This article was first published by Arab News, January 7, 2006 and by the New York Post, January 8, 2006
The would-be ruler of an oil-rich Arab state is planning a policy reform that includes allowing girls to go to school, and signing an oil contract with
But who would want such an enlightened prince out of the way?
The answer given in" Syriana" the new Hollywood blockbuster starring George Clooney is simple: the murder was planned and carried out by the CIA, the dirty-tricks arm of the
But why would the
Again, the answer provided by the scriptwriters is straightforward: the
I saw the film in a pre-release showing in
According to an old saying one can never convince anyone who doesn't wish to be convinced. The makers of " Syriana" are preaching to the converted if only because an extraordinarily large number of Arabs are comfortable in the certainty of their victimhood. Long before "Syriana" hit the silver screen those Arabs were convinced that whatever misfortune has befallen them is due to some conspiracy by a perfidious Western power.
In North Africa where
Would it change anything if one were to remind the conspiracy theorists that none of the two dozen or so high profile political murders in the Arab world over the past century had anything to do with the
Let us start with
The list of Arab leaders murdered since 1900 is a long one. It includes six prime ministers, three kings, an Imam (of
That many Arabs should welcome the suggestion that their tragedies are due to evil doings by foreigners maybe understandable.
It is less so when so many Americans come together to make a film to portray their nation as evil incarnate. "Syriana" is not only about a single political murder. It also depicts the
So, why would any self-respecting American want to write or direct or play in " Syriana"? If the
One answer to why anyone might want to make such a film is, of course, the very American desire to make money. And as things stand today there is a large market for dissent in the
The truth is that there is a market for self-loathing in the
Here is how the incomparable Evelyn Waugh described the present American situation when the makers of " Syriana" were still nothing but glimmers in their daddies' eyes:
"There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable democratic society."
The reason is simple: in a stable democratic society in which you are protected by t law you can lie, cheat, and mislead, all in the name of political dissent, and be rewarded with fame and fortune.
The fact that the CIA is little more than a costly leaking device used by rival groups within the US establishment to lurch accusations and counter accusations at each other need not bother the makers of "Syriana". The CIA masters, for their part, would be pleased with "Syriana" if only because it claims that they can do anything at all!
The self-loathing party in the
The self-loathing party in the
First, it says that
Secondly, it tells the American people that all this talk about democracy is nonsense if only because major decisions are ultimately taken by a cabal of businessmen, and politicians and lawyers in their pay.
Lastly, and perhaps without realising it, the self-loathing Americans reduce the Arabs to the level of mere objects in their history. It is the almighty
Pretending to be sympathetic to the "Arab victims of American Imperialism", the film is, in fact, an example of ethno-centrism gone wild. Its message is: the Arabs are nothing, not even self-motivated terrorists, but mere puppets manipulated by us in the
By suggesting that the
Or, perhaps, it is not so amazing after all.
Adversaries in history often end up resembling each other. So it need not be surprising that the Arabs are learning the art of victimhood from the Americans while the Americans develop a taste for Arab-style conspiracy theories.