Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Specifically on the topic of insecurity, I see four main sources and causes:
1. Terrorists and Ba'athist hold-outs that just want to create chaos to try and force the coalition out. They cause much pain and suffering to the Iraqi people both directly (car bombs) and as a result of their actions against coalition, IP and ING (stray bullets and bombs).
2. Misguided Iraqis who genuinely believe it is their duty to fight against the coalition. I don't believe this group is relatively large and they are probably largely being influenced in their actions by the first group. While not likely to directly attack Iraqi civilians, the violence they visit upon coalition and IP/ING still produces stray bullets. If at all possible, this is the group I hope friends and relatives can reach to help them see that they are actually fighting against the best interests of Iraq.
3. Misguided religious extremists attempting to impose Taliban-like order and rules. Again, these people are greatly being used by the first group to add to the chaos and instability. Unfortunately, I don't know how much influence logic will have over them, so we must look to responsible clerics within both Sunni and Shi'ia branches of Islam to try and stop this practice. It is my impression that Sistani is trying to reduce the Shi'ia tendency, but the lack of a recognized individual Sunni religious leader makes this more difficult in that community.
4. The dedicated efforts of individual and organized thugs and criminals. These people are both used by and use the terrorists and Ba'athists and equally deserve no mercy at the hands of the coalition and IP/ING. I believe the greatest threat to Iraqi stability actually comes from this group at this time, but as they are indistinguishable from and supported by the terrorists in many ways the IP has been hampered in going after them. The more we (coalition, IP and ING) reduce the strength, capabilities and resources of the terrorists, the more capable the IP will be to deal with the criminal element.
In Mosul lives the cousin of the owner of the previously referenced blog, a charming 16 year-old with an English language blog of her own. In the recent fighting there tragedy visited her family when her older sister's father-in-law was killed, reportedly by American troops. She recently wrote of her Father's assesment of the situation in Iraq, in which he also identifies four main sources of problems:
- The Jihadis
- The criminals and robbers that Saddam has released before the war
- The Ba'athis, the Fedayeen and part of the soldiers of the old Iraqi army
- The vandals who work for foreign countries (eg. America, Israel, Iran, Kuwait.. Or any other neighboring country)
The vital role of the conspiracy in contemporary Arab society has been written about before and this, I believe, is another manifestation. Even though Israel has no troops in Iraq, even though they have, to my knowledge, not made great issue of the events there and even though they have not exercised any active role what-so-ever in post-Saddam Iraq, this gentleman still almost instictively identifies them as a source of trouble. The idea of an American-Zionist conspiracy is so pervasive in the Arab press that it's no wonder that it resonates even in the educated population. Anything bad can seen as proof of the true intentions while anything good can be dismissed as an effort to hide those same intentions. Even in America, I remember reading of a scholar's discussion with an Arab peer in which his friend matter-of-factly claimed that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. Conspiracy theories, by their nature, are difficult to rebut, so how, then, do we stand in the face of such sentiment?
I don't know any quick answers, but I believe the individual person-to-person dialog provided by blogs may be a start. I also think that helping the Iraqis to build a free and open society of their own will also help. Over time, just as integration in America helped in many ways to lessen the fear and mistrust of others, prolonged un filtered exposure to the real nature and intentions of America will work to put aside the flawed logic of the conspiracy. Sadly, the emotional wounds of many in Iraq will be very deep and a long-time in healing, if ever. For this one family, though, and especially for a young woman named Najma, I hope the very real and deep tragedies they have suffered does not prevent the eventual healing and realization that we are doing the best we can with truly noble intentions and goals.