Lessons never learned [Archives:2004/736/Opinion]

May 10 2004

By Sadek Al-Mowallad
For the Yemen Times

Who would have thought about it? The so-called conquered people of the Middle East are hostile to the concept of empire. This shouldn't be a new concept. After all, many empires tried to dominate this region for its resources and religious significance…the Romans, the Persians, the Mongols, and the Christian Crusaders. All have tried. All have ultimately failed, and all have used the slogan of “liberation.”
Of course, “liberation” is the overused cover story for mass consumption designed to mask the real, less altruistic reason… to control resources. In the 20th century, the Brits and French also turned to this slogan. After all, it was their own General Stanley Mood who, in 1917, attempted to “liberate” the Arabs from the Turks. Of course, what he really wanted was to gain firm control over Iraqi oil. His political advisor, Kox, encouraged the Iraqis to establish a free society while secretly writing in his own memoirs that the Iraqis “should not come near the oil, which we will take care of for their benefit.” Then, just months after General Mood's arrival in Baghdad, Sir Edward Allenby arrived in Jerusalem announcing “the liberation of Palestine” from those pesky Turks while privately boasting to his officers that “now the Crusades have come to an end.” He couldn't be more wrong.
Ultimately, the Brits and French failed as well.
However, that hasn't stopped the Brits from hitching their wagon to the new wanna-be empire on the block – the United States. I guess some nations never learn the lessons of empire from their sordid past. Unfortunately, the United States didn't learn from other's mistakes either. As usual, this wanna-be empire is insisting that it really isn't an empire. Last June, President Bush publicly announced that “American has no empire to extend or utopia to establish.” Even the powerful elites in America insisted publicly that America does not want to be an empire. However, to quote an American adage, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it is a duck”. And this is one empire that is quacking wildly.
For how else can we explain the continuous effort to dominate the world militarily, economically, politically and culturally? For what other reason would the US need to establish bases in so many countries? What else can we call the American multi-nationals that drive world commerce and ensure their interests at the expense of the people of the world, all in the name of the religion of free trade? Is there any other reason to establish American-friendly media outlets in the Arab world, except to impose American “values” and pop culture in the Middle East? If this isn't imperialism, I don't know what else it could be.
What is so amazing is that the new wanna-be empire spouts the party line of ” liberation” as some new concept . I guess it kind of forgot that the Iraqi people have heard Bush's tired, worn out, slogan of “liberation” before. They know that the only thing that the Brits before and now the Americans want to liberate is their oil from Iraqi control. That is the essence of their “liberation.” They know it … and they aren't buying it. To them, the Americans are invaders. Although they may have hated Saddam, many Iraqis have been quoted as saying that “we hate Saddam, but we hate the US even more for invading our land.” So much for “liberation.”
Yet the problem unmasks its ugly face when the situation takes a dangerously a deeper dimension: a religious dimension.
The Bush Administration has unwittingly entered into the business of producing terrorists by discounting the power or religion. The administration is definitely losing the creditability of its war on terrorism, and martyrs are being created by the pre-emptive war against Iraq. Worse yet, America is risking, if not already losing, its relationship with Islamic moderates at the very time it needs them most. This is exactly, as Susan Thistlethwaite calls it, the Math of Martyrs. And it is exponential. “Create one martyr and two will rise up in revenge. Kill those two and four will rise up and so on.”
By now, you would think that nations would be smarter. After all, we study history, we know about X, Y or Z. But we JUST NEVER LEARN.
We never learn that people just don't like to be occupied. We never learn that the people of this world just want to control their own resources – determine their own history. We never learn that democracy is a choice, not an imposition. We never learn that people want to hold on to their culture, their religion, and their heritage. Rather, we want to remake them in our image without ever pausing to think whether this image respects their cultural heritage and religious traditions. THIS is an act of extreme egotism. And an empire, as Ralph Waldo Emerson describes it, ” is an immense egotism.”
Instead, we put on our rose colored glasses thinking that people will be delighted that we are there to “liberate them”, never realizing that the very methods we use to liberate people constituted the highest crime at Nuremberg – an unprovoked act of aggression against another nation.
Churchill once said: “our steps were fast, and our illusion was distant, therefore we could not realize that we were walking on a carpet that is hiding beneath it an abyss. Thus everything has fallen.” I believe that is, pretty much, the same thing Robert Fisk wrote in a long article for the British Independent:
“For centuries, we have put the effort to liberate the Middle East, yet we haven't learned any lesson!”