Not Happy, Nor New Year
By Firas Al-Atraqchi
By the time you, the reader, read this, the first few days of a devastating year will have begun. By the first month of 2003, five nuclear-powered aircraft carriers will have taken position in the Persian Gulf, supporting nearly 170,000 U.S. and U.K. troops stationed in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain, and the U.A.E.
The 2003 War on Iraq will prove a turning point in modern history and will plunge the world into a chasm of horrific conflict, racial hatred, and religious war.
Three spheres of terror will be created. The first sphere, the smallest of the three, will involve conflict between Arabs, or Muslims, and their respective governments. For too long, Arab governments have hidden their zealous corruption, class inequality, and non-representative constitutions behind the specter of conflict with Israel.
Now, however, the Arab masses are fed up with the word “Israel”. Arab governments have waxed rhetorical about the ills of Israel in the heart of Arabia, but have done nothing as Israel bulldozes its way through Arab humility. Arab masses are realizing that it is not Israel that is the immediate threat, but their leaders.
Many see contemporary Arab leaders as the most organized obstacle to democracy in the region. There is no democracy in the Arab world, not because no one wants it or is incapable of establishing it, but because it is not in the interests of foreign powers that such a democracy exist in the region. Democracy leads to freedom of expression and innovation. It leads to free enterprise and competition. It leads to privatization and free markets. Democracy in the Arab world would mean that Arab industrialization would finally catch up with that of the rest of the world.
The bottom line is that democracy in the Arab world would transform the Arabs from dependent consumers to independent producers. With the vast oil wealth and an educated populace, a democratic Arabia would threaten the economic interests of the European Union and the U.S.
The Arabs are waking up to this harsh reality; that their leaders, unelected and despotic as they are, stand in the way of development and modernization. When these Arab leaders (from Syria and Saudia Arabia to Egypt and Libya) throw their hats in support of an invasion of Iraq, mass unrest will begin and come to a revolutionary boil, not now, but perhaps in the next few years. This is especially remarkable if innocent Iraqis suffer and destabilization grips Iraq for years to come.
While Arab masses call out for more political freedom, Islamic militancy will gain popularity and sweep through the region like a tidal wave. Two opposite forces; that of Islamic modernity and Islamic extremism will clash first in the social domain, followed by the political, and finally the military domain. Revolution, civil war, and economic despair will grip the entire Middle East.
The second sphere of terror will quickly follow the first and arrive concurrently with the third. This sphere will involve a move to wage war with Israel, which will drag the Middle East, and perhaps, other regions, into a nuclear holocaust. Islamic fervor will grip much of the Middle East in conjunction with a growing religious zealotry and intolerance by the far-right Christian Coalition in North America. The latter has recently made great strides in joining forces with Hindu militant groups in India, and the ultra-right regime led by Israel’s Ariel Sharon, much to the trepidation of Muslims around the world.
The third sphere will be what every historian, politician, church clergy and peace activist has been warning against in the past decade: a barbaric religious war.
Several signs have emerged in the past few years indicating that war in the Middle East (which will quickly spread around the world) will be a religious one:
1) Since 1948, Arab countries were virtually emptied of their Jewry. Most would immigrate to Israel. Consequently, all differences between the Arabs and Israel will not be viewed on a political level but rather on a religious level. Muslim versus Jew. Conservative writers in North America will misleadingly claim that the Quran calls for war against Jews. 2) To strengthen the notion that the coming war is between Muslim and Jew, Arab countries will witness a withering of their Christian communities. World media will scrupulously ignore this. Palestinian Christians are leaving Palestine to any country that will have them and are almost instantly granted visas. Iraqi Christians, since 1991, have been given precedence in applications for refugee status to the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Austria, and Canada, among others. This writer witnessed Iraqi Christians being treated like royalty at the American Embassy in Cairo, while ‘ordinary’ Iraqi Muslims had to wait out a prolonged process. Egyptian Copts are also ‘fleeing’ Egypt claiming religious persecution. Within a decade, the Middle East will be emptied of Christians.
Frightening, isn’t it? Perhaps, it is all fiction, the raving and ranting of a writer who fears the worst if Iraq is invaded. To be earnest, I pray that this is only a figment of my fearful imagination. I pray, too, that Junior’s war plans are halted by a massive mobilization of the world community and that Christian, Jew, and Muslim (let’s not forget Hindu, Buddhist, and others) realize their common heritage and humanity and learn to tolerate one another.
On the other hand, the world is in danger. Too many boundaries of international law have been breached and calls for improved human rights have become an irritant to the national security policies of world powers. From Chechnya to Afghanistan, Indonesia to Iraq, the U.S. to Brazil, human rights are ignored and trampled on. International terrorists display an equal disregard for the value of human life and lash out at whoever is at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I suspect 2002 will be the last year of relative peace.
I am reminded of Mark Twain's words: "Fame is a vapour, popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion".
I will not be celebrating the New Year.