Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Fuzzy and Dangerous Logic

Can we separate ideas from the people who hold them? Sometimes this is easy. You have a friend that you like but on certain issues you just don't agree. You separate the ideas from the person. You are able to look at the ideas separately and judge their merits without reference to your friend's personality.

Other times, however, it isn't so easy. You know someone whose ideas actually give you access to their personality -- and you decide you like neither the ideas nor the person. "I don't like your ideas," you say to yourself, "and from what I've seen, I don't like your personality either." The ideas and that person's character reinforce each other.

One of the major themes here at Iraqi Bloggers Central has been the Deep Divide between the pro-Coalition bloggers and the anti-Coalition bloggers. The battle-lines were drawn a long time ago. When I began this blog, one of my goals was to see if I could initiate some dialogue between the two camps. I tried to be a mediator and I encouraged both sides to air their views and differences. And, while the pro-Coaltion group all had Coments Pages, none of the anti-Coaltion group did. So I also thought this weblog could be a place where people would be able to comment on the anti-Coaltion group's ideas.

Well, almost six weeks on, the dialogue hasn't materialized. I thought that the anti-Coaltion group might soften their stance a bit. They haven't. In fact, Faiza and Raed are even more vituperative than before. The one success we have had is that many people are now finally able to engage in public debate about the statements coming from Faiza, Raed, and the others.

Can we separate their ideas from their personalities? With Faiza and Raed this is extremely difficult. Their ideas are so completely shot through with their pessimism and negativity that it is hard to untangle a single idea from the mass of conflicting emotions in their blogs, an element of their writing upon which many posters have remarked and attempted to analyze.

Both Faiza and Raed excel in a peculiar kind of fuzzy and dangerous logic that allows their feelings to suddenly give birth to "facts." A while ago Raed thought that Muqtada Al-Sadr would be able blow the Americans away with his posse -- and suddenly Raed claimed that Al-Sadr has between 5 and 7 million loyal followers, adding confidently that this was his "conservative" estimate. This was, as everyone knows, complete fantasy. Unfortuantely, each and every one of his blogs are riddled with these inane "facts."

Faiza reads a history of Iraq and concludes that all evil in her country has come from outside.

From their greed and meanness comes our misery, they breed fighting, problems among the people, or the parties, or make agreements with a mad man, and make a dictator out of him, supplying him with money, power, and weapons so as to make wars on neighbors, destroy his nation, and we loose our hopes in a peaceful, settled life, for tens of years.

According to Faiza and her emotional needs, the West is responsible for Saddam Hussein! Saddam Hussein was every bit a local product as Richard Nixon was in the United States. Nixon was forced to resign in August, 1974. For Americans, Nixon was lucky he resigned or his rear would have been impeached. No one shed a tear at his departure. He disgraced the office of president. End of story. Raed, on the other hand, felt sad for Saddam Hussein getting pulled from power -- he was OUR leader, he exclaimed. "Whether we liked that or not," Raed wrote, "Saddam was a symbol of Iraq." (In democracies, Raed, no one is a "symbol" of the country. They're elected and if they screw up, they lose the next election, and the next person gets a chance.) Saddam and his Tikriti Clan had a thirty-year run of terror with 300,000 Iraqis lying in mass graves and Raed feels sorry for him!

Meanwhile Zeyad, a thoroughly logical and sharp-minded Iraqi, analyzes in a four-part, well-researched piece the "clash of cultures" in Iraq between urban values and tribal values and how and why Saddam Hussein is without doubt a local product.

Iraqis therefore have been conditioned (for centuries) by this ongoing 'clash of cultures' to follow two different (and often antithetical) sets of social values; urban values derived from their own ways of life and history as the cradle of civilisation, and tribal values imposed upon them by the Bedouin influence. Urban Iraqis cannot remain totally unaffected by the spread of tribal values and eventually they have to pick up from them in order to defend themselves and adapt to their new environment, the newly settled tribes on the other hand cannot indefinately retain their Bedouin culture which was only suitable for desert life and have to reshape it in order to coexist with the
original inhabitants. This has resulted in a form of duality or 'cultural ambivalence' in the Iraqi personality which is easily recognised by Westerners and they may therefore incorrectly describe Iraqis as being 'two-faced', when in fact Iraqis are unaware of their inconsistent behaviour and have had no choice in it. This duality is also evident on different scales in other Arab countries such as Syria, Palestine, Libya, Algeria, and to a lesser extent in Egypt.


The Ba'ath party came to power in 1968 and it regarded tribalism as a major obstacle to reforms and modernisation. Radical agrarian reforms were introduced to the country, estates owned by tribal Sheikhs were confiscated and limited, and peasant associations were formed to reduce the influence of tribal Sheikhs and to undermine their historical position as intermediaries between the government and their tribesmen. It was under Saddam Hussein however that tribalism resurfaced again starting from the mid-80's.

While Zeyad and the other bloggers tackle difficult issues about Iraq's future, using all the powers of reason and discernment at their disposal, Faiza and Raed continually revert to irrationalism. Faiza blaming all of Iraq's ills on the West and on Americans is unwarranted, false, and contains some of the same ingrediants that led to the extermination of millions of Jews and Armenians in the last century.

Can we separate ideas from the person? When we're dealing with interpretations it is always a good idea to find out something about the person behind the views. In historiographical practice, one should always try to learn something about the life of the individual behind the written work. In this case, the history of the Jarrar family -- from what we can glean from the internet -- helps us understand the built-in biases in their interpretation of current events in Iraq. These matters have been discussed on the Comments Pages and I thank the Iraqi posters who have helped us understand the position of the Jarrars in Iraqi society.


UPDATE: An excellent piece of keyboard research coming from a blogger who tracks down an AP source, an artist who made a nice living under Saddam:

He freely admits to once painting a portrait of Saddam and says, "Look, no person was forced to do this thing, my dear. But the money! I took my friends out to dinners for weeks on the payment."


ANOTHER UPDATE: AYS over at Iraq at a Glance, before collapsing into bed after a long trip from Basra, has enough energy to type out a big thank you. You're welcome, AYS, and get some sleep.

Congratulations to Iraq and Iraqis on this great day.. A day which is considered a big blow on the heads of those who call the United States and the coalition: ‘occupiers’.. Well.. thank you very much for the ‘occupiers’.. Those who helped us in liberating our country from the tyranny, the ‘occupiers’ who liberated Iraq on the 9th of April, the ‘occupiers’ who sent Mr.Paul Bremer as we did not have a governor at that time..the ‘occupiers’ who helped us in forming a governing council.. The ‘occupiers’ who helped us in the interim constitution.. The ‘occupiers’ who stood against the terrorists.. The ‘occupiers’ who helped us in forming and training our army......etc.. then those ‘occupiers’ handed over the sovereignty to the Iraqis.... they are the best ‘occupiers’ I’ve ever seen.. I hope they’ll ‘occupy’ the countries who are in need to be improved !
Thank you very much...

Oh-oh, this cannot make the Unhappy Campers over at Camp Jarrar in Amman very pleased. Beatnik Raed is working on his Lenny Bruce, I'm sure, while steam slowly rises from Faiza's ears.


STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Our regular poster Scott from Oregon is quoted in an article by Margie Wylie on the Iraqi Bloggers!

"For me, it's the story. It's just huge, like a triple-wide (James A.) Michener novel," said Scott Simpson, 41, a carpenter from Grants Pass, Ore. He finds the bloggers so compelling that he reads them up to five times per day.

Three cheers for Scott!

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