Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ineffective Communication (III)

First of all it should be clear that Iraqis, just like many communities in the globe, are fascinated by the American society. Still, they know very little about how the US became a super power. The US for the Iraqis is a spectrum ranges between the troops touring our streets and Hollywood productions, and the first image of America evoked by Iraqi unconscious is the ugly Yankee. It is the product of an Arab-nationalism, religious, tribal, totalitarian society. A society which is governed by illogical way of reasoning.

Personally, I had a vague image about American individuals, since I had never had a real experience of interaction with non-Iraqis till March 2003. Saddam’s regime considered it a matter of espionage and treason. In addition, heavy security regulations and poor income per capita made it impossible for the Iraqis to go abroad. The result was, and maybe still, a segregated society symbolized by an Iraqi skeptic character filled with mistrust of strangers.

It was my transistor radio, before March 2003, which helped me to discover what was going on in the abroad world. It was a real struggle trying to listen to abroad radio stations with all kinds of Iraqi jamming frequencies. As an example, which I had posted about once, is hearing about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I was not able to lay an eye on a copy of it before 2003.

Thanks to the internet for making it possible to gain American pen pals and through them I learned something about Americans as individuals. I discovered that Americans do not differ from us as persons who have their own family problems and everyday life matters. One of my American pen pals grows vegetables in the backyard, just like me, putting extra product in boxes to be sold by her kids in front of the house. But the Americans have wonderful humanitarian feelings which we lack; another American pen pal has an adopted girl of Indian origin. The little girl has some defect in her arms (handicapped) which made me to highly praise the lady. I learned from this lady many lessons; first is tolerance towards people of different complexion, second is willingness to serve handicapped persons, third is the quantity of love this lady has…etc. What I am trying to say is:
“Show the Iraqis another face of America. The face of the average American citizen. Try to establish contact with the average Iraqi citizen. Don’t tell me it’s the Iraqis duty, since the Iraqis are mentally and economically exhausted for which they are unable to take the initiative”.

It is important to work on a long term-program to establish a pro-liberalism class in the Iraqi society.

In the short term, the US administration have to support an (anti) anti-Americanism media campaign led by Arab liberal figures. Liberal Arab writers, thinkers, journalists, academicians, clerics…etc have to confront and undermine the Arab’s way of thinking. Such work needs means. The US should provide them with these means. One of these means is Al-Hurra satellite channel sponsored by the US government. Still, the kind of programs introduced by this channel is not sufficient.

Few Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims know something about the US history or that of England & Europe. There is a total ignorance about the struggle of these nations to achieve what they have achieved. Making the history of Man available to the Arabs & Iraqis may help in changing their way of viewing the West. Uttering (US) provokes words like Red Indians, Vietnam, Israel, imperialism…etc in any Iraqi mind. Very few Iraqis can make an association between the US and League of Nations, UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, peoples self determination…etc.

Another project could be a scheduled visits (educational) for Iraqi students to the US & UK (something similar to Fulbright Program). Iraqi students (excellent in English for example) may compete to win a visit to the states. A visit of one month to learn about the US history, branches of the government, judicial system, scientific achievements…etc. In addition, Iraqi students may meet American students, American Muslims, visit mosques, churches, synagogues, libraries, museums, hospitals, universities, theaters…etc. and listen to lectures about how all this civilization has been built.

The number of Iraqi students to join such trip and its repetition may depend on the funds could be raised. Choosing these students from different Iraqi districts will help in spreading a new way of thinking among the Iraqis. It will help in reconnecting Iraq with the world after three decades of being besieged.

American political, religious & social research centers may invite Iraqi tribal leaders and clerics to change the way they view the American people. Iraqi civil community activists might be trained in some other ways.

It is an American-Iraqi joined effort to make positive change. And the US has to go to the end of the road; otherwise it would be a catastrophe for the region and the world. Much more endeavor has to be made to accelerate work and to fill up or to bridge the ‘big gap that crosses that ocean’ between the US and our society.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Call

I received the following Email. And by posting it, I hope that it would contribute in calling for an end to the suffering of Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich:

Dear Bloggers,
we would like to ask you for your help. We are the friends and colleagues of Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich from Germany. Thomas and Rene are held hostage in Iraq since January 24th. For a long time already we have no sign of life from them. We would like to spread our appeal in Iraq for the release of our friends. If you want to know more please visit www.wehope.de.
At the weekend native football teams have shown their solidarity with Thomas and Rene. Every Monday and Thursday we meet in Leipzig to hold a peace prayer and a solemn vigil.
Please write about our friends and the website www.wehope.de in your blogs. You will also find pictures from the event with the football team and the solemn vigils on this website.
Thanks a lot!
Karin Berndt and Peter Bienert on behalf of the friends of Thomas and Rene.

Try to pass on the call.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ineffective Communication (II)

The opinion article about the BBC/Arabic spotlights a sense of bias could be felt in the editing policy of the Arabic staff. The writer says:
“The tendency and philosophy of the BBC implies an intended idea which introduces the US as the axis of evil, sin, and wrongdoing…Such policy provides the old pattern of Arab culture with an excuse for its failure and incompetence.This perspective put the blame for the failure on ‘The Other’ shoulders. The other in the present-day is the US.”

On the other hand, the Americans keep on introducing raw material for the anti-American propagandists. Regardless the matter of transparency, revealing stories like Abu Ghraib pictures or giving statements like the one by Secretary Condoleezza Rice at
Chatham House on March 31, 2006
when she said:

“So my point to you is that yes, I know we've made tactical errors -- thousands of them, I'm sure.”

The sentence is extracted from the whole text so that it gives another meaning. No Arab propagandist referred to other ideas said by Secretary Rice in the same lecture, like:

“The criticism assumes that human beings are slaves to their culture, not the authors of it. Liberal democracy is unique because it is both principle and process…And we must support the millions of Iraqi patriots who are striving nobly to redeem their country.”

Abu Ghraib, Secretary Rice statement, and many other issues debated in democratic societies like of the US, represent good material for the Arab nationalists to harp on. Dr. Shaker Nabulsi, a liberal Jordanian writer, says that the American-Iraqi project of democracy is confronted by the Egyptian media machine and Saudi funds.

Drawing a devilish portrait of the US is so easy in the Middle East, since the governing conflict is the Palestinian cause. The following cartoon, by Moayad Nimma, may summarize how the peoples of the region view the US attitude toward the Palestinians in particular and the Arabs in general:
The group of people which works hard to regain power in Iraq is free to move in every direction, since there are no moral or ethical principles limit their deeds. They follow the same policies of Saddam era by terrifying the majority. It makes use of the rules enforced by the Americans in Iraq of being free to speak. Recruiting every Arab nationalist medium to exaggerate every mistake made by the US is the pivot around which this propaganda rotates. On the other hand they threaten anybody who tries to say a word in favor of democracy or the US. It is not easy, or impossible, to say publicly a word of thank to the US people for their contribution in overthrowing Saddam. I can say that the majority of the Iraqis feel grateful to the US, but no one can express it openly.

What I’m trying to say that these speeches delivered by President Bush have no effect on our societies compared to the Arab nationalism propaganda. Mr. Bush effort alone is not sufficient to bridge the ‘big gap that crosses that ocean’ as described by Shmeem Rassam to President Bush. One may ask: any idea?

To be continued…

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ineffective Communication (I)

President Bush discussed (Democracy in Iraq with Freedom House) on March 29, 2006. An Iraqi-American lady, attending the speech, pinpointed what she called a ‘big gap that crosses that ocean’. Shmeem Rassam, the lady’s name, is a significant figure in Iraq. She is one of the Iraqi intelligentsia. I can recall when she was a very active TV producer and a sophisticated journalist before she went into exile. Such persons were unwanted in a society which Saddam was working hard to create. A society which rejects liberals like Shmeem Rassam. She is a real Iraqi patriot since she had never abandoned, in exile, the Iraqi people’s cause. She came back to Iraq after 2003 and participated in establishing the Iraqi governmental TV (Iraqi Media Network). There is a lot to be said about this wonderful lady, but let’s go back to what she called the big gap.

Addressing Mr. Bush, she said:
“These are beautiful messages (referring to the president’s speeches), yet there's a big gap that crosses that ocean. It never gets to the Iraqi, to the simple man, Iraqis facing despair, disillusionments, all kinds of things. I speak to Iraqi friends and families on daily basis. This is what their message is. We hear of these things, but we don't see it. It doesn't get to us… It doesn't reach them in any kind of media, unfortunately. So how can we do that? I've been wondering about this, and you are the only person, I think, who can maybe do something… Talk to someone, talk to the Iraqi, relay that message that we are honest, we have great beliefs, and we want to do something.”
Very sincere words, asking the President to fill this gap. A gap which I can describe as a ‘media space’ for which two different ways of thinking are struggling. The first is the American one; the second is the Mideastern.

In the Mideast, we are obsessed by ‘conspiracy theory’. I do not know how it became a dominating way of thinking, but it is there in every Iraqi mind. So it is easier for the anti-Americanism to take control of this media space, since it knows how to address Iraqis, Arabs & Muslims. This space is just like no-man’s-land in which one side works hard on placing mines. This side consists of different media means which insinuate anti-American terms. It is the Arab nationalism lingo which we have heard for decades. A demagogic language based on an idea of hating and eliminating ‘the other’. The other is the cause of every unpleasant event descended upon our nations.

When Ayatollah Khomeini says that US is the ‘great Satan’ it demolishes all what the US achieved of many years of work to win minds & hearts of the Iranians. And it is a matter of pride, for peoples of this region, when President Bush calls (Iraq-Iran-N.Korea) the axis of evil. In the same way, Saddam or insurgents should be respected and glorified since they can harm the Americans (the other); no matter how more times they harm their own people.

This anti-American ideology focuses on harming rather than serving, to be feared rather than respected. An Iraqi columnist, Al-Sabah newspaper, wrote:
“It seems that all what we yearn for is to defeat the US, no matter what would happen to our people. So we are talking about the US being defeated in Lebanon & Somalia, but no one ever asked about what happened in those countries after the ‘US defeat’…”
The writer scorns the perverted way of our thinking. Words of such journalist and hundreds like him could be easily wiped out by a half literate cleric delivering a vehement religious sermon. Any opportunist adopting a radical Arab nationalism speech can blow up lot of hard work.
I try to trace the language used in Arab media, and I can say that there is lots of offensive terms are used. As an example, when Jill Carroll released she said, in the first hours, that her kidnappers had treated her in a good way. This catchphrase kept on rolling in the news bar of Al-jazeera TV for hours as if someone trying to say that we, the kidnappers, are good people. Nobody paid attention to the fact that detaining an innocent human is against any religious, humanitarian, moral values. The image of good slayers is being reinforced deep in the unconscious of the Iraqis, Arabs, and Muslims.

Another TV channel, Al-nahrain, broadcasted something about a discussion taking place, in Japan, dealing with the Japanese troops role in Iraq. The astonishing matter was the news film, from the TV station archive, accompanying the script. It showed a bunch of demonstrators in Samawa, where the Japanese are posted, throwing stones at the Japanese and angered individuals punching, kicking Japanese armored vehicles.

Baghdad TV of the Iraqi Islamic Party edits its news like this: “Now to another issue, the armed operations against the American occupying troops of today caused the death of (xx) Iraqis….” though the editors know that large numbers of Iraqis are killed by insurgents and ordinary criminals.

Even the BBC/Arabic editors, one can smell their bias. I had several questions about their work. An opinion article about the BBC/Arabic policy, of two parts published in Al-Sabah newspaper recently, drew my attention to other matters. The article entitled “Mounting Trojan horse, Lawrence of Arabia is a general manager of the BBC” was written by Jumaa Abdullah Mutlak.

To be continued…