America's best representatives to the people
of the Middle East may be our men and women in uniform. The armed forces fighting
in Iraq may show the people of that nation and its neighbors the real America
and real Americans at our best.
More importantly, exposure to our military
may show the Arabs that the horrible stereotypes of Americans they have seen in
the media are nothing but fiction. The Arabs may learn from our military that
many Americans are good people of great faith and tremendous honor who really
believe in and practice the high ideals that we espouse. The Arabs may learn to
like, respect and even admire America and Americans by seeing our military forces
The average Arab's idea of Americans comes from the media; the
deceitful propaganda put out by his own government and the horrible distortions
that fill our own media. From what they've seen, the Arabs think that all Americans
are weak, soft, greedy, materialistic and vicious. They believe that all American
military people are Nazi-like storm troopers. They believe that all American women
are whores and that American men are either greedy sex fiends or wimps. They also
believe that Americans are hypocrites who possess neither values nor faith.
Sadly enough, many recent Western visitors to the Middle East have confirmed
these horrible stereotypes. Obnoxious tourists, self-proclaimed peace activists
willing to stand with their nation's enemies, greedy businessmen looking for a
fast buck, self-serving oil company executives willing to do anything to get an
oil concession, sniveling diplomats and politicians interested in appeasing vicious
dictators, soft-headed, morally blind intellectuals and celebrities willing to
kiss up to despots in the name of peace, sanctimonious missionaries trying to
push their religion down the throats of Arabs, shallow and hypocritical journalists
willing to report the propaganda lies of the worst Arab dictators as the truth
and worse. Unfortunately, what the Arabs have seen is Americans and Westerners
at their worst. Is it any wonder that many Middle Easterners despise us?
Sgt. Jack Coughlin from Boston, Mass, of the 3rd battalion, 4th Marines regiment,
is greeted by an Iraqi girl as its convoy moves toward Bagdad earlier this month
I can't think of a better antidote to all of these distortions than
exposure to our men and women in uniform. They are honorable, honest, sober, decent,
friendly, civil, polite, brave, professional, hardworking, tough and disciplined.
They actually believe in the ideals for which this nation stands and many of them
are people of deep faith who take their religion seriously.
respect all of these qualities and understand them. When they see the US or British
servicemen, a great many Arabs will finally see a Westerner, a Christian or an
American that they can actually respect. They'll realize that the men and women
in the US and British uniforms aren't their enemies.
The Arabs are a warrior
people with a long and glorious military tradition. They respect soldiers and
traditional military values such as honor, discipline, loyalty, courage, and valor.
The militaries of the United States and Britain exemplify those values. The Arabs
will have to recognize this and respect our countries more.
actions will speak louder than all the propaganda in the world. When the Arabs
see American and British soldiers displaying courage on the battlefield, risking
their lives to save a wounded comrade or putting themselves in harm's way to knock
out an enemy position, they'll learn to respect those soldiers.
Arabs see American soldiers actually demonstrating respect toward their mosques
and showing courtesy to their women, Arabs will begin to see that they've been
lied to by their leaders and the Western media and start asking why. When the
Arabs see American doctors and medics treating sick and wounded Arabs and Americans
distributing food to hungry Arabs, they'll realize that Americans aren't all greedy
hypocrites. When the Arabs see that American troops do not burn Arab villages,
rape Arab women, torture or execute Arab prisoners or loot Arab homes, the Arabs
will see how civilized we really are. Especially when they compare the actions
of American and British troops to the behavior of Saddam Hussein's storm troopers.
More importantly, the Arabs will see that people who live in a democratic
society do not have to be greedy, materialistic, arrogant and ruthless. They'll
see that freedom and faith can coexist and that modernization does not lead to
becoming Sodom and Gomorrah.
So perhaps the best side effect of this war
will be the impression of America and Americans that our military personnel deliver
to the average Arab. We won't necessarily influence the opinions of the self-proclaimed
Arab intellectuals and the worst of the Arab extremists, but we could change a
lot of the minds of the ordinary people of Arab nations. In the long run, the
discipline, courage, professionalism, faith and values of our men and women in
uniform may turn out to be the trump card in the battle for the hearts and minds
of the Arab people.
Daniel G. Jennings is a freelance writer and journalist who lives
and works in Denver, CO. He has worked as a reporter and editor for daily and
weekly newspapers in five states.