The world has remembered three men this week. They come from different continents, different professions, and divergent interests.
In the first scene, leaders from around the world gathered at the European Parliament headquarters in Strasbourg, around the coffin of late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
An exceptional tribute to an exceptional leader, as if the Europeans wanted their people to contemplate extensively the path of that man; the chancellor, who seized the historic opportunity to serve his country, his continent, and the world.
Kohl grabbed the moment when the Berlin wall collapsed and the Soviet Union was dissolved to achieve Germany’s reunification without a bullet or a drop of blood. That was enough for the man to enter History. But what he did was far more important. He placed the German drive at the service of the European cohesion and he deserved to be described as a “great German and a great European.”
Leaders from France, Britain, and the United States and from all over the world gathered around Kohl’s coffin. The tall chancellor succeeded in persuading the Europeans that a unified Germany would not return to the policies of belligerence and aggression. He also achieved a harder task. He convinced the Germans to relinquish the last great general in their history – the Mark – thus opening the door to the establishment of the single European currency.
Germany can say that ‘Kohl was here’ and left his mark on Germany. He led the country to unity, prosperity and future partnerships.
The second scene
Another man whom the world has remembered. He is Steve Jobs, the late chairman and CEO of Apple. Ten years ago, the man offered the world a “revolutionary mobile phone” and a “supernatural Internet connection device.” On that day, the world has received the iPhone, which revolutionized the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Steve Jobs left his mark on our days: a small device in your pocket that changes your relationship with the world, in terms of communication, messaging, photos, business and entertainment, as well as a terrible exchange of information and scenes; as if you carry in your pocket a strong force that gives you access to knowledge and connects you to others and to present and future generations.
Jobs has also changed the lives of journalists. He made of each device-holder a journalist, who takes photos, makes comments, and transmits. We, residents of the old castles of the written press, did not have the choice but to change our lives, styles, and uniforms in order to survive, and to avoid being regarded as aging horses.
Jobs, also, was here. The world remembered his famous saying: “Live each day as if it was your last”. He lifted the torch and lit the road. He was a fierce warrior fighting with science, competition, and progress. Jobs is a pride to our History.
How far is the distance between the European farewell to Kohl and our torn and shaky maps! How far is the distance between the dreams of Apple and the practices of ISIS! It is the horrific Middle EastGhassan Charbel
The third scene
We are in the horrific Middle East and we have different schedules. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the fall of the so-called “ISIS-caliphate”, three years after its declaration. The victory is important and necessary, and a benefit to Iraq, the Arab region, and the whole world. History must acknowledge that the Iraqi Army has offered great sacrifices to bring down the terrorist scheme, which has spread its cancers in every direction.
The Iraqi army has erased from the memory the scandal of June 10, 2014, when entire parts of it collapsed in and around Mosul while fighting ISIS, which captured a full arsenal of American weapons left behind by the defeated units.
The world has remembered a man called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraq, the region, and the world have paid a heavy price for the man’s exploits in Mosul. One can say that the three years have produced a river of widows and orphans and a sea of refugees.
There is a far distance between the route taken by Steve Jobs – of a Syrian father – which led him to Apple and other major achievements, and the path taken by Baghdadi, which led him to ISIS.
Jobs and Baghdadi
Jobs was looking to improve living conditions and progress, while Baghdadi was using Jobs’ achievements to transmit images of slaughter, bombing, and destruction or to manage relations with the “lone wolves”, who were assigned with striking the stability of world capitals.
Apple’s revenues have been used for development, research and the increase of creative capabilities, while ISIS’ revenues were used to commit more invasions and woes.
It is strange that the blind warrior has turned – perhaps without knowing – into an ally of those who claimed to be his enemies. Baghdadi did not save Iraq but contributed to its partition.
He targeted the Kurds, who shed blood to defend their territory and “disputed areas”. They had an increased desire to move away from Baghdad, its policies and its wars.
ISIS has instigated strife between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Baghdadi pretended to be defending the Sunnis, while they were the ones who have incurred the major calamities. He didn’t kill others, but he killed them.
The rise of ISIS has prompted Shiite Cleric Ayatollah Sistani to issue a fatwa authorizing the bearing of arms. Tehran was quick to grab the opportunity. It made Shiite fighters part of the “mobilization forces” and succeeded in giving them a legitimate cover as a prelude to transforming them into a “Revolutionary Guard-style army.”
The rise of ISIS
The rise of ISIS has given General Qassem Soleimani the opportunity to move freely in Anbar, with all the consequences that would affect the Iraqi components.
ISIS has also caused the return of American soldiers to the ground, and US and non-US fighters into the air. The rise of ISIS in Syria was not less burdensome. It has assassinated the Syrian uprising and distracted the world from the cruelty of “barrels”.
The exploitation of foreign fighters of the Syrian territories has also justified Iran’s intervention through multinational militias.
ISIS’ practices were also a golden opportunity for the Caesar, who was waiting for the right moment. Under the pretext of fighting ISIS, Russia intervened militarily and punished the Syrian opposition before punishing the Baghdadi regime.
How far is the distance between the European farewell to Kohl and our torn and shaky maps! How far is the distance between the dreams of Apple and the practices of ISIS! It is the horrific Middle East. Jobs’ father escaped it early on. However, Baghdadi was here.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan's Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.