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We, The Arabs Should Have Been The Ones to Topple Saddam

The Following excerpts from Dr. Osama Al-Ghazali Harb's work are translated and excerpted by MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute,, and are used with permission.

Dr. Osama Al-Ghazali Harb, the editor in chief of the Egyptian quarterly Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya magazine and board member and advisor to the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, published a column in the most recent issue of Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya. The article praised the capture of Saddam Hussein and denounced Arabs and Muslims who lament it and propagate conspiracy theories surrounding it. The following are excerpts from the article, as it appeared in the original in English:(1)

'Saddam Surrendered in this Docile Manner Because He Knew His Captors Were Americans'

"The discovery of Saddam Hussein, the arrogant, cruel, and luxury-loving leader, hiding in an underground hole - bringing to mind the tale of the Thieves of Baghdad - and his surrender to his captors in a docile and cowardly fashion, was indeed something of a farce. But, the 'Mother of all Farces,' to borrow Saddam's famous idiom, is that Arabs and Muslims fail to grasp the true implications of the rise, and fall, of Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam Hussein is a true example of the despotic leader as described by the great Arab intellectual Abdel-Rahman Al-Kawakbi in his famous treatise 'The Nature of Despotism' more than one hundred years ago: 'Once seated on his throne ... the despot regards himself as a man who has become a God... The despot is no more than a traitor and a coward who needs to be surrounded by a band of thugs to aid and protect him.'

"There is no doubt Saddam knew what his fate would be if captured by the Iraqis; he would have been killed and mutilated as other previous Iraqi leaders, less brutal than him, were. In this instance, Saddam might have preferred suicide - not out of honor, but in fear of torture and violent death. It is most likely that Saddam surrendered in this docile manner because he knew his captors were Americans...

"Saddam's viciousness towards his own people was matched only by his inability to stand up to foreign powers - despite what his propaganda apparatus maintained. His arrogance to the Arabs, meanwhile, was revealed by his refusal to heed any advice from Arab leaders. His disregard for the repeated pleas from President Mubarak, before the war in Kuwait and again before the invasion of Iraq, are a case in point, as was the lackluster reception extended to Arab emissaries to Baghdad during this last crisis."

'Saddam's Arrest is a Sign of Civility and Respect for the Law'

"Yet the farce of Saddam's surrender is nothing compared to the ridiculous interpretations of this event circulating among Arabs and Muslims. The first of these interpretations regards the manner of Saddam's capture as a deliberate and unprecedented insult to all Arabs and Muslims. This point of view implies that Saddam is in some form a symbol of Arabs and Muslims, a 'legitimate' leader, whose actions were a true reflection of the aims and aspirations of Iraq and the Arab world. This cannot be further from the truth. Saddam never had any real legitimacy - his decisions and policies were in flat contradiction to Iraqi, Arab, and Islamic interests. Saddam's arrest - the arrest of any criminal, anywhere - is neither an insult nor a humiliation, but a sign of civility and respect for the law.

"What we, as Arabs, should truly feel humiliated about are the prevailing political and social conditions in the Arab world - especially in Iraq - which allowed someone such as Saddam Hussein to become vice president in 1968 - and then, through an unparalleled bloody and conspiratorial path, to assume the presidency in 1979."

We Should Feel Humiliated that Arab Intellectuals Supported Saddam

"We should feel humiliated that Saddam was able to remain in power until 2003, and to single-handedly initiate a number of catastrophic policies that transformed Iraq, relatively rich in natural, human, and financial resources, into the poorest, most debt-ridden country in the Arab world, not to mention the hundreds of thousands killed and displaced.

"We should feel humiliated that some of our intellectuals, supposedly the representatives of our nations' consciences and the defenders of their liberty and dignity, not only dealt with Saddam, but also supported him. Finally, we should feel humiliated that Saddam Hussein's fall came at the hands of the U.S. and Britain, to protect their own interests. The Arabs should have been the ones to bring down Saddam, in defense of their own dignity and their own true interests.

"Another widespread interpretation views the entire situation as a grand conspiracy, skillfully executed not only against Saddam but against all Arabs and Muslims... Those who espouse this point of view put all the blame on evil, conspiring, external forces, who lure Arab and Islamic leaders and societies into making the wrong choices, and steer them away from making the right ones. That these leaders and societies allow themselves to become easy dupes through ignorance, naivety, and arrogance is, here, of secondary importance... There are ways and means to uncover plots and to defend ourselves. This, however, demands the existence of competent, democratic societies and legitimate systems of government... "

The Fall of Saddam Hussein - 'A Catalyst and Inspiration for Speeding Up Democratic Reform'

"More important, we must be clear on the fact that preserving national sovereignty and integrity in no way contradicts with the serious pursuit of real political and democratic reform in the countries of the Arab world. If the fall of Saddam Hussein proves to be a catalyst and inspiration for speeding up democratic reform in the region, it is not helpful to raise the specter of U.S. intervention. Reform is not a U.S. or British issue, it is first and foremost a domestic concern, espoused by the elite and society at large, not only at present, but also in the past.

"As for the future of Iraqi resistance, predictions of its growing strength are more a function of instinctive and legitimate resentment of foreign occupation than a realistic understanding of priorities in Iraq today."

First Priority is 'To Rebuild State and Society in Iraq'

"The first priority must be to rebuild state and society in Iraq in a manner that allows economic reconstruction and democratic reform to proceed. Since the operations of the U.S. in Iraq resulted in the destruction of the state and the political system, the U.S. is obliged to repair the damage it created before leaving - at least to some minimal level. The militant operations that injure and kill foreign troops and many Iraqi citizens impede the process of reconstruction, and have the precise result of lengthening the duration of the U.S.-British occupation in Iraq.

"The growing gap between domestic Iraqi disapproval of many of these operations ... and the encouragement afforded them by some Arab forces outside Iraq is not a good sign. It can only sow the seeds of discord between the Iraqis and their Arab brethren, which does not bode well for the future.

"In sum, it would indeed be a great and unfortunate farce if Arabs and Muslims were to focus on lamentations and the search for conspiracies, and neglect to finally and conclusively acknowledge the consequences of dictatorship, despotism and the absence of liberties and democracy."

(1) Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya (Egypt), January 2004.


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