Monday, April 30, 2007

Riverbend vs Jarrar (How Iraqi Are You II)

[UPDATED] Two important MidEast bloggers made major announcements over the last week.

Sandmonkey announced that due to increasing attention from Egyptian security forces, he was not blogging anymore.

Riverbend announced that she and her family were finally pulling up stakes and leaving Iraq. This was a big surprise to me since I had suspected (wrongly, apparently) that she had already left Iraq. This makes her the last of the Iraqi bloggers who debuted on Salam Pax's original Iraqi blog to verifiably leave Iraq:

    ...which leaves Salam Pax --in this sense at least-- alone in Baghdad unless he has left as well unannounced (which seems unlikely) and unless Ghaith has returned permanently (which I have no word on one way or another).*

    * It seems to me that I am leaving someone out. If someone can identify that blogger, I'll update/correct this entry.

    For me, Salam's old blog used to be a valuable record of the old blogger days, but -alas- Raed so edited and purged the posts there in expectation of his need to misrepresent himself in his plea to emigrate to America that I find the posts very often do not jibe with my memory, and I'm never sure if I'm reading Salam Pax's real words or Raed's cleaned up version. For me, this was a greater loss than when Salam, fearing that Saddam's Mukhabarat were closing in on him, deleted his entire blog (later restarting it). Anyway, very unfortunate.

    But, back to the subject at hand.
    Something Riverbend said caught my eye because it reminded me of Mejed Jarrar's recent assertion about ex patriots and the Iraq the Model bloggers. He said:

    "+2 million Iraqi refugees scattered on earth are a million times more Iraqi than the ITM brothers...[the] hundreds of thousands of refugees wish to go back to Iraq to live there, ITM brothers wish that they were been born Americans. They, and everyone who thinks like them, are a shame on Iraq."

    On the other hand, this is what Riverbend says about Iraqi expats:

    I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals...They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.

    The irony will of course intensify if Riverbend chooses to continue blogging now that she has left Iraq. It seems that the common thread among those who write paens for the wonderful days of Saddam, is that they draw ever finer and finer lines about who is a true Iraqi (while prominently pointing to themselves) and therefore wears a halo of wisdom about what should happen (and have happened) in Iraq.


    As she waved good-bye to Baghdad, she could not help but reel nostalgic for the halcyon days of Saddam one more time:

    I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere.
    ...unless you were a Kurd in Kirkuk, right RB? Or a Madan (Marsh Arab) in the wetlands of southern Iraq? or...well, Riverbend's family could probably live wherever they wanted...even in a Western country during the early 90's, the most paranoid, anti-Western period of Saddam's regime.
    We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward.
    I'll bet. Of course, making too much of one's non-Sunni religion under Saddam was forbidden and making too much of your neighbor's was malicious.

    Expat, Iraqi Mojo has some things to say about Riverbend's last post:
    Apparently to Riverbend and a few other Iraqi bloggers, the Baathi elite are not sectarian and never were. This is not to say that Maliki's government is not sectarian in nature, and that the powerful Shia clerics (Hakim, Sadr) are not without fault, but to assert that the current Iraqi government is responsible for starting the sectarian violence is absurd. Furthermore, the current government in Iraq, as dubious as many members' qualifications may be, is a product of democracy in a Shia-majority country that has been dominated by Sunni Arabs for centuries.
    This is an excellent post. Check it out.

    To shed some concentrated reality on this oft harped myth among certain Iraqis (I hope you can take it), I direct you to the Great Pontiff of Iraqi bloggers, Ali of Free Iraqi (who once accused Riverbend of lying):

    [S]ectarian tension has always been there under the ashes in Iraq. Saddam's policy of not allowing anyone to even talk about it or admit its existence made it only stronger and now as the oppressive power is removed you can see it clearer and stronger than ever.


    I think we should all look at ourselves first and for me I think the major problem is that Saddam's mentality is still running this country through people like Sadr, Al-Hakeem, Adnan Al-Dulaimi and Barzani. It's those people who keep inflaming those already existing divisions for their own benifit, as they represnt nothing but ethnic and sectarian hatred and they feed this fear and hatred among their people so that they vote for them.

    Anyway, good luck to you Riverbend. But if your next post is from San Francisco or Washington DC, I hope someone warns me so I can skip lunch before reading it.


    ITM commentor Hameed Abid hypothesizes that the Riverbend clan is getting out of Dodge before the new sheriff arrives (h/t Lousie):

    [T]he new Law to replace the Deba'athification Law is about to be approved by
    the iraqi parlaiment...The new Law will allow a period of time for people to
    lodge complaints about the former members of the Regime for the Courts to
    consider. They may be frightened they will be implicated. It is guilt escape
    plan perhaps?

    Jeff Weintraub responds to Andrew Sullivan regarding Riverbend's departure:

    [I]t also has to be kept in mind that she presents a special, one-sided, and in some ways quite misleading perspective--that of the Sunni Arab minority, and especially its urban professional classes.

    This comes through in everything she says, including the post from which you quoted. Riverbend remembers that, before 2003, it didn't matter whether you were Sunni or Shiite in Arab Iraq. But one reason she remembers it that way is that she was a member of a privileged minority. (Similarly, many whites in the US south sincerely believed that race relations were basically OK until things got stirred up by "outside agitators".) It's very clear that very, very large numbers of Iraqi Shiites saw things very differently. (Let's just ignore the way Kurds might have seen the situation--since Riverbend generally ignores that, too.)

    Impressively done too!
    (This is -officially anyway- now my second time to quote Weintraub, and I'm not even a regular reader. I guess it is time to mend my ways.)

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