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April 2, 2003

Iraq: The Incomplete Menu!

Dr. Mohamed Mosaad

Today, we  all stare at our TV screens, transfixed by the destruction being meted out in Iraq. Before that, we all watched, with the same horror, as Palestinians and Israelis blew up each other's children. We also watched the World Trade Center Towers topple before our eyes. All were busy watching except the victims. We all wonder why it is happening. The answer is to be found in the deficient menu of the Global Political Restaurant.

The Global Political Restaurant today serves three dishes, only three dishes: Imperialism, Terrorism and Dictatorship. Yes, there are some other salad and soup dishes served before and during taking the meal: anti-war protests, UN sessions, peace initiatives, media-manipulated and corrupted democracies and the like, but still the main course is one of those three dishes. What is interesting in this restaurant is that eating is obligatory; even a hunger strike is not allowed at all. Like it or not, you will be served and you will finish your dish. What is more interesting, however, is that though customers are frequently asked to freely select what suits their stomach and appetite, once they finish one dish the waiter immediately comes with the second and then the third dishes. In other words, customers must finally enjoy the three varieties of the menu all together. You might start with the Dictatorship dish like the Iraqis, but soon you have to try the Imperialism, while naturally expecting the Terrorism to be served any moment. Or you can start with Taliban Terrorism to follow it by American Imperialism, which you will follow with a big dish of local Dictatorship. Sometimes people prefer to try a mix, Dictatorship with Terrorism like Sudan, Imperialism with Dictatorship like Gulf countries, or Imperialism and Terrorism like the famous American Mujahideen coalition during and after the Soviet occupation to Afghanistan. There is no problem with the mix. Ultimately you will be eating the missing third dish.

In this democratic restaurant, customers enjoy free expression, free press, a multicultural genuinely plural political sphere, transparency and other benefits, through which they are asked to discuss and elaborate on their destiny that they willingly choose. Giant screens are everywhere to broadcast heated talk shows, in which scholars, analysts, and laymen are invited to “talk”. Though the spectrum of discussions is really quite wide, the basic question, nevertheless, is only one: "What dish should we freely select?" Some would say, “We can not select Imperialism. Thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan “died” when they tried it. No, the Iraqis do not like this dish.” Others, however, would argue that at least two million Iraqis already “died” from the poisonous Dictatorship food. This dish might be less harmful. Soon, TV channels transmit scenes from the Iraqi-Iranian War and the previous Gulf War on giant screens, to make one argument more reasonable. The discussion gets inflamed and continues. More arguments are raised, and the waiters distribute long sheets of statistics and archival news to help people make their discussions more scientific, rational and consistent.

The amazing result of all these debates is that though everyone is doing his/her best to prove how very much poisonous this or that choice might be, the end result, nonetheless, is legitimization of the three of them. Terrorism relentlessly murdered thousands of civilian Americans; and Saddam Hussein is killing his people. How can we stop that? Israel is occupying the Palestinian lands; the United States is invading Iraq; and terrorists are slaughtering tourists in some Islamic countries. How can we stop this? The Americans with their superpower have rendered all the national armies simply useless, as did the IDF with the Palestinian Security forces. The Arab governments turned civilian activists over to military courts, from which they would be sent to advanced sophisticated electronic torture machines imported from Western democratic countries. How will we stand up to this? The only legitimate solution, the only reasonable and accepted answer to the first question is Imperialism, to the second Dictatorship and to the third Terrorism. Sharon, Arafat and Hamas’ Rentissi or Bush, Saddam and Bin Laden look like enemies, or rather like chefs in the same restaurant, competing for whose dish should be served first. The other face of the coin, however, is that they are only legitimizing each other. They justify each other. They are the raisons d’Ítre of each other.

It is we, the inhabitants of this planet, who pay for this competition in flesh and blood. It is our blood that bled in New York, Kabul, and Bali and is massively bleeding now in Baghdad. They are our children who were murdered in Ramallah, and Tel Aviv and are murdered now throughout Iraq. How can we stop this? Two impotent positions should be avoided. First, the meaningless, even harmful, position of trying to select one solution from the evil menu. Bin Laden will not save us from the American B52. Bin Laden is a murderer of thousands of innocent people. Bush is not our savior from Saddam. Bush is only the next exploiter. Sharon will not stop the suicide operations; he will increase them. And Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rentissi is not the answer to Sharon’s violence. Rentissi, a murderer of Israeli children, pours oil on that violence. By all means we must not be in this tricky position of selecting “freely” one of these three evil alternatives. Second, we should also refrain from taking only a rejection position. Yes we are rejecting the evil menu, but this rejection is not enough. Protests, petitions and lighting the candles are not enough. There should be something positive, something powerful, decisive and constructive that can be done.

Before seeking a solution, however, we must first accurately define the problem. In this respect I believe it is tricky, again, to think Bush, Saddam and Bin Laden or Sharon, Arafat and Rentissi are the problem. We have to admit an embarrassing fact, which we frequently neglect or even deny. This fact that we must admit is that the majority of the Americans and the British are pro-war, the majority of Israelis are pro-Sharon and the majority of Arabs are pro-suicide operations. I know statistics can prove the majority of our planet wants peace. But statistics do not tell us what type of peace those people have in mind, and how would it be possible in their view. Bombing for peace is not an uncommon strategy nowadays. In fact, if we fail to recognize this fact as the problem we face, we will forever sign e-petitions and carry the pictures of Saddam and Bush with bad words written on their smiling faces. Among the very few good things the Middle East can give to the world today is the lesson of the Israeli left. First there was a claim that the left is the majority. Then it turned into a polarization situation, where the political continuum collapsed to only two positions, forcing people to choose.. Finally, that polarization turned into the worse isolationist elitist position taken by “the Israeli radical left” as it is now called. Each camp is talking to itself, while a political dialogue became impossible. This will be the end of us, global peace activists, too, a radical moral left without a clear pragmatic political agenda, if we keep denying that simple fact; that the governments of the democratic world, those who are freely elected by their peoples and backed by their parliaments, those of the United States, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, Japan and South Korea are pro-war. Ladies and Gentlemen, the majority is not in the big demonstrations. The majority is silent because what they want is already done. This majority is our problem.

The above thesis, however, does not imply that to solve all these problems we need simply to convince the majority without first asking what created a majority like this. The significance of that fact, indeed, is that it reveals the structural problem we are locked into, a problem that has its political, economic, cultural and social roots. Many writers have elaborated on these dimensions, writing about consumerism, environmentalism, media, the failure of representative democracy, and social action. My aim now, however, is only to promote the emerging global civil society, and to urge its integration, independence and sustainability. This global civil society has the mission of completing the incomplete menu, to provide democracy, decency and other missing menu choices. Any action that nourishes and strengthens it is a step out of the damned restaurant.

Mohamed Mosaad



Dr Mosaad is an Egyptian psychiatrist, sociologist, educator and  peace activist. His is coordinator of the Abrahamic Forum,  and member of the Abrahamic Forum Council, an International Interfaith  dialog. He is a member of the Global Council of the United Religons Initiative URI.  He may be reached at .

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