Our Congress has buckled under electioneering by the President and the threat of the pro-war lobbies behind him. Our Congress, with its infinite wisdom, has authorized the President to go to war to do more than what the President has told the American people he would do in Iraq: eliminate Saddam Hussein, occupy Iraq and fully humiliate the Iraqi People, the Arabs and the Moslem world.
Congress has apparently authorized the President to go where no other president has gone before, to invade and occupy a country in time of peace and in an area where there is no military conflict. Congress has not imposed limitations on the President from taking us into a prolonged and perhaps endless quagmire that will cause us to sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand of the world’s mistrust of our policies. Congress has not imposed a limitation that this would not be a cultural war, a first step against Moslem nations that disagree with our objectives. And, Congress has not imposed any limitations that would control the President’s actions to implement potential imperialist objectives.
Without these limitations, which Congress conveniently ignored, it is more certain now that the United States will be the new and bigger bully in the Middle East. The people of the Middle East are used to dealing with bullies, resisting colonial rule, fighting exploitation of their natural wealth and fighting the expropriation of their land by foreign invaders. For the last several hundred years they lived under and resisted the rule of the Ottoman Empire and the Colonial rule of the European powers, namely France and Britain.
The Arabs have tried and they detest colonial rule and foreign occupation. They suffered the frustrating consequences of broken promises given by the French and the British regarding Arab independence, and suffered the disappointment and humiliation of a declaration by the British, the Balfour Declaration, to give a homeland to the Jews in Palestine. At a time when the relations between the Arabs and the colonial powers were adversary at best, the United States of America was admired by the Arabs as a beacon of hope after the First World War, for we were perceived as the only major power that did not have colonial or imperialist designs on the Middle East. That was soon confirmed by the nature of the entry of the U.S. oil industry into the Middle East. The oil concession agreement of the 1930s between Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil of California heralded a new era of relations between an Arab country and a Western Power.
Since the end of the Second World War, so much has gone wrong with the relations between the United States and the Arab and Moslem world, most of it since the creation of Israel. The relations have soured even more since 1967 because of our total support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Now, we want to invade and occupy an Arab country and humiliate the entire Arab and Moslem world. Saddam Hussein may deserve the humiliation of yet another defeat, but his people do not deserve the agony of war and the humiliation of occupation.
If this, the war on Iraq, is perceived as a war of cultures, similar to the Crusades, and it most likely will, then we should not be surprised at what we may find the moment we start our attack on Iraq. Just as we followed the French in Southeast Asia and did not learn from their mistakes, we are about to follow in the footsteps of the British and the French in the Middle East. Once more, we seem to have ignored the advice of the French. I doubt that we should expect any less than they suffered at the hands of the Arabs of the Middle East and North Africa. I do not believe that the American people and the U.S. Congress should look forward to this new entanglement, nor do I believe that the wisdom of our Congress should be held hostage to electioneering.
Michael S. Ladah is a Friends Boys School graduate (class of 1958). He is the author of “Quicksand, Oil and Dreams: The Story of One of Five Million Dispossessed Palestinians.”