by Eric Margolis
Never has the old maxim "hang together or be hanged separately" been more fitting than for the Arab states now quailing before U.S. President George W. Bush's evangelical crusade against Iraq.
The Arab world's startling weakness and subservience to the West has never been more evident than in its open or discreet co-operation with Bush's plans to invade "brother" Iraq. Though 99.99% of Arabs bitterly oppose an American-British attack on Iraq, their authoritarian regimes, which rely on the U.S. for protection from their own people and their neighbours, are quietly digging Iraq's grave.
Every Arab leader knows the U.S. will crush Iraq, so none will support unloved megalomaniac Saddam Hussein and risk ending up on Washington's hit list.
In order to deflect the coming fury of their people over the almost certain invasion of Iraq (barring a last-minute coup against Saddam Hussein), Arab rulers have ordered their tame media to launch broadsides against Iraq and lay blame for the impending Gulf War II on Saddam. Never has the Arab world's chronic disunity, backstabbing and petty tribalism been more pathetically on display.
Particularly so because Arab leaders are keenly aware the strategy for the U.S. attack on Iraq, and attendant propaganda campaign - the biggest since World War II - were drawn up in 1998 by American neo-conservatives supportive of Israel's rightist Likud government.
The plan was then made Bush administration policy by its three champions, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby.
Earlier this month, the establishment Washington Post published a remarkable article revealing how a cabal of neo-conservative hawks within the Bush administration had stealthily engineered a war against Iraq.
"Many (neo-conservatives) were also strong supporters of Israel," wrote the Post's Glenn Kessler, "and they saw ousting Hussein as key to changing the political dynamics of the Middle East."
Translation: The war on Iraq was designed to leave Israel dominant and unchallenged in the Mideast, put an end to Palestinian resistance, exact revenge on Hezbollah and ensure Arab regimes would be subservient to Israel and control of Iraqi and Saudi oil by the U.S., Israel and Turkey might follow.
Yet in spite of knowing full well that their bitter enemy, Israel, was pressing the Bush administration into a war against one of their "brothers," a war whose stated objective is to redraw the Mideast map, topple some of its regimes, perhaps even Saudi Arabia, and loot Iraq's oil, Arab rulers and potentates remain paralyzed like deer in the headlights of an Abrams tank.
If ever Mideast regimes have shown an utter lack of legitimacy, it is now. Arab governments are ferocious at internal repression, but fainthearted and inept when it comes to facing external threats. In contrast to Israelis, who are clever, organized and determined, Arab rulers appear a frightened, dithering, bunch of handwringers, whose interests rarely transcend personal power, wealth and extended family.
What could Arabs do to prevent a war of aggression against Iraq that increasingly resembles a medieval crusade? Form a united diplomatic front that demands UN inspections continue. Stage an oil boycott of the U.S. if Iraq is attacked. Send 250,000 civilians from across the Arab world to form human shields around Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Boycott Britain, Turkey, Kuwait and the Gulf states that join or abet the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Withdraw all funds on deposit in U.S. and British banks. Accept payment for oil only in Euros, not dollars. Send Arab League troops to Iraq, so an attack on Iraq is an attack on them all. Cancel billions worth of arms contracts with the U.S. and Britain.
At least make a token show of male hormones and national pride. But the Arab states won't. They will cringe, temporize, then join the vultures who will feed on Iraq's bleeding carcass, while vying to prove their loyalty to Washington.
The brutally efficient Arab security forces will crush popular uprisings caused by the U.S. attack on Iraq, particularly in Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. The Arab states will continue torturing and executing those who protest their craven policies. Self-proclaimed Arab champions, like Libya and Syria, have gone mute. No wonder Osama bin Laden remains so popular. The only Arab leader to show any gumption over the past decade is Saddam Hussein. However cruel and disastrous his rule, Saddam alone stood up to the Mideast's modern colonial power, the United States.
Saddam's refusal to surrender in 1991, and his continuing defiance of Washington, is why the U.S. and Britain have bombed Iraq for the past 10 years, and why President Bush is so determined to crush Iraq and kill its leader. It's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's about defiance.
The U.S. is determined to make an example of Iraq to teach the rest of its client Arab states the terrifying cost of disobedience.
"Good" Arabs who co-operate will be rewarded with more money and arms. Those who fail to join Bush's crusade may face "regime change" and "liberation." Palestinian resistance will be crushed. "Nadir" is an Arabic word, meaning the lowest point. The Arab nations are about to reach theirs.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights