November 18, 2008

Chief Editor at Iraqi TV Channel: In an article published in the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph, Muhammad al-Ta’i, chief editor at the Basra-based liberal Iraqi satellite TV channel Al-Fayhaa, writes that the slogans promoted by Arab dictatorships have left their citizens traumatized. He concludes his article with a plea to leave slogans aside and to consider the true common good.

Following are excerpts from the article:(1)     

“Give a Dirham and Kill a Zionist!”

“‘Give a dirham and kill a Zionist!’ This slogan used to be inscribed on the walls of elementary schools in Iraq, like the Al-Mirbad Elementary School in Al-Khandaq and the Al-Futuwwa School in the Al-Jumhuriyya neighborhood in Basra.
“When I was young, I used to collect the requested dirham – which was 50 fils – by putting aside 10 fils each day from my daily allowance. This way, at the end of the week, I could give [the dirham] to the school, after I had deprived myself of eating the tasty sweet called burmah, settling for buying half a sambusa, or bread and chickpea soup for just 15 fils, in my attempt to implement the ‘nationalist’ slogan!
“When we grew up, learned, and became aware of the true facts, it didn’t take long before we discovered that this ‘nationalist’ slogan, like the others, was a lie. And so were the ‘Nationalist and Pan-Arab Education’ books that were distributed by the ruling Ba’th party in order to play with our feelings and emotions and to steal our dirhams – just as [the Ba’th party] stole our oil for four decades, while the pockets of those who proposed and inscribed the slogan were lined with our dirhams!”

“Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqis Disappeared Because of ‘Love of Nation'”

“The terms ‘collaboration,’ ‘[dirty] machinations,’ ‘treason,’ and, [on the other hand,] ‘the good of the nation,’ ‘nationalism.’ and ‘love of nation’ used to be repeated constantly, with only the government knowing the standards and principles that explained and governed them – the same government that sacrificed the entire people in the name of defending national unity. This is what the leader of the previous regime did in his wars in the name of nationalism – those ‘nationalist’ wars that were nothing but defense of the dictator’s throne.
“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis disappeared because of ‘love of nation,’ and millions emigrated in an attempt to save themselves from the dictator’s ‘nationalism.’
“This scene is still being repeated in many Arab countries. We would see the ‘citizens’ of these countries executed, arrested, and tortured for treason because they had (supposedly) made contact with foreigners. At the same time, the state-owned newspapers in those countries would write about the government’s ‘nationalism’ when they achieved some diplomatic victory – through a deal with that same country that [ordinary] citizens had been executed for having contacts with…”

People Were Left with “A Restricted Manner of Thinking Based on a Huge Number of Slogans”

“All of these contradictions left the citizens everywhere – and especially in Iraq – in a state of confusion. These contradictions cast them into a cultural crisis and a restricted manner of thinking based on a huge number of slogans…
“Perhaps the issue of accords with [other] states is the best example of this – especially those accords or understandings with the countries called ‘colonialist,’ or described as ‘imperialist.’ In general, these accords were depicted as treason, or those who signed them were accused of being foreign agents.
“This left the traumatized citizens with the following questions: Should the government of Qatar be considered treasonous and a collaborator in the eyes of its people, given that the U.S. has its largest military base there? Should Saudi Arabia be considered a collaborator because of its excellent and warm strategic relations with the U.S.? Is Jordan a collaborator and a traitor because of its direct relations with Israel? And should the same be applied to Egypt, the land of Arabism?…
“It is difficult to get clear answers to these questions, [given] the accumulation of slogans and the traumas the citizens receive from their governments. Thus, the citizen is afflicted with despondency, hopelessness, and terminological confusion – like between ‘nationalism’ and ‘collaboration,’ or between ‘sovereignty’ and ‘subservience [to foreign powers].’
“In this way, talk about sovereignty becomes preferable to attaining the good of the nation and of the citizens. The traumatized citizen does not know that [true] subservience [to foreign powers] is when his children starve and die of illness and become mentally disturbed due to poverty – while he walks on a sea of oil! And he doesn’t know that [true] independence is improved living standards, good education, and free quality health care…
“Let us leave the slogans to those who want to shout them repeatedly, so we can get back the dirhams that were stolen in the name of the slogan with which I opened this article – and likewise the dinars that are stolen every day under various designations and terms that are not much different than that slogan.
“This is just a call to think, far removed from the slogans and from the political and psychological traumas that the dictatorships produced [in the past] – and are still producing, to this day.”
(1), November 11, 2008;, November 10, 2008.