Arabs betrayed the volunteers in Iraq
Khatoun Haidar The Beirut Daily Star
Their stories are tales of betrayal, bitterness, and despair. The moment they arrived in Baghdad, they sensed a lack of military readiness. No ditches, barricades, entrenchments, or mining, as one would expect in a city preparing for urban warfare. They were badly fed and badly equipped, and whenever they questioned the officers in charge the response was not to worry, “all is part of a general plan.”
Just not the plan they expected...
They witnessed the first incursion into Baghdad airport and swear that the battle was fierce and that the attacking forces had to retreat. The human costs in their ranks were tremendous. Then the Iraqis ordered them to retreat and to let the American forces in as part of an ambush plan. They complied reluctantly, but when they saw the officers discarding their military outfits for civilian clothes they understood that they were being betrayed so they stuck together and went into Baghdad seeking a way to return home.
The officers took off their uniforms, and they left the jihadis feeling naked...
The trip home was a new lesson in harsh reality. Some Iraqis generously helped them, and with the student ­ who had a substantial amount of cash ­ they were able to bribe their way out. Now safely home, they are in a state of shock, living with the daily memory of an army that did not fight and colleagues who lost their lives in yet another Arab defeat. Out of their despair I could see the lost hope of millions and the humiliation of a whole nation. I do not wish to generalize from such a small sample, but their feeling of betrayal has been echoed since the fall of Baghdad in all Arab literature and in almost each and every relevant discussion I had.
When you rush off to defend a bloody-handed dictator whose people hate him, why are you surprised when you lose your life in "yet another Arab defeat"? Perhaps if they'd rushed off to overthrow Sammy, instead of waiting for us infidels to do it, they'd have taken part in a glorious Arab victory. But that didn't seem very important at the time...
These men and many Arabs cannot comprehend the ineptitude of the Iraqi Army. The Iraqis understand. They have lived for many years under the brutal regime that nobody can defend or die for. The betrayal and failure is not that of the Iraqis or of these idealistic men who gave their lives for the mirage of freedom. The betrayal and failure is that of the Arab intelligentsia. These men prove that the Arab masses still have in them the will to give and sacrifice, they just need the leadership of “a class of well-educated articulate persons constituting a distinct, recognized, and self-conscious social stratum claiming or assuming for itself the guiding role of an intellectual, social, or political vanguard,” a textbook definition for an absent Arab intelligentsia.
They need to be regarded as people, as individuals, each with his own life, each with his own capabilities and aspirations, instead of as one of the millions, a faceless component of "the masses." Haidar's correct that they were betrayed, but it's not a lack of leadership by their betters. The Arab world, and the world at large, has had more than enough charismatic men on horseback. There have been too many 20-foot portraits of The Leader, too many rallies starring 100,000 ranting throats and clenched fists. The betrayal comes in the inability of "their betters" to accept the common man's (and to an even greater extent, the common woman's) worth. That's the legacy of Islam, perverted still further because it's coupled with a legacy of fascism.

Posted by: Fred Pruitt 2003-05-01