Jewish World Review April 8, 2003 / 6 Nisan, 5763
It's a mad, mad (Arab) world
DOHA, Qatar The war with Iraq has made Arabs really, really mad. Egypt's
top Muslim cleric has endorsed jihad against the United States, Reuters
reports, and hundreds of Egyptians have signed up to fight for Saddam
Don't count me among the terrified.
Arabs fight with their mouths. Arabs are big on symbolic victories, because
real ones are hard to come by. The last time an Arab army defeated a Western
army was when Salah al-Din recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. But that
was 1,000 years ago. And Salah al-Din was a Kurd, not an Arab. The Arab
record of being 0 for the last millennium is not going to improve in Iraq.
The fighting, such as it's been, in Iraq pretty much illustrates the Arab
way of war for the last 10 centuries: treachery, brutality toward the
helpless, cowardice in the face of the enemy and constant empty boasting.
Arabs bluster, then retreat.
A good example of this came last Saturday. A battalion of the Third Infantry
Division (Mechanized) launched a lightning raid into the heart of Baghdad,
driving up the main road from the south into the center of the city, then
leaving town on the main road coming in from the west. The battalion killed
between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and irregulars in the course of that
raid, at a cost of one U.S. soldier killed, three wounded and one Abrams
tank destroyed. After the raid, Iraqi irregulars crowded around the disabled
tank, mugging for the cameras of Arab TV. They shook their fists in the air,
fired off their Kalashnikovs and acted as if they had won a great victory.
In their minds, they had.
Arabs have a low threshold for what they consider courage. They think
abusing prisoners of war is brave. They think ambushing people under a flag
of truce is brave. But with Republican Guard units more likely to park their
tanks and walk away than to face American armor, I guess you have to take
your examples of Arab "courage" where you can get them.
One of the few failures of the Coalition so far has been an inability to
shut down Iraqi TV. I kind of hope the efforts continue to fail. I enjoy the
comic relief. In the unlikely event that Information Minister Mohammed Said
Sahhaf survives this war, he has a future as a guest host on "Saturday Night
Just hours before U.S. forces seized Saddam International Airport, Sahhaf
declared that there were no Coalition forces within 100 kilometers of
Baghdad. As the Third Infantry was conducting its raid on the center of
Baghdad, Sahhaf was declaring that the U.S. troops at the airport had been
wiped out by the Republican Guard.
The amazing thing is that there are millions of Arabs who still take Sahhaf
seriously. According to Al Jazeera and other Arab networks, Saddam's forces
have been moving from triumph to triumph. When it comes to anti-American
propaganda, you can sell Arabs the Brooklyn bridge not just once, but over
and over again.
But there is a limit to the gullibility of even the most gullible. Iraqis
who live in Baghdad have to feel the way Dorothy must have felt when she
pulled down the curtain concealing the Wizard of Oz. The Americans are 100
kilometers away, or wiped out, or running for their lives. So who are those
guys in the tanks around the presidential palace in the heart of Baghdad?
Some in the Arab world are starting to smell the coffee:
"As in earlier wars, the Iraq war is expected to leave the Arab world weaker
than it ever was," said the Riyadh Times of Saudi Arabia. "The rejoicing
over the handful of Anglo-American casualties and deifying of Saddam Hussein
are all clear reflections of Arab weakness in the face of the crisis."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly