Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pondering Iraq


After three years of carnage and national disgrace, we still know next to nothing about Iraq.

From Brian Conley writing at Alive in Baghdad:

...The idea of a civil war in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis continues to belie the deep entrenchment of inter-marriage and the diverse nature of Iraq. In fact, the New York Times article quoted above even quotes a Sunni fighter who opposed Al Qaeda when their “sectarian war against Shiites clashed with his loyalty to a Shiite relative of his the group had kidnapped and tortured.”

I met few Iraqis who couldn't tell me about their relatives from an opposing sect, whether it was a Sunni woman married to a Shi’a husband, or vice versa, or a shi'a whose cousin was a Kurdish Sunni, this is a common refrain in Iraq. The division along religious and tribal lines was certainly beginning in the more desperate final years of the twentieth century in Iraq, however they were deeply exascerbated by the complete destruction of Iraq’s social fabric during the United States occupation and the ongoing war in Iraq."
By parroting the line that Iraq has deep-rooted "ethnic and religious tensions" the media works to absolve the United States of guilt as Iraq apparently spirals toward a civil war.

There's much more, informed, nuanced, thoughtful and questioning. From the point of view of the anti-war movement, the situation is simple: our job is to get the U.S. out of there. But if we want to know a little more about "there," this is helpful.

Also helpful is Salam Adil's history lesson on the why U.S.-supported Iraqi secularists have proved to have so little traction in their country. Writing on his blog, Asterism Adil explains his perspective:

In 1958 a group of military officers brought down the monarchy and so doing started a revolution in which the whole government of Iraq was rebuilt from the ground up. Much like the aftermath of this war. The significance lies with the broad response of the parties and the people. Without any foreign intervention the people did not start destroying their country or killing each other in a civil war. The parties formed a new government, agreed a new constitution and nationalised the oil industry to create a truly independent Iraq. The people, in their masses backed the Communist party - not the religious parties or the tribal parties or the nationalists.

And there lies the seeds of the fantasy that the pro-American secularists have built around themselves. They believe simply by being secular the people will once again flock around them.

The other problem is that certain elite Iraqi secular politicians have always felt the need to be a client for a more powerful state. After 1958, the Communist leaders returned to Iraq from exile in the USSR and were given power on a plate. They never had to earn it from the people - never really understood what power was about or why they earned it. The Communists could have taken control of Iraq in 1963 but, after an order from the Soviet Union, they did not. Following the coup which brought the Saddam's Baathists into power, the Communist party agreed, again at the behest of the Soviet Union, to serve in Saddam's government. When Saddam had finished with them of them he had them rounded up and executed. With the fall of the USSR the Communists simply transferred allegiance to America....

There's more, opinionated, and worth considering.

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