Domination by Humiliation
Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2003 by
Domination by Humiliation
by Michael Sky

Today militancy in the Middle East is fueled not by the military prospects of Iraq or any other state but by a pervasive sense of humiliation and helplessness in the region. This collective feeling is driven by a sense that people remain helpless in affecting the most vital aspects of their lives, and it is exacerbated by pictures of Palestinian humiliation. There is much disgust with states and with international organizations.

Few in the Middle East believe Iraq has a serious chance in its war with the United States, and pictures of overwhelming American power exercised against an inferior Iraqi army have only reinforced the belief that Iraq is a helpless victim. Unfortunately, the inspirations for overcoming weakness are non-state militant groups, which serve as models that many hope to emulate. The defeat and occupation of Iraq are likely to exacerbate the sense of humiliation and to increase militancy in the region. —Shibley Telhami

The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein. I find it very interesting that when the heat got on, you dug yourself a hole and you crawled in it. —George W. Bush

This is what the Misleader of the Free World had to say on the day of his great triumph. With the whole world listening, and people everywhere joining in the celebration of Saddam's final end, the best our pampered, petulant prince could come up with was smirking schoolyard taunts. All that was missing was Saddam's supine body, Bush's foot on his belly, thumping his chest, the moment framed for the cameras.

The man who promised to be humble in foreign relations showed once again that all he knows is strutting arrogance. The man who promised freedom to the Iraqi people delivered yet another dose of humiliation.

Like all dominators, Bush uses humiliation as the coup de grace for dealing with enemies. First, militarily and economically dominate them. Then, force them to their knees and make them cry "Uncle Sam."

Unfortunately for us all, however satisfying that moment of humiliation may be for the dominator, it does nothing but fuel future antagonism within the dominated.

"Why do they hate us?" the most dominant nation in history has been asking since 9/11. Not because of our freedom, despite the fatuous repetitions of Misleader. Nor because of their poverty—as evidenced by the many terrorists who come from well-to-do families, and from the millions of impoverished people worldwide who never resort to terrorism.

The hate us because of generations of constant humiliation. They hate us because, as children, they watched their parents forced to their knees, taken away in handcuffs, gunned down in their houses, because, as children, they've stood on the wrong side of barbed-wire fences, barred from the easy streets on the other side. They hate us because their daily lives can feel so miserably small compared to the Hollywood world on their television screens. They hate us because they've spent too many long nights, shivering in the awful dark, our bombs raining down from the heavens.

They dislike us because we beat them every time it matters, our armies always stronger, our wallets always fatter, but they hate us because, when the battle's over, we insist on humiliation.

They hate us because, at the moment of their defeat, the most powerful man in the world acts like a six-year-old bully.

Michael Sky is the author of several books, a peace activist, and the editor of He can be emailed at