Sectarian Myth in Iraq

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Sami Ramadani has an article in the Guardian basically saying that Iraq doesn’t have sectarian hostilities other than those stoked by political powers in control of Iraq. Saddam brought about some, but the really major issues were stoked by the U.S. after its occupation in 2003.

I have a nephew born in Baghdad in 1967. An older brother and his family lived in Iraq for a number of years because of his employment as an agronomist and expert on sugar cane. He confirms to me that all kinds of Iraqis lived peacefully together and that all kinds of Iraqis with all kinds of backgrounds worked together on the sugar project without sectarian issues being of any concern. This is also what Ramadani writes

“One of the greatest testaments to the tolerance that exists between the various communities in Iraq is that Baghdad still has up to a million Kurds, who have never experienced communal violence by Arabs. Similarly, about 20% of Basra’s population is Sunni. Samarra, a mostly Sunni city, is home to two of the most sacred Shia shrines. Its Sunni clergy have been the custodians of the shrines for centuries.

“Every tribe in Iraq has Sunnis and Shia in its ranks. Every town and city has a mix of communities. My experience of Iraq, and that of all friends and relatives, is that of an amazing mix of coexisting communities, despite successive divide-and-rule regimes.”

Ramadani blames the U.S.:

“The most serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history followed the 2003 US-led occupation, which faced massive popular opposition and resistance. The US had its own divide-and-rule policy, promoting Iraqi organisations founded on religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect rather than politics.”

There are several explanations for U.S. policies that produce what appear to be failures, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They may overlap and run parallel with one another because there are lots of people, interests and groups involved in shaping policy. One is that the U.S. government is run by malevolent people who intentionally want to see chaos in various countries and have enough power and foresight to know how to bring this about and succeed at that goal. Another theory, which almost amounts to the same thing, is that there are people (like neocons) able to influence policy on behalf of their own ideologies and the interests of foreign countries (like Israel and Saudi Arabia). Depending on what their goals are, they may or may not be successful. A third theory is that foreign policy depends heavily on domestic politics, policies, even apparently bad policies from the standpoint of Americans, being chosen by those in power so that they can maintain and enhance their positions. A fourth theory is that foreign policy is owned and operated by an unaccountable Exploiting Clique. A fifth theory is that policies are shaped by longstanding strategic aims and doctrines, such as securing oil by political control. Layered onto this is ideology that may or may not conflict with the strategic goals. However, government is inherently organized in such a way that much of what it does to reach these and other goals (some of which are quixotic and unobtainable by any reasonable means) is folly and fails to achieve its goals. An example of this kind of view is a recent piece by Philip Giraldi:

“We eventually came to the conclusion that the staffs in large bureaucracies are not necessarily selected for their independence of mind. Quite the contrary, they rise to the top because they learned in grade school to get along well with others, which in practice means that groupthink will always prevail even if it is highly illogical and in the long run damaging to genuine interests. Combine that with an essentially reactive foreign policy, and you have a formula for coming to the wrong conclusion nearly every time.”

Under any or all of these theories, foreign policy is a major activity that government claims only it can and should provide, but the structure of government is such as to guarantee, as much as any such social outcome can be guaranteed, that it will produce failure after failure.

12:54 pm on June 20, 2014