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Friday, April 18, 2008

Who Are We Firing At?

Leila Fadel, Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, appeared on Bill Moyers' Journal on April 18, 2008. The 30-minute interview is a very enlightening look into the situation in Iraq. More importantly, Fadel clearly communicates several examples of the insanity and hypocrisy the American intervention has induced within the country.

Complaints about "Iranian influence" in Iraq? Duhhhhh! We topple a dictator who persecuted Shi'a clans within Iraq and launched an eight year war against predominately Shi'a Iran that killed one million Iranians then hand pick an Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein enemies. Guess what? Many of those enemies in our hand-picked government are going to be Shi'a and many will have been supported by Iran while they were avoiding Saddam while he was in power. Of course Iran is going to have influence.

Sectarian conflicts and reconciliation? Don't hold your breath. Prior to the toppling of Saddam, mixed Sunni / Shi'a families were common in Iraq. Once married, a family would tend to follow the husband's religious affiliation but a "mixed marriage" itself did not pose particular practical problems or certainly an existential threat to one's life. Today? Two years of neighborhood by neighborhood ethnic cleansing enforced after the fact by the American troop "surge" has created a climate where mixed Sunni / Shi'a families can no longer visit the husband and wife's in-laws. Instead, the families and in-laws have to travel to a "neutral city" where none are well known and the husband visits with his family and the wife visits with hers, then re-group to head back home.

The best quote in the interview is from a conversation she had with an American soldier while holed up under fire with them near Sadr City. The soldiers were occupying an abandoned Iraqi home and were visited by the owner who wanted to retrieve something. The soldiers refused to let him enter the house and instead found the item for the Iraqi and handed it to him through a partially open door at gunpoint. She asked a soldier "What would you do if a foreign army occupied your home?" The soldier replied "I'd probably blow the place up." She replied, "Isn't that about what they're doing here?" Another soldier talked about his frustration of being in an environment where their rules of engagement are basically don't fire until fired upon. When she asked "who are you firing at?", his answer was "anyone that fires at us."

That's some mission statement. Sadly, it's an accurate metaphor for the entire fiasco. Start with a bogus description of the "enemy", start a war, then widen the category of "enemy" to include anyone annoyed enough at the chaos we imposed to shoot back.

Here's one link to info on her but the interview itself hasn't been posted online yet (give it a few hours). Highly recommended.