THE WISDOM OF THE SHEIKHS, BY KHALID KISHTAINY

A few days ago, our attention was diverted from the so called Arab Spring to the commemoration of the 10 years anniversary of the invasion/liberation of that unhappy country, Iraq.

The Iraqis have a proverb that says: “The lament does not know what to say about the deceased.” The saying is quite applicable to the American policy in Iraq. Middle East experts have compiled so many different lists about its mistakes and sheer follies, intentional or accidental, peppered here and there with jokes as well as melancholic comments. I leave this matter to individual opinion. The way I see it reminds me of the local folktale of Sheikh Abu Hammad.

The Sheikh was well known in the area for his wisdom and sagacity. Local villagers had consulted him on whatever problem they had encountered as long as anyone could remember and, the longer and more frequently they sought his ad- vice, the deeper they had sunk into misery and poverty.

There came the day the village bull was discovered to have his head stuck in the village earthenware butt, essential for drawing water from the well. No one could free it. A village elder went to consult the Sheikh. “Cut off its head,” Sheikh Abu Hammad advised. They followed his advice, but the dead animal’s head remained firmly stuck in the precious butt. The villagers returned to the Sheikh who gave them his second piece of advice: “Smash the butt!” -The result of acting on Sheikh Abu Hammad’s wisdom was no bull and no butt.

A few days later, the Sheikh fell ill with typhoid. The village head stood in the direction of Mecca, or what he had been told was the direction of Mecca, and raised his eyes to heaven, ” Oh God, please save him. We wouldn’t know where to go with our problems without the wisdom of Sheikh Abu Hammad.”
The saying, however, went from mouth to mouth:” Killing the bull and smashing the butt!”

I said that American policies regarding Iraq remind me of that story, which is deeply embedded in the folklore of Iraq. The Pentagon and the State Department reported to George Bush, who was about as famous for his wisdom and sagacity about what was happening in Iraq under the Ba’th Party as Sheikh Abu Hammad. When President Saddam Hussein’s once good service to the United States became temperamental and unreliable, George Bush gave the advice: “Cut off his head.”

This they did so but things subsequently went from bad to worse. The Pentagon reported back to President Bush that the problem of Iraq was not solved at all. Mr Bush gave his second piece of advice:

“Smash the Iraq Army, the police force and the Mukhabart.” His order was carried out and the country fell to pieces.

A few days later the American democracy was hit by crippling recession that brought the US dollar to its knees. The news reached the Arab League in Cairo.

Amr Musa, its Secretary General at the time, woke up from his deep sleep, rushed out of the building, raised both hands to heaven and prayed aloud: “God save him and God save America. For without President Bush, we wouldn’t know where to take our problems!”

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