March 23, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 196

An Egyptian Columnist Attacks Pro-Iraqi Arab Lobby

March 23, 2001
Egypt, Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 196

In recent months, several prominent Egyptian artists have visited Baghdad, met with Saddam Hussein, and given lengthy interviews praising Saddam to the Egyptian press. The liberal Egyptian columnist, Ridha Hilal, published an article denouncing this Arab pro-Iraqi lobby. Hilal's unequivocal criticism of the pro-Iraqi Arab lobby and of the Iraqi leader is unique.

Hilal begins by citing George Orwell who wrote that demagogues among intellectuals, artists, and politicians assault our minds and try to invent lies that seem reliable and criminal acts that seem respectable. Hilal's article continues:

"I had the misfortune of witnessing, as a journalist, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the Desert Storm war in 1991. When I left Cairo, the Iraqi Lobby was singing praises of Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, who would liberate Jerusalem via Kuwait. I saw with my own eyes Saddam's Republican Guard invading the state of Kuwait and trying to wipe it out off the world map. I will not forget the corpses of the Kuwaiti and Arab casualties and the injured in front of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense and in the emirate palace... I will not forget the looting and plunder and the sight of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, Arabs, and Asians who were expelled from their jobs and homes to the unknown desert, fatigued, on their way back to their countries."

"I was aching for Baghdad, the great Arab capital, when the missiles from American planes and ships attacked it on January 17, 1991. However, the spirit was encouraged by the hope that the end of the war would bring the end of the dictator who had cast his people and army to a war with Iran that lasted eight years and cost the lives of 400 thousand Iraqis; used chemical weapons to annihilate tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds; caused the death of a hundred thousand Iraqis as a result of the siege against his great country; and [caused] six million Iraqi refugees and exiled to flee as a result of the adventure of invading Kuwait."

"After Desert Storm there was hope that this was the end of the dictator; that in Baghdad a new pluralistic and humane regime would appear; and that the lobby that has caused us headaches many times with slogans such as 'the Hero of Al-Qadisiyya,' 'the Guard of the Eastern Gate,' and 'the Awesome Commander Who Will Liberate Jerusalem,' will collapse."

"However, the war ended, and the dictator remained. He suppressed the uprisings of the Shiites in the South and the Kurds in the north. He has used the children of Iraq as shields for his steadfastness and in order to evoke the world's sympathy. He activated the lobby in the television and newspapers-for-hire and among the artists who pursue political jobs and box-offices, in the name of the children of Iraq..."

"The 'Iraqi lobby' demands that we believe lies and respect a criminal act. This is the essence of demagogy, as George Orwell already put it."[1]

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 8, 2001.

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