Nov 27, 2006
Today, it has become fashionable for U.S. politicians to say that the Iraqis have to take more responsibility for ending the civil war-style killings going on in Iraq. Such statements absolutely drip with cynicism and hypocrisy.
It is true that Iraqi society is fracturing along ethnic lines, with various militias now carrying out ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods, cities and regions. One of the deadliest questions asked of people on the street or in the bus is “Shiite or Sunni?”
But it’s not true – as we are being led to believe – that these killings come out of ancient hatreds that go way back forever and forever. First, in the past, many tribes in Iraq had both Sunnis and Shiites in them. Second, Iraq long ago developed into a modern and largely urban society, in which people mixed and intermarried. Many cities, starting with Baghdad itself, where one-quarter of the Iraqi population lives, were made up of a rich mixture of peoples and cultures. This developed despite all the often divisive politics carried out by previous rulers – the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, and yes, Saddam Hussein.
But since the U.S. invaded, this ethnic strife has been taken to a whole different level, one that was purposely encouraged by the U.S. government. In fact, tucked into an 89 billion-dollar supplemental appropriation, which Congress passed in November 2003, were three billion dollars especially earmarked to fund Iraqi death squads – their recruitment, arming and training. After the U.S. invaded, thousands of U.S. CIA agents, Navy Seals, and Army Special Forces streamed into the country, sometimes literally handing out bags of cash, in order to pay off the various militias and thugs for their services.
This is why when Iraqi people are asked about the ethnic strife in their country, they first blame the U.S. and demand that the U.S. leave immediately.
We should demand the same thing.