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Memo From Mesopotamia | Iraq Proves Diversity Not Strength But Weakness. So Why Import It?
[Allan Wall writes from somewhere in Iraq: A hearty thank you to all who have inquired about my situation, written me and prayed for me. I really appreciate it. I've been in Iraq with my National Guard unit since January 21st. It is, to say the least, quite an experience, and I strive to discharge my duties in a worthy manner. I've been working on my Arabic, which should come in handy for a future trip to Europe. And I've been able to do some writing.
It's been encouraging to read of the success of the Minutemen movement. But if you all solve the immigration problem before I return to Mexico I'll have to find something else to write about! In the meantime, I've been contemplating the Iraqi National Question.]
Can the new, post-Saddam Iraq maintain a successful political system and remain united? It's a real challenge.
Modern Iraq is an artificially constructed state, carved out of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. It has Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds. And that's only the three major groups—smaller ones include the Turkmen and ChaldoAssyrians.
The possibilities facing U.S. troops can be confusing and dangerous. That man with a weapon—is he an insurgent, or just an Iraqi tribesman settling a tribal score?
The Sunni-Shiite rivalry goes back to the succession struggles of the early years of Islam. Since Ottoman times, the more urbanized and prosperous Sunni Arabs dominated the more rural Shiites. Sunni dominance was a major foundation of Saddam's authority.
The removal of Saddam Hussein did not eliminate the Shia-Sunni rivalry, as the U.S. Army has discovered. In October of 2004 at a U.S. detention camp at Camp Bucca, Sunni and Shiite prisoners fought each other over how to observe Ramadan. The two groups had to be separated.
And Iraq doesn't exist in a vacuum. Its neighbors have their own preferences about the country's future. Turkey looks askance at any form of Kurdish autonomy, even in Iraq, because of the influence it could have on Turkey's own Kurds. Shiite Iran seeks more influence among Iraq's Shiite majority. Ironically, the class of Sunni insurgents classified as "Former Regime Elements" also oppose Iranian influence in the new Iraq and have warned the U.S. about it.
VDARE.COM's Steve Sailer made a valid case for the partition of Iraq. But that's not the goal of U.S. policy, which promotes multiculturalism abroad as well as at home.
A U.S. Army officer quoted in Stars and Stripes offered his take:
"The allegiances here are family first, then sub-tribe, then tribe, then religious sect. Nationalism isn't really there." [U.S. TROOPS WEAR DIPLOMAT'S, WARRIOR'S HATS IN IRAQ Charlie Coon, Stars and Stripes, March 24th, 2005]
The recent decrease in deaths of U.S. military personnel could signal a re-orientation of the fight. Iraqis are targeting each other. Tom Lasseter reports that
"...interviews with a wide range of Iraqis - including analysts, merchants, professors, soldiers, clerics and politicians - indicated concern that the violence is shifting toward a fight between religious sects....and that January's parliamentary elections, which Shiites and Kurds embraced but Sunnis generally boycotted, underscored Iraq's divisions." [U.S. Cautious About Recent Drop In Insurgent Attacks, by Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder Newspapers, March 27, 2005]
Which is pretty much what I said in my last Memo From Mesopotamia: (National Question Real Victor in Iraq Elections).
Lasseter quoted a Baghdad arms dealer doing a brisk business in weaponry. The dealer commented that
"The demand these days is very high. We have many political and religious groups, and each one wants to build its own security forces."
Could Iraq fall into Lebanese-style civil war?
Having a unified military would be a big step forward. But even there, you can't avoid Iraq's National Question.
The new, American-established Iraqi military is dominated by Kurds and Shiites, especially in the better-trained units.
Even the U.S. training program for Iraqi security forces can't ignore the Iraqi National Question. In Stars and Stripes, David Zuchino writes that
"Today, the top priority of U.S. commanders is training the Iraqi army and police to one day battle the country's insurgents on their own."
But this task carries with it a whole Pandora's box of pitfalls. As Zuchino reports,
"Both U.S. and Iraqi commanders are so concerned about ethnic rivalries that they refuse to provide ethnic breakdowns of the new army's makeup. Saddam's army was dominated by Sunnis and was used to crush Shiite and Kurd uprisings. The new army has more Shiites and Kurds than Sunnis - prompting fears by Sunnis that they will be targeted for retribution." TRAINING CONNECTS FORMER ENEMIES David Zucchino, Stars and Stripes Mideast Edition, March 23rd, 2005
The U.S. intentionally mixes Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in training units, to build a collective Iraqi identity in the Iraqi military. But U.S. instructors spend much of their time dealing with tensions between ethnic and religious groups. All that energy can't be applied to military training.
In all fairness to the Iraqis, they didn't invent their situation. They inherited it.
Before this transformation is complete, we should step back and ask if it's a good idea—and whether America's majority population deserves any say in the matter.
Allan Wall, our popular Memo From Mexico columnist, is an American citizen who had been living and working legally in Mexico with an FM-2 residency and work permit with his Mexican wife and family. But his Texas-based Army National Guard company was mobilized in August 2004 and deployed to Iraq in January. Needless to say, the views in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Bush Administration, the Department of Defense or any government agency.
Allan Wall's WORLDNET DAILY National Guard diary is archived here. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.