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Iraq: The Occupation
December 16, 2005 9:02 AM   Subscribe

The Occupation of Iraq I first went to Iraq in 1978, and I’ve been there I suppose fifty or sixty times. Sometimes for as long as three months, at other times for a fortnight or so. In all I have spent a bit more than half my time in Iraq since the Occupation. I was there before, during and after the invasion...
posted by Postroad (21 comments total)

 
A sadly familiar note rings in this passage from the article:
The incompetence of the US arrivals didn’t help. You would have thought they would at least have got the stock exchange, which had naturally languished under Saddam, going again. But Washington sent in a 24-year-old with strong family connections to the Republican Party. He forgot to renew the lease on the building for it, and there was no stock market for a year. After about six months, Iraqi stockbrokers were so fed up they sounded like Islamic militants in Fallujah.
You don't say! Well, I'm sure he did a heckuva job.
posted by darkstar at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2005


We have created a haven for terrorists.
After all, they’ve created the perfect breeding ground for al-Qaeda-type operations among the Sunni in Iraq, which never happened in Afghanistan. Although al-Qaeda were in Afghanistan for years, they never had a popular base there and found it very difficult to operate, both before the American attack and now. In Iraq they’ve got a population that is sufficiently sympathetic and they’ve built up a sort of network. They can exploit that sympathy and they’re strong enough to terrify a lot of the others.
posted by caddis at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2005


Patrick Cockburn is the coauthor (with his brother Andrew) of Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. Read it, thought it was good. Cockburn isn't an anti-American lefty, unlike his brother Alexander of Counterpunch.
posted by russilwvong at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2005




“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad but the responsibility, in this case, is not on the army which has acted only upon the request of the civil authorities.”

– T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), London Sunday Times, August, 1920
posted by wadefranklin at 9:48 AM on December 16, 2005


And cue the Hadrian quote in 3...2...1...
posted by darkstar at 9:55 AM on December 16, 2005


Though, to be fair, the Lawrence quote is actually pretty topical to what's going on today.
posted by darkstar at 9:57 AM on December 16, 2005


Well, in trying to avoid actually working today, I read the whole damn article and learned about ten times more about the situation in Iraq than I had previously known. Highly recommended if you have the time. Skim it, at the least. No conclusively terrifying conclusions are drawn, but optimistic scenarios are scarce. History is alluded to, but it is mostly assumed that this is a sui generis war.
posted by kozad at 9:58 AM on December 16, 2005


...What’s your view of the popular wisdom that Iran is really the winner out of all this?

The Iranians clearly are the winners so far, and this will probably continue. In 1991, fear of benefiting Iran was a prime reason why George Bush Senior ended the war so quickly. Khalilzad, the present American viceroy in Baghdad, who was then head of policy planning in the State Department, warned at the time that if the us, after winning its victory and getting Saddam out of Kuwait, went on to overthrow him, the real victors would be the Iranians. Today it’s pretty bizarre that the one place where optimistic announcements by the White House regarded with derision by the rest of the world—that the Iraqi elections are a major turning point, that the referendum is a terrific success, that the Constitution is a solution to the problems of Iraq—are immediately applauded is in Iran. The us occupation is opening the door to a regional Shia government, and a Shia government which sees its identity as Shia, rather than Iraqi. This is much in Iran’s interest. It now has a weakened Iraq on its western border, in which the Americans have a big stake. If the US puts too much pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme, it can squeeze the Americans in Iraq. It’s much more in Iranian interests to fight the US in Baghdad than in Tehran. They know how vulnerable the Americans are in Iraq. So I think that they have clearly been the beneficiaries. Supposing that the invasion had been a tremendous success, and there were a rock-solid pro-American regime under the control of the us in Baghdad, then the Iranians would be very nervous, caught in the pincers of Washington’s control of Afghanistan on one side and Iraq on the other. They now seem much more confident.
I spent a half trillion dollars and all I got was this lousy Christmas present for Iran.
posted by y2karl at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2005


Shame on you! Casting aspersions on the fate of Iraq and its relation to the US on the eve of its highly optimistic elections! How MeFi of you!
posted by Neologian at 4:53 PM on December 16, 2005


What the... I could have sworn I left a comment here yesterday, but I must have hit "Back" before actually posting. Anyway:

This is hands-down the best thing I've read on the current situation in Iraq; many thanks for posting it. I've read a fair amount on Iraq, but like kozad I learned a great deal from this. It's depressing there are so few comments (one of which is that damn TE Lawrence quote that was fresh and exciting several years ago when it was first quoted on MeFi), but hopefully people are too busy absorbing the information to comment.
posted by languagehat at 5:18 AM on December 17, 2005


what languagehat said (damn, I seem to be following you all over MeFi this morning) Often the best posts get few comments. It seems more thoughtful than opinionated so perhaps it hasn't pushed enough buttons to get people talking.
posted by caddis at 6:08 AM on December 17, 2005


A fantastic interview. Cockburn seems incredibly well informed and coherent, while the rather splenetic radicalism of some of the interviewer's questions makes an amusing counterpoint.

This would have thoroughly deserved a place in the excellent
Penguin Book of Interviews

posted by apodo at 6:22 AM on December 17, 2005


"We have created a haven for terrorists."

We have createdthe best chance the Muslim world has ever had to jump into the 20th Century. And Civilization. If it doesn't work, at least we will have tried.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:25 AM on December 17, 2005


Well, it has certainly seems to have allowed the US to jump into the 20th Centurey. Particularly that part between 1957 to 1975 give or take.

It's too bad they didn't teach history at Yale.
posted by willnot at 8:53 AM on December 17, 2005


Just before the us presidential election in 2004, the prime minister at the time, Iyad Allawi, cheerfully announced on a visit to Washington that 14 out of 18 Iraqi provinces were completely safe. Everyone in Iraq knew it was a complete lie, but precisely because it was wholly untrue, no journalist could prove otherwise without risking being shot or decapitated. That pretty well remains the situation today.

Adding that to our placing fake news in papers here and there makes for no real way to find out stuff. Thanks for this, Post.
posted by amberglow at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2005


Paris, Iraq was already in the 20th century--we sent them backwards.
posted by amberglow at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2005


Although al-Qaeda were in Afghanistan for years, they never had a popular base there and found it very difficult to operate, both before the American attack and now. In Iraq they’ve got a population that is sufficiently sympathetic and they’ve built up a sort of network. They can exploit that sympathy and they’re strong enough to terrify a lot of the others...
"There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003
posted by y2karl at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2005


Actually, you're correct. the 20th Century was the century of Saddam-like dictators. So i guess I really did mean 21st Century.

Now, tell me. Which century is Iran in? North Korea? Syria?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2005


Hmm...what century was Iran in when we traded them arms for hostages? Same century as us, I guess.
posted by darkstar at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2005


I think they were in the 17th, and moving backwards about one year per-week. Which is why the holocaust never happened and we will soon have Islamo-barabarians with nuclear weapons. Yeah.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2005


Flagged as fantastic. I don't think I've come across any other commentator with the kind of detailed, on-the-ground knowledge that Cockburn has. Here's hoping it makes it to the sidebar.

Washington sent in a 24-year-old with strong family connections to the Republican Party. He forgot to renew the lease on the building for it, and there was no stock market for a year.

I looked this up: it was a guy named Jay Hallen, a political-science major.

Paris, it's worth reading the interview just to see how complex the political situation is. The interview covers the viewpoints of some of the main actors--the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Kurds--in detail.
posted by russilwvong at 9:33 PM on December 17, 2005


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