Good Intentions Perhaps, But What Were They Thinking?

By Farish A. Noor

There are blunders and there are blunders. There are blunders that are done
out of ignorance and are, upon hindsight, pardonable. But there are also
blunders that tell us more about the blunderers themselves and are at best
laughable and at worse deplorable.

The recent fiasco to come out of the deserts of Iraq falls in the latter
category and tells us a lot about the thinking going on among the real
powers-that-be in Iraq today; namely the Americans. When American soldiers
dropped footballs to Iraqi children from their attack helicopters, few of
them realised what the repercussions might be. Little did they realise that
not every Iraqi — football crazy some of them might be — would be all that
happy to receive free footballs with the flags of the world on them, when
one of those flags happen to be that of Saudi Arabia with the Kalimah, or
Muslim declaration of faith, on it.

Needless to say, some of the less tolerant Iraqi clerics were not about to
take the matter lightly as they pointed out that the footballs would have
been kicked around, and at some point or another an Iraqi child was more
than likely to kick the Saudi flag and thus the Kalimah as well. Tempers
flared, the footballs were confiscated by irate Muslims and the Americans
have once again had to flee the scene with egg on their face.

One should not go so far as to accept the claim that this was yet another
deliberate attack on Islam and insult to Muslims. After all if the Americans
wanted to insult Muslims they have other means to do so, like bombing their
countries back to the middle-ages and reducing their capitals to burning
embers. The likelihood was that this was a public relations move that went
embarrassingly wrong, to the detriment of all concerned- not least the
children of Iraq who could do with some decent toys to play with after more
than half a decade of civil strife and the daily horror of having to live in
a country torn apart first by a foreign invasion and now by increasing
sectarian violence.

However one needs to ask the obvious question: Who on earth advised the
Americans on this move, and did nobody check to see if the Saudi flag was on
the ball itself? This leads one to suspect that the grand plan to bring
about regime change and stability to Iraq is and has always been an in-house
matter, where all decisions from grandest to the most trivial are the
exclusive purview of the self-proclaimed ‘liberators’ of Iraq. Was not a
single Muslim consulted on the matter, or do the opinions and advice of
Muslims no longer count in the calculation of the Americans when dealing
with the Iraq issue?

Faced with this latest debacle, one can only sympathise with the plight of
the Iraqi government and the leader of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who
in his latest outburst has asked the Americans to come to their senses and
realise the limits to America’s own power in the region.

The leaders of Iraq have asked again and again for the USA and the
International community to heed their advice and opinions, and have warned
that by encouraging the political activism of the component groups and
religious communities of the country they risk tearing Iraq apart. Now, with
a government that is almost devoid of support from the Arab Sunni
communities, it would appear as if Prime Minister Maliki’s warnings have
come home to roost and the situation in Iraq can only deteriorate further.

The ridiculous farce that is the so-called ‘football controversy’ is just
another instance in a long catalogue of blunders and errors that could have
been avoided had the USA and international community give a modicum of
credit to the ground-level intelligence and experience of the politicians of
Iraq, who have, after all, been living in the country long before the
Americans were flown in by helicopters. Yet as many observers have noted,
empires with long-term overreach ambitions seldom heed the advice of others,
and seldom still learn from their own mistakes in the past. One is reminded
of the sentence from the film ‘Apocalypse Now’, when the narrator wryly
notes: “We shoot them up and bomb them, then we give them band-aids”.
Dropping footballs from helicopters can only serve as a PR stunt at best
when the Iraqis know that those very same helicopters can also rain death to
the enemies of the United States. How many more blunders will it take before
the administration in Washington realises that it can only bring about a
peaceful solution and a safe exit from Iraq if and when it takes the Iraqis
themselves into confidence? Free footballs do not a liberation movement
make, and when those footballs carry the Kalimah on them as well then the
stakes in the game can only be raised higher.

  1. #1 by toniXe on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 9:18 am

    why ! power rules ok , & absolute power rules absolutely !
    So what can anybody do ?

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 12:03 pm

    There were many flags on the football. You could be kicking the U.K. flag, U.S. flag, Brazilian flag, etc. and yes, you could be kicking the Iraqi flag as well. But of course the Saudi flag has the Kalimah on it so its a no-no as you could be kicking it as well.

    But if Saudi flags get dirty, how would you clean it, Kalimah and all without being accused of trying to wash away the Kalimah? Do you throw away the flag then? Burn it? Bury it? Same accusations might be thrown at you. Questions, questions, questions. How do you get around this?

    So we would be having a big problem here. The fact that the Americans were behind this good gesture just gave some the excuse to hantam them, not that their excuse was not valid.

    It is a matter of how you want to intepret things, how “sensitive” you are, what your agenda is and how mischievious you want to be, just as in Namewee’s case. If you want to “cari gaduh”, you will always find an excuse to quarrel. Its really very easy.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 1:46 pm

    From what we can see from the news, the Iraqis are damn cowards who surrendered their motherland after a token resistance lasting merely a few days in 2003. Their cowardly leader, rather than committing suicide, hid himself in an underground hole and was captured and hanged like a common thief. The Sunnis prefer to kill off their fellow Shite and Kurdish countrymen (easier targets?) rather than chase the American invaders from their soil. At least the Afghan Taliban fight better than the ball-less Iraqis.

    Had the Vietnamese fought the way of the Iraqis, North and South Vietnam would today be the 52nd and 53rd states of the US. I am sure the Iranians will put up a much fiercer resistance than Iraq should the Americans invade Iran.

  4. #4 by ablastine on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 8:55 pm

    I can feel the palpable hatred for America all around. Say did the Americans really invade Iraq. The last I heard the newly installed Iraqi Government wanted them to stay for a while longer so that they have time to sort things out. Did they send their soilders to rape and plunder like the Japanese did in Nanking, China? Did they drop a few atomic boms there to flatten the country then take over the oil fields when the atomic dust settles. No they just drop footballs for the Iraqis children to play and still the trouble makers are able to pick a fight with that. Don’t think the Bush administration and US public relish sending they own sons there to die at a rate of 5-10 a day. But they still persevere. For WHAT? I think if we did not have a strong America led by able and resolute men, we would probably be writing German or Japanese now. I am not so ready to condemn America or even George Bush himself. Whether right or wrong they are able to mobilise a nation, the most powerful nation on earth for the moment, to support a cause they believe is right. And they pay for it with the BLOOD of their children. Try asking China to do that and see what response you get. Assuming they are only partially right and the oil producing nation of the world could not backmail the rest of the world with cut throat prices, who benefit? The world of course and that includes us. If the Iraqis finally can settle their sectarian conflict and bring about national reconciliation and with it stability, who will benefit? The Iraqis themselves and again the world. We actually may inadvertently be the beneficiaries of America’s ‘adventurism’ as many may like to put it. In the end the Iraqis are the best people to decide whether hey are better off with the Americans coming to their land to stir things up for them, not us. I have a hunch that if the Americanpull out of Iraqis anytime earlier than they need to, we will be talking about Talibanisation of our country, not Islamisation very soon.

  5. #5 by dawsheng on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 - 10:28 pm

    It is not the intentions, it is the reaction! Conclusion, in Iraq, a ball with flags is not a ball!

  6. #6 by k1980 on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 - 12:49 pm

    Record of prominent Republicans who avoided the draft but send other people to die in war:

    * Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
    * Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
    * Tom Delay: did not serve.
    * Roy Blunt: did not serve.
    * Bill Frist: did not serve.
    * Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
    * Rick Santorum: did not serve.
    * Trent Lott: did not serve.
    * John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
    * Jeb Bush: did not serve.
    * Karl Rove: did not serve.
    * Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
    * Vin Weber: did not serve.
    * Richard Perle: did not serve.
    * Douglas Feith: did not serve.
    * Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
    * Richard Shelby: did not serve.
    * Jon Kyl: did not serve.
    * Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
    * Christopher Cox: did not serve.
    * Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
    * Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
    * George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
    * Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non- combat role making movies.
    * John McCain: Vietnam POW, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
    * Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
    * Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
    * Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

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