Standing Up to the West | Sojourners

Standing Up to the West

In a very short period, Iraq and its president have been able to generate strong emotions around the entire world. While most countries went to great lengths in standing up—economically, politically, and militarily—to Saddam Hussein after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, many Arab and Moslem peoples were emotionally touched by Hussein to the extent of signing up to fight alongside Iraq.

The conflict has produced one of the biggest communication gaps between East and West in recent years, with neither side able to understand the other. What is it that puts the sides so far apart, with so many Arab and Islamic peoples as emotionally supportive of Iraq as the rest of the world is opposed to and repulsed by what Iraq did?

The West saw in Saddam Hussein a disgusting dictator whose occupation of Kuwait was no more than a huge bank robbery. Westerners felt that if the world didn't stop him, they would regret it in much the same way they regretted not stopping Adolf Hitler earlier than they did. The oil connection is simply seen as a side issue by most people in the street in the West.

Arab nationalists, meanwhile, saw in Saddam the first Arab leader who was doing more than just talking about Arab unity, who wanted to distribute Arab oil wealth among Arabs; they saw a leader who was ready to help Palestinians end the Israeli occupation of their lands, and willing to stand up to the American "imperialist" who wanted to control Arab oil, and to foreign "infidels" who are desecrating Moslem holy land in Saudi Arabia—the cradle of Islam.

Understanding the history, economics, religion, and politics of the Middle East is crucial to understanding the Gulf crisis. The history of the Arab world including Iraq, of the Palestinian conflict, and of relations between the West and the Middle East are vital for developing a better knowledge of the reasons behind the positions of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world.

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