Clinton Takes on the Muslim World

A.R.M. BABU

June 30, 1993|By A.R.M. BABU

Yesterday the target was General Aidid of Somalia, today Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Tomorrow it could be General Bashir of Sudan, followed by that popular punching bag Colonel Kadafi of Libya.

All these alleged ''terrorists'' happen to be in the Third World. All are Muslims and members of the Arab League. Is this just a coincidence or are they simply the most convenient targets whenever a U.S. president wants to boost his sagging popularity at home?

To many in the Third World, Washington's latest act of aggression against Iraq is simply state terrorism, no matter what the legal pretext.

Meanwhile, Muslims are being massacred in Bosnia in violation of international law and morality. Although the U.N. passed several resolutions condemning these acts of terrorism, neither Europe nor the U.S. has dared to take any decisive action against the aggressors.

U.S. officials have long plotted openly to assassinate President Saddam Hussein (and Cuba's Fidel Castro before him). Yet no world body has deemed this a crime worthy of punishment. The U.S., meanwhile, has decided to punish Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence. The accused have yet to be convicted of their alleged crime of plotting to kill ex-President Bush.

Was it ignorance that led Mr. Clinton to resort to this precipitate act which will only further fuel the Islamic revival the West so fears? Was it the ''arrogance of power?'' Or was it just a desperate desire to boost popularity at home at the expense of Iraqi civilian lives? Any one of these reasons is deplorable and unworthy of a great power in this day and age.

Are we Muslims nothing more than expendable material to be killed or maimed at the whim of a U.S. president in need of proving himself ''decisive?''

When Mr. Clinton came to power many people around the world anticipated a new administration more empathetic toward the weak abroad. But while President Bush carried out aggression with a certain finesse, first building consensus among his allies, President Clinton's amateurish acts have appalled even the U.S.'s most loyal Arab allies.

In all likelihood President Hussein will emerge once again from this onslaught as a popular leader in Iraq and a hero in the Muslim world. Every innocent Iraqi killed will be viewed as a martyr by millions of Muslims, and may help recruit thousands more to the cause of Islamic political revival.

The U.S. raid could not have come at a worse moment or in a more inappropriate country. June, the Muslim month of Ashura, is one of the most sacred in the Muslim calendar because it commemorates the martyrdom 1,200 years ago of the Prophet's two grandsons in the city of Kerabala, now in Iraq. Shi'a Muslims, especially, view Ashura as a time of sadness, piety and reflection on unwarranted attacks against the Prophet's sacred descendants.

More than half of Iraq's population is Shi'a and although Mr. Hussein himself is Sunni he claims to be a distant descendant of the Prophet. The U.S. couldn't have handed him a bigger bonus in whipping up anti-American sentiment -- not just in Iraq but in Iran where the population is overwhelmingly Shi'a and the government has even greater potential to challenge U.S. interests.

A.R.M. Babu, former economic minister of Tanzania, wrote this commentary for Pacific News Service.

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