We Should Refrain From Defending Our Enemies

We Should Refrain From Defending Our Enemies

By Adel Al-Toraifi

Arab News
The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily
Sunday, 9, April, 2006 (11, Rabi` al-Awwal, 1427)

Very few are capable of offering constructive criticism. It is the scale on which the loyalty of a citizen irrespective of his position could be measured. Does criticism or differing in opinion mean lack of loyalty?

While attempting to find an answer to this difficult question let me refer to two events that caught my attention last week. The first was Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Abdullah’s address to the Shoura Council’s opening session. The second was a news item about a Saudi woman’s plan to join the lawyers’ team defending Saddam Hussein. I want to discuss the second point first and show how short people’s memory can be.

Reem Al-Habib, 29, is a law graduate from Harvard working for a company in the west of the Kingdom. She joined the team of defense counsels of Saddam Hussein and seven of his henchmen who are on trial on charges of massacring 148 people in Dujail.

Reem has the freedom to work for any one she chooses. It is a matter of ethics. It is precisely based on the ethical aspect that I differ.

I want to make it clear that I am not justifying the American invasion of Iraq. I am speaking only from the Saudi point of view. She is, apparently, of a very short memory as most of the people in Saudi society are.

Since the US launched the war in Iraq, the Saudi society has been feeling sympathy for the Iraqi people. The sentiment is quite understandable but when you go to the extent of exonerating the brutalities of the Baathist regime it is something else .

A Saudi citizen’s decision to defend Saddam in the court and take a public stand justifying his reprehensible deeds in the Gulf War II including launching of 37 missiles against Saudi towns is mystifying. About 15,000 Saudis in Al-Khafji including women and children had to run for their lives under the missile attack. The war cost the Saudis $35 billion apart from killing 38 and wounding 175 people. Several families were left without their breadwinners. So it is very difficult to find the motive behind the Saudi lawyer’s passion for defending Saddam.

If she did it in search of glory then there are several other honorable ways to achieve it other than striving to offer to defend a former oppressor. If she is spurred by the objectionable American style of conducting the war she could have chosen to defend the Saudis falsely accused of financing terrorists in the US courts or the Saudi youths languishing in Guantanamo prison. At least Saddam is getting a fair trial though he used to deny a similar treatment to several prisoners in his jails.

One wonders why the Saudi lawyer has no pity for the dead Iraqis buried in mass graves or the living prisoners who dared to speak out against Saddam. Or she could have spoken for the rights of the Saudi citizens harmed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the civilians threatened with Scud missiles. Lebanese lawyer Bushra Al-Khalil is yet another proof of the falling standard of the legal profession in the Arab world.

Some Saudis studying abroad are too naive to resist the leftist habit of denying the heinous crimes committed by the Baathist regime. They claim that Saddam is not responsible for the Dujail massacre of 1982 because no official document is currently available to prove his complicity. Again, they argue that the mass graves unearthed at several places in Iraq had nothing to do with Saddam. The graves might have been the leftover from the Iran-Iraq war, they say.

The leftist academicians in the US also claim that there is no proof to blame Saddam gassing 5,000 Kurds in Halabja as he did not possess any chemical weapons.

The Arab intellectuals with leftist inclinations blame Iran for triggering the Iran-Iraq war. Based on a report of laboratory tests, an organization investigating war crimes has affirmed the responsibility of Saddam’s regime for the crime. The organization observed “ the absence of direct material evidence linking Saddam Hussein with the crime does not mean ignoring the fact of the discovery of 1,700 bodies there.”

Until April 2005, 260 mass graves were found at various locations proving the savagery of the Baathist regime. The shocking discovery prompted the Human Rights Commission to set up the Iraqi National Center to search for the missing. The Baath regime rendered 1.5 million Iraqis homeless; another million left their schools because their social rights were denied. About 3,500 people released by Saddam’s secret police had their tongues wrenched out and ears or hands amputated.

I had referred earlier to King Abdullah’s speech. In his keynote address to the Shoura Council last week, the king said: “We could not afford to remain frozen while the world around us is changing.” These words, according to political analysts, mean that the Saudi leadership is confident enough to admit its shortcomings and is on the road to rectify them. It is a great deed to offer the right advice when the country needs it.

Saudi women should make use of the ruler’s promise for reforms, change and liberalization. Reem should have rallied round the Saudi women who are unable to meet the cost of litigation instead of freely offering her services to the notorious Iraqi ruler who denied his people their due rights.

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Copyright: Arab News © 2003 All rights reserved.

About altoraifi
Al Toraifi is the current Editor-in-Chief of Al Majalla, the leading Arab magazine. A specialist on Saudi foreign policy, he is recognized as a commentator and participant in televised programs for CNN, NBC, BBC and Al-Arabia TV. Awarded the post-graduate International Conflict Prize 2008 from Kingston University for outstanding work, Mr Al-Toraifi is currently a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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