Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
25 Nov. - 1 Dec. 1999
Issue No. 457
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

Tragic blunders

Only a few days after the tragic EgyptAir crash, the US media, quoting unnamed US officials, rushed to lay the blame at the doorstep of the national airline. Even before the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were retrieved from the depths of the Atlantic, the unknown US officials were developing the ridiculous theory that a pilot with suicidal tendencies had crashed the plane intentionally, or that a "fight inside the cockpit" had broken out.

These officials, speaking in their capacity as representatives of the world's sole superpower, are so clever and technologically advanced that only three days after the crash, they were even able to identify which pilot had committed suicide. First it was Ahmed Habashi, the flight's captain. That scenario was deemed really too implausible -- no problem. The oracle has spoken again, and the suspect is now co-pilot Gamil El-Battouti. The evidence? He was heard "uttering a religious phrase" just before the plane fell from the sky.

Thanks to many years of racist US coverage of Arab and Islamic affairs, these speculations sold well in US newspapers and TV stations. In Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, however, the argument made by the "US investigators" was seen as absurd and sickening. It brought home with a thud America's deep ignorance of our culture, language and traditions. Whenever they mention God in conversation, Egyptians now joke that they will be accused of planning to commit suicide.

We want to know the truth as much as the US does, maybe even more. The truth is not what will emerge, however, if we bow to pressure from Boeing, or from "investigators" who believe that every Muslim must be a terrorist-in-waiting. The truth will only be revealed through careful research and thorough cooperation between Egyptian and US investigators. They should leave no stone unturned, and discard no possible explanation -- except for the suicide theory, simply because it makes no sense.

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