- Arabs responded Thursday to the sudden collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government with anger, shock and even disbelief. One newspaper refused to acknowledge that Baghdad had fallen.
Across the Middle East, people struggled to reconcile images of celebrating Iraqis with widely held suspicions about the United States’ motives.
“We discovered that all that the (Iraqi) information minister was saying was all lies,” said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo, Egypt.
“Now no one believes Al-Jazeera anymore,” he said, referring to the Arabic-language television news channel.
The entire front page of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat was devoted to a photograph of the pulling down Saddam’s statue in Baghdad. Above it, the headline: “And Saddam’s regime fell – Shock in Arab capitals, joy in Baghdad, destruction of statues and the looting of official buildings.”
….Some, however, said they hoped the fall of Saddam could signal a new move toward democracy in the Middle East.
“I don’t like the idea of having the Americans here, but we asked for it,” said Tannous Basil, a cardiologist in Sidon, Lebanon. “Why don’t we see the Americans going to Finland, for example? They come here because our area is filled with dictatorships like Saddam’s.” [AP]
If Arabs begin to be disabused of the notion that they can trust the words of their dictatorial regimes, or even sympathetically distorted media like al Jazeera, this will be the great awakening of a people we have hoped for: no need for us to do any more regime changing if the Arabs and Muslims will do it themselves.
There appears to have been some correlation in Arab minds between repressive governments and strength – look at this quote:
- Bahraini physician Hassan Fakhro, 62, said he was saddened by the crumbling of the Iraqi resistance in Baghdad.
“Whatever I’m seeing is very painful because although Saddam Hussein was a dictator, he represented some kind of Arab national resistance to the foreign invaders – the Americans and the British,” he said.
So if there isn’t strength in accepting repression, torture and corruption, then why accept it? Which makes it all the more critical that we conduct ourselves in a thoughtful, respectful manner with the well-being of the Iraqi people as our primary focus from here on out – and most of all, we cannot abandon them this time.