Iraq: Five Years On: “Respect and Fairness for the Muslim World”
by Hisham Adem
Five years after the Iraq War, Jürgen Todenhöfer, a prominent German media manager and former member of parliament for the Christian Democrats, travelled to Iraq to interview “resistance fighters” and al-Qaida terrorists. He recently published an account of what he experienced there. Interview by Hisham Adem
Your recently published book, Warum tötest du, Zaid? (Why do you kill, Zaid?), is the result of a dangerous research trip to war-torn Iraq. What made you decide to go on this journey?
Jürgen Todenhöfer: I decided to make this trip because over the past few years, reports about what is going on in post-war Iraq have shown the situation from the perspective of the occupying forces only. I wanted to show the situation from the perspective of the people whose country is occupied.
Based on your experience, what is the difference between the reality of life in Iraq and the image portrayed by Western media?
Todenhöfer: We don’t get to see the real war. Every day, American forces conduct about 100 military manoeuvres against the Iraqi population: bombardments, raids, shootings ... We don’t get to see these manoeuvres because then the Pentagon would be forced to admit that it is still waging war against the Iraqi population.
Moreover, every day, the Iraqi resistance conducts about 100 military manoeuvres against the occupying forces. We don’t get to see these either because such images would force the American government to admit that there is strong military resistance to American occupation, resistance that is supported by most of the Iraqi population.
Between two and three criminal suicide bomb attacks are also perpetrated every day by foreign al-Qaida terrorists, of which there are just under 1,000 still in the country. Although al-Qaida no longer plays a significant role in military terms, we get to see them almost every single day, because the American government needs them to back up its claim that it is waging war in Iraq against al-Qaida.
In reality, the United States is still fighting for oil; al-Qaida is nothing more than a “convenient” pretext.
At the heart of your very personal book is the 22-year-old “resistance fighter” Zaid, whose brothers were killed as the result of the negligence of American soldiers. Is his personal fate symbolic of the dilemma faced by the US occupying forces in Iraq and elsewhere?
Todenhöfer: Yes, Zaid’s fate is symbolic of the fate of the Iraqi population as a whole. He did not want this war and only took up arms when the American forces shot his two brothers.
You say that the West’s anti-terror policy is not successful “because most politicians have never seriously reflected on the phenomenon of terrorism.” Is the Western elite really so blind to the realities of this world?
Todenhöfer: Most western politicians do not know the Muslim world. They have never spent a few days with a Muslim family. They cannot see that it is our own violence that is coming back to haunt us in the form of terrorism.
You are of the opinion that the West is “not legitimized to take action against radical Islamist movements around the world” and does not have the right to “transform the world into a bloody, chaotic battlefield in order to impose its beliefs on the world.” If not the West, then who can legitimately assume - or would be in a position to assume - this regulatory role?
Todenhöfer: The countries themselves. UN special forces should only get involved in exceptional cases. The United States are not in Iraq to help people, but to safeguard their raw material interests.
You call for Western forces to be withdrawn from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia because “the war against terrorism will not be decided militarily, but in the hearts of 1.4 billion Muslims.” How can politics really win the hearts of people in the Islamic world?
Todenhöfer: We have to treat the Muslim world as we would like to be treated ourselves, with respect and fairness. If we were to treat the Muslim world as generously as we are - quite correctly - treating Israel, there would be no more “Islamic” terrorism.
Interview conducted by Hisham Adem
© Qantara.de 2008
Jürgen Todenhöfer, lawyer and media manager, was a member of the German parliament for the Christian Democrats for almost 20 years. He was the CDU’s expert on development and defence policy. In the run-up to the Iraq War, he became an icon for those in Germany who opposed the war. He is now deputy chairman of the board of management at the media group Burda.
Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan