From Sept. 11 to the crisis in Iraq

How do you feel a year after the September 11 attacks? I wish I felt better, because I wish there wasn’t the prospect of war. When September 11 took place, it was a such a horrific event and such terrible human suffering that the only way you somehow console yourself is by saying that I hope something positive will come out of it. I hope that once and for all we will address the underlining issues that led to this, which, at the end of the day, is ignorance. And although there have been many efforts to counter terrorism, there haven’t been enough efforts in trying to deal with the underlying causes of September 11. I don’t feel that the evil forces are weakening, I feel that the anger is still there and that even if they were hampered temporarily, they will gather ground. We need an exchange, for the West to try and explain its policies to the East and the East to try to explain its grievances to the West. Until then, we will constantly fear for our security. Meanwhile, suicide attacks continue in the Mideast area. I believe that suicide bombings, and any act that involves the death of innocent civilians, is wrong and unfortunately in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict both sides are guilty of taking the lives of innocent civilians, and therefore both sides are to blame. The methods they have adopted cannot be accepted. It is a vicious cycle now, where the Palestinians feel that they have to do this to protect themselves and Israelis feel that they have to do this in order to protect themselves and both sides view themselves as victims and the more this happens the more the gap between them widens. Right now, we know that both sides are very far away from reaching any kind of peace deal, but let’s go back 10 years to the beginning of the Oslo Accords when there was some good will and there was some ground to build on and there was a great deal of optimism. Let’s not forget that at the time they came back from Oslo there were Israeli children waving the Palestinian flag and Palestinian children waving the Israeli one. By committing these acts of violence both sides are moving further away from that feeling of good will and the further away, the worse the situation is – we are losing much more. Leaders must take responsibility and realize that the longer they wait, the more ground they are losing and the longer it will take for the people to trust each other. One thing that is missing is the ability on both sides to humanize the other’s pains. There are groups of people in Israel and Palestine who are willing to do this, and you find that these are usually those people who have suffered the most. You’ll find mothers of suicide bombers who say that if they’d known that their children were planning to do this they would have prevented them and you’ll find mothers of Israeli children who have been killed who say all they want is peace. What about the escalating Iraq crisis? Obviously, we in Jordan, like in the rest of the region, are very worried about the prospect of war; it could have repercussions on the whole region. We will probably play the role we have always played which is a humanitarian role, and do as much as we can to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. If I were an American citizen, for instance, and worried about my security and wanted to take the terrorists out of this world, I feel that our greatest and most immediate challenge and threat comes from individual groups, like Al Qaeda and other extremists groups which are invisible and able to penetrate borders and have underground funds. These underground groups are more dangerous and more of a threat than other regimes. Al Qaeda’s rallying call over the last 10 years has been to remove the USA from the holy land of Saudi Arabia. And this is how they have been able to attract thousands of Arab youth. My fear is that if you go into Iraq with good intentions to try to remove any evil of terrorism, the [military] presence in Iraq will be used by many extremists as a rallying call to attract even more youth. So, on the one hand, you might be dealing with a perceived threat but you are also creating a much bigger threat and one that can hurt you in the long run. This is something which I think American policymakers need to focus on, as longer-term strategy, to avoid something even worse.

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