Al-Ahram Weekly Online   23 - 29 March 2006
Issue No. 787
Press review
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Which ache hurts most?

The anniversary of the war against Iraq and the upcoming Arab summit are barely mentioned, writes Dina Ezzat

Given that the situation in Iraq is going from bad to worse and that it was less than a year ago that the head of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Iraq was murdered, a reader would have expected the third anniversary of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq to be remembered. One might have even expected that the occasion would have been marked by much anger by the press.

Not so, showed the editors of the nation's dailies and weeklies. Iraq was very much present in the papers appearing in Cairo every day but the invasion that began three years ago for the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction by the toppled Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was almost forgotten.

There was the odd article here and there. In his weekly piece, Ismail Montasser, editor-in-chief of the semi-official weekly magazine October, wrote under the headline, "On the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq -- a mission not to be accomplished".

"It was three years ago that the crime against Iraq was initiated," Montasser wrote in typical criticism of the American invasion of this once leading Arab country. "Three years ago the US and the UK launched their war against the will of the international community and used tons of explosives and bombs to bombard the Iraqi people for three consecutive weeks as part of a most barbarian assault that targeted innocent children, women and men whose only fault is that they are Iraqis and Muslims."

And throughout the past three years, Montasser wrote, it has become clear that despite all the US allegations, the war against Iraq failed to produce any prohibited arms or induce democracy and stability in Iraq, much less the Arab region. The war has not even been won, Montasser argued, but has accentuated US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. And, he added, "the US war against Iraq will never be won because history has taught us that tyrants cannot win. They end up being the losers."

And as Ragab El-Bannah, former editor of October, noted in the same issue, in his article entitled "The untold stories from Iraq", even human rights violations that the West has accused the regime of Saddam Hussein of committing against the Iraqi people have now been replaced by worse violations committed by US soldiers.

Equally limited attention was accorded this week by the Egyptian press to the Arab summit expected to convene in Khartoum in a few days. Banner headlines on the preparations for the summit and the promise it holds out for the Arab peoples and their destiny were scarce. The Arab affairs pages had the occasional news story about the summit's agenda and the expected low level of participation. That seemed to be about it. Hardly any analysis was offered. Not even a negative forecast of the summit's resolutions and their probable ineffectiveness was there for the curious reader.

The only interesting item that the press offered this week on the Arab summit came -- to no surprise by the dedicated reader -- from the news pages of the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Yom. "Representatives of civil society are hoping to attend the Arab summit", the paper wrote on Friday. According to statements made by leading Egyptian human rights activists Bahieddin Hussein, "it is in the interest of the Arab League to allow this participation especially that the Arab League is a very fragile body that is always twisted around by the will of Arab governments who just wish to issue a few administrative resolutions."

Meanwhile, Egyptian commentators were busy lamenting a range of foreign and home front misfortunes: the first fatality from bird flu; the many signs of corruption; the ill-advised privatisation plans of public assets in Egypt; the increasing signs of civil war in Iraq and the deterioration in the Palestinian occupied territories in the wake of the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian Jericho prison.

In his daily column in the semi-official daily Al-Akhbar on Thursday, Mohamed Abdel-Moneim summed it all up: "An Arab citizen must feel perplexed over which problem to worry about more. With so much misfortune across the Arab world, one must feel frustrated, disturbed and not sure what to lament most . "

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