Sunday, May 18, 2003

Foreign Policy: Race and Iraq

Muhammad Al-Shibani, in his May 16th article "Iraq War: The Agenda Is No Longer Hidden", writes that "Arab governments and peoples are united in their abilities to forget. They have forgotten and abandoned a major Arab country which has now fallen under foreign occupation."

Never mind the ambiguity left in the rest of the article as to how exactly "they" have forgotten and abandoned Iraq (didn't Arab News run a number of articles before on aid such as medical assistance to Iraqis that the Saudi government was implementing?) Instead Al-Shibani automatically disapproves of American troops just for being "foreign" and makes an implicit call for loyalty along racial lines. Is race primary criteria to judge an occupying force? Is a ruthless tyrant of one's own race better than a freedom-promoting foreign army? Al-Shibani seems to think so.

The proper criteria to judge an occupying force or permanent government structure is not by the pigment of their skin, but by how fully and consistently the rulers respect and protect individual rights. Perhaps Al-Shibani and others who entertain similar racist thinking might want to compare the US-led coalition occupation with the growing body of knowledge of the horrors that their Iraqi "Arab brethren" in power committed against their other "Arab brethren" in subjugation.

To be fair though, thinking along racial lines is nothing peculiar to Arabs in the Middle East, but instead is a problem of global proportions and includes the thinking of many Americans. Where race continues to trump merit in hiring practices and university admission as mandated by the government, then individual rights are violated.

Perhaps both Arabs and Americans should abandon racial favoritism, and instead recognize the universal applicability of individual rights, regardless of the racial composition of those who first formulated or now implement these rights.

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