U.S. must stay involved with Arab people

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

As American troops began to invade a palace in Baghdad and fought irregular troops Monday morning on the ceremonial parade grounds, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi information minister, was quoted as saying to reporters "there is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad at all."

The minister seemed to be a little more animated as usual as he rushed out his message of how American troops had all committed suicide because the Iraqi forces had been so overwhelming.

You would think this guy could be a little more creative. Of course, he is doing his best tap dance, knowing that his boss is not the best at accepting bad news. His 15 minutes of fame will soon be up as coalition forces will no doubt cancel his show from the Baghdad rooftop in the coming days.

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The American media has spent a good deal of time concerned about how the war is playing in Arab media. Coalition forces have worked very hard to harm as few innocent people as possible and save as many structures as possible for the future of Iraq.

Yet, many people in Arab countries still hate Americans. The change in regime in Iraq will not solve that dilemma, but hopefully it will begin a new process for peace.

Many before the war talked about how the war in Iraq could start a wave of terrorism here and abroad. That is certainly possible, but I hope it begins a movement back to peace for the Middle East.

As the war winds down President George W. Bush must immediately direct attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The administration must show they care what happens to victims on both sides of that conflict.

Much of our problem with Arab countries will continue to grow from that crisis. They only view us as an ally of Israel.

I understand that many presidents have spent much energy on the problem with little results. Yassar Arafat turned down an incredible deal during the Clinton administration.

However, not only terrorists but some Palestinian leaders gain their political strength from the conflict continuing, and as long as people think it is a holy war, the bloodshed may never end.

American efforts can at least dampen down the hostilities. I would rather have a bunch of American diplomats shuttling from Tel Aviv to the West Bank, from Jordan to Syria, than have a new generation of suicide bombers spawn from the crisis.

It is more difficult for terrorists to be persuasive when the United States is actively engaged in the peace process. It will be difficult for President Bush in an election year to work with Palestinians when politicians are looking for funds from Israeli-Americans, but the administration must find a new avenue to peace with the Arab countries.

President Bush has talked about a road map to solve the Middle East conflict. It would be a lasting legacy for his presidency to find a way to communicate with moderate forces on both sides.

We can’t wait for the two parties to act. We must become engaged and stay involved. The United States will have forces in Afghanistan and Iraq for years to come. This country must realize the importance of being an ongoing partner in the future of Arab people.