Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Iraq: Who Might Be Shooting at Both Sides?

OK, so the focus right now is on Saddam’s execution, the shallow justice meted out to one dictator while his one-time accomplices (nay, former puppeteers) in successive US administrations escape reckoning — so far.

Quite apart from the abhorrent act itself, its indecent haste and cynical timing to coincide with the first day of Eid al-Adha will further sow enmity against the US and its kangaroo court of injustice in Iraq where Saddam’s crimes were not even properly reckoned. Congratulations, Saddam has become a martyr and his death has accomplished nothing. Sectarian violence will be fanned; perhaps this was, in part, the purpose.

Let me be clear: I am not overjoyed at Saddam’s hanging, I am appalled.

Meanwhile, the debacle in Iraq continues, and now, at last, we see a placing on the table of the crucial issue of just who is fomenting violence in Iraq in the article by Utley below.

With Saddam’s demise, just what is fuelling this extraordinary descent into violence apart from the most glaring fact of the US Occupation? This was recently broached at this site and Robert Fisk has so far been one of the few to allude to this issue, as covered by the Fanonite.

For further reading on Saddam’s execution, see Robert Fisk’s A dictator created then destroyed by America’ in The Independent and for a broader look at this conflict disaster and its policy idiocy see Juan Cole’s piece on the Top Ten Myths About Iraq. For an always high voltage and thought-provoking dissenting counterweight to the corporate media see Kurt Nimmo’s piece. See also Michael Boldin’s ‘Saddam was Right and Bush was Wrong’ in the People’s Voice.

For my pick in the blogosphere, have a read of Can’t See The Forest’s two posts on the topic and of Junaman over at Incompetence Inc who rightly sees this as vengeance eclipsing justice: a revenge killing.

Have a read too of Ford’s embargoed (until his passing) interview held all of two and a half years ago in which he “very strongly” disagreed with BushCo’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pursued sanctions much more vigorously. The comments were embargoed at his own request — wish he had the gumption of Carter.

dirty_job__clean_hands_by_latuff2.jpgIn the article by Utley that follows, for the record I happen to think that the first group nominated — Al-CIA-duh — (as well as those at #4, 8 and 11) are not really players or as much involved as certain UK, US and Israeli operatives serving the war profiteers and Likudniks. I notice that Saudi Arabia hardly rates a mention, other than perhaps very indirectly at #8.

Utley does well however to offer a sensible examination of this important and urgent topic.

(Cartoon by Carlos Latuff – thumbnail – click on image for full size)

Iraq: Who Might Be Shooting at Both Sides?

Thirteen groups that favor chaos in Iraq

by Jon Basil Utley | | December 26, 2006

It’s strange that little of the news coverage of Iraq addresses this question. Doesn’t it seem obvious that some groups are fomenting the chaos? Getting tribes to fight each other is often easy. Most of them have some past injustice to avenge. The British Empire ruled much of its colonial world in this way, balancing off or favoring different tribes to rule others. In most of the Old World, tribes hated their neighbors more than foreign conquerors. See “Tribes, Veils, and Democracy.”

Some 28 years ago I was in the Middle East with my mother, Freda Utley, author of Will the Middle East Go West? [.pdf]. In Beirut we met John Cooley, the well-known and long-respected reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. The civil war in Lebanon was just getting started, and cooler heads were trying to head it off. Cooley then told us that every time there was a cease-fire some shadowy elements appeared to be shooting at both sides in an effort to get the fighting started up again. They succeeded, and the subsequent war nearly tore the nation apart.

Today there is a similar situation in Iraq. Much of the slaughter doesn’t make sense among neighbors and friends. Peter Beinart of The New Republic wrote an excellent study of the past history of Iraq describing the unity of Sunnis and Shi’ites – indeed, the first Ba’athist leader was a Shia, though we think of Ba’athists, the party of Saddam, as all being Sunnis. But suppose some of the horrendous murder was being done by outsiders wanting to destroy Iraq by getting Sunnis and Shi’ites to wreak vengeance on each other. Tribal societies are particularly vulnerable to this kind of disruption.

With hindsight, one can argue that it was vital for Washington to prevent such a situation from occurring when the Army first occupied Baghdad, that the turning point was when the looting and chaos first started and U.S. forces did nothing to stop it. But today, for Washington to adopt a realistic policy, America must face the facts on the ground. Wishful thinking only brings disaster

Let’s look at all the groups with an interest in continuing the chaos.

  1. First, of course, there is al-Qaeda. Bin Laden must be laughing every day to see America’s Army being hollowed out as the Army chief of staff describes. Further, every picture of Arabs being killed by Americans furthers bin Laden’s objectives. There are too many ways bin Laden is “winning” to describe here; for details, see “36 Ways U.S. Is Losing the War on Terror.”
  2. Iraq’s neighbors. Neoconservatives and Bush virtually threatened that Syria and Iran were the next in line to be attacked by America. This stupidity gave them every reason to want to see America tied down and weakened in Iraq for as long as possible.
  3. The Likud Party in Israel. Although most Israelis want peace, their electoral system gives overwhelming power to their aggressive minorities. It is not hard to imagine that many want Arabs to fight and weaken one another. Israeli agents are very active with the Kurds, even training them. The U.S. occupation brought in Israeli advisers to teach American soldiers how to suppress Arab resistance. Israel has Arab speakers who can easily “mix in,” as well as other resources. Dividing one’s enemies is the oldest strategy in the book. Some Israelis would like to see a massive Sunni-Shia war spread to other Muslim nations.
  4. The Kurds. They want a divided and weakened central government so they can gain their independence and take over the oil wealth of northern Iraq.
  5. Shia and Kurdish militias benefit greatly from being trained and supplied by America. The so-called Iraqi army and police are mainly composed of Shia and Kurds. The longer the strife continues, the better equipped they become for an eventual showdown against the Sunnis, who also bear the brunt of American “pacification.” Meanwhile, the Shia are gradually “ethnically cleansing” Baghdad of Sunnis.
  6. Mercenaries, some paid as much as a thousand dollars a day. They want a good business to continue.
  7. The Beltway Bombers and companies set up in Washington to hire retired commandos, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs. They have gained hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the Pentagon to help out in Iraq. There are indeed a reported 100,000 or so bodyguards, non-military consultants, advisers, support staff, etc., mostly paid by the U.S. Treasury.
  8. Other oil-producing nations. All are happy to see most Iraq oil production off the market, which helps to keep the price of oil high. Russia certainly would benefit the most if other Mideast oil producers had “troubles,” too.
  9. Weapons manufacturers in many lands selling millions and paying big commissions to all sides in wars.
  10. Gangster elements in Iraq, criminals who are thriving on the lawlessness, from petty thieves to big-time smugglers of oil and weapons.
  11. All the nations that want to see the U.S. weakened and humiliated. Russians are no longer friendly to America, and many fear us. The Chinese were once on notice from powerful Washington interests that they would be next, once America finished with the Muslim world. The Chinese understand that manufacturers of warships, missiles, and planes need a “real” nation with vast resources to justify spending for their products; fighting shoeless guerrillas in caves and cellars won’t cut it.
  12. The Armageddon lobby in America, which sees chaos in Iraq as helping along their fantasies of hurrying up God to fulfill His prophecies (as they see them) to kill most of the human race while giving them a quick pass to Heaven.
  13. Finally, there are smaller tribal elements in Iraq itself with their own agendas, which are almost impossible for Washington to discern.

Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative and Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former correspondent for Knight Ridder in South America, Utley has written for the Harvard Business Review on foreign nationalism and was a commentator on the Voice of America. He is director of Americans Against World Empire.

3 comments on “Iraq: Who Might Be Shooting at Both Sides?

  1. Graeme
    31 December, 2006

    we killed Saddam and the cycle of violence continues

  2. Colin Brayton
    1 January, 2007

    Thank you for that diverse selection of readings on the subject, nicely sewn together with your personal experiences and memories, WordPress neighbor. Saves me the trouble of having to Google them up myself.

    May next year be more of what I think we saw getting rolling this year: People with all kinds of different ideas about what they DO want coming to a consensus about what they absolutely DO NOT want.

    Such as the undermining of democratic aspirations and travesties of justice like this.

    As what most of us would grant was an evil man did not deserve the same standards of justice as the innocent. And not just for his own sake, but so that we can all agree that justice was done, putting an end to it.

    Because travesties of justice do not lead to peace, only to the rage that brings the fans out of the seats and onto the field when the referee turns out to be a secret twelfth player for one side or the other.

    f we can all at least agree that THAT is what we do NOT want, there might be hope for us.

  3. peoplesgeography
    2 January, 2007

    Thanks for coming by, neighbor, and for your astute observation that travesties of justice do not lead to peace.

    A Happy New Year to you, Colin.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

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-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

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yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
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