Iraqis were not primarily Sunnis or
Shiites; they were Iraqis first
by Nir Rosen
I arrived in Iraq before L. Paul Bremer arrived in May 2003 and stayed on
long after his ignominious and furtive departure in June 2004 -- long enough
to see the tragic consequences of his policies in Iraq. So I was
disappointed by the indignant lack of repentance on full display in his
Outlook article on Sunday.
In it, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority argues that he
"was absolutely right to strip away the apparatus of a particularly odious
tyranny," including the Baath Party and the Iraqi army. He complains about
"critics who've never spent time in Iraq" and "don't understand its
complexities." But Bremer himself never understood Iraq, knew no Arabic, had
no experience in the Middle East and made no effort to educate himself -- as
his statements clearly show.
Time and again, he refers to "the formerly ruling Sunnis," "rank-and-file
Sunnis," "the old Sunni regime," "responsible Sunnis." This obsession with
sects informed the U.S. approach to Iraq from day one of the occupation, but
it was not how Iraqis saw themselves -- at least, not until very recently.
Iraqis were not primarily Sunnis or Shiites; they were Iraqis first, and
their sectarian identities did not become politicized until the Americans
occupied their country, treating Sunnis as the bad guys and Shiites as the
good guys. There were no blocs of "Sunni Iraqis" or "Shiite Iraqis" before
the war, just like there was no "Sunni Triangle" or "Shiite South" until the
Americans imposed ethnic and sectarian identities onto Iraq's regions.
Despite Bremer's assertions, Saddam Hussein's regime was not a Sunni regime;
it was a dictatorship with many complex alliances in Iraqi society, . . .
Bremer also exaggerates the numbers of casualties in the 1991 uprisings
against Hussein. While the Baathist regime was brutal and killed tens of
thousands, there is no evidence
that Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as Bremer claims. But
there is growing evidence that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been
killed since Bremer first came to power in Baghdad.
Some have indeed pilloried Bremer for his individual errors, such as
disbanding the army. But these blunders are not the reasons why most Iraqis
hate the American occupation and support violent resistance to it. The main
grievance most Iraqis have with America is simply the occupation itself --
an occupation that lingers on years after Bremer waved goodbye.
Born to a Jewish mother and an Iraqi father, Dr. Dahlia Wasfidescribes the life of Iraqis
under occupation to the Democratic Congressional Forum on Iraq on May 5,
2006 in Washington, DC. She put her medical career in the U.S. on hold for a
three month visit with family members in Basra and Baghdad.
[The parliament today passed a binding resolution that will guarantee
lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under
which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in
December. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose cabinet is dominated by
Iraqi separatists, may veto the measure. . . .
[Why isn't Washington backing the nationalists, despite its growing
frustration with Maliki's inability to meet the so-called "benchmarks" of
political reconciliation that the United States wants? Because what holds
together the emerging nationalist coalition, more than anything else, is
militant opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.--Robert Dreyfuss, "Saving
Iraq," Nation, June 27, 2007]