View Full Version : Iraq: The Central Truth

09-08-2006, 12:10 PM
8 September New York Times commentary - The Central Truth (http://select.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/opinion/08friedman.html) by Thomas Friedman. (SWC Note: This op-ed piece is posted to the Times Select site and requires a paid subscription to view). Here is an excerpt:

... We are stalled in Iraq not because of something some fringe antiwar critics said, or did, but because of how the Bush team, the center of U.S. policy, approached Iraq from the start. While it told the public — correctly, in my view — that building one example of a tolerant, pluralistic, democratizing society in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world was really important in the broader war of ideas against violent radical Islam, the administration acted as though this would be easy and sacrifice-free...

... We are also failing in Iraq because of what the Shiite and Sunni mainstreams — not the fringes — are tolerating. Democracy fails when centrist forces either won’t stand up to extremists or try to use their violence for their own purposes.

The short history of the Iraq war is that the Sunnis in Iraq, and in the nearby Arab states, refused to accept one man, one vote, because it meant bringing the Shiite majority to power in Iraq for the first time. The Sunni mainstream, not the minority, believes Shiites are lesser Muslims and must never be allowed to rule Sunnis. Early in the Iraq war a prominent Sunni Arab leader said to me privately, “Thomas, these Shiites, they are not real Muslims.”

For two years, the Shiite center in Iraq put up with the barbaric Sunni violence directed against its mosques and markets — violence the U.S. couldn’t stop because it didn’t have enough troops, and because the Sunni center inside and outside Iraq tacitly supported it.

But eventually the Shiites snapped, formed their own death squads, turned to Iran for military aid, and focused more on communal survival than on making Iraq’s democracy work. Today we have Shiite and Sunni parties in the cabinet, but with their own private militias — exactly like Lebanon during its civil war. So, where the Iraqi center stops and the violent fringes start is no longer clear...