Thursday, 22 March 2007

Iraq: Volatility of unstable society

“What a sad anniversary” the Independent wrote. Simon Jenkins of the Guardian also marked the occasion, saying “we are bid to celebrate the fourth anniversary of a lie” and all British media spared large space of their time to cover the fourth anniversary of the occupation/liberation of Iraq. ITV News, for example, chose Kadhum Al-Juburi, the Iraqi heavy-weight lifting champion, famous for destroying the statue of the overthrown dictator in Al-Firdous square in April 2003 to express his regret of toppling the statue. He said that the situation in Iraq is much worse now with the American occupation than under Saddam’s regime. At the same time, the results of a poll conducted in Iraq by the BBC, ABC News, USA Today and ARD German TV painted a gloomy picture about the current situation.
This poll came under criticism by those who supported the war and also some members of the Iraqi Parliament (Humam Hammoudi) but was extensively covered by the media here in Britain and used as a damning proof of the failure of the American policy in Iraq. But this is only one side of the coin. Another poll conducted approximately at the same time by the Opinion Research Business and published only by The Times newspaper came out with different results. Under the title “Iraqis: life is getting better”, The Times mentioned that most Iraqis questioned (around 5000) were optimistic and resilient. The conclusions withdrawn from this report have not been mentioned in other newspapers or TV News channels. Some criticised the credibility of the ORB who conducted the poll and accused them of working on a right wing agenda supported by the Bush administration.

As an Iraqi who cares about his family and the people of Iraq, I hope the figures obtained in the second poll were true. But if they were purposefully fabricated, this means that the first poll was more accurate. The situation in Iraq is dire and that was obvious in the findings of the first report. However, I still personally believe that both polls reflected the opinion of Iraqis, albeit differently. In the current turmoil, it is very expected to see Iraqis swiftly changing their minds and giving completely different reactions over major issues within a very short time. This changeability is not something new in the Iraqi society. Last week, I contacted my brother in Iraq and he told me how my parents got scared when someone knocked on their outdoor and was very frightened and begged them to open the door for him, but certainly they did not as they were scared themselves. Later, it appeared that this terrified man has escaped from his kidnappers who were looking for him in order to kill him. Then my brother gave detailed description of the continuous chaotic situation in Iraq. The next day I called again and asked if it is safer now with the new Baghdad security plan, their answer was “yes, there is a slight improvement”. These contradicting pictures over one day are not unusual in Iraq. This unpredictability of the way of our thinking and action may explain why many of those questioned in the above two polls denied that Iraq is in a state of civil war despite the fact that everyday the morgues of Baghdad hospitals receive an average of one hundred corpses. Most of those polled as well as many other Iraqis admitted that they do not believe in sectarianism but at the same time, the majority of them (especially those who live in mixed areas of Baghdad) can easily tell you who is a Shia or Sunni among their neighbours, schoolmates and colleagues at work. It became embedded in our unconscious mind to the extent that we do not believe in it anymore.
The majority were very pessimistic about the current situation but when they were asked whether they prefer Al-Maliki government over Saddam’s regime, the majority preferred Al-Maliki. Mark Etherington, a former paratrooper in the British Army who headed a team of reconstruction, both political and physical, of the Iraqi province of Al-Kut under the Coalition Provisional Authority, expressed his concerns about Iraqi police and members of municipal councils and the difficulties he encountered with the tribal Sheikhs. Unpredictability of their intentions, changing minds and allegiances, hampered many efforts to progress as he discussed in his book “Revolt on the Tigris”. Another female British officer served in “Abu Naji” camp in Amarah whom I met in London, told a funny story about this camp. She said “we were very concerned about mortars being fired on the camp from the surrounding villages and obviously we thought that we are unwelcome among the local people, most of them supported Al-Sadr and proud of resisting the occupation, but one day, an Iraqi interpreter works in the camp said that the local people are ready to stop the insurgents from using their villages as a base to fire mortars if the British paid some money to the local leaders and the families in the village”. She told me that this suggestion was rejected by the top authority as they did not trust the interpreter and as a result mortars kept falling over the camp until recently when it was handed to the Iraqi Army. This unpredictability and inconsistency in action is also very obvious in the current Iraqi Government actions and its daily handling of the situation.

But what are the reasons behind our unpredictable actions and changing opinions? The veteran Iraqi social scientist Ali Al-Wardi tried to explain much of the Iraqi personality complex by his theories about the clash between the Bedouin and civil values and traditions. The ultimate result of this struggle, as Al-Wardi concluded, is “Bedounisation” or “Tribalisation” of the cities and towns and not the opposite. He argued that 20th century’s Iraq witnessed many drastic changes at a much faster pace than under the Ottoman four-century’s occupation which left the Iraqi personality unstable, vulnerable and highly exposed to the surrounding social/economic, political and religious influences. This sense of insecurity became more obvious over the last thirty years which “metamorphasized” the Iraqi society to a level that Al-Wardi theories seems outdated and inapplicable. The absence of any stable period of time, even short-lived, in the modern Iraqi history left very little space for us to feel the depth of our shocking situation and to compare it to our past. We now consider the 90s with its shameful sanctions as unthinkable luxury and in the 90s Iraqis frequently used the term “Zaman Al-Khair” (time of prosperity) to describe the 80s when the middle class sect was still able to maintain a decent way of living and this cycle of distorted comparisons takes you decades back. We have to admit that the whole Iraqi society is insecure and helpless more than ever and needs radical solutions to let it stand again and the only solution left is to set aside all our sectarian and ethnic identities and revive the concept of our common “Iraqiness” identity.

1 comment:

Ramshakle1 said...

Iraqis gave different responses to the questionaire simply because they do not know what they actually want.Generally , I tend to argure that an Iraqi who says that the situation in Iraq is better now (or will get better ) than it was under Saddam´s regimen is either a kurd (who is in my understanding not Iraqi in the conventional sense of the word) or a Shiít who is Safawi or have Safawi tendencies.
But,The question itself :was it better under Saddam or is it Better now,this question in itself is twisted and misleading.The ACCURATE question should have been something like this: Now have 4 years passed since the occupation of your country, how close or far you as an Iraqi individual and your country as a state stand from the promises proposed to you by the americans when they first invaded your country?
In other words: the question should be directed to compare the current with the future not the current with the past.
As far as AL Wardi is concerned ,Yes, his theories succeeded in explainig the basic duality and schizophrenia in an average Iraqi.But he only succeeded to a limited extent.
Yesterday I read somewhere that when AL Hussein sent one of his supporters to Iraq to enquire about the possibilities of Al Hussein and his family settling in Iraq to declare TRUE Calipahte,the messenger said about Iraqi people to AL-Hussein after he came back from his investigatory visit to Iraq: Their Hearts are with you but their swords are against you !

No,No,really :WHAT IS THIS SHIT?

I guess by that time the tribalism/civilization dialectic was not as infalmed and obvious as Al Wardi thought of it when he wrote his theory .You Dig ?

Have a nice day !