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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Thursday, 20 October, 2005


By: Ghoma

       Not many other countries can claim the "rootedness" of Iraq. One of the few that's survived, on and off, from the ancient world. The long span of time was more like a river that carried its water down to drain in the ocean than a reservoir which kept water to human use. The long stretch was not matched by as much accumulated experiences. That's clear in the tragic twist of fate which turned the so-called "cradle of civilization" into a victim to a "civilizing mission"! The land of the first states - the Babylonian and Sumerian city-states circa 3000BC- the seat of the Islamic Caliphate 750-1250, and the self-appointed modern Prussia and Piedmont [under the banner of "Resurrection Party" disguised behind the boots of that inefficient machine of most recent Arab failures, the Army] of the hoped for future Arab nation or something. Where had the long history and empty narratives ended up? And why the most ancient of regions, including the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, Syrians, etc. seems to go against the laws that control all nature's living things, and has been on the devolving side more often than the fewer times it showed some signs of evolution? More of a dog which chases its own tail than societies trying to find ways to live the good life. Otherwise how could we explain that a mid-sized state like Iraq with fairly well-educated population and enough natural resources to affect the necessary take-off end up, once again, colonialized? What did go wrong? And what kind of lessons can we draw from such an ordeal?

       Again the questions may proliferate ad infinitum, such as: What's the crux of the matter of Iraq's dilemma? How could a society and its state have existed in such precarious equilibrium, all this time, in such fragile conditions, only to collapse on the first knock? Why the ties holding the Iraqi society together seem to be so tenuous and weak? Is it because of ethnic and sectarian divisions on top of the tribal make up? Because of a culture of backwardness mired in metaphysical thought and worldviews? Or these are merely the bubbles on the surface of a still deeper boiling cauldron of untamed multitude? Is the occupation cause or merely an effect? If it's an effect, then to what? Perhaps due to the crisis caused by the refusal to deal with the idea of the nation-state and the project of modernity in general?

       Perhaps Iraq will be a case study for the foreseable future of what a state needs to do and what not to do. Iraq can show the rest of the world, and particularly to the states of the area, that no resources or good will are enough by themselves to transform a society. A well-functioning society consists of more than a collection of disparate tribes, clans, and individuals whose lethargy puts them more on the side of humanoids than on the side of full-blown humans. A healthy society, from earliest times to today, always needed some organizing idea. Not just any idea. If one time this idea was religion, today it's something else! If it is not easily grasped, it certainly can be described as what makes a society tick, what liberates its energy and gives reason and hope to its slumbering millions. In other words, sound ideas, modern ideas, ideas that believe in human potential and his/her central role in the whole business of life and living. No some set of atrophied ideas, as the religious ones seem to be, is going to do this job! There's an urgent need for good living and breathing forms of intellectual creations pouring out of likewise good living and breathing citizens. Because only conscious people bring forth new ideas, ideas worth striving for; the other way around is also true. Thus, any society that's aware of itself is always watching in guard to the bonds that hold it together, always searching for their renewal, and always questioning the reason d'etre of its existence. States, if not societies, are in need, more than individuals, to have a constitutive idea(s), a reason for existence, and an ideal to attempt to reach. Without strong bonds, a working agreement, and an ideal to work for, no force on earth can hold an invaded and defeated society to stick together -except perhaps the humiliation itself!

       In the Iraqi case what makes things worse is the apparent absence of other unifying forces and ties beside the ones that are tearing them apart. No national feelings, no ideals of freedom, justice, etc. no aspirations for development and progress....Only religion, tribes, and ethnicity! But tribes and ethnicity have been, are and will be fragmentary forces until the time when their latent centrifugal forces find a way to channel them into centripetal ones. As of religion. Its supposed or traditional unifying forces are so rarified and abstract they're no longer capable of cementing a complex social formations together without the help of other more immediate and concrete ties -say the police power of the state! In many parts of the world, and certainly in Iraq, religion has become such a bone of contention that it stopped being a force of cohesion rather than repulsion! The problem made worse when none of the contending factions seem to have realized that they cannot have it both ways, that's, live under the umbrella of religion and in the same time squabble about its dictates and contest its fundamentals.

       Only when enough of the Iraqis realize the fact that they cannot hold together a country by focusing on the negative forces which brought them down and are destroying the weak unity they'd, but rather channel their energies into grappling with what could unify them. They've to take seriously the idea of thinking out of the box. To jettison aside all the traditional baggage that brought them to their knees and to start looking forward; looking for some modern, progressive, and more tangible abstractions which would offend no one and eventually will benefit each and everyone. Ideas of freedom, equality, fairness, development, industrialization, integration with rest of the area, etc. Even when there are differences on such issues and notions, these consist mostly of modalities and time tables. Only the positive forces are capable of building; the negative forces we all know what they do!

       It goes without saying that keeping a country together comes before thinking how to go about building it. How to go about the whole business of nation-building? A fad so often invoked these days and so badly misapplied, if not misunderstood! Of course in the normal course of events nation building is a work in progress, as such, wouldn't be as difficult as some people make it sound. If it becomes difficult, if not impossible to institute, it all depends on the process that brought it into being. If it's consensual then there's a good chance that it'll succeed but failure will be the sure thing when it's forced down the throats of those unwilling to receive it. It's sort of personal thing. A society's choice. As a wise aphorism goes you can bring the horse to the water but you cannot force the horse to drink it. It rarely worked when it'd been applied from the outside or from the top down. It's a process of bottom up, where the majority, if not all, members of a society have to chip in out of self volition and conviction.

       No colonizing power had gone to colonize other people because it wanted to build them and better them, notwithstanding the sugarcoating of the bitter pill of occupation with 'La Mission Civiliztrice'. America of all nations never made it its business to embark on such demanding task, as nation building, before. It stayed in the Philippines close to a century without effecting that much of change. And its record in the Western Hemisphere comes with no flying colors either. All the Caribbean states are still in a mess; Latin America is in no better! So where did America's pretentiousness of nation-building come from and what its claims are based on?

       If it's true the fog of war blurs the view then one perhaps can understand the shortsightedness of the contending factions. What cannot be fathomed is the silence of those outside of the theater of action! One wonders why there's very little concern of what's going on in Iraq, especially among us, Libyans! Is it because we're so wrapped up in our own afflictions that we've no time, or we just forgot, the misfortunes of others? A mere reaction against anything to do with the tinpot despot and his causes and dreams? A convulsion from Arabism and a relapse to regionalism? The rise of Islamism as an ideology and its abhorrence to anything modern-secular, even the nation-state? Because of self-restraint and self-censor, if not intimidation, since most of the exiles reside in the states (US & UK) causing the havoc in Iraq? Or, out of true believe in the hegemonic, imperialistic campaign's slogans? Perhaps, because of these combined plus others we still don't grasp? The fact of the matter there's a disquieting silence on such horrible events.

       Even on those rare occasions when someone skirted by this issue it was only to mischaracterize its causes and exaggerate its impact. Tyranny run amok. Iraq is Saddam! Schadenfreude a galore! God's earthly retribution to a well-deserved reprobate. Comeuppance waiting every cowered dictator unwilling to play by the rules of the game -even when these rules are dictated by others. A revenge of the weak, though, on the hands of the strong. And so on and so forth. The hard pill to swallow about Iraq is that it's one of those rare occasions where the invader is trying hard to sell the idea of being also a liberator! The irony there're people, even Arabs among them, sadly they also pretend to be " intellec-tuals" who not only have bought the crap bout but also are trying to sell it to some other people. Hear of them talk about Iraq as if going to be the shining city on the hill tomorrow. Perhaps Arabs's inclination to still believe in anything dealing with anything miracles can explain the enthusiasm of some -by drawing a historical parallel with our invasions, time ago, to other peoples and calling then "openings," a term which can be translated to liberation in today's lexicon!

       Our concern with the tragedy of Iraq shouldn't be looked at as a charity act or an altruistic gesture to an unsoliciting sufferer but rather as a precautionary act of self preservation. For there's an Iraq lurking around in each corner in that forsaken region ready to pop up anytime conditions are ripe enough to tear apart what little peace and tranquility still exist. One can go so far to say there's an Iraq, if not an Iraqi, in each one of us (ready to sell his/her wares to any buyer and bring the whole shack tumbling down on the heads of the inattentive drowsy slumbers), to implode and take everyone in it and around it in its flames! If we take for granted civilization's benefits of freedoms and law and order, Iraq reminds us how perishable and ephemeral these achievements are. Iraq has become the bell knell that foretells, or rather announces, what's in store for those who forget the frailty and brittleness of human ties, not to say human decency and moral conduct!

       Iraq, today and for some time to come, is a rich field for contemplation, so to speak, a place where to ponder on the destiny of those who let their guards down and let their fate at the mercy of a world ran amok. Its case teaches the wise and the fool that there must be limits of decency beyond which no one should venture; there must be also few basic notions believed by all and held in awe. Cliques in power and their oppositions have to share in the notions of loyalty and treason to some fundamental tenets. For, as long as the world is in its present set up it's incumbent upon all sides to define what's at stake and worth defending. Trust is a nice virtue but a healthy dose of diffidence and cynicism is needed. Though civilization is truly making giant strides by the day, yet, relations regulating the conduct of nations, especially toward each other, as well as relations regulating human conduct, do seem to fall closer to the primordial stages of dog eats dog than where they should be expected by now! So, as long as there are still preyers in this world, all energies -of a people and their state- have to be directed toward the avoidance of falling into the trap of beast of prey.


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