Friday, March 02, 2007

Congressman Gilchrest, Meet Lord Churchill

Here's a gem:

"What the British are doing, and what we really need to do, is to tease out the cultural complexities of this thing," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-Md.). "On the one hand, they are signaling to all the Iraqi people, whatever sect they are -- Sunnis, Shias, Kurds -- they are not going to be an occupying force. That's a powerful signal to send. And the other signal is that they are passing the torch to the Iraqis, who are the only ones who can handle this ancient -- I'd say primitive -- sectarian dispute."

Remind me again, Congressman Gilchrest, did you vote to allow the invasion and occupation of this primitive, savage land?

Never mind that since the event that Shi'a Muslims mark as the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the seventh century AD, there hasn't been any comparable dispute between Sunni and Shi'i Arab inhabitants of Mesopotamia. Never mind that Iraqis being tortured by other Iraqis or by Americans, asked "are you Sunni or Shiite?" may never have been asked such a question before the Anglo-American invasion. Once upon a time, Iraq was a secular state. Never mind that, despite this "ancient -- I'd say primitive -- sectarian dispute", there was (at least before CIA-backed strongman Saddam Hussein came to power) a relatively high proportion of Shi'i politicians and military officers in places of power in the Iraqi state. Never mind that this "ancient -- I'd say primitive -- sectarian dispute" wasn't raging before the Anglo-American invasion. So how primitive is it?

American lawmakers, and indeed many Americans in general, tend to see the Middle East as a land of perpetual violence and nonstop hatred (as with Webb's remark). They would be surprised to know that the Muslims are actually human, and many (I daresay most) would prefer to live their lives in peace. But this is a necessary illusion, because it extricates the US Empire from any blame in the tragedies daily facing the locals.

Such rationalizations are but a step away from this:

"I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes."

Divide-and-rule is an old imperialist trick. The west has used it on Iraq (and much of the Middle East) for nearly nine decades. The Iraqi people shouldn't be blamed that it is finally working. The west should be congratulated.

The willful ignorance necessary for such racist criminals to continue their fantasies of the wisdom and beneficence of the white man is astounding, as usual.


The ACTUAL God said...

Reading your excellent post I can't help but imagine Joe Lieberman stepping out of a shower.

Mr.Wrongway said...

I imagine joe lieberman naked as one giant face.

the actual rod said...

you mean one giant droopy face

Alexander said...

So, while I agree that the ancient primordial grievance claim is a fallacy, I think you're ignoring the facts that a) the Ottoman Empire divided the Iraqi people along sectarian lines with lasting repercussions and b) British colonialism and subsequent Baathist policy, although ostensibly aimed towards national unification after years of Ottoman division, subtly maintained sectarian division. It goes without saying that Saddam persecuted Shiites disproportionately for decades. So, I think that while your outrage over the canard of ancient grievances is valid, I think your blaming the US invasion for creating sectarian violence is a bit of disingenuous. The fact that there wasn't substantial violence between Shiites and Sunnis during Saddam's reign does not remotely prove that there are not actual grievances there that are being actively exacerbated now by extremists on both sides. In fact, it hints at the opposite.

Beneficent Allah said...

Thank you for spelling beneficent correctly

Beneficent Allah said...

Also, madd good post...your best work since Kabukiyama

the actual rod said...

Alexander, thanks for your comments.

Calls by Shi'i leaders in Najaf to rebel against the British mandate in the early 1920s were followed by Kurdish and Arab Sunnis--one of the major British bombing campaigns in suppressing the rebellion of 1920 was in Fallujah, as I'm sure you know.

You seem to have missed a brief mention in my post; I do acknowledge that the Shi'i of Iraq clearly had their grievances against Saddam's regime--the uprisings of the 1990s attest to that as well as anything (though the first, as well, was encouraged by the United States--nonetheless that doesn't make Shi'i opposition to Saddam's regime baseless or invalid). Saddam did presecute Shi'i, of that there is ample record; that that would inculcate hatred for his regime among Shi'i is also a fair assumption. However, that does not necessarily translate into a Shi'i-Sunni sectarian war, as the Sunni community, though economically privileged in the 1968-2003 period, was not uniform and most cultural accounts of pre-invasion Iraq leads one to believe that most Iraqis understood this. It is a religious division, and if you read a few of my relevant links you would see the argument that religious identity per se was not a major line dividing Iraqi society; this does not say anything about the discrimination carried out by a totalitarian government in that society--and I think that's a worthy distinction (Saddam's government was far more discriminatory than society at large, perhaps that's axiomatic). There was a mostly secular, educated urban Shi'i middle class, just as there was a mostly secular, educated urban Sunni middle class. They mixed in society. They talked. They lived in the same neighborhoods. They even married. Keep in mind, I'm not claiming total social harmony. I'm just pointing out that things were a bit different.

Finally, I'd also ask you to re-read the part of my post in which I reiterate what has been quite obvious for sometime: Saddam was a creation of the CIA in its quest to get rid of Qassem. The US should not escape the blame for the sectarian tensions that were created by the actions of his government. You conveniently overlook this. In that light, I will neglect to take offense to your claim that I am being disingenuous; it is quite clear that you have not made that connection.

Thanks for reading.

Alexander said...

True enough, Rod. I didn't mean to absolve the US of any role in creating or exacerbating the current division between Shi'i and Sunni, simply to point out that, even beyond doctrinal division, there is a historical pattern of political and economic division in Iraq largely benefitting Sunnis that precedes US and western policy in the region. One might argue that these patterns get latently culturally encoded and rear their ugly heads in times like these. Nevertheless, I'm the last person that will argue that
"times like these" aren't the direct result of insidious western behavior--obviously they are.

I guess it's a fine line I'm trying to draw between acknowledging that US policy in the region and specifically in Iraq clearly "caused" conflagration in Iraq while also saying that the lines along which this conflict is being drawn have historical origins that extend beyond US or western intervention in the region. The Ottomans practiced divide and rule as readily and successfully as their British and Baathist successors.