Here is the tree of freedom now; its leaves are falling and withering as four years pass by since September 11th bombings.
Imagine, in Britain, the land of Cromwell, John Locke and Westminster, some are talking about prioritizing security over freedom. But of course! For "security comes first…security last" and ironic take on Abdul Rahman Munif saying, "freedom first and freedom last."
Four years after Al-Qaeda made their presence known to the world on September 11, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the general director of the British intelligence department, warns that civil liberties all around the world may be "sacrificed" to prevent future attacks similar to the suicide attacks on London’s transport network on July 7th that killed 52 people and disappointed security officials.
She added, "The world has changed and there is a need for discussing whether it is necessary to give up some of what we all value in order to support chances of protecting out citizens from being bombed while going about their daily business." America was ahead of Britain in making these "sacrifices" and dropping some of its burdens, even when they were necessary.
A new organization was established for national security in the US, and check points at airports were became torturous and embarrassing as passengers were required to undress, regardless of whether they belonged to the elite of the Arab world.
Some people may believe that Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden have shaped history, which may be true. However, it is like saying that the AIDS virus shaped the period of the eighties. It is a negative intrusion on the path of history, a harmful intrusion.
It is essential to remember this moment not because it devastated America and killed three thousand innocent people who worked and waited to return to their families in the evening. Nor is it significant because American blood is more valuable than Iraqi blood in Baghdad and Samarra or Palestinian blood or any other. Any such suggestions are naive attempts by some Arab writers and extremists to put their finger on the source of the 9/11 disease. Rather, it is necessary to recognize its importance because this moment concerns us all.
We do not worship American blood, however September 11 has changed the world; there are now new priorities, new tasks, and the world is no longer as we knew it. That September bloodshed spread its color across the globe, even to the remotest parts of the world where the effects were not expected. Economy, tourism, art, culture, language, fashion, media and transportation; these effects reached them all.
Yes, there is a completely new world and a new political agenda after 9/11. Those who recognize this change will survive but those who miss it could be ruined and drive many people to ruin with them. Saddam Hussein was an ideal example of this; although his mistakes and sins took place prior to that dark September day. In the aftermath his errors continued until he was caught in the web.
Another example is Syria; during the leadership of the late president, Hafez Al-Assad, Syria was skilled at maneuvering; using the Hezbollah card in Lebanon and Ocalan with Turkey. Syria continues to play by the same conditions and rules of the old game in the new world of September 11. There was an attempt to play the card of Sunni resistance in Iraq and overlooked the swarms of locust crossing its borders towards Iraq to feed the Al-Qaeda body or the Baath party with its Islamic pretenses and provided the suicidal army with more and more in the "American Iraq" according to Hassan Al-Alawi, an Iraqi journalist. Syria was cunning in it’s response to American warning, stating, "Although we are a simple country, with small capacities and an inability to control our borders we will try. We promise you this, if you can control your shared borders with Mexico". This seems like a convincing and embarrassing excuse but we cannot tell whether it will be used against Syria, by groups who wish to enter the country via these borders to explode the "infidel" regime in Syria. If this became the case, would Syria’s borders remain uncontrollable?
Syria believes that as it has played the Hezbollah card in Lebanon and the negotiations card with Israel and there is a belief that this will also be possible in the situation in Iraq. Deep inside, Syria seems like a front line of resistance that distracts Americans in the Iraqi mud; however, in the Arab and Islamic public opinion, it appears like a pure resistance front unlike the complying countries. Publicly, Syria is maneuvering and bargaining to reach a satisfactory political deal. But will this work? I asked a major Arab politician linked to the Syrian issue and he answered, "No, it will not work. The problem for Syria is that until now there has not been any consideration of new equations. They have not realized that the card game is over and that America has created a new political creed."
This is one way of considering the new world and the ruling policies of our region. From another perspective, the 9/11 flames have cast their sparks on the relics of dry thought and culture with arguments flaring across the Arab world concerning culture, ideology, education and political reform. The debate continues and does not seem like it will stop as the pushing force generated by 9/11 is still in its climax, with frequent attacks in the cities of the Arab and Islamic world. The targets are no longer the "crusaders" or the imperialist West, as our revolutionary Arab brothers like to suggest. A man said to me a few days ago in an Arab capital, "I don”t pray and I”m not religious but I”m hailing Zarqawi”s struggle against the American occupation". I corrected him saying, first, Al-Zarqawi thinks that his acts are a holy struggle and not struggle for a national cause. Secondly, he fights against "disbelief" not imperialism. Thirdly, I tried to provide an ideological argument, but he did not seem to understand, or maybe he didn’t want to.
From that dividing moment until now, debates have set out to defend the necessity of self-reform and clearing unfertile fields of our culture. My colleague Amgad Rasmi produced an accurate cartoon that appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday. He drew terrorism as a small bomb that Arabs escape by hiding by an even bigger bomb called "ignorance and backwardness" I would add “intended ideological poverty” to that!
The danger is still looming, and it may even be increasing. Many words could be said to ease the pain, like the morphine injections for the injuries of soldiers in battlefields.
Young men are still being recruited by fanatical religious groups, with their youthful bodies ready to explode in Baghdad, Sharm El Sheikh, Riyadh, Amman, Bali, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Rome and Dar el Salaam are still hot and animated saying “Can we have more!”.
Sadly, this is too often the case, even four years after that disaster; some of us still try to incompetently deal with the effects with 9/11. Instead of analyzing the disease and locating the dormant tumor in our flesh, some still start with phrases "terrorism is bad but America, the west and Zionists are bad too…". The issue turns into a counter attack on the West instead of criticism and analysis of our own disease. This was recently witnessed in a conference held in Egypt, where a discussion on the terrorist ideology turned into an attack on the Zionists and “crusaders”.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us be frank and forget the West at least for a few hours for the sake of our future generations.