Thursday, March 22, 2007

Finger-Pointing Over at Treasure of Baghad

Update I & II

Christopher Hitchens vacations in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Iraq that might have been:
We didn't make any investments, though I would say that the hotel and tourism and oil sectors are wide open for enterprise, but we did visit the ancient citadel in Erbil, where Alexander the Great defeated the Persians—my son is a Greek-speaking classicist—and we did sample the lovely mountains and lakes and rivers that used to make this region the resort area for all Iraqis. Air and road travel were easy (you can now fly direct from several airports in Europe to one of two efficient airports in Iraqi Kurdistan), and walking anywhere at night in any Kurdish town is safer than it is in many American cities. The police and soldiers are all friendly locals, there isn't a coalition soldier to be seen, and there hasn't been a suicide attack since May of 2005...there is a memorial of gratitude being built for fallen American soldiers. "We are planning," said the region's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, in his smart new office in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, "to invite their relatives to the unveiling." Speaking of unveiling, you see women with headscarfs on the streets and in offices (and on the judicial bench and in Parliament, which reserves a quarter of the seats for women by law), but you never see a face or body enveloped in a burka. The majority of Kurds are Sunni, and the minority are Shiite, with large groups belonging to other sects and confessions, but there is no intercommunal mayhem. Liquor stores and bars are easy to find, sometimes operated by members of the large and unmolested Christian community. On the university campuses, you may easily meet Arab Iraqis who have gladly fled Baghdad and Basra for this safe haven. I know of more than one intrepid Western reporter who has done the same.
24StepsToLiberty says:
On the Kurdistan issue, you have to remember that Kurdistan didn’t start in 2003. It started in 1991. That’s a fact. Masoud Barzani allied with Saddam until he late 1990s to disrupt Jalal Talbani’s territories. They didn’t start in 2003. They were working on their problems for 15 years until they just recently started building their region. Please don’t compare Kurdistan to the rest of Iraq. Please don’t! And if you have to do so, just wait 15 more years!
I agree with this, and as I said to commenter Annie in the exchange recorded below, the primary purpose of the foreign troops in Iraq is to give the country Time to make a soft(er) landing into a stable, free Iraq. I only hope it doesn't take 15 years to get the rest of Iraq solidly on the road to looking like Kurdistan, since I don't think the American public will afford them that much time.

BaghdadTreasure has apparently decided to tolerate my presence in his comment sections again, and I think something I posted there bears repeating here. It is about the tendency of some Iraqi bloggers (BaghdadTreasure, 24StepsToLiberty, Zeyad, etc) to blame the instability of Iraqi on the decisions and actions of US troops or US civil authorities in the year after Saddam was toppled. I dealt with some of these questions last year here.

When no US troops are around, Sunni Arabs will pause to blame Sadr or Maliki, SCIRI, or the Badr Brigade. Shi'a Arabs blame Sunni insurgents, jihadists, and political parties. It's always someone else. It's never the guy who buys CD-ROMs of Coalition soldiers being murdered or relatives and people in their neighborhood who don't report insurgent or militia activity.

But here is a sampling of my conversation at Treasure of Baghdad.

With BaghdadTreasure:
BT: We are blaming the US for its mistakes AFTER the invasion. Starting from disbanding the ALL the former Iraqi army members leaving them to be bites for al-Qaeda who tempted them with thousands of dollars to start the chaos....

CMAR II: Oh, poo! Those in the army who did not disband themselves were those who served in Saddam's army because they were true believers. They weren't tempted away by al-Qaeda's dollars. They were tempted away all too easily by former regime elements who never for a moment stopped fighting since April 9th, 2003...I don't know exactly what the solution for Iraq is...but I'm glad no one followed your advice in 2003 to give heavy armaments to Saddam's most ardent loyalists...the same army that slaughtered 10s of 1000s of Iraqis in 1991.
...and with 24StepsToLiberty:
24STL: when the americans came into iraq, they didn't trust the iraqis. so, they left them waiting in lines outside the green zone and didn't give them jobs. we wrote stories about the thousands of iraqis lining up waiting for ajob in "rebuilding" but nothing happened. when it was too late, they called for iraqis to come back. it was already dangerous to work in rebuilding!

CMAR II: You can't have it both ways. The Americans trusted some Iraqis and not others. There have been endless complaints about the Iraqis IN IRAQ whom the American's trusted (not just Iraqis returning after having been chased out by Saddam). Also, there were a lot of Iraqis the US would have been stupid to trust. There were lots of people lining up to kill Americans and (like it or not) a significant number of Arab Iraqis [of all sects] have always excused or even countenanced murders of Coalition soldiers.

The fact is that the US soldiers were very trusting of Iraqis when they first entered Baghdad. Because of acts by jihadists and insurgents, they stopped trusting. Same on the Iraqi side. That was the goal of the jihadists and Saddamists and narrow-minded imams. I don't know how that goal could be thrwarted....You've said it yourself many times, 24: "The Iraqis did it to themselves." 100K foreign non-Arabic speaking soldiers could never alter a course set collectively by 28 million Iraqis whose worst elements were being encouraged by Iraq's backwards neighbors.
My response to 24StepsToLiberty really got commenter Annie's panties in a bunch...
Annie: don't you think empowering shiites via badr brigades may have supported some iranian influence?

CMAR II: News flash, annie: the Badr Brigades were Iraqi. And they represented a significant anti-Saddam force from the majority demographic of Iraq. You might as well bitch about Kurds being empowered via the Peshmurga [who also had a close relationship with Iran during the Saddam era.].

Annie: [referring to their "backwards neighbors"] i presume you think the heart of the resistance was spurred by AQ

CMAR II: No. The heart of the resistance was spurred by loyalty to Saddam, to Arab Nationalism, and sectarian chauvinism. They did have a working relationship with AQ, however, as is revealed in the writings and testimony of Michael Ware, their most eloquent Western biographer.

Yet, I was referring to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan. As well as more distant regional neighbors like Egypt; the populations and/or governments of which have provided sanctuary, moneys,fighters, and philosophical encouragement to the worst of Iraqis to disrupt their country's stability and modernization. Iraqis are attempting to gentrify an really really bad neighborhood.

Annie: generalizing about who influences 28 million iraq's in 03 is pretty heady of you.

CMAR II: I am saying that Iraq today is what Iraqis have made of it. Kurdistan is relatively stable, liberal, and it's economy is booming despite often lacking dependable electricity and water. It is a place for Iraqi refugees of all heritages. The South of Iraq is relatively stable but is significantly less liberal...dangerously so for some. The West is often a den for insurgents and jihadists. Baghdad has become a war zone as sectarian groups in various districts (where they are tolerated) oppress people there and essay out to blow up people in other districts.

In each area, it is individual decisions (whether to act or not to act) of millions of Iraqis who have made it what it is.

The sole purpose of the foreign troops is not to turn Iraqis into angels. It is only to give Iraq some time...time for the government become founded on a viable contract with the governed whether they be Sunni, Shi'a, Chaldean, Arab, Kurd, Turkoman, or Aardvark.

So it is idiotic, unfair, and counter-productive for 28 million Iraqis to blame 130K foreign soldiers for Iraqis killing Iraqis.
Check it out.


I have no relationship with these guys; certainly no financial relationship. I just really like this design. I think it sums up the Western Left today. Heck, I think it sums up the Middle Eastern media and (generally) the non-extremist observant Muslims. It sums up Raed Jarrar. Anyway click here to go to Cox & Forkum where, if you want to, you can buy a t-shirt.

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