allowed to mushroom into tense military stand-offs — fanning fury and spawning Shiite-Sunni solidarity against the foreign occupiers.

With American troops laying siege to the holy city of Najaf, even moderate Shiite clerics are warning of dire consequences.

With a confrontation looming in Falluja, United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is insisting, rightly, that “there is no military solution.”

The shootings, kidnappings, ambushes, terrorist bombings and U.S. military actions that have left 100 Americans and 1,000 Iraqis dead in the past month testify to the classic deathly dance of the occupier and the occupied.

This barely four months after we were told that the capture of Saddam Hussein was the final nail in the coffin of Iraqi resistance, which was supposedly confined to the “Saddamists.”

Now, with little or no security, even the promise of restoring the barest essentials of life in Iraq — electricity, water, sewer, garbage collection — remains unfulfilled.

Incompetence or ideological blinkers explain a series of such failures. But the greater pledge of democracy and Iraqi sovereignty is failing the simple test of honesty.

Jay Garner, first administrator of post-war Iraq, has revealed that he was fired because he wanted to hold elections while the Bush administration wanted him, first, to open the doors to American corporations.

Washington has also just confirmed what has long been argued in this space: that the Iraqis who will take over after June 30 will not even control the local police, let alone have the authority to ask the Americans to leave.

American military presence is, in fact, increasing. American credibility is sinking, pushed down further by Bush's support of Sharon's policies.

Brahimi has just made that clear. His choice of words — that Israeli treatment of Palestinians is “the great poison” of the Middle East — is unfortunate. His abandonment of the neutrality expected of U.N. envoys could imperil his job.

But he is saying what much of the world is, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, closest American and Israeli allies.

One big reason for the worldwide opposition to the invasion of Iraq was that the Middle East did not need another war when one was already waging between Israelis and Arabs. Which was why Tony Blair pushed Bush into promising the “road map” to peace, now going nowhere under Sharon.

With Bush endorsing Sharon's plan to keep much of the West Bank and also his policy of extrajudicial killings, Mubarak is reporting “unprecedented hatred” of Americans by Arabs.

“What happens in Palestine touches every people,” including Iraqis. “It is impossible to solve one problem without the other.”

Brahimi, former Algerian foreign minister and an astute diplomat, has the same message: “The problems are linked.”

Mubarak added: “American and Israeli interests will not be safe, not only in our region but anywhere in the world.”

A linkage of a different kind is coming from another troubled land: Saudi Arabia.

Following another terrorist bombing — once again bringing home to the Saudis the horror of Osama bin Laden terrorism — the New York Times quoted Tufful al-Oqbi, a college student in Riyadh, as saying:

“Young people are wearing T-shirts with bin Laden's picture on them, just the way people used to wear pictures of Ché Guevara. It's simply because he is the only one resisting. Even if we reject his methods, it's because there is no other way.”

The paper also quoted a sociology professor, Fowziyah Abukhaid, saying this of her students: “Many young women are saying, `My God, bin Laden is so handsome.' He is politically appealing. That's why they view him as handsome.”

Instead of fighting terrorism, America invaded Iraq. It was a war of choice, not necessity, as the revelations regularly tumbling out of Washington attest.

Bush had decided on the war long before waging his elaborate ruse over weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's non-existing links to bin Laden.

The promise of democracy for Iraq is, at best, a retroactive rationale, and, at worst, a sham.

Those believing in freedom do not, for example, muzzle the media, as this administration has done in Iraq by harassing Arab journalists and in America by barring cameras from recording the tragedy of coffins of Americans returning home.

While America has a right, and a duty, to stand by Israel, blind support of a right-wing prime minister's bypassing of Palestinians is counter-productive, for Israel and for America.

As former president Bill Clinton said: “It's no good for Israel to make a deal with the U.S. because we don't live there.”

One of the post-9/11 goals of the Bush administration was to empower moderates all over the world. Tragically, it has done the exact opposite — in the Israeli occupied territories, in Iraq and elsewhere.

As the strongly pro-American British magazine The Economist says of Iraq in its latest issue: “America is turning friends into rebel sympathizers, and sympathizers into activists.”

hsiddiq@thestar.ca

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