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Thread: How George Bush became the new Saddam

  1. #1
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    New York, NY

    Default How George Bush became the new Saddam article by Patrick Graham.

    Ignore the sensationalistic title. Main thrust of the article is how the U.S. is increasingly backed by the Sunni elements that formed the backbone of the insurgency and Saddam's support, and moving away from Iranian-leaning Shi'i religious parties.

    Long article with some highlights:

    But watching Gen. Petraeus, I was struck by how familiar his words sounded. The general talked like every Sunni I’ve ever met in Iraq—hell, he sounded a bit like Saddam. The old tyrant would have had one of his characteristic chest-heaving guffaws watching Petraeus as he intoned the old Baathist mantra about the dangers to Iraq: Iran, Iran, Iran.

    It seems that Petraeus and Bush have come to the same conclusion as Saddam: the main enemy is Iran, and you can’t govern Iraq without the Sunni Arab tribes, even as you encourage anti-Iranian nationalism among the Shia. This is what Saddam did during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and what Washington is trying to do now. One of the main problems with this strategy is that both the Sunni tribes and Shia nationalists are profoundly anti-American and don’t trust each other—a potential recipe for further disaster.

    When the insurgency started in the summer of 2003, it was made up primarily of the same class of alienated Sunnis who are now part of the tribal Anbar Awakening. The insurgents I spent time with in 2003 and 2004 were, in essence, nationalists who didn’t like the U.S. Army driving around their villages, kicking down their doors and shooting their cousins at checkpoints. They were also deeply suspicious of American plans for democracy, because they feared it would lead to Iran taking over the government. Some hated Saddam, some liked him, but Saddam wasn’t the issue. For want of a better term, they are the equivalent of rednecks who believe in God, their country, and the right to bear arms.


    AMZ’s foreign fighters were never more than a tiny percentage of the insurgency, but they got all the credit, especially when their car bombs began killing civilians. Al-Qaeda in Iraq also had a tremendous appeal among the Sunni Iraqi underclass, just as Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda appeals to poor, angry Muslims the world over. Provinces like Anbar are very poor and very hierarchical, with a large and resentful social stratum at the bottom. Local Iraqis were drawn to al-Qaeda’s Salafist fundamentalism because it freed them from the conservative, tribal oppression that governed their lives. Al-Qaeda was able to take over some of the insurgency—and still controls chunks of Iraq—precisely because it was revolutionary, not conservative, and offered poor people in An­­bar a chance to kick some rich sheik and Baathist ass, as well as kill Americans and Shias. In part, al-Qaeda was part of a class war fuelled by profound anger and so­­cial resentment.

    When my friend Ahmed, the grandson of an important sheik, invited me to “come kill some al-Qaeda” around Falluja, he didn’t mean hunt down Saudis who had trained in Afghanistan under bin Laden. He meant, “Let’s go shoot the uppity trash who took over my village.”


    The insurgents whom I knew at first tolerated al-Qaeda and its foreign volunteers, even though Salafism was alien to their beliefs in local Islamic traditions and their affinity toward the more mystical branch of Islam, Sufism, both anathema to Salafists. But al-Qaeda eventually turned against the other insurgent groups to consolidate its power, demanded their allegiance, and began killing anyone who opposed it or whom it thought might be a threat. In doing so, al-Qaeda extremists became like the Khmer Rouge, murdering any tribal sheik or former Iraqi military office or educated person not on their side (al-Qaeda’s attacks on the Sunni elite make many Sunnis believe that Iran, along with Syria, is funding the organization).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Default 'You got rid of one Saddam and you left us with 50'

    'You got rid of one Saddam and you left us with 50'
    Friday September 21, 2007
    Guardian Unlimited

    Tripp, an Arabist and professor of politics at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), is in the vanguard of western scholars of Iraq. He first visited in the 1980s during the war with Khomeini's Iran. To his regret he has not been back since the US-led invasion - neither wanting to worry his family, get stuck and out of touch in Baghdad's Green Zone or be a "hideous liability" to his Iraqi friends. But he has followed events closely - and, crucially, unlike so many of those involved in the war and occupation - against the indispensable background of what came before.

    "There was this nonsensical idea that Saddam and everything he created was a kind of freak and that once you eradicated him the whole thing would fall apart and the potential for a liberal, democratic and a civil society would emerge as if somehow he was the only problem," he says. "But Saddam was a recognisable part of Iraqi history. Many Iraqis feel now that they've been delivered into the hands of many lesser dictators. As one of my friends said: 'Thanks very much: you got rid of one Saddam and you left us with 50.'"

    Part of the problem, he argues, was profound ignorance about what went on beneath the surface of Saddam's dictatorship, what he calls a "shadow state" that ran on cooption, collaboration and patronage as well as repression and fear. That led to the disastrous decision to outlaw the Ba'ath party. "Lack of understanding on that score was unbelievable. By purging it you alienated tens of thousands of people who would otherwise have very happily served the next regime. They weren't going to work for the restoration of Saddam Hussein.

    They only joined the Ba'ath because that was what they had to do. When you decapitate that shadow state you don't get rid of the old networks. They just look for a new patron: hence the resistance."

    The same "blindness", as Tripp calls it, was at work when the order came to dissolve the Iraqi army and the entire security apparatus of the old regime, giving a huge boost to what was to become a fully-fledged Sunni insurgency.

  3. #3
    Council Member Graycap's Avatar
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    Jan 2007


    I don't agree too much with the parallelism.

    IMO Bush, better the US, should be looking to another example. Hafez el-Assad.

    The geostrategic reasons, the US interests in Iraq and Middle East, are in some way similar to the reasons that drove Syria in Lebanon after the civil war start.

    Syria could not accept that any of the different sect involved in the fight could be a clear winner. That could drive to an ostile Lebanon and a far too long frontier to protect.

    Therefore we saw a first syrian help to christians to eliminate the danger posed by PLO and its allies winning control of country and to prevent an open intervention of Israel to take advantage of the situation directly helping christians. After that the christians switched to Israel Syrians switched to support arab and leftist. And so on. Until the situation grew so difficult for each party and the international community that Syrian WAS ASKED to assume the controller role.

    The US Are now involved in a role that has some likeness.

    The alliance with sunnis will live as long as the US will be perceived as a real help for this community future providing money, military help and political relevance. Should the US fail in this role the minute after the alliance will be long gone. In arab world anyway nothing is forever and all is possible. With the only prescription to use the correct "language".


  4. #4
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    Apr 2007


    What an interesting article. It was difficult to read some of what the author was saying, he has an intriguing writing style. The author definitely has the extreme rightwingers at Newsbusters all up in arms.
    I don't necessarily agree what he said about Petraeus, but that may be due to my lack of understanding about tribal dynamics:
    But watching Gen. Petraeus, I was struck by how familiar his words sounded. The general talked like every Sunni I’ve ever met in Iraq—hell, he sounded a bit like Saddam. The old tyrant would have had one of his characteristic chest-heaving guffaws watching Petraeus as he intoned the old Baathist mantra about the dangers to Iraq:
    I think Petraeus is probably looked at as more the tribal leader of the strongest tribe (the U.S. miltary) in Iraq (Maybe that's how Saddam was viewed by the Sunnis prior to OIF?).

    Here's another article I found by Graham. This was more difficult to read because here he's with the Sunnis while they were killing Americans with IED's and RPG's. Doesn't have much to say about Iran as tequila's article does.
    Beyond Fallujah: A year with the Iraqi resistance
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-23-2007 at 01:22 PM.


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