The Nails of the American Jouha

In the original story of the nail of Jouha, Jouha left a single nail in the wall of a house that he sold to an unsuspecting buyer at a very attractive price. The only condition that Jouha imposed upon the new owner of the house was that he be permitted to enter the house and to see the nail at any time he wished. By convincing the new owner to agree to this condition, Jouha in effect retained the right to enter and leave the house at any time he wanted. After stopping by the house incessantly to see the nail, Jouha drove the new owner to exasperation and eventually to flight from the house without even thinking to ask for his money back from Jouha.

America today looks after multiple nails in the walls of houses in countries all over the world, occasionally with the assent of the owners but sometimes without it. The justifications for checking nails have multiplied, beginning with liberation from tyranny, the spread of democracy and saving the oppressed; these justifications are still invoked even after systems of absolutism and dictatorship have been destroyed as pretexts for initiating new interventions or prolonging existing ones.

Today the American Jouha has hung thousands of jackets and steel helmets upon the nails it keeps in the walls of various regions of Iraq; it has done the same in Afghanistan. It will not hesitate to do the same thing again in any other place.

There is a Latin American proverb that tells about the rats of Jamaica. In the 1950s this island nation suffered from an overpopulation of rats that it was powerless to stop. Eventually Jamaica was advised to import mongooses with the thought that the mongooses would prey upon the rats and reduce their numbers. [Translator’s Note: The deliberate importation of mongooses to Jamaica for the purpose of controlling rat overpopulation is recorded as early as 1872.] They decided to bring mongooses to the island; while the mongooses were able to accomplish the goal of ridding Jamaica of rats, they became so widespread that they began feeding upon the island. That the mongooses were permitted to remain on the island and to multiply was even more dangerous than the original rat infestation.

Such happens in a number of countries in the world. A weak country may sometimes ask for the help of a stronger country in order to solve a problem that the weaker is unable take care of alone. But later, the weaker country can become ensnared to the stronger one, especially a stronger country that did not come in order to be a benevolent savior (without expecting any reward) but came rather to suck the very marrow from the bones of the weak.

The record of military intervention, whatever its justification or the legality by which it is marketed to the world, is not as most imagine it to be, especially those who are not close to the fire but rather are only warming themselves by it from afar.

The Arabs have dealt with many types of nails in the walls of the houses and the fences of their countries. They have become trapped for centuries — not merely decades — by nails that have been sunk rapidly and readily into their bodies. I would not think that one whose fingers had been stung many times by grasping for power in the Arab world would think it would be good idea to do so again. Only a country afflicted with political Alzheimer’s, a country that has lost its sense of history together with all sense feeling in its body, would think to do such a thing.

We know colonialism did not completely depart from the continents that suffered its wrath. The famous thesis of Dr. Frantz Fanon clarified how this was so. Fanon was an African; Frantz Fanon was born and raised in Martinique. Dr. Fanon devoted a great deal of energy to supporting, and ultimately gave his life for, Algeria’s struggle for independence. Dr. Fanon’s work echoes what was written by the Algerian thinker Malik ben Nabi. Both of these thinkers argue that colonialism, even when it is forced to withdraw, leaves ideas and concepts in the minds of its victims. The colonized are so completely beholden to the influence of even a former colonial power that they continue to view themselves through the eyes of the former colonizer, even if they are not consciously aware that they are doing so. These ideas, or at least the traces of them, are other manifestations of the “Jouha’s nails” phenomenon; although they may be deeply hidden there are numerous signs that these ideas are indeed present. As soon as colonialism withdraws its saliva begins to flow again for the lands that it has left behind, especially when it is able to play the role of the mongooses on the island of Jamaica.

It was the United States of America which declared that the period of time following World War II would be known as the “post-colonial” age; since the United States had played a role in the liberation Europe from Nazi occupation, Europe would have to play a similar role by liberating their colonies. But having the preponderance of power has made the strong forget what they said and what they promised [regarding the liberation of the world from colonialism and tyranny].

The return of the “Jouha’s nail” phenomenon, regardless of whether it is a nail sought by the Americans, Europeans or any other country, is a common grave that is being dug for the independence of peoples [all over the world].

* Translated By Ian Joseph Matthews

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