Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Freedom Is On The March...To The Exit

Remember, invading Iraq (a nation with relatively non-existent connections to salafist jihadism - as practiced by al-Qaeda and its imitators) was going to choke off the spread and appeal of terrorism. The invasion would set off a tumble of democratic dominoes throughout the region, and through the redemptive power of war against another Muslim nation, the appeal and luster of salafist jihadism would - counterintuitively - fade away. From a strategic point of view, this was the type of stuff that adds merit to Tommy Franks' infamous description of Douglas Feith - extended to his compatriots. Let's take a look at some of the fruits of our sacrifice, and that of so many Iraqis. From Prof. Cole:

Al-Hayat reports that [Ar.] the Salafi Jihadis have established a Taliban-like mini-state in West Baghdad, paralleled by a Shiite militia-ruled region of East Baghdad. The Sunni Arab extremists assassinate young men who walk around clean-shaven, and they pass around leaflets declaring that they will enforce Islamic canon law (sharia) in that neighborhood. They have established the Emirate of Baghdad in Dora and Amiriyah districts, and it is alleged that Zarqawi is there and has appointed viceroys over each. Radical Sunnis fleeing other areas of the Sunni Arab heartland have come to those districts of Baghdad in large numbers. An eyewitness told al-Hayat that in one of these Salafi-Jihadi neighborhoods, an unveiled girl was kidnapped on the street, then later returned to her home with her head shaven. A broadsheet then circulat[ed] saying that it was necessary to deal with unveiled girls in this way on the first offense, but later on they should be killed. Men have also been shot down for being clean-shaven or wearing the wrong clothing.
Something to keep in mind when considering the dueling theocratic oil spots being created in rival Shiite and Sunni districts of Baghdad (and some parts south), are these words of wisdom from one of this war's other sage proponents, William Kristol, as recounted by Harold Meyerson:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America," he told National Public Radio listeners in the war's opening weeks, "that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's been almost no evidence of that at all," he continued. "Iraq's always been very secular."
Brilliant! Kristol sneering at the pop sociologists. No evidence at all - as long as you ignore, denigrate, suppress and circumvent all that inconvenient scholarship compiled by the actual experts. And how's this for irony, in a perverse sense, freedom and secularism really are on the march. But I'm not sure they're heading in the right direction. More from Meyerson:

[Kristol] wasn't entirely wrong. Iraqi professionals were disproportionately secular. Now they are packing up their secularism and taking it to other lands. [...]

And now, just as middle-class Americans fled the cities in the wake of urban disorder, so middle-class Iraqis are fleeing, too -- not just the cities but the nation. In a signally important and devastating dispatch from Baghdad that ran in last Friday's New York Times, correspondent Sabrina Tavernise reports that fully 7 percent of the country's population, and an estimated quarter of the nation's middle class, has been issued passports in the past 10 months alone. Tavernise documents the sectarian savagery that is directed at the world of Iraqi professionals -- the murders in their offices, their neighborhood stores, their children's schools, their homes -- and that has already turned a number of Baghdad's once-thriving upscale neighborhoods into ghost towns.

Slaughter is the order of the day, and the police are nowhere to be found. "I have no protection from my government," Monkath Abdul Razzaq, a middle-class Sunni who has decided to emigrate, told Tavernise. "Anyone can come into my house, take me, kill me, and throw me into the trash."
Somehow, I don't think this is what war supporters had in mind when they brandished the overly simplistic, though no doubt self-gratifying phrase, "Draining the swamp."

With this reality so cruelly confronting Iraq's beleagured population, it is absolutely vital - in the most pressing sense of the word - that we all recognize that these same people (Kristol, Feith, Krauthamer and their ilk) are still giving us advice - only this time urging a military confrontation with Iran and/or Syria.

Looking at how spectacularly, and tragically, they have been wrong on so many levels vis-a-vis Iraq, it is an enduring marvel that anyone still takes them seriously on matters such as these. Let alone the White House. After all, "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says...

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