From a piece worth reading in its entirety on Iraq (thanks, Tym):
Holland: How do you respond to Americans who say, “Well, Sunni and Shia, they hate each other — it’s an ancient blood hatred and we have nothing to do with that. It’s not our fault that they’re at one another’s throats.”
Jarrar: You can say this about many other sects and religions whether they are Christian or Muslim or whatever. But there is a political dimension to these historical differences.
Obviously, there are theological differences as well as political and social differences. But the fact is that Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites managed to live in the same country for a long time without killing each other, and they lived in the same neighborhoods. They intermarried — I am half Sunni and half Shiite. I am one of many Iraqis who was born into these mixed marriages. The US destroyed that Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities after 2003.
Sect wasn’t really a part of the national consciousness. I was born in Iraq and I’d never in my life been asked if I was a Sunni or a Shiite. And I didn’t know who among my relatives or neighbors or co-workers or colleagues at school were Sunnis or Shiites, because it wasn’t an issue. It’s not that people were tolerant toward each other — they weren’t aware of sectarian backgrounds. It’s similar to some areas in the US where you don’t necessarily know what Christian sect your friends belong to. You might know, or you might not know.
That was before the US intervention. The US destroyed that Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities after 2003. I don’t think this is something that many Iraqis argue about, because you can trace the beginning of this sectarian strife that is destroying the country, and it clearly began with the US invasion and occupation.
That’s not to say that Iraqis don’t have agency over their own country and lives – they could and should have worked on bridging the gaps. But it’s not easy to fix these huge political and religious differences when the situation is as complicated as Iraq — and when the US is funding and training one side of this conflict with tens of billions of dollars, it’s not easy to reach a point of national healing, where Iraqis work together and live in peace.
We made so many mistakes in Iraq — invading in the first place, of course; not establishing order right away; protecting only the oil ministry from looters; disbanding the army . . . it was all so simpleminded, with such disastrous consequences, so many millions of wrecked lives and our own wrecked national balance sheet — and now Dick Cheney, who gave is this war, is chastisinging us for not exerting more military force around the world and relying too much on diplomacy and nuanced solutions? Really?
The Kerry line, that the Bush team “rushed to war without a plan to win the peace,” rings so painfully true. Lots of testosterone — they’re great at that — but so little wisdom, such awful consequences.
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