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America in Iraq: A New Future for the Middle East?


I have a startling announcement. The WMD that caused the war in Iraq have been found! In fact the Americans had already found it even before their troops go searching in the Iraqi desert. The WMD I am talking about is not biological, chemical or nuclear; it is human! Was it biological, chemical or, Heaven forbid, nuclear, the weapon that killed three thousand civilian Americans in New York in a couple of minutes? Weren't they human bombs made of humans who belong to “friendly states”?

Apologists would rush to say that they were only a bunch of terrorists who have nothing to do with the question of democracy. Those apologists miss a couple of points. First, they are the friendly autocratic governments and their oppressive policies that resulted in this terrorism. Second, the problem is not only that bunch of terrorists but in fact the culture of violence and hate spreading from end to end in the Arab World. Ben Laden’s discourse is in fact rooted in a broad social discourse of despair and suicide. Leave alone those terrorists; did not millions of Arabs celebrate the awful attack? Did not they exchange SMS, in both text and picture format, to congratulate each other not on a happy change in their miserable reality, but of a tragic crime committed against thousands of innocent civilians? The sad fact, and the lesson US Administration learned, is that September 11th was committed by tens of terrorists supported by millions of potential terrorists; the former are already dead; the later must soon be “neutralized”. To neutralize this human WMD, the US Government concluded, the oppressive regimes should leave and the Middle East must be a democratic region.

So far, this is good news. What is the problem then? The problem is, again, we: Arabs. Instead of seeing the opportunity that Eastern Europe once enjoyed fifteen years ago the political activists, be they religious or secular, Left or Right, or Nationalists, Marxists or Muslim Brothers, have decided to side with the national governments to face the common external enemy: imperialist America and the Zionist Israel. That is what you see, read and hear over and over in all newspapers and TV channels: governmental and pro-governmental people rushing to defend their interests and stupid short-sighted autistic political opposition suffering from intellectual bankruptcy. The hope of both of them is the Iraqi resistance, which they praise day and night, a resistance that kills scores of Iraqis and resists the democratic changes in Iraq. The problem, therefore, is the unsolved question: to whom will the Americans talk if no one, but the governments of course, are listening?

The real problem however, though yet invisible, will soon be revealed. The “Democracy in the Middle East” project could be the second Euro-American fiasco after the late “Peace in the Middle East” project, may its soul rest in peace! Here we must recall all the shortcomings of throwing billions of dollars wrapped in wise Euro-American visions, maps and plans and buoyed by good intentions, faithful prayers and warm wishes of a happy Middle East. Let us reflect on three fatal mistakes that we have to avoid and turn into three good lessons in this new mega-project.

The first lesson is that those who have suffered from the problem are the only ones to know best how to get out of it. External assistance is desired; external intervention, even with good intentions, is harmful. Paul Bremer is doing no good to either democracy or women’s rights by denying the Iraq Interim Governing Council the right to state that Islam is the principal source of legislation in “their” constitution. We need not copy Western style secular democracies in the Arab World. The West should this time put its readymade agenda aside and listen carefully to the “indigenous” people. To boost its global market, wise McDonalds has indigenized its products. In Cairo it sells Falafel, in Bombay Maharaja Mac with Vegetable Surprise! The last thing we want is to have Arab democracy advocates be stigmatized as Americanized and meet the fate of the Israeli peace activists –known now as Israeli radical left.

The second problem is the local politicians. We should not expect their open rejection of the project. On the contrary, they will welcome it and say it has always always been their dream to spread democracy. No one has spoken for peace more than the very Palestinian and Israeli politicians who “handled” the peace process, and we know how well they managed it. Reading the future, Arab politicians have already gotten ready to maneuver and manipulate the upcoming American plans for democracy. They speak of reforming the curricula, broadening the “margin of democracy” and taking “new steps” to increase the popular participation. The same people who trashed the human rights organizations have just founded a new “really nongovernmental” human rights institution, which the government will “consult”. Those whose prisons are overcrowded with tens of thousands of political prisoners, and who released the other day about a hundred prisoners who spent almost three decades in their nice prisons, want to carry out the reform; and those who used to teach the most intolerant Islamic reading, want to be in charge of changing and modernizing their curricula. They all tell us what we do not understand according to them: democracy is a socio-cultural project that needs a very long time before flowering in the region. They also warn us about the unwise rush to democracy. It will bring the monster we should all fear: fundamentalists. It is expected that they will be malicious and illusive, making the path to democracy long, tortuous and painful. They will put up obstacle after obstacle to obstruct our hope. It would be a fatal mistake for us to ask the corrupt ones once again to carry out the reform.

The third danger is the local mercenaries, the opportunists. They have already queued up with packed briefcases containing proposals and projects waiting for funds and grants. They promise to make dramatic changes in the Middle East, changes that will create a new reality. They snatched the lexicon of democracy off the shelf and soon learned the new key words: plurality, gender, cultural diversity, freedom of expression, minorities’ rights and the like. They scatter them in-between the lines of their proposals. We know them because we have watched them for long years, absorbing millions of dollars in exchange for nice photos of happy Palestinian and Israeli friends smiling before cameras at gatherings in beautiful Europe, and some freely distributed expensive colored magazines describing their dreams of the future. They know how to butter their bread and make a perfect isolating interface that keeps the money flowing to their elite circle.

Giant internal economic, political and social problems do not leave much time to Arabs to think slowly as they used to do, leave alone to make the same old mistakes once again. Iraq, Palestine and Israel should have demonstrated the consequences quite clearly: internal collapse and/or external aggressive intervention. Saddam’s ridding of his WMD, Arafat’s promise to dismantle terrorist organizations or Sharon’s evacuation of Gaza settlements were simply too late to fix their historical mistakes. In ancient history God used to send prophets only to tell people the obvious: this is the end! We cannot expect new prophets now and we should see it ourselves. What Arabs must do is to stop their meaningless rhetoric of resisting the American hegemony and the Zionist conspiracy. Go directly to get the benefits of the new change and fight to create a better future for our next generation. We have to know what exactly we need, and do not need, from the United States. Saad Eddin Ibrahim’s article published in Washington Post in last November is a good example of this. We must corner our rulers with a national agenda with specific demands put in a timetable. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners in Egypt has recently highlighted some of these demands. They need however to schedule them. By the end of this week systematic torture should end, next month the tens of thousands of political detainees who have never been sentenced should be in their homes with their families, next year there must be free parliamentary elections and then free presidential elections, for which many candidates will stand. We urgently need a plethora of popular courageous initiatives, and a vivid and reasonable national and civil debate revolving around the new change.

This is the moment of truth, to the Americans, the political leaders and the people. If we miss it, if we keep wishing and not moving, and if we maintain our hypocrisy and hesitation, the horrible dark future, the apocalypse, which the prophets of old used to predict, will unfortunately overtake us.

Dr. Mohamed Mosaad

Dr Mosaad is an Egyptian psychiatrist, sociologist, educator and  peace activist. He is coordinator of the Abrahamic
,   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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by Dr Mohamed Mosaad @ 04:48 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 6 comments

Great article, Dr. Mossaad, but I'm a little confused about what you say regarding Bremer's efforts to maintain women's rights in Iraq. If, as you point out elsewhere, neither local politicians, nor regular Arab citizens are picking up the slack, who will? Moreover, just because Islamists and fundamentalists are very vocal that Islam should be the primary source of Iraqi law, should their views be taken more seriously than people who for a number of reasons are not as vocal? Who at this point, if not Bremer, will speak for them. I think Bremer's stance on behalf of women's rights is one thing that anyone who believes in equal rights can be unequivocally proud of.

Posted by Lee Smith @ 02/20/2004 05:43 PM CST

My thought is that if Muslim would stop killing Muslim, which is definitely against the Quran, then perhaps the ordinary people would be able to get what help they truly need. Perhaps the Middle East can not accept the same kind of Democracy as the West, yet it appears the Governments in the Middle East only wish to protect their own interests, palaces and prestige.. they seem to be uncaring that their own citizens are being used as "WMD's. If they would put a stop to some of that, perhaps real peace could eventually be found in Iraq and all the Middle East. Why does anyone want to be rid of one madman and open doors for another? That seems to be what is happening in Iraq. Where are all the sensible Muslims and leaders of Islam? Or are you the only one, Mohamed?
Salaam, be blessed!

Posted by Nellie Tumilty @ 02/22/2004 11:32 PM CST

thank you Mohammad Mossaad for taking such a position and offering your couragious opinions and critique of a the Arab system of political opposition that needs such direction and actions. Knowing your own shortcomings and pitfalls is as important as idenitifying what your oppressor is doing..We train many of our young generation in the art of complaining and cursing colonialism, imperialism, or expansionist Zionism. But we teach them how to silence internal oppositions, and accept internal oppression. thank you again...

Posted by mohammed abu-nimer @ 02/23/2004 05:11 PM CST

Thank you Dr. Mosaad for an eye opening article. I think that the Zionist and American agenda is to exterminate Arabs -- PERIOD. This is outrageous! If we were to kill people based on their beliefs, be they religious or otherwise, there would be no one left on earth. Who is Bush or the Zionists in his cabinet to go and dictate how anyone should live? The American government is not to be trusted! When Bush was supremely made president, in his inaugral address he stated that "We are on a Crusade." Let us not kid ourselves into thinking for a second that the Zionists controlling the American government and what will become of Iraq, give two darns about the Iraqis. American has only too too many domestic problems to focus on instead of going thousands of miles away to tell people what will become of them. The criminal capitalists need to stop their greed and bleeding the poor and middle class people by taxing them to death.

Posted by Sue @ 02/24/2004 06:40 AM CST

As usual,powerful words wieve an eye opening article by Dr.Mossaad.
I am of the opinion that indeed any foreign intervention in the Middle East, wether it be in Iraq, Palestine or other, must be done with the utmost attention to the indigenous voices! The western powers have always presented themselves as "liberators" ,spreading the word of freedom, but behind closed doors they never truly considered the indigenous people. Since the beginning of the century the west has molded the Middle-East into a matrix it saw as most convenient, with either complete ignorance or complete disregard of the wishes of indigenous people. I praise the Iraqi people who reach out to the west, despite the fact that it consistently turned it's back to the suffering in Iraq. I praise their bravory and pray it won't lead to more disappointment, but indeed to a better future!!

Posted by Yogev Yehros @ 02/24/2004 03:15 PM CST

Sue,it is people like you that feed hate and violence. How can you say that "American agenda is to exterminate Arabs". Have you ever met an american? I dont think that way, nor do I personally know anyone who does. There are many Arabs living here in America, free to pratice any religion they want. Do you trust your government? I dont fully trust the US gov. Every gov. in history has been corrupt in some way. I wouldnt go as far to say that the US gov dosent give two darns about the Iraqi people, mabey one darn. Check out this site it speaks for its self. http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/ We are all stuck on this earth together, we better learn to get along soon if we want a future for our children.

Posted by Aaron @ 02/25/2004 10:40 AM CST

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