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Why Not Learn from History and Present - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Commenting on the death of former US president Jerald Ford and American black singer James Brown who used to urge his compatriots to feel “proud of being a negro”, the American author Bob Herbert said: “we have never learned from history .. we could have avoided war in Iraq and learnt something when Brown was a bestseller and Ford was in the Whitehouse”.

The main reason behind not learning from history is the lack of courage of certain decision-makers. It’s amazing to see that a US president had to die before publishing his interview describing war in Iraq as “unjustifiable, and Cheney and Rumsfield as officials who made flagrant mistakes”.

When the US army was defeated in Vietnam, President Ford was labeled as the “only US president who lost a war”. Win, lose and leadership criteria do differ from time to time and from one perspective to another. Marginal issues sometimes play a decisive role in making the most serious decisions. That is why historians and leaders wait a while before disclosing their real opinions.

The lack of coverage and integrity in leadership seems to be the main factor pushing the world, especially the Middle East, into a whirlpool that may have implications for generations. Today, everybody in the west is trying to find a way out of Bush administration dilemma in Iraq to protect the US interests and keep the war aftermaths away from America and Europe. Even those with the noblest goals put the welfare of US citizens above all. Mike Turner, who used to describe the US war in Iraq as a catastrophe, wrote: “the United States can’t help assuming a military role in a wider conflict in the Middle East”.

The State Department spokesman said the US “declares its goals, commissions think-tanks to develop scenarios and uses some people to implement them”. The current US policy is so clear: seeking necessary markets and oil resources, supporting Israel to become a superpower, and trying to fragment the Arab countries, control their resources and surround them with powerful, ready-to-interfere states. Pan-Arab integration is a strategic threat to Israel expansionism as well as to US strategic goals. That’s why all the Arabs are targeted. This decade will bring the Arabs a tragic end, if they stick to disunity, regional conflicts and indifference towards brothers.

Alas! 2006 has ended with hundreds pf thousands of Arab children living under inhuman conditions and the number of Arab refugees hitting a record in modern history with foreign occupation seizing several Arab countries and preparing a clear agenda for others. While the west showed much solidarity with the Bulgarian nurses accused of killing hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, we face silence towards the dilemma of Palestinian and Iraqi children and indifference towards thousands of Somalis killed by Ethiopian army. We see meetings here and there with fabricated smiles, and the following day we hear decisions to build new settlements or move Palestinians into Jordan, not to talk about the bombardment of houses and villages, profaning mosques and churches, and looting museums.

New colonialism is trying to eliminate our civilized traditions, break up the already broken Arab homeland and to impose foreign dominance. Still, some Arabs believe in international solutions, while the Security Council has powers only when it comes to subjugate the Arabs or use some of them against the others.

The Arab world is an absurd theatre. genuine independence from old colonialism has not been established to ensure unity and strong position for the Arabs on the international arena.

Pan-Arabism is at once a civilization, culture and heritage. The struggle today, though led by foreign powers, is between those who believe in Arab identity and religion, and those who repudiate both. This struggle may last long and can only be won if Arabs depend on themselves. Western study and research centers are probing the possibility of occupying Arab territories and taking their resources. Who among the Arabs is trying to forestall these plans? Arab children and mothers have seen nothing but disunity and resignation. Is it a crisis of leadership? Vision? Identity? Why are we not learning from others that difference is allowed only as far as national interests are preserved; not to support enemies against brothers! When shall we learn from history how to realize our freedom, maintain genuine independence and build respectable countries.

Colonial powers have repeatedly used whoever they could to serve their interests but do not care about collaborators’ destiny. Isn’t it time for some people to learn that public interest has priority over the private one and understand the history lesson: Arabs share destiny.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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