A late night reply to Al-HaifiEmotions will not lead to a solution [Archives:2003/632/Opinion]

April 21 2003

By Bill Cavender
[email protected]

It is with torn emotions I write in response to your editorial “Who said that it is over and done with?” from Issue 631, Volume 13 of the Yemen Times.
I oppose the war against Iraq. I believe Saddam Hussein was a ruthless man who used his people for no gain but his own. He cared little for those outside his inner circle and duped many in the Arab world through his brilliant propaganda machine and appeals to the finer points of Arab Nationalism.
I believe he posed a threat to the United States and to neighbors in the region, although that threat was dramatically reduced during the 1991 Gulf War.
I believe that UN sanctions were severe and resulted in no suffering for Mr. Hussein or his cronies, but mainly for those Iraqis already struggling.
I do not believe the US and British forces deliberately targeted journalists nor do I believe that there was a coordinated plan to control or censor the news out of Iraq.
I sat many nights watching from the comfort of my home watching the disgusting smirk of an MSNBC broadcaster as he described US actions in Iraq. I was not proud of those events although I stood by our military forces, who went into battle as a part of their duty.
The voters of the USA are worthy of a more balanced view of the situation both in Iraq and in many other places outside our borders, and I believe each citizen in this nation has an opportunity to take his or her own responsibility for finding balance in today's world of rapid communication and the availability of diverse views at the click of a “mouse.”
Your vitriolic editorial speaks to your passion on the current events in Iraq; under the hyperbole and conspiracy hints you have valid points.
Yet the Arab world also needs a balanced view of the situation. Was it possible for an Iraqi citizen in February 2003 to receive a balanced view anyway? While there were times I found Al-Jazeera professional, there were other channels that I was disgusted with including the CNN. Was your average Baghdadi or Kirkuki or Karbalite able to receive a multitude of viewpoints and assessments? Was it possible for that citizen to write an editorial critical of the governing Baathist regime or of President Saddam Hussein?
I spent the fall of 1993 in Yemen watching the two -by then- presidents Ali Abdullah Saleh and Ali Salem Al-Beedh slowly pull the fragile Yemeni union apart. While in Sana'a, I attended language school and worked on a paper about the history of Islamist political movements in Yemen. I have never been treated better by people anywhere.
I remember buying the Yemen Times to get my local information because my ongoing challenge with the Arabic language was just getting started. Yet I also heard differing opinions in coffee shops, scanned dozens of party newspapers in the 'souk', and saw some strong signs of a civil society poised to move forward with a blend of new and old. I continue to follow Yemen and its adolescent days of democracy. I commend those fighting to make it work. I am eager to see it nourish and grow into adulthood, a new democracy appropriate to the needs of the people.
Was there any chance of such a democracy under Saddam Hussein? I find it unlikely. Am I saddened to see him go? No. God will provide for him.
I thank you for motivating me to spend some time reflecting on this issue. We are fortunate to have this discourse. I would like to see a time where the discussion broadens and reaches a point where there can be civility, respect and progress towards a peaceful future.
I believe the truth is out there and while there are times for harsh words, criticisms and uproar, I do not believe your written words provide much balance. Not in themselves, perhaps stacked up against something equally as severe. They may incite, anger and provoke but I do not believe these emotions will lead to a solution.
I will do my part to listen and respect the views of others. Each man and woman has a God-given right to express their views. I don't need to subscribe to their viewpoint but that is their right. Until their views or actions instill prejudice and incite violence against another they are free to extol the virtues of their way. Most quickly dismiss the voices of fanatics and their deluding world views, but there are those that are sucked into the vortex. These can become formidable forces the world has witnessed again and again.
Let us some day celebrate the time when our children will know one another as equals under God and truly believe that war must be a last resort. But do not let them believe that there is no case where “men should never be given the right to kill under any pretext.”
Let there be more opportunities to share views, reduce misconceptions, prejudice and fear, and come to understand the commonalities more than the differences.