How will our history be known? [Archives:2004/795/Opinion]

December 2 2004

Quite often the official media thinks that its sole function is to polish the image of the Government and to make sure that the public should only hear, see and read what never leads to any discontent among the public. Thus when anyone begins to take a critical look at public affairs, even those who may have played a big role in the management of public affairs and had a great influence in the outcome of running the nation over many years, one will quickly see the official media bellow out a storm here and there that this person has gone over the hill or has succumbed to the desire to raise sensations. One of the major drawbacks of having so many channels for the Government to project itself to the public is that these channels, because of their large number will constantly be looking for someone to hit at just so they can justify the continuity of their own livelihoods as mouthpieces for the Government. One would also notice that state run media usually fails to reflect any real adherence to modern professional journalism or public relations. Thus it is not unusual to see writers for the official press coming out blasting at any one who might make a comment that could be construed as unfavorable to the regime (even for events that have passed over a quarter of a century ago).
Former Yemeni Prime Minister on several occasions and statesman Muhsin Al-Aini is well known, not just in Yemen, but throughout the Arab World and the rest of the world for his strong advocacy for democracy and the right of free expression. However, his recent appearance in the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel, in which he recollected his testimony of events that crossed the span of his adult life in the political theater in Yemen, in the program “Witness of Our Age”, obviously raised the displeasure of many people. Mr. Al-Aini felt compelled as a man who believes in the truth, to point out that even politicians, being human beings, do make mistakes and get carried away by the possession of power. Thus when he reflected on some of the excesses and mistakes that the early regimes of the Republic carried out, there were many,who usually have misconceptions about what government should be like, who wrote that Muhsin Al-Aini has gone too far and even betrayed the patriotic movement! Nothing is further than the truth. Muhsin Al-Aini did not say anything beyond what he has put down in print, in his book “50 Years Amidst Shifting Sands”, which now has an English Edition (translated by this humble columnist), yet the self proclaimed writers in defense of the nation were almost ready to scream: “treason”. It doesn't matter that these quick slinging critics have nothing to rest on to allow themselves to be critical of such a person as Muhsin Al-Aini, because he spoke out against the excesses of most of the Arab Revolutionary regimes that were supposed to liberate their people from the oppression of autocratic traditional regimes. In fact Muhsin Al-Aini is well known for his long record as a leading figure in the Yemeni patriotic movement who sacrificed his life on a number of occasions speaking out against repression and has more going for him as a leading advocate for the freedom of the Yemenis and other fellow Arabs from all forms of tyranny than most of these critics, who were hardly in any position to judge the credibility of what Mr. Al-Aini said.
The point of all this is to show that we are still retarded in our ability to accept and respect the opinions of those that may not have the same narrow minded mentalities that many of these self proclaimed defenders of affinity to the nation have. Criticism or unfavorable opinions should be viewed with the utmost of objectivity, especially if it comes from someone who was well entrenched in the object of this criticism. Here is an experienced politician and statesman telling us frankly and openly, yes we rebelled against autocracy, but how much have we really freed our nation from despotic rule (and he is not just saying this for Yemen, but for most of the regimes that took over the traditional regimes in most of the Revolutionary Arab States? Furthermore, to associate such criticism with the possibility of bringing on the Americans, as happened in Iraq, as some of the critics of Al-Aini said, is really puzzling, because it seems obvious that had Saddam Hussein been more open to criticism and sought to learn what different opinions were murmuring about his own dictatorial fumbles, he might have spared himself, Iraq and the rest of the Arab World so much humiliation. So, where is the tie up between one who says that because of the mistakes and excesses of our regimes, the Americans are coming in to give us some red neck medicine?
That history should be subject to so much criticism by the hired pens of the Government is really mind boggling. As if the public should not have a right to learn how our “heroes” actually talked, lived and behaved. Here is a man, who for the first time gave us a detailed inside look at how some of the most important players in the Arab political theater behaved and what they said when they met to decide our fate, rightly or wrongly, and these hired pens, who probably haven't the faintest idea of what transpired in these sessions rush to scream “treason” and demand the hatchet. It is really ridiculous for these critics of Al-Aini to suggest that the Yemeni people and the rest of our Arab brethren, or the rest of the world should be left in the dark about some of the most important events of the last Century. People are anxious to know what the public media kept out of the ears of the public all those years, and busied itself with simply glorifying the leaders and exaggerating their heroic exploits and nationalistic deeds. I think that is what Muhsin Al-Aini aspired to do by relating so many interesting situations, we never knew occurred and the behind the scenes description of how our leaders behaved as human beings and not the semi-gods that the public media tirelessly tries to project them as. This observer believes that Mr. Al-Aini has done a great service to chronicling many situations that future generations were going to be denied the chance to know about, because the official medias of most of the Arab states have succeeded in creating two worlds: the world of make believe and hypocrisy they dwell on and the real world of political wrangling and power politics that has led the Arab nation to its pitiful current state.