What news is contending with that of the failed bombing attempts in London on the front pages of Britain’s newspapers? The answer: an increase in the UK’s interest rates! What about American newspapers? Which headlines are competing with those regarding the war in Iraq? The answer, of course, is the latest reports on the social welfare system, education and the elections.
In the Arab world, however, the headline stories are about death and destruction. We have grown too accustomed to such news; this is our dilemma. For a long time, we have not even sought to reprioritize our stories. Oil prices and the rates of real estate do not matter. Healthcare and the development or perhaps the underdevelopment of our universities is also of no concern. Nothing really matters. Even if you do print stories regarding these topics, you will be received with criticism by the readers themselves. We only want news of death.
My comments are in response to a statement made by US President George Bush that he has no intention of setting a date for failure, that is, for the US military to withdraw from Iraq, whereas for us, what really matters is that he sets a date to end the failure. The Americans have failed miserably in Iraq and this is the truth.
For how much longer will Bush continue to be stubborn with regards to the failure of Iraq? For how much longer will Iraq be the subject of dispute between the Democrats and the Republicans? Bush and his team must realize that people in the region are not worried about the danger that Iraq poses, not because they do not care about Iraqi blood being spilt, but because they have grown accustomed to bloodshed. What is the difference, for example, between Iraq and Palestine, or Lebanon, or the terrorist attacks in Algeria and elsewhere in the Arab world? Ours is a region that is in dire need of a political and diplomatic revolution, one that will eliminate stubbornness, and make us acknowledge mistakes.
Observers in the Arab world have noticed that many Arab leaders avoid traveling to Washington and visiting the White House. Some have stated that they would rather not associate themselves with America’s least popular president. This, however, is refutable, as in the midst of talk about the jihad that was carried out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, not one Arab leader shied away from Moscow. Others state that the president is on his way out of the White House and that any talks with him now would prove futile. The problem is that he will leave the White House once and for all and the crisis of Iraq will be a problem for every country.
There is another important question: when was the last time Bush visited the Middle East for Iraq, the peace process or even Lebanon? Washington is indeed a great state; nevertheless, it is a neighbor to all conflict-ridden countries. Therefore, it is imperative that the US President visits the region and exerts great effort striving towards solving the problems in Baghdad.
The trouble with Americans is that they believe pulling out of Baghdad will be bring about the solution. The trouble with Arabs is that they talk too much about what Washington wants, but barely know what they want, which is what really matters.
This situation begs for diplomacy launched by Washington, with the help of France, that is the France of Nicolas Sarkozy, not that of Jacques Chirac. This diplomacy would be entitled ‘I Want You to See,’ so to speak, in that I want you to see the danger of what you are doing and the potential risks and gains from pulling out of Iraq. Thus, it would be a joint American/European/Arab effort to save Iraq, and perhaps then a withdrawal would be appropriate.