A morning office conversation!
I just finished having a very interesting conversation with W., one of my co-workers at the company that pays me good money so I can not do my job and post here instead. Hmm… W. is the son of a former Egyptian diplomat, who lived his teenage years in Iraq and Chile and the majority of his twenties in the states where he went to college and later on worked for a big Multinational company. He then decided at some point of his life that he never really adjusted to life in the States and that he would rather live in Egypt, so he packed his bags and moved back here. He has been living here for about 10 years now, married, has kids and he doesn’t regret his choice one bit. He truly loves this country, which is something I really respect about him (despite popular belief of some of my Egyptian/Arab readers, I do really love Egypt). He has also grown to be quite the Islamic scholar, but never chooses to impose his views or give unsolicited advice or fatwas of any kind. And while we don’t see eye to eye on many many things, he is a great person to argue and debate with, mainly because he actually debates his point of view and backs it up. You know, the kind of person you could actually have intelligent discourse with? Anyway….. The topic of debate today was based on a question that I posed to him concerning the upcoming Iraqi elections. He is of the view that the United States is going to stay there for the long haul, partly because he believes that was their intention in the first place, and partly because he believes that they didn’t adequately plan for the post-invasion period. We may disagree on the first, but we did agree on the second, cause even the biggest war supporter would agree that there were some mistakes and some missed opportunities by the U.S. administration. But then again, vision is always 20/20 in hindsight, and I am not one for crying over spilled milk. Hmm, what was I talking about again? Ohh, right, the question! My question to him was basically this: “Let’s assume that the January 30th democratic elections in Iraq goes without a hitch, and that a new democratically elected Iraqi government is born that would be composed of all Iraqi factions. And after that happens, and Iraq becomes relatively stable, they ask the Americans to leave and the American forces pack up and leave the country. What kind of effect do you think that would have on the average Egyptian/ Arab - who believes the Iraqi invasion to be a Zionist ploy or an American imperialist venture- when it comes to his own views concerning the U.S.? Do you think that they would actually look at a democratic Iraq and think to themselves that maybe- just maybe- they have misjudged the Americans and their intentions?” His answer to me, simply , was: “Not a chance in hell!” To which I asked: “why?” His reply was: “Because of the Arab dignity issue. If this – very doubtful scenario due to the recent bombings- actually ever happens, they will make sure to strip away any kind of credit from the Americans. They would attribute the reason for which the Americans evacuated Iraq to notions of how the Iraqi resistance was kicking their asses and how they left after the elections because it was their first chance to cut and run while saving face. There is no way that the Arabs would give any credit to the Americans cause then it would conflict with their view of it as the enemy and the source of all their problems and defeats. Not to mention it would mean that the Americans were right to go into that war and that the Arabs were wrong about it, and arabs can’t have that!” That answer, seriously, left me speechless for a couple of minutes because of how impressed I was with the points it raised. How could I possibly not have seen that? Could it be that I am too idealistic to think that Arabs would be this cynical and unfair in their view in case this thing ends up being a success? Did I really think that- if this scenario ever came true- they would all just admit that they were wrong and then maybe, just maybe, would want the same for themselves? What’s wrong with me? Have I forgettn my Egyptian history all of a sudden? You see, the reason why I am bringing Egyptian history into this discussion is because it contains a very real example that would support W. answer, and that is what the Egyptian authorities did after getting Sinai fully back from the Israelis after the Camp David peace treaty. The Israelis, during the period of occupation of Sinai, had managed to build a couple of things all over Sinai: You know, built a couple of towns and outposts with houses and streets and everything, built a couple of Hotels ( including the taba Hilton that was destroyed in the taba attacks), and actually drilled and found 3 rich oil wells. When the Egyptians took the land back, the first thing they did was destroy all the houses and the outposts that the Israelis built, with the exception of a couple of hotels and the oil wells. The reason? So that people wouldn’t come here and see the good houses or towns that the Jews built. There has to be little or no evidence on Sinai that the Jews occupied that land at all, not to mention put it in any good use whatsoever, even if it meant destroying perfectly good houses and towns. “What, and people can look and say that the Jews put this land in better use then we do? Can’t have that! They might start asking us to follow their model of building or something. Nope, they came to this land when it was nothing but desert and it will return to being desert after they are gone. Gotta remove all evidence of their tainted presence”! Me, I would’ve taken those towns and kept them, alongside the hotels and the oil wells. Call it reperations, call it invasion tax, whatever! I would’ve sold them to Egyptians and had some of them move there, and maybe expand those cities a little bit. The reason why Sinai was invaded so easily was due to the lack of Egyptians who live there. Maybe it would be a good idea to start populating the area, this way if anything in the future would happen, we would have some presence there or something. The Israelis follow that lesson plan; it’s why they start building towns and outposts the minute they take over a piece of land. You know, establish some strategic presence in the area. But no, we can’t do that! That’s what the Jews do. You want us to admit that they have some good ideas worth emulating or something? That would be giving them credit, and no self-respecting patriotic Egyptian would give credit to those Jewish dogs! What’s wrong with you? You must be a self-hating Arab or something! Sigh… So, in conclusion my American friends, don’t be surprised if you don’t end up getting any kind of credit if this thing actually goes well. Even if everything goes well and as planned, and you actually end up leaving after getting the job finished, you should know that all the credit will go to the Iraqis, and none of it will be given to you. Instead, you will be labeled as cowardly failed imperialists who couldn’t take the heat or handle the daily ass-kicking handed to you by the courageous heroic Iraqi resistance. Just so you wouldn’t be surprised or anything! You know?