An Iraqi Perspective: How America’s Destruction of Iraqi Society Led to Today’s Chaos

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Raed Jarrar.

Raed Jarrar.

In the US, most of the analysis of what’s happening in Iraq comes to us from Americans. A handful of our “Iraq experts” know the country intimately; others have traveled through it embedded with US troops or experienced it from the alternate universe of the heavily fortified US Green Zone during the height of the occupation. But a majority of the people whose supposed insights shape our views of Iraq never set foot there.

For an Iraqi perspective on what’s going on — and for some context — we turned to Raed Jarrar. Jarrar was born and raised in Baghdad. He lived there on and off under Saddam Hussein’s rule, and he experienced America’s “Shock and Awe” campaign from the receiving end.

After the invasion, Jarrar founded an NGO that did reconstruction work in Iraq. He worked as the country director for the first door-to-door survey of Iraqi civilian casualties conducted after the invasion.

When the situation in Baghdad became unbearable, Jarrar emigrated to the US and became a writer and peace activist. He translated the controversial Iraq Oil Law proposed by the Bush administration in 2007, and has consulted with several international humanitarian groups.

A transcript of our discussion is below; it’s been edited for length and clarity.

Joshua Holland: Can we draw a line from the Bush administration’s decision to completely dismantle the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein – including its security apparatus – to the chaos we see now?

Raed Jarrar: We can, but I think you need to begin earlier than that.  The US intervention in Iraq officially started in 1991. And in some ways it has not stopped yet.

This included a couple of wars, 13 years of really harsh economic sanctions, and as we all know, eight years of military occupation followed by a continuous intervention in Iraq’s domestic politics. Contrary to what many people here think, while the US ended its military occupation at the end of 2011, it never stopped interfering in Iraq’s business. The US continues to sell the Iraqi government billions of dollars worth of weapons, we have training programs for Iraqis, and of course we’re picking and choosing who to train and who to arm in a situation that’s extremely complicated.

Holland: How do you respond to Americans who say, “Well, Sunni and Shia, they hate each other — it’s an ancient blood hatred and we have nothing to do with that. It’s not our fault that they’re at one another’s throats.”

Jarrar: You can say this about many other sects and religions whether they are Christian or Muslim or whatever. But there is a political dimension to these historical differences.

Obviously, there are theological differences as well as political and social differences. But the fact is that Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites managed to live in the same country for a long time without killing each other, and they lived in the same neighborhoods. They intermarried — I am half Sunni and half Shiite. I am one of many Iraqis who was born into these mixed marriages.

“The US destroyed that Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities after 2003.”
Sect wasn’t really a part of the national consciousness. I was born in Iraq and I’d never in my life been asked if I was a Sunni or a Shiite. And I didn’t know who among my relatives or neighbors or co-workers or colleagues at school were Sunnis or Shiites, because it wasn’t an issue. It’s not that people were tolerant toward each other — they weren’t aware of sectarian backgrounds. It’s similar to some areas in the US where you don’t necessarily know what Christian sect your friends belong to. You might know, or you might not know.

That was before the US intervention. The US destroyed that Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities after 2003. I don’t think this is something that many Iraqis argue about, because you can trace the beginning of this sectarian strife that is destroying the country, and it clearly began with the US invasion and occupation.

That’s not to say that Iraqis don’t have agency over their own country and lives – they could and should have worked on bridging the gaps. But it’s not easy to fix these huge political and religious differences when the situation is as complicated as Iraq — and when the US is funding and training one side of this conflict with tens of billions of dollars, it’s not easy to reach a point of national healing, where Iraqis work together and live in peace.

Holland: A few years back, Nir Rosen wrote that an “obsession with sects informed the US approach to Iraq from day one of the occupation.” But how did this sectarian animosity emerge at the neighborhood level? Take me into a mixed neighborhood and tell me how the invasion caused people who used to be neighbors to turn against each other.

Jarrar: It started just by bringing up people’s sectarian divisions. I think making it a political identity was the first destructive force. And this happened right after the fall of Baghdad, when the US created the Iraqi Governing Council. The IGC was the first entity in Iraq’s contemporary history where people were selected based on their sectarian and ethnic identity. It had never before been the case that people were selected to serve because they were Sunni or Shiite or Kurdish. That brought it up to the surface. They started this quota system for political affiliations and then the ruling parties started playing on these divisions.

So before people started seeing the changes in their neighborhood, they started seeing changes in the political rhetoric and in the news coverage and in the way that they perceived themselves.

Map of how religious sects were reorganized in Baghdad neighborhoods after the war. (Credit: The New York Times)

2009 map showing how religious sects were segregated in Baghdad neighborhoods after the war. See more maps and the full feature at The New York Times website.

Now fast forward a few years. There’s not enough security. And Iraq witnessed one of the largest ethnic and sectarian cleansing campaigns in the region’s history. The number of Iraqis who were displaced either inside or outside of the country was around 5 million. That’s out of a population of less than 30 million. So one-sixth of the population were forced to move out of their homes. This is like having 50 million Americans pushed out of their homes within a few years. It’s a crazy number.

The Baghdad neighborhood where I used to live before I emigrated to the US, it became a Sunni neighborhood. All the Shiites were targeted — they were killed, or they moved to another neighborhood. And the neighborhood that I lived in before that one became a Shiite neighborhood, because all the Sunnis were targeted and moved out.

There was this very sophisticated system of neighborhood-to-neighborhood cleansing in Baghdad. And there was a deliberate effort to not attack Sunnis in Sunni neighborhoods, just to keep them there — the same with Shiites in Shiite neighborhoods.

Then the larger picture is that there were entire cities that were completely cleansed of one ethnicity or the other. In a few cities in the south, they kicked out all Sunnis; a few cities in the north kicked out all Arabs or all Kurds.

Many people accuse the militias affiliated with the ruling parties that were supported by and funded by the US of being involved with this program of cleansing.

And it created a new reality. I used to say Iraq will never be separated or partitioned, because of the demographic realities. There were millions of Shiites who lived in what the US wanted to have as a Sunni partition, and vice versa. [Ed note: In 2007, the US Senate passed a nonbinding resolution supporting "regional federalism" in Iraq that would have divided the country into three semi-autonomous regions along ethnic and sectarian lines.] Now that’s completely changed. Today, the new demographic reality has opened the door for sectarian war, it has opened the door wide for partitioning and for what has been going on this week.

So the deterioration we see today didn’t happen in a few months. It happened over a long, long period of time. There was so much destruction and death and displacement and ethnic cleansing imposed upon Iraqis before we reached this week of actual sectarian civil war.

Holland: You lived under Saddam Hussein, and you lived under the first years of the US occupation. There is an argument, especially from conservatives, that life under Saddam Hussein was so heinous that even with what followed – with the many missteps of the occupation — we were ultimately justified in going in to depose this monster. What’s your reaction to that?

Jarrar: First let me say that this argument is fairly new to the history of this conflict. Earlier, the proponents of intervention in Iraq did not use Saddam Hussein and his atrocities as standards for what the US would bring to the country. They promised some utopian ideals of happiness and democracy and equality for all. So the mere fact that they are trying to defend their crimes by comparing them to someone else’s crimes is actually evidence of their failure.

“[The US] promised some utopian ideals of happiness and democracy and equality for all. So the mere fact that they are trying to defend their crimes by comparing them to someone else’s crimes is actually evidence of their failure.”
That said, Iraq under the former Iraqi government, before the occupation, was a livable country. It was one of the many Arab countries that had a dictatorship. Arabs have dictatorships all over the region so it wasn’t an exception. It was a run-of-the-mill dictatorship that was brutal in attacking and killing and torturing dissidents who opposed it. But as far as everyday life for millions of Iraqis, the standard of living was… okay. The country functioned. There were enough basic services provided to the people — education was free, health care was free. And the national identity was good enough to maintain the country’s territorial integrity.

In the 1990s these things started falling apart — after the 1991 war. We saw partitioning of the north of Iraq to what became Iraqi Kurdistan. People became a little bit more religious, and under the sanctions [that the UN Security Council imposed between the two Gulf Wars] there was more corruption. But it continued to function better than it did after the occupation even under the sanctions, which is amazing when you think about it.

Iraq was exporting an average of $100 billion worth of oil every year. That’s actually more than the budgets of Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and Egypt combined. And under the occupation – and after it – the government failed to provide its citizens with electricity, with water! With a decent road that they could drive on. The most basic services are not provided. Iraq has been among the most corrupt countries in the world for the last twelve or thirteen years, according to Transparency International.

So the short answer to your question is that before 2003, Iraq was not a very happy place to live, but it was home for millions of people. They went to work, and they had their basic needs satisfied. They could not express themselves politically. But after 2003, people still could not – and cannot – express themselves politically and they also lost all of the security that they used to have and all of the basic services.

So I don’t think many Iraqis actually would disagree that the US occupation and invasion and everything that happened after it made the country much worse.

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  • Questor1

    Raed Jarrar got it right! Ultimately, the citizens of Iraq must work it out – and would have if Bush, et. al., had not used “Shock and Awe” to prove who strong we are. (Given the results, it shows how weak and misguided we were!) Now if we in the US can just realize that power and monied interests are antithetical to a democracy, and to OUR democracy, we might avoid what is happening in Iraq! Democracy = power of the people.

  • Anonymous

    you can’t clear a muddy pond by stirring it.

  • http://www.seattlecentral.edu/faculty/azouari Jawed Zouari

    What Mr. Jarrar is saying is not surprising to anyone outside the United States. In fact many Americans knew about the illegality of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. I remember how former Secretary of State Colin Powel was used by the neo-cons to make the case for the invasion before the UN. Later his little demonstration before the world cost him his political carrier. He felt so duped and bitter, he later voted for Obama.
    What is sick about the tragedy in Iraq now is that the very people who caused this human catastrophe are back talking about another U.S. intervention to help the situation, when they should have been tried for crimes against humanity.

  • dhb4angels

    Our Country was wrong to invade Iraq and destroy their country, at HUGE expense and loss of lives, based on LIES. This article is the first I’ve seen that explains PSYOPs so well.

    Seems the Neocons are doing the same thing here with our population, creating, magnifying and strongly setting apart factions in every arena of public life, and then fanning the flames with MSM they now control.

    From top down, and ground up, they’ve cultivated grand dysfunction in our own Government (as well as around the world). They tanked USA finances while they were at it (war, 2008 financial crisis) and beefed up the wealthiest (with tax cuts, tax codes with loopholes and lack of funding for investigating and enforcing laws). They laugh all the way to the bank about the destruction of the middle class, austerity, outsourcing American jobs, burying students with loan debt, etc. They have shown great disrespect for diversity and potential for enormous good in our world.

    PSYOPs distractions from the real business of what’s going on… It’s evil and dirty.

  • Dan

    When the war was over in Japan and Germany we invested in those countries and stuck around until right up today. When you invade a country and than leave it high and dry what do you expect? We couldn’t afford the invasion in the first place and we sure can’t afford to prop it up but our right wingers never think about that because they have the tax payers to pay for it with debt. And at the same time Bush passed two tax breaks so you can say his administration and the Republican congress is directly responsible for this, but now some how they claim Obama is for political reasoning. Sad…..and the public never gets truth because the media has been watered down to neutralize and truth.

  • sikanni

    Absolutely bang on. I have always wondered WHY there was Shia/Sunni strife in Iraq prior to American intervention. It’s great to get the TRUTH from someone intimately familiar with the situation. Would that articles like this appeared in the MSM to educate the general public!

  • Jon Adams

    Chaos was part of the bush plan— from the beginning.

  • FDRliberal

    Too bad we can’t see more of Mr. Jarrar appearing on US media outlets rather than warmongers like William Kristol.

  • Anonymous

    There
    is a powerful narrative within the Islamic world that blames all of their ills on the “evil West”. But the Middle East (along with the rest of the world) has a long, ugly history of violence and strife that is completely independent of anything the US has done. For all its flaws, the US along with the West remains at the cutting edge of Human Rights and democracy – as much as is humanly possible on this planet. And this blame-it-on-whitey nonsense that keeps showing up in our Western Liberal publications takes its lead from this confused narrative. Don’t believe the hype. America did not “destroy Iraqi society”.

  • FDRliberal

    In the real world the illegal (and incredibly stupid) US invasion killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and utterly wrecked that nation. That is called ‘destroying’.

    Further, Cheney and his assistants were already planning on going into Iraq only weeks after Bush was selected by the Supreme Court.

  • Nick

    Over the last century, much of the violence and strife in the Middle East is in response to, or at the instigation of, “evil Western” oil companies.

    It’s not “blame-it-on-whitey”, it’s blame it on whitey’s money.

  • dhb4angels

    Do you mean we, the USA? Man, I’ve not seen the depth and breadth and width of the dog eat dog dysfunction in our country like it is today.

  • dhb4angels

    “…only weeks after Bush was selected by the Supreme Court.” I am still in disbelief that that went down in the USA.

  • Anonymous

    Those responsible for the lies and deceptions which led to the invasion of Iraq have never been charged with the war crimes they committed and they never will be charged.

  • Anonymous

    This article sounds like an accurate description. What a sad mess.

  • Anonymous

    Raed doesn’t date the beginning of US meddling in Iraq to the invasion of 2003 — he starts at 1991. When Iraq was the most secular country in the Middle East.

    More to the point: it’s incredibly impressive that Americans who have presumably never been to Iraq would think they know more about Sunni-Shia relations in Iraq than a native Iraqi who’s half Sunni and half Shia.

    We never listen to people in these countries — we just talk at them, and stick with our preconceptions. I think this is a big reason why we’ve proven to be totally incapable of intervention that doesn’t end in disaster.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right — there was no Shock and Awe, we didn’t invade, blow up half the country’s infrastructure, displace several million people, dismantle the government, fire the army and police and occupy the country until handing power over to a corrupt government we installed after killing Saddam.

    None of that happened — it’s just one of those crazy Middle East conspiracy theories. I’m glad that not everyone believes the hype.

  • Anonymous

    The US cannot intelligently manage their own country, what makes them think they can manage others? The 2 party system has steadily fallen deeper into illegitimacy due to insane amounts of money spent to buy politicians and pay lobbyists to influence legislation. Other parties await in the wings, growing in strength. The Green Party seems attractive on their policy of strengthening local sustainable communities rather than Walmarting neighborhoods with tax incentives and tax payers subsiding Walmart employees housing and food. As an extra added attraction, they will never accept 1 red cent from corporations, only from individuals.
    Used to be the US made everyone fearful of Communists as a smokescreen to raid the national treasury. Most have forgotten that Communism was created in reaction to predatory capitalism. Today, the predation has gone global and “Terrorists” are the new “Communists.”, a reaction to unbridled selfishness and greed. However, armed revolution tends to make things worse, it is knowledge that is key to strength and change.

  • Walter Jesse Smith

    To say that sect has little or nothing to do with the political problems ignores 1700 years of historical evidence to the contrary. It also ignores the last half-dozen years of political experience of the Shia Iraq Government (when that speaker found Iraq too messy to stay in) – this is an incoherent response to a disaster exacerbated by American political stupidity. The crisis that is Iraq began worsening during WWI when the Brits decided to draw lines across the desert and call that part of the area “Iraq” and another part “Iran” and another “Saudi Arabia” and so on into the US deciding it wanted to inherit the UK’s Middle East disaster during WWII. Yes, FDR is the original author (with a lot of help from the Rockefeller Foundation) of the US’s meddling in Middle East Oil politics. It has been disastrous for the Middle East, disastrous for US Politics, disastrous for Global Ecology, disastrous for global economics, disastrous all around.

    So, yes, we need more US meddling in Middle East oily greasy politics. How else can we destroy the planet faster? Frack the whole planet, of course. Which Obama also wants to do, just in case we keep losing all our wars and bleeding our economy bankrupgt as we have been doing since WWII. Hey, when it works, don’t fix it.

  • Matthew Shadle

    One Iraqi with a story to sell that is just what his American audience wants to hear, or a historical record and thousands of dead bodies that say otherwise. Take your pick. Everything I wrote is indisputably part of the historical record. Whether I experienced it or not is irrelevant.

  • Matthew Shadle

    Also, while he does briefly mention 1991 he very clearly identifies 2003 as when we “created” sectarian identities in Iraq: “The US destroyed that Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities after 2003.”

  • SparkyGump

    Isn’t that why we sent Peggy Noonan over there? She was going to make things nice nice and they were going to throw rose petals at us instead of grenades?

  • Matthew Shadle

    If I was questioning his own personal experience you would have a point, but he doesn’t have the right to generalize his own experience to the entire nation, especially when there are so many obvious and undisputed historical facts to the contrary.

  • Jason Carpp

    Why the hell are we even in the Middle East? This is their damn battle, why should we make it our fight as well?

  • Anonymous

    As a lifelong Liberal it’s a little embarrassing to have to acknowledge that some of my right wing associates were right about somethings. And when I read dumb Liberal narrative like yours I can only shake my head at your cluelessness.

  • Anonymous

    Raed has no story to sell, and your interpretation of Iraqi history is not only disputable, it is wrong.

    And it’s not “one Iraqi’s” story.

    From the 2007 Nir Rosen piece linked above:

    “This obsession with sects informed the U.S. approach to Iraq from day one of the occupation, but it was not how Iraqis saw themselves — at least, not until very recently. Iraqis were not primarily Sunnis or Shiites; they were Iraqis first, and their sectarian identities did not become politicized until the Americans occupied their country, treating Sunnis as the bad guys and Shiites as the good guys. There were no blocs
    of “Sunni Iraqis” or “Shiite Iraqis” before the war, just like there was no “Sunni Triangle” or “Shiite South” until the Americans imposed ethnic and sectarian identities onto Iraq’s regions.”

    Nir’s an Arabic speaker who spent four years reporting from Iraq. How much time have you spent there?

    Prefer an academic source?

    Here’s Zack Beauchamp interviewing Fanar Haddad, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute. He’s an expert on the history and politics of Iraqi sectarianism and the author of Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity:

    “Zack Beauchamp: You’re an expert on the
    Sunni-Shia sectarian divide in Iraq. Can you talk about how this divide became so deep, historically and politically? I don’t buy the line that it’s “ancient hatreds” reasserting themselves, but was this kind of violence inevitable after the US invasion in 2003?

    “Fanar Haddad: You’re right not to buy the ancient hatreds line. The roots of sectarian conflict aren’t that deep in Iraq. In early medieval Baghdad, there were sectarian clashes, but that is extremely different from what you have in the age of the nation state.

    “Come the 20th century and the nation state, we’re all part of this new “Iraq” entity — you feel a sense of belonging, so it becomes a question of how you divide the national pie. And I think that’s the main driver, the main animator behind sectarian competition in Iraq.

    “That’s a very new one. The state was established in 1921…I’ll skip through the next 80 years of statehood, except to say that
    throughout them, the default setting was coexistence. Sectarian identity for most of the 20th century was not particularly relevant in political terms. Obviously, this is something that ebbs and flows, but there were other frames of reference that were politically dominant. Come 2003, plenty changes….

    “Post-2003 Iraq, I’d say identity politics have been the norm rather than an anomaly because they’re part of the system by design. The first institution that was set up in 2003 under the auspices of the occupation was the Iraq Governing Council — which was explicitly based on sectarian apportionment. You know, 13 Shias, six Sunnis, or whatever it was, based on what were perceived as the correct demographics.”

    Since you’re so confident, I’m sure you’ve also written a scholarly book about the topic, right?

  • Anonymous

    I’m also old enough to remember that, back in the 1980s, the conventional wisdom here in the US — embraced by every politician, journalist and pundit — was that Iraq was by far the most secular country in the Middle East.

    It’s mind-boggling how short our collective memory can be.

  • Anonymous

    The Sunni/Shia divide in Iraq is as real – and as unreal – as the black/white divide in the US. In good times masked by the enforcement of law-and-order to the extent that it appears minimal. In bad times emerging in violence.

  • Anonymous

    “Walter Jesse Smith” -
    While your historical mentioning of the ill-conceived partitioning of the region by the allied Western governments subsequent to WWI, primarily in their quest to control the region’s oil, is certainly a principle factor in the beginning of the destabilization of the entire region and the resulting abhorrent death and destruction, the criticism of Raed Jarrar’s insightful critique and explanation of the cultural and social state of affairs in Iraq from the 1991 invasion to the present is unfairly impugned by your opening comment. Mr. Jarrar clearly and cogently described both the negative aspects of Iraq’s dictatorship along with an insight into how Iraqi secular society writ large was managing to prosper despite the oppression and corruption of its government. Saddam Hussein’s rise and rule itself was inculcated and facilitated by the same Western alliance. If we are to actually strive to understand the lessons of actual history, we must learn not to fashion (revise) the historical record around imagined perceptions of it.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    With all due respect good sir, while your patriotism is laudable, you evidently need to catch up on your world history and civics.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    “Joshua_Holland” – I, for one, would like to thank you for your calm objectivity and resistance to revisionist rhetoric. While I can certainly support several of “Matthew Shadle”‘s historical assertions, the idea that such history supports his instant thesis seems to be either the product of an honest misunderstanding of context or an intentional conflation of facts with opinion.
    If you do not mind my asking, what does the “Moderator” tag next to your user-name signify?
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    Au contraire “Matthew Shadle”, Mr. Jarrar has the inalienable right to express his opinion without it being impeached by such hyperbolic rhetoric. It is merely your individual perception that he portends to speak for “the entire nation”; he neither implies or makes any such claim.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    “dhb4angels” – Your comment seems to deserve more than a simple up-vote.
    WELL SAID!!
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    “Jawed Zouari” – Very well said good sir!!
    You might want to “edit” the spelling of “carrier”; I suspect you intended “career”. (;-} One of those petty NeoCons you mentioned might be lurking in the darkness, waiting to attack.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    I like his comment as2 how we are bleeding our economy as weve done since WW2,,,,,,,,,,,,REWALLY? wow– sounds rather TEA PARTY trash 2 me,,,,,, our economy has have marvelous UP times and some bad bad down times since 1945. I bet that he didn’t cry about a so-called broken economy until jan 2009

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    im diggin’ the sarcasm!!

  • Anonymous

    I’m sick of nilnod Iraqis blaming the US for their problems. They alone allowed themselves to be ruled by Saddam Hussein, who invaded first Iran and then Kuwait without provocation… gassed the Kurds, threatened Saudi Arabia and Israel. He says there wasn’t sectarianism before the Americans! How about the swamp Arabs of the south or gassing of the Kurds. This is typical Arab speak… blame others for your own egregious faults. it’s what Arabs do. [not all... but most]

  • Anonymous

    Oh boy… now everyone’s going to stumble over themselves to lecture you on how shallow your analysis is … and what a simpleminded patriot you are. You’re right of course. The Iraqi’s have themselves and their violent culture to blame for having had Saddam as a dictator in the first place. Did we make Iraq invade Iran and Kuwait? And the author says that Iraq wasn’t sectarian under Saddam! Tell that to the Kurds and March Arabs of southeast Iraq. This was a grotesque country before the invasion; we gave Iraq society a real shot at changing and becoming something… and it appears they’ve thrown the opportunity away. We’ve given Germany, Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines similar opportunities… and they’ve done well. Most Arab societies simply aren’t healthy.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for pointing this out. And Mr. Jarrar has blithely skated over Iraq’s unprovoked invasions of both Iran and Iraq, prior the arrival of the US. Addressing these details wouldn’t serve his blame-others thesis though, so I can understand the omission.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how a letter from a young Iranian or a young Kuwaiti would read, were it addressed to Mr. Jarrar in say… 1991? Would they share Mr. Jarrar’s positive assessment of pre-US-invasion Iraq? Would the Kurds or Marsh Arabs? I think Mr. Jarrar is engaging in typical blame-others Arab bs. The seeds of chaos and sectarian butchery lie firmly in Iraqi culture. The US can be a bumbling power certainly, but it has occupied Japan, Germany, S. Korea and the Philippines without unleashing internecine slaughter. Iraqis need to look in a mirror; theirs is a hellish culture and they should fix it.

  • Anonymous

    We gave tacit approval to Saddam’s invasion — or at least declined to tell him not to invade — and then attacked based on false claims that he was amassing troops at the Saudi border and that Iraqi troops were pulling babies out of incubators.

    “The seeds of chaos and sectarian butchery lie firmly in Iraqi culture.” According to poorly informed Western observers. As you can see elsewhere in this thread, actual experts on Sunni-Shia relations say otherwise.

    “I think Mr. Jarrar is engaging in typical blame-others Arab bs.”

    I think denying that we utterly destroyed a relatively functional society is about the same, morally, as denying that the Holocaust was that bad. They’re both examples of complete historical revisionism in the service of an ideology.

  • Anonymous

    I think claiming Saddam Hussein’s society was “relatively functional” is the same morally as denying the Holocaust was that bad. It was a terrible mistake to invade Iraq, it was a terrible mistake to nuke Japan, and it was a terrible mistake to firebomb the cities of Würzburg Dresden, Köln, Lübeck among others. The innocent civilians suffered and died but in Japan and in Germany the societies pulled together, rebuilt and prospered. The Iraqis are too busy settling old scores and blaming others. They and they alone are responsible for their future.

  • Anonymous

    “Parkbot” – Regarding your claim that, “….Mr. Jarrar has blithely skated over Iraq’s unprovoked invasions of both Iran and Iraq, prior the arrival of the US.”, you might consider some basic historical fact checking “prior” to commenting. (1) The Iran-Iraq war was provoked by Iran’s military aggression in an attempt to expand it’s border with Iraq and claim exclusive control of the access to the use of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. (2)* Iraq, obviously, has never invaded itself. (3) The U.S. and it’s “allies” has been meddling in the sovereign affairs of both Iran and Iraq dating back to before the end of WWI, including orchestrating the undermining and overthrow of elected governments in both countries.
    As Usual,
    EA
    *I suspect that your claim that Iraq committed an unprovoked invasion of itself was probably just an unprovoked brain fart, and what you intended to posit was that Iraq was the aggressor in the events that led to the so-called “First Gulf War” over Kuwait.

  • Barry Crimm

    Why don’t they just send the indispensable Condoleeza Rice back to sooth everyone with her piano playing?

  • Anonymous

    You seem to be assigning a false interpretation of the aforestated Holocaust analogy, and then restating it in an unrelated context. These “terrible mistake(s)” you note, are quite probably war crimes that rise to a comparable level of violence, against civilian populations, to that employed by Nazi Germany and many other examples in human history. Characterizing Iraqi society as “Saddam Hussein’s society” is absurd on its face; the fact that he was a despot, who ruled ruthlessly over his people, was a universally understood fact, both within and outside of Iraq. It is also a fact, one that Mr.Jarrar was exclusively speaking to, that Iraqi society writ large had adjusted to his tyrannical abuses, and had maintained a very secular and advanced society during his reign.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. I intentionally did not respond to the “…Frack the whole planet…” paragraph because it didn’t appear to have a fracking thing to do with the article that this discussion is about; just more repetitive ranting about that which most already know about and agree upon herebout’s. I have no idea who your last sentence refers to; but for my part, I was trying to warn friends and family about the impending economic problems beginning
    back during Clinton’s second term, when he signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
    As Usual,
    EA

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    im willing to go back further to when Reagan changed the financials ( among other things) in America; thus starting the chasm widening of wealthy and poor (byebye middle class)
    .,………………..my final sentence was simply I didn’t think that walter jesse smith complained about our economy until a black president with a strange name took office; then WJS cried loudly and often
    ===========================================
    I do appreciate your writing style

  • Anonymous

    Thank you once again! With all due respect to your interest in the issue of domestic economics, an interest which I actually share, I remain convinced that the focus of discussion should properly remain loyal to the topical content of the article, and not digress into a morass of unrelated concerns and subjects. “Work is love made visible.” – KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    “Pottery Barn” rule?

  • Jason Carpp

    Pottery Barn rule? I don’t understand.

  • Anonymous

    “You break it you own it”, the cautionary and prescient Collin Powell quote RE Iraq.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but that’s reality — as Raed points out. There wasn’t a massive insurgency, services were delivered, and most Iraqis went about their daily lives in much the same way that people in other authoritarian countries that are still our allies do. There wasn’t a huge refugee crisis. It was functional — just as it was when Saddam Hussein was our close ally.

    “They and they alone are responsible for their future.”

    That sentiment absolutely sickens me. It’s so obviously historical revisionism — and we’re not talking ancient history. We invaded in 2003.

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    yeah,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but reminding FOX “news’ watchers of FACTS along the way is akin to drinking ice cold YOOHOOs an A & W birch beer!!!

  • Anonymous

    Well……….my cyber-record would certainly and quickly expose my own hypocrisy if I were to claim that I have not had my share of fun, and resulting refreshment, taking on the FAUX NEWS sheeple in their maniacal quest for misinformation and outright BS. However, I have come to realize that they are willfully uninformed and, probably more importantly, have developed little or no critical thinking skills;so……..any “FACTS” that are imparted to them are automatically regarded as contradictions of their omnipresent principle: ignorant beliefs trump informed reason.
    I propose a toast to your sense of humor and determination, with a tall glass of ice cold A&W Cream Soda! (;-}
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Jason Carpp

    I’ve heard that statement before, and I agree.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your reply. It does seem we are talking at each other and unlikely to change minds. Maybe my logic is convoluted, sometimes hard to be objective. I just don’t buy this idea all was copacetic in Iraq prior to the US invasion. Christopher Hitchens supported the war and gave a well reasoned defense of his position. He mentioned the mass graves of Sunnis found after Saddams overthrow as evidence he was conducting a mini version of the Holocaust. For me it’s academic now what the situation was in Iraq back then. The important question is how do powerful nations respond to such situations in the future. Is there never a case to be made for intervention when dictators or sects attack members of their own societies? 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in 1994, nothing was done. In Serbia NATO intervened when the deaths were much less. Can a policy be developed to protect those who are by fate born in dangerous places or do we just throw up a wall and worry about our families and sports teams. The demonizing of the USA in its disasterous adventure in Iraq may become the model for isolationism for generations to come and maybe rightly so. I do think the topic is one that will not go away anytime soon and deserves more attention.

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    when did Clinton REMOVE saddam???

  • Anonymous

    And thank you “phillip…” for your cogent and courteous response. I am not now, nor have I ever been one that participates in “The demonizing of the USA” writ large on the basis of the behavior of its criminal element; rather it be the rapists, thieves, or corrupt private and public leaders that violate and manipulate my society’s laws to serve their private dark interests.

    You may be surprised that your mentioning of the late Christopher Hitchens was a positive surprise for me; he was always one of my favourite contemporary thinkers, and I still regard his body of work with awe and respect. I remember him describing the initial (2003) invasion of Iraq as being “…noble in its conception, but troublingly inept in its outcome…” For my part I still find it difficult to reconcile this intellectual abstraction.
    Upon your positing: “The important question is how do powerful nations respond to such situations in the future.”

    I think first and foremost the response should not be an attempt to either economically or militarily export violence without regard for the lives and welfare of any innocent human beings. For any society, especially so-called “powerful nations”, it is tantamount to informed human reasoning to accept that aggressive violence can only be justified in defense of such violence; this is not an advocacy of “isolationism”, it is an advocacy of the exclusive use of violence. You mention the horrendous carnage that has been taking place in the continent of Africa for several decades in several countries. What if the people of the world, primarily these “powerful nations”, simply stopped providing the tons of modern weapons to the entire continent; would that not cost fewer innocent lives in Africa, less cost in “blood and treasure” to the nations actually trying to solve the problem, and only cost a small measure of profit to the arms manufacturers?
    In the final analysis, the best any one of us can do is make life better for all of those we encounter on our path.
    “Work is love made visible.” – KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    (;-})

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    in a game of “RISK”??

  • dgg

    This FAUX NEWS FACTS statement is one of the best critiques ever. Only esoterically on-subject, of course, but brilliant. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Glad to be of service comrade. (;-}) A little levity and mystery make for a better union.
    “Work is love made visible.” KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  • Anonymous

    I think we broke it, invaded Iraq, partly to create disorder in the Middle East and partly to control oil..

  • GregoryC

    Go back further. Powell memo. David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission seeking the new world order aka global corporatocracy which the puppet Obama will succeed in delivering through the fast-tracking of classified, secretive trade deals deregulating global corporations (TPP, TTIP, TiSA). The fictional liberal media does not report on these faux trade agreements that really exist to privatize all public services, goods, infrastructure, increasing profits of the global elite. The middle class won’t exist. Welcome to the modern feudal age.

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    sadly I agree,,,,,luckily I make good money with my own tax free business
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and don’t lay the Obama crap on me: this has been escalating a long time

  • gian keysTOOEASY flat mom

    comrade??? where is hedy lamarr??

  • Bill Glaser

    Japan and Germany were homogenous societies. They had a common nationalism. Iraq has been and is still tribal in nature and although the writer of this article dismisses that fact that prior to the invasion there was not sectarian boundaries is misleading. When the US took over and Brenner fashioned a new government he marginalized the Sunni’s by not allowing the Baath party to participate. The Baath party was predominately Sunni. This is said to be one of the biggest mistakes of the war as they were the military leaders and soldiers in Saddam’s army. They currently part of ISSL. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • BETTY

    THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE IN THE US THAT DID NOT AGREE WITH GEORGE BUSH. WE KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON . THERE WERE MANY PROTESTS.

  • BETTY

    I LOVE THE MUSIC OF YOUR WRITTEN LANGUAGE. ARE YOU A WRITER?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you “BETTY” (;-}).
    Informed and interesting conversation, seasoned with reason and comity, is my favorite use of language; rendering it in written form is a work in progress.
    “Work is love made visible.” – KG
    As Usual,
    EA

  • KingOfErehwon

    You clearly didn’t read the article. Or do you have problems with reading comprehension? Age related, perhaps?

  • Anonymous

    Read your comment and have no argument with it. Good analysis. However tribal or not I still do think the original article by Holland glossed over the negative aspects of Hussain’s rule and the realities of Islam and blamed the West for intervening. This focus on blaming the failure on the “saviors” may create a precedent for isolationism and inhibit intervention when it may be beneficial. It’s clear the human condition in much of the world is governed by tribalism, myth and fear. What can the more advanced, secular societies do to promote a world where a child born anywhere can have the opportunity and protection afforded those of us born in the USA or Europe. Is force ever a solution and if so when and under what constraints. I am just smart enough to ask the question, not smart enough to answer it. Holland’s article in my opinion fails to advance the debate and just lays blame, but maybe that is a first step in the process. We did indeed need the Nuremberg Trials to set the foundation for liberalism post WW2.

  • Anonymous

    As a side note, the “Utopian ideals of happiness and Democracy” mentioned by Mr. Jarrar are under the same rubric foisted the world over by Neoliberal free-marketeers. This has been tried in several countries on several continents and always with the same result, abject failure.

    These ideas are so unpopular that the only way that they can be implemented is through oppression and terror. The Iraqi people did not want neoliberalism which implies that their institutions such as the free education, free health care, and government owned factories would need to be destroyed. This economic pain sowed the discontent we saw in the early months of the occupation.

    In order to force neoliberalism on Iraq, L. Paul Bremer repeatedly postponed elections and forced a new international-corporate-friendly constitution on the country. This started the rebellion which continues today.

    Iraq is a giant neoliberal experiment gone horribly bad.

  • dhb4angels

    Great comments!

  • BETTY

    HELLO ETHAN, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR OPINION ON THE SUPREME COURTS DECISION ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL

  • Anonymous

    I AM impressed with the civility here.
    Thanks for not being radical nutbars.
    As far as the interview, I tend to side more with the interviewee’s perspective.
    He was there before and after.
    What most of the U.S. press would tell you is jingoist gossip, relayed through oil-greedy political hacks.
    Machiavellian Bush, the elder’s Mad Ave. babies thrown out of incubators campaign was shown to be malarkey, and EVERY pronouncement thereafter should be viewed with suspicion…especially with psychopaths like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, and Rumsfeld

  • http://www.ThePowerElite.com/ ThePowerElite

    Who’s next?