Abu Graib : a wider context
I wrote the quote below last year and stand by it. As we examine unfolding events we ought to bear these notions in mind next to what I say in today's post about U.S. paranoia in the light of 9-11.
It is not talked about very much but is true. It explains why the Americans have so many people detained. Most perfectly innocent, no doubt. They are trying to find out about Saddamites, terrorists and as much as they can about Iranian influence on the Shia. They do not have much time. The Israelis together with unsavoury Serbs and South Africans employed by large private security companies have been brought in to help. It has gone pair-shaped because of the Abu Graib revelations. They will need to release as many of these people as quickly as possible to try to limit damage. If they carry on with vaste numbers of detainees without explaining who they are and why they are detained.....
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
"The U.S. is petrified of the clerics ruling Iraq. We must see it from their point of view - in realpolitik. They would prefer an Iraq that is a bulwark against Iran (despite some policy fellahs wanting to pussy-foot with them), which would - by being strong, and hopefully democratic - "encourage" a Second Iranian Revolution - a velvet one, of course - with eventual regime change in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In realpolitical terms this means the U.S. doesn't care how Iraq is governed and how much the Iraqis suffer - in the short and medium term - as long as Islamic Sharia law doesn't take hold. Any new Iraq Constitution that was not weighted strongly towards Sharia will, in any case, be anathema to the clerics. This is the one stumbling block to the rapid writing and adoption of a constitution. No one wants to sign it without Shia elements for fear of getting the chop, literally. The Shites who want power know they will never have a better chance to take what they see as their share of it.
If things do not move on more rapidly, the clerics will take over by default. This does not necessarily mean total disaster, because the Iraqi Shites are moderate and mostly not pro-Iranian.* But those with most to lose in a democratic Iraq will fight hardest to obtain power, legitimate or not. Juan Cole covers this in his essays on the Shites in Iraq.
Logically - for now - it would be preferable to have Sharia law than lawlessness. In this life, the only things that are irreversible are birth, genetic mutation, aging, death, nuclear radiation and the age of the universe. Buildings can be built and knocked down; people can believe one thing, then the opposite in the light of circumstance. If the choice is between a period of undemocratic stability followed by a (?) civil war or shaky democracy from the start, it ought to be shaky democracy. [realistically it will probably be the former, with or without civil war, at least in the south. Kurdistan being stable and democratic already.]
If the clerics do take over in the immediate future, civil war would be inevitable because of Iraq's modern history: the ex-Ba'ath, the minor secular democratic groups, the educated middle-classes as an entity regardless of political leanings, will not be happy to be governed by strict Islamic laws having lived without them for so long. Yes Iraq is majority Muslim, but the Iraqi identity is well defined and religion is only part of that indentity. Even Iraqi Jews from the diapora - 100,000 went to Israel ![ in the late 50s/early 60s] - still dream of and keep their Iraqi culture in their hearts; many still longing to return to their birth country. This must suggest they feel Iraqi first and Jewish second. [ Or in equal measures].
Imagine the U.S. forces sitting idly by in its barracks in Baghdad and Mosul as a strict Muslim ethos is forced down the throats of a westernised, well educated Iraqi population. This will only result in the wholesale departure of all the best people once more. It was said that at least 4 million professional and business people left Iraq in the last 25-30 years. They want to come back to play their part. The educated women certainly won't want to return if they are going to have stay in doors. It is quite hard to run a medical practice or school from your kitchen.
As long as it takes to create a constitution with separation of powers - as per the western model - seems to be the watch word
* 9 May 2004
The Iranian are known to have pumped a lot of money and many personnel into Iraq in the immediate pre-war and after. It is suggested Al Sadr has a lot of it.
[..] current amendments/additions