Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blue Man Two

Mr Ghost and Hammorabi
Regarding Mister Ghost's melancholy post about the current state of despair of some Iraqi bloggers, I commented:

It has been difficult for me to watch Hammorabi go through the five stages of grief over the dream of a democratic and liberal Iraq...or, heck, any democratic, liberal nation in the M.E.:
Denial -- "No to rejectionism!"
Anger -- Posts about the bombings of mosques
Bargaining -- "the US should leave"
Depression -- what he's posted most recently
Acceptance -- ??

For some, like Fayrouz, acceptance means "a free, democratic Iraq is not possible". For Omar & and Mohammed, and for Ali, acceptance seems to mean "It's going to take a lot longer and even then it won't live up to our dream" (imagine an abolitionist's reaction in 1789 to the US constitution).

It bears repeating (as I do over and over) that the Iraqi Kurds have already been through this sort of disillisionment. Under the No-Fly-Zone, with Saddam robbing them of Oil-For-Food supplies and medicine, COMPLETELY cut off from Iraq's power grid, they fought a seven-year civil war: Kurd-on-Kurd. They had Islamic Kurds, Marxist Kurds, and democratic Kurds in a mortal struggle for the future. Here is something Kurdo said about the January 2005 elections:

Dream On If You Think Elections Will Turn Iraq Into Heaven:

This coming election will not, under any circumstances :
1. Will not Make Iraq any safer.
2. Will not stop terrorist attacks on US soldiers and innocent civilians.
3. Will not provide security, oil, and electricity to normal ordinary
people.
4. Will not stop terrorists sabotaging the pipelines.
[...]
Elections are not some magic-sticks that could touch Iraq and make it as safe as heaven. I remember in 1992 before the Kurdistani general elections, we had this view of Kurdistan after the elections. A free, organised, democratic, western style country.

There was even [a] TV series called "After the Parliament". In these TV programmes, they used to show Kurdistan as a (arms-free), democratic, prosperous country. In the shows, a few people were saying "When is this going to happen"? The answer and the end of the show was "Dwaii Parlaman" "After electing the Parliament".

But, after the elections, Kurdistan turned into hell. A bloody civil war that continued for about 7 years devastated the country. So anyone thinking that this Iraqi election is going to make things anything better, should stop thinking about that now.

Democracies (rule-by-the-people) have always been debilitated by the requirement that the "people" who are ruling are almost entirely ordinary, venal human beings rather than George Washingtons. Okay. Now we have a significant chunk of a government sworn in. We don't have the most important posts (heads of the police & army), but perhaps something will happen there with everything else off the table.

This is going to be a long, hard, gorey slog that neither Americans nor Iraqis can afford to lose, which is why I have no patience for malingerers -- especially in America, but Iraqis too (and I'm not referring to Fayrouz or Hammorabi).



Well, I have more bad news from Kurdo. While Kurdistan is freer, safer, and more prosperous than the rest of Iraq, it is still struggling toward liberty and modernity.

Although the average Iraqi Kurd is far more secular in lifestyle than the average Iraqi Arab, the Kurds who ARE Islamofascist far out-strip their Arab counter-parts in extremism. This continues to be a tension in northeast Iraq.

Also, the leaders in Kurdistan reportedly rule the region in private fiefdoms -- a region divided as well between the two major political parties and Marxist (PKK) and Islamic wildcards -- seriously restricting open dissent against them as, once again, Kurdo reported here and here and also in a post (that he seems to have deleted) that describes being bullied and quite directly threatened by the body-guard of an important Kurdish politician.

In short, this is going to be a hard struggle for Iraq long after the US severely backs-off on its direct support, and hardest for Iraqis whose bar for success is America or even Baghdad under Saddam when its wealth and stability was exacted by oppressing all other Iraqis. Yet, if Iraq is to succeed it will require Iraqis with just those unreasonable expectations...but having set aside the unreasonable optimism that will probably defeat them.

Iraq's problems are not just internal (which are intractable enough): They are regional ones that arise from Arab Nationalism, Socialism, Tribalism, Islamic fundamentalism...most of which arose from even deeper roots of post-Ottoman/post-colonialism); problems that the New Iraq was/is hoped to ameliorate as well -- or even solve.

This is going to be so hard. Much harder than I believed in 2003. It was a difficulty that was beyond the grasp of those who opposed the Iraq liberation at the time as well (whatever they say). Even the original Baghdad Blogger thought that modern liberal government would be an easy sell in Iraq as he said gloomily last January:

One of the things you used to hear a lot during the build-up to the war was that there is a strong secular, educated base of Iraqis which will be the foundation for the reconstruction effort and the political process. I believed that as well, more than believed, I thought I knew this to be a fact.

But the problems of Iraq won't be grappled only in the Middle East. It is a fight that will be fought also in Europe and in US mosques and Muslim organizations and in elections against head-in-the-sand Luddites worldwide.

If we had known how hard it would be, would we have slogged into it in 2003?
I doubt it.
George Bush 41 and Bill Clinton had only the vaguest idea of what it would be like, I believe, and yet they still demurred to put their own credibility on the line by directly removing Saddam.

Would it still have been necessary that we did it?
Absolutely.

We were lucky in our ignorance.

Go, Iraqis, go!




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