'Each man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world'
-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

'Artists are tricky fellows sir, forever shaping the world according to some design of their own'
-- Jonathan Strange, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Punditry from the Arab world on the tenth anniversary of 9.11

The world looks West this week on the tenth anniversary of 9.11 so it's interesting to look East.

Rahsa Sadek at Al-Ahram provides a good commentary on the Iranian position on Syria, noting that al-Husseini writing in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat (owned by the house of Saud) believes that, "Iran's fears are firstly, that the vital route through which Iran provides Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Palestinians -- particularly the Hamas movement -- with military and logistical supplies and funding will be blocked."

Only a week previous (Aug 30), Dick Cheney released his memoirs, perhaps to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9.11 and generate patriotic sales (a review here). Called in a 2005 Washington Post editorial, the "Vice President for Torture", his memoirs cast him once again into scrutiny into the Arab and Muslim worlds. The radical polemicist el-Khazen at the London-based Dar al-Hayat (owned by prominent members of the house of Saud) launches a diatribe: "this century will know no war criminal more contemptible than Dick Cheney. The terror of 11 September 2001 killed around 3,000 Americans, and the former US vice president was responsible for the deaths of 6,000 American soldiers, for oil and Israel, and the deaths of a million Arabs and Muslims."

And still the shadow of colonialism provides a very powerful resistance narrative for the NATO interventions and Western policy in the region. Also in al-Hayat, Zein writes that, "the talk of Western democratic values being brought to the Middle East "is no more than cover for the return of the colonisers to this region."

Jazeera English carries a front page dedicated to remembering 9.11 but the Arabic portal homepage is concerned with the rift between Egypt and Israel following the embassy incident. It's possible that for the West, this War on Terror failed to touch us as much as the original incident, as it was in the very heartland of torch of democratic freedom. Nothing since in the "long war" has evoked such feeling from us. The wars of attrition in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterised by low body counts (60 000 American troops died in Vietnam, approximately 1600 have died in Afghanistan over a decade of occupation). 9.11 still defines us. But for the Arab world, much has passed which makes the original incident of much less interest. Wars fought on their soils and continuing unrest must lead many to question the way in which they feel about the terrorist tragedy, since it spawned, as al-Khazen overestimates, "the deaths of a million Arabs and Muslims."

Al-Quds is concerned also with Egypt and Syria but carries an op-ed by the editor (in arabic here) on 9.11 in retrospect and the world now facing America. Atwan brings out the well-worn arguments that much hatred has been ignited and enflamed against the West particularly in muslim-majority countries, that America failed in Afghanistan, created an Iraq which now has much closer ties to Iran, and drained its own financial resources to the point of national bankruptcy. Atwan sees NATO's involvement in Libya as neo-colonialism and finally ends with the point that he believes the US will veto any attempt by the Palestinians to press for statehood at the UN. The decade since 9.11 has surely seen America's standing both financially and morally in the world decrease dramatically. Whilst in her possession are nearly all the economists and international relations experts in the world. What future too then, the social sciences?

With the role of culture an ascendent trope in military planning, it's interesting to look back on one of the lesser moments after 9.11, covered well in a Washington Post article, about the Taliban's offer to hand bin Laden over to a neutral country. The Post observes that: "Some Afghan experts argue that throughout the negotiations, the United States never recognized the Taliban need for aabroh, the Pashtu word for "face-saving formula." Officials never found a way to ease the Taliban's fear of embarrassment if it turned over a fellow Muslim to an "infidel" Western power. "We were not serious about the whole thing, not only this administration but the previous one," said Richard Hrair Dekmejian, an expert in Islamic fundamentalism and author at the University of Southern California. "We did not engage these people creatively. There were missed opportunities." Yet our recent culture surge doesn't seem to be paying off yet, if the punditry is anything to go by. 

No comments:

Post a Comment