Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations disciplines
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published November 24, 2002 in the News Leader (Staunton, VA): p. A9.
It is presented both as a scan of the original (go here) and in a more easily read and printable form, below.
The version below includes citations to sources, citations not included in the original printed form.
Make No Mistake, U.S. is Hated
Clear perception is in short supply these days. Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries repeatedly have shot at U.S. and British aircraft in the days since passage of U.N. resolution 1441. That resolution demands Iraq take no hostile action against any member of the U.N. But U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has been quick to declare that the Iraqi potshots at our aircraft do not violate 1441.
Mr. Annan, apparently swayed by the mind clouding rhetoric of the Middle East, now appears able only to view Americans as aggressors. To perceive his picture, blinders are required. This attitude may fit those committed to pursue peace at any price. But in these times Americans know that price can be unacceptably high.
Customary blindness at the U.N. is in danger of becoming habitual here, too. Americans desperately want to believe that U.N. 1441 was a step toward compromise: Iraq will disarm, war will be avoided, we can return to mopping up the few isolated pockets of terrorists, and to promoting peace among the nations. This dreamy formula requires little of us individually or as a nation. We only need to suspend our efforts to prepare for a wider war, and to abandon efforts to perceive clearly our shadowy enemy. But, meanwhile, it is our enemy who is gathering strength.
Our media are helping this process along. Recently, Osama bin Laden sent forth an ominous tape recording. Our broadcasters and news editors have relieved us of having to listen to its burdensome message; only the BBC has printed a full transcript. Its message is difficult, and can be digested only as one might swallow dry ice. After ritualistically blessing his compatriots, "the zealous sons of Islam," for their recent mass murders in Bali, Yemen, Moscow, and Kuwait, the bearded one delivered his message to the West: "It is time that we get even. You will be killed just as you kill. expect more that will further distress you."
Underestimating an enemy is a characteristic mistake in war; failing to even listen to him is a precondition for it. Broad cross sections of society across the Middle Eastern and Islamic worlds have embraced fundamental features of bin Laden's point of view. Indeed, poisonous additional features of hatred drip from non-Al Qaeda pens there. In a November 14 editorial, the eldest son of Iraq's leader, Uday Hussein, suggested that "Americans are cowards, treacherous and mean hyenas," as he advocated Iraq strike first at the U.S.
Hyenas. If the history of hateful rhetoric in the 20th century showed anything, it was that when political regimes begin speaking of other humans as if they are animals, real butchering often follows. Hitler's rhetoric reduced Jews to "vermin" decades before the gas chambers were built. Lenin urged his peers to hang "bloodsuckers" -his preferred term for priests. Stalin-era prosecutors regularly regaled the public and judges alike with calls to "shoot the vile dogs," i.e., men and women charged with bogus crimes. To treat humans inhumanely later, first strip them of their essential humanity: make them not humans, but lesser creatures.
We often imagine it to be the universal role of religious institutions to calm this sort of talk. Functions like this are performed in churches and synagogues in our society. That is not what worshipers are hearing in the mosques of the Middle East. Here is a sample: on Friday November 8, 2002, in a sermon for Ramadan delivered by Dr. Sheikh Bakr Abed Al-Razzaq Al-Samaraai at the "Mother of All Battles Mosque," in Baghdad, Iraq, that Islamic religious leader specifically referred to Americans as "descendents of pigs and apes," and for good measure dubbed U.S. President George W. Bush a "little dwarf." At a mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the influence of "offspring of apes and pigs" -i.e., Jews and Christians- recently were blamed for misguiding the nation away from the path Sheik Mustafa Bin Said Aytim would have his flock follow. Secular authorities are doing little more to encourage mass understanding. Government officials in Syria pen best-selling books alleging their enemies ritualistically use Islamic children's blood in ceremonies; Egyptian television this month has resurrected the infamous forgery "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as the basis of hit 21 part dramatic series.
Listening to our Western societies described in these ways is arresting. It is discomforting to realize social authority anywhere is being used to dehumanize; that it is occurring among friends and enemies alike ought to make us pause. If this is what is being said publicly, what greater outrages are passed off in private?
Thus, it is a small but well-intentioned error to suppress publication and broadcast of Bin Laden's diatribes. But it is a far greater mistake to miss the poisonous, de-humanization of Christians and Jews, indeed all Westerners, that broadly is spewing forth from the Arab and Islamic world.
Prof. Bowen thanks the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) for assistance in finding translated Arabic items referred to in this editorial
UN Security Council Resolution 1441, at point 8 states: "8. Decides further that Iraq shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA or of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution;" Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A27505-2002Nov8?language=printer
Kofi Annan rejecting U.S. interpretation of Iraqi firing on US Aircraft: "Iraqi Fire Does Not Break Resolution," BBC (November 19, 2002).http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2492413.stm
Bin Laden's latest "communiqué": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2455845.stm
Uday Hussein describing US as hyenas: BBC, "Saddam's son steps into debate,"http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2475925.stm
Iraqi Ramadan sermon: "Ramadan Sermon from Iraq" MEMRI Institute ( November 8, 2002)http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iraq&ID=SP43802
Sermon in Saudi Mosque: "Friday Sermons in Saudi Mosques," MEMRI Institute (September 22, 2002)http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR00902#II
Syrian Defense Minister book blood libel: "Al-Hayat Highlights Large Popularity of Syrian Defense Minister's Blood Libel Book at Syrian International Book Fair," MEMRI (October 22, 2002)http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=syria&ID=SP43202
Egyptian television series based on Protocols: "Arab Press Debates Antisemitic Egyptian Series 'A Knight Without a Horse" MEMRI (November 8, 2002)http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=egypt&ID=IA10902
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