By Alan Caruba
I don’t pretend to be an expert on Arabs, Arab culture, or Arab history, but I do know a bit about our own as Americans. And that worries me.
While our American values are deep-seated and enduring, our short-term memories are such that we have to be severely provoked to call on them. We tend to forget the many attacks and abuses Americans have suffered at home and abroad at the hands of Arabs and others of the Muslim faith.
I was thinking about this while watching Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, greet the returning “hero” of the Lockerbie bombing that, in December 1988, killed all 259 passengers on board, many of whom were returning college students and eleven on the ground in Scotland. A large crowd showed up to cheer for Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.
As this is being written, all across the Arab world, this acknowledged Libyan intelligence officer is being portrayed as an innocent victim of the Lockerbie bombing; someone wrongly convicted of being part of the plot. That’s what the Arab press is saying. There is virtually no crime an Arab commits that cannot be explained away so long as it involves revenge for one of their long-standing grievances.
My mind went back to the images of the Palestinians who went in the streets when they heard news of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They, too, cheered.
In Somalia, in the wake of the Black Hawk helicopter that went down in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 some of our dead warriors were dragged through the streets while crowds cheered.
When news of the abuses at Abu Graib prison became known, Americans were outraged, but in prisons across the whole of the Middle East, such abuses and much worse are commonplace. American values, however, would not permit them to go unpunished.
For three decades, Saddam Hussein maintained rape rooms and executions proceeded without trials in Abu Graib and elsewhere within his prison regime. This does not excuse what a handful of American military did, but it does put it in some perspective.
By contrast, the detainees at Guantanamo have received humane treatment with the exception of those whose information served to protect and save American lives. Even our so-called “torture” methods (enhanced interrogation) do not leave those on the receiving end maimed or dead. Ironically, our pilots and other members of the military have been subjected to water-boarding in order to prepare them for this procedure if captured.
No, it is the cheers that bother me most. It is the joy that infuses Arabs and other Muslims celebrating the killing of Americans that is a reflection of some very bad values that have kept them despised for centuries. They are values embraced by those who join or support al Qaeda or the Taliban.
So, in the wake of the latest bombing in Baghdad, I was amused to see a man-in-the-street interview with an Iraqi who complained that the American soldiers had been withdrawn too soon. He wanted them and the security they provided back.
That is the case all over the world. Our military is seemingly never welcome until after they are gone and the same threats to peace in the streets and a nation occur again.
Then there is no cheering. Only pleas for our return.