Tuesday, June 29, 2004
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Allawi, Zarqawi, and the Iraqi man on the street
Thanassis Cambanis files an illuminating man-on-the-streets story from Baghdad for the Boston Globe. The good parts version:
One can draw three oh-so-tentative conclusions from this kind of report:
UPDATE Joe Katzman has a round-up of Iraqi blogger reactions at Winds of Change.posted by Dan on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM
At the risk of side-tracking the discussion, I'm going to toss a stink bomb in the room;
interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's new Iraqi government -- not because he cared about the symbolic passing of sovereignty, but because he was thrilled to see Iraqi police officers pistol-whipping suspected carjackers near his clothing stand the day before.
I don't have this lightbulb fully thought through yet... but I'm bothered by the undercurrent of these comments. Could this be showing us something of the Arab mentality... something that bears directly on the supposed abuses at Abu Girabe, by way of Arba Culture in general?
Clearly, the slimeballs there don't react well to what we would consider lawful arrest and confinement. It's simply ineffective. Hell, these people are willing to kill themselves in the process of taking out small numbers of hteir opposition. What would stop r even slow such a misguided thought process, and the actions resulting from it?
And just as clearly, the gent in the article is pleased someone is willing to take steps to gain control of the situation... steps which would be considered excessive in our own country and culture. Possibly, this is due to the way things have been run there for the last 20+ years under Saddam, and further back under his predececcors... or perhaps it's due to some other aspect of the Arab Psyche, or a combo of the two, I don't know... something cultural, perhaps.
But is it possible, that our judgements about what is and is not excessive and abusive, be somewhat out of touch with the realities of the situation, there?
Sometimes, in a noisy environment, one needs to sout, just to be heard. Can it be that in an admittedly violent environment such as many Middle Eastern countries are these days, one needs to be more violent than usual to gather any respect?
This seems an important question not only when assessing Abu Girabe, but also in assessing what it will take to gain and retain control of the situation over there going forward.
Put another way, the rebels there are desperate for control. Given the propensity for violence noted, what form will that desperation take, and what will be required to control it?posted by: Bithead on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
I'm a little concerned that Zarqawi is being turned into some sort of Superman (or Batman, maybe), capable of organizing a huge resistnace, fading into the night suddenly etc.
The reality is that its hard to see one man organizing a resistance on this style in an underground fashion. Ben Bella, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, all had some territory (larger than Fallujah) that they held. So there are probably several cells, with Zaraqawi organizing the suicide bomb cells, with other groups controlling other cells.
I think some Sunni fundamentalists may be willing to partner with Zarqawi. I can't imagine any Shia fundamentalists doing so.
But I think Shia fundaementalism (not necessarily extremely violent) will still rise. SOme of the most powerful Shia clerics have Iranian links (Sistani himself is Iranian born). We need not fear a Khoemni, or even a Khamaenei, but I think religious Shia parties (pro-Iranian) will be very strong. Shia fundamentalism is likely to find a richer ground in Iraq than Wahabbism.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
'And just as clearly, the gent in the article is pleased someone is willing to take steps to gain control of the situation... steps which would be considered excessive in our own country and culture. '
Well, we have seen police beatings in our own country too, rather recently (like 2 days back). And if we had the kind of security situation that they do in Baghdad, where theft is rampant and carjacking is common -- well, there would be plenty of calls for public beatings and hangings.posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
A minor note: How representative of the Arab street is a poet translating the works of Emily Dickinson into Arabic? I'd like to hear more about this guy, but it still seems like a strange addition to a story purporting to have its finger on the pulse of a nation.posted by: thurgo on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
I agree that this is an opportunity, probably the last opportunity, for this war to turn out not to have been a complete disaster. Even those of us who opposed the war all along have to keep hoping we are wrong. However, making this thing work is going to require Bush coming up to Congress with another request for more money soon - lots more. At which point, subjects like Haliburton and no-bid contracts are likely to come up. If the Administration wants to save the situation, it's going to have to close down the gravy train. I hope they have enough integrity to do that, though I have my doubts.
As for Abu Ghraib, I think what has not been acknowledged is that the destructive thing for our reception there is not that the techiques shown in the photos were so cruel, but that they were so sexual. It suggests to a conservative culture that the Americans are sexual degenerates who enjoy such things. People may fear the ruthless, but for the degenerate, however that is defined in the culture, they have only contempt. As an occupying force, there are arguments for being loved and arguments for being feared; however, there are no arguments for being held in contempt.posted by: Martin Bento on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Well, we have seen police beatings in our own country too, rather recently (like 2 days back). And if we had the kind of security situation that they do in Baghdad, where theft is rampant and carjacking is common -- well, there would be plenty of calls for public beatings and hangings.
Just so, Jon.
(Bit takes a deep breath and plunges into the pool marked OFF TOPIC)
But wait a minute.
Well, let's see. According to a report issued in 99...."WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On average, there were
The numbers suggest a carjacking happening here in the US every 5 and a half minutes, though the question of this being considered 'common' is a matter of some debate, I guess. How common it is depends on who you're talking to, and if their car was recently stolen.... how personal it all is.
I daresay that security is an issue as well, given 9/11 and the events following it, though this too seems an issue of some debate, for much the same reasons.
I guess the question becomes one of threshold.. the differing threshold of each culture to crime and it's results. In each culture, the question becomes...at what point does the perception of a problem allow sterner methods?
In any event, however, my original comment stands; I submit those so very worried about the methods employed against those who have declared an unofficial war against us, (Which, in turn, have casued some very official looking deaths) ignore the realities of the situation, because it's not gotten personal on them yet. The realities are that we're under attack by a band of bloodthirsty idiots who are willing to hide behind our laws, and our own band of useful idiots, long enough to get the job done... that job being our destruction.
It is said that a conservative is a liberal who has just been mugged. I submit those situational realities would not be questioned were the people doing the questioning of our methods of repelling attacks, atatcked, thus making it personal.
(No, I'm not promoting that concept, I'm simply saying that they're not on board with the WOT because it's not personal to them, yet.)
Of course, it should be noted that were such attacks to occur, they'd find a way to blame the attack on Mr. Bush.
How about this tentative conclusion: Anecdotal evidence from 1 article that quotes a poet translating Emily Dickinson into Arabic is one hell of a stupid way to draw any sort of conclusions about anything in Iraq.
Dan, did you drink some stupid juice or what?posted by: a on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Someone in a Thieves Market complaining about carjacking ? What next, the Bush administration complaining that the CIA overestimated the threat of Iraq ? Wait ...
posted by: erg on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
I think there's little doubt that the cermonial transition bought GWB time. Possession may be nine tenths of the law, but apparently the last tenth is still worth something afterall at least to the Iraqis. I suppose it underlines one of their major complaints all along which has been the loss of dignity in the occupation has been one of the driving forces killing public support for it.
Restoring the dignity partially of Iraqis by giving them their own country back even if only in purely ceremonial forms seems to have bought a little breathing space. The NYT has a news analysis article out concurring with that opinion.
The real question is how much time, and what did the insurgents have planned ... because that just didn't go away when they moved the date up.posted by: oldman on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
This is not the last chance, but rather one of the first chances to make something good in Iraq. This situation is very young.
Arabs favor a harsher approach toward criminals. Let them have their way.posted by: Helen on 06.29.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
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