IT is reported that the late Iraqi President Abdul Kareem Qasim was visiting Adamiya in Baghdad when a boy stepped out from the crowd that had gathered, approached his car, and spat towards the car’s open window.
The spit fell on the president’s face, and the boy immediately fled the scene. However, he wasn’t fast enough to avoid being caught by Qasim’s guards, who took him to the president.
The president got out of his car and walked towards the boy, who was wearing torn clothes and plastic shoes of different color. When Qasim asked him, “Why did you spit on me?”, the boy did not respond.
The president then asked the boy about his torn clothes and mismatched shoes, and the boy replied, “My mother got them from the rubbish and gave them to me”.
The president asked him, “Where is your father?” and the boy said, “He was martyred when he went with you to the Palestine war.”
Qasim said to the boy, “I want you to spit nine times on my face to make it ten in total because I deserve it.”
The child refused. That was when Qasim ordered his aides to enroll the boy and his sister immediately in a private school. He vowed to take care of their expenses and find a decent job for their mother. He said all that after giving the boy all of the money he had in his pocket.
We narrate this story with the objective of refreshing the memory as we present the image of some Arab leaders who neglected their people and detached themselves from reality. Perhaps such leaders might learn a lesson or two from this memory. If it happens that any one of them finds himself walking among the people, he might be hurled by stones, or his people might spit on him.
In the past ten years, some Arab countries experienced popular uprisings, yet none of their leaders came close to the concerns of their people. What former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali said in his last speech can be regarded as the most realistic phrase. He said, “Now I understand you”. However, this came too late … after 24 years of oppression, impoverishment of the people and an increase in their resentment towards the ruler.
Ben Ali was not the only one who delayed in understanding his people. Libya’s Gaddafi is another example. Other leaders left the affairs of the country and people in the hands of their aides, and devoted themselves either in settling business deals and obtaining kickbacks in major projects, or mastering the art of plundering their country, while the entire squad of the government consisted of corrupt people.
You cannot find such a situation in any Western country because the law will not allow it as it does not differentiate between a boss, an employee, and an ordinary citizen … all are equal like the teeth of a comb.
Even our neighbor Israel whom we consider as an enemy, the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been in prison for years after being convicted of bribery. Its current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being tried on corruption charges. In France, former President Sarkozy was sentenced to three years imprisonment. The same is seen in several countries, including the United States of America, where former President Nixon was successfully impeached in relations to the infamous “Watergate” scandal.
In the Arab world, some leaders are drowning in corruption, as no deal goes through until they or the lucky ones close to them get a share from it. No one dares to hold them accountable … rather the people are forced to glorify them as pious and pure. It is forbidden to publish news about their plundering of public money, oppression and injustice, or even whisper about it.
In our Arab world, laws are being violated by high-ranking officials and influential people … the leader is oblivious about what is happening in his country. The reason for this state of oblivion is because the leader chooses a luxurious and comfortable lifestyle at the expense of his oppressed and suppressed people.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times