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Comes A War – A Perspective From Saudi Arabia

Comes A War

By John Cory
t r u t h o u t correspondent in Saudi Arabia
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 15 January 2003

This morning's Arab News ran two headline stories: "Prince Abdullah Sees No War On Iraq" and just below that: "US Steps Up Military Buildup in Gulf."

In the first story Prince Abdullah is quoted as saying, "We are seeing fleets and concentration (of troops) in the region but I have a strong feeling that there won't be a war." Further in the article the crown prince is quoted as saying, "As you know, Iraq is dear to us. Its people are our people, they are a precious part of the Muslim and Arab nation," he said. "If the United Nations, God forbid, takes the decision to declare war (on Iraq), the Arabs will have only one request, that is to be given a chance to talk with Iraq about a solution capable of preventing a war."

Prince Abdullah may not see a war coming, but much of the everyday Arab citizens from Saudi to Dubai and the U.A.E to the rest of the Arabian Peninsula do. At least that is my experience. Or perhaps the Prince's connections to the Bush administration have told him something the rest of the world doesn't know - yet.

A few days ago in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper, Toby Harnden wrote that Richard Perle indicated the U.S. would not delay the war until autumn and was prepared to launch military action without further United Nations authorization. He quoted Perle as saying, "I'm assuming that we will not get a consensus on the Security Council but it may be possible to get. It would be a great mistake to become dependent on it and take the view that we can't act separately. That would be an abrogation of the president's responsibility."

I'm just a working stiff here in the Middle East, and I have no political or royal contacts. I deal with the average Arab citizen on a daily basis and in my travels, so most of what I hear comes from the streets, not the palaces. But it is these very folk, regardless of country, who pay the price for a government's drum beating march to war. It is always the people, poor and middle-class who pay the bill of bombs, not the leaders, corporations, or the privileged.

My Egyptian, Jordanian, Pakistani and Afghani co-workers all have theories was to why the U.S. craves this war. There are as many theories as there are sands of the desert. Some say it is all about oil, getting, controlling, owning; others say it is the arrogance of a super power that wants to own the entire world; and still others say it is about revenge and anti-Islam prejudice.

I was in Dubai recently and met an elderly gentleman who admitted to being 90 or around that age. He was a Bedu of unspecified origins, saying only that he "belonged to the desert before there were borders." I spent some time in his company and of course the coming war was one of several topics we discussed. He said, "War is the violent rejection of words in favor of weapons. It eliminates debate and negotiation by offering only death and submission. War is the tool of weak men to make themselves appear strong."

His reasoning of America's impending war on Iraq was based on a combination of factors that he believes are the drivers of current American politics. "How is it that this fellow Bush, ignores the Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel while preaching about freedom loving people in need of release from the evil Saddam? Surely the violence between these two is as evil as anything in Iraq. Yet he chooses to focus on a starving and weak nation. Why? Because this is not a war about terrorism, or Al-Qaeda, or even oil. This is the opportunity to create a foothold in the Arab world and establish control of first one Arab country and then another. To influence the politics and economies of all the Middle East in order to bring about the elimination of the Muslim establishment, and to expand the power of both America and Israel over all Arabs. The benefit package that comes with this is the control of oil, the threat of nearby military intervention against anyone who objects, and the beginnings of American colonization for the benefit of the empire of the United States."

It is important to understand that here, Arabs from various countries are as different as American Southerners are from New Englanders, but in the end, an American is still an American, and an Arab is still an Arab. It is understood that Arabs from Jordan do not care for Arabs from Saudi, and Saudis do not care for Arabs from Yemen etc.; but the bottom line is that a war on one Arab country will become a war on all Arabs sooner or later.

Arabs see a double standard by America. As my elderly friend pointed out, "Your American media covers government protests all around the world, except in your own country. America says it is about freedom but it ignores its people who are against this war. How can we as Arabs expect to be treated fairly when you do not treat your own citizens fairly? Your government calls Saddam an evil man, yet it was America who gave him the weapons of mass destruction and turned a blind eye when he killed the Kurds. Which by the way is an inaccurate statement to say that he killed his own people. The Kurds were his enemy. How many dictators has America supported over the years, despite its constant refrain of freedom and democracy?"

We sat together on a red sand dune watching the sun go down over the desert. It is a beautiful sight to experience as the sun changes from a bright yellow flare to a dusty orange dot on the distant horizon.

After a period of contemplative silence, my Bedu friend asked, "How many Arab lives equal an American life?" Comes a war, I suppose we will learn.


John Cory is a writer for

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