Published 03/24/2023 11:55 AM | Edited 3/24/2023 5:45 PM
Writer and academic Sinan Antoon, considered “one of the most acclaimed authors in the Arab world”, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly, claims that the United States lacks legitimacy to condemn the war in Ukraine. Poet, novelist and literary translator, Antoon, 56 years old, says he is equally surprised by the reactions of the great international media about the conflict – the same media that supported the war in Iraq under the false allegation of weapons of mass destruction.
Shortly after the Golgo War, in 1991, the writer moved to the United States, where he received a doctorate in Arabic Literature from Harvard University and became a professor at the Gallatin School of New York University. It was from US territory that he saw the invasion of Iraq, in 2003. “The 2003 invasion began in 1991. It was unprecedented destruction, which we saw daily,” Antoon told Folha de S.Pauloin an interview published this Friday (24).
“It was a destruction even of the idea of what it means to be Iraqi. The 2003 invasion even changed the way Iraqis thought of themselves and their past,” copara. “One of the things I always wanted to happen when I was growing up was the end of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. But I followed American politics and understood that the slogans and speeches about the United States spreading democracy did not hold up, either in the Middle East or in Latin America.”
The writer declares that he was shocked by “the speed with which the American government and the mainstream press propagated the discourse of war and how quickly people accepted it. It was clear that the war would be a catastrophe not only for Iraqis – but also for Americans, whose children would be sent to the front.”
The second war in Iraq was a watershed for Antoon. “Since then, it has infuriated me how much people still don’t understand how war-hungry the United States is”, criticizes the writer. To make matters worse, there was no room for alternative voices to the official discourse of the White House and the Pentagon.
“I was preaching to converts. I gave lectures in churches, synagogues and universities where people were already against the war”, he recalls. “I tried to publish texts in Washington Post e no New York Times – but they were only interested in listening to the few Iraqis who were in favor of the invasion. The level of discourse in the mainstream press was limited and superficial.”
In his opinion, even though a large part of public opinion has already been against that invasion, many facts have been forgotten. “The memory of the war has disappeared, except for small pockets on social media. Many of my colleagues who teach at American universities say that their students don’t know anything about 2003.”
“It is a country that does not know how to deal with the genocide of indigenous populations and with what it does to populations of African origin. There’s no way we can expect them to have sympathy for the Iraqis”, sums up the writer. “Even when they talk about the war, Iraqi civilians disappear. On war anniversaries, the media deals with the experience of American soldiers. It’s that eternal American innocence.”
With the United States’ history of aggression towards other countries, Antoon relativizes the “support” of the Joe Biden administration to Ukraine. “Nobody was held accountable. (in Iraq), and the show goes on. I see obvious hypocrisy and racism in Americans when they line up to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he says. “There is a distribution of humanity, according to race and class.”