33 thoughts on “Been Wrong So Long It Looks Like Right to Me”

  1. Read closely this is a magnificent encomium and eulogy of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Baath Party.

    The irony is that the Israel around which Kristol has tailored his foreign policy analysis would have been much safer with Hussein in Iraq and as an American ally, even with a few nuclear weapons he could not use, save in a pinch against a hostile or invading Iran.

    It may be that the Iraq War will in the end have “terrifically good effects”, such as the end of the Neo-Cons and Born Agains on the US political stage, the fall of American imperialism abroad, and the demotion of Israel to just another foreign state, if, under the Likud, an especially belligerent and vexatious one.

    What’s the old saying, “God” or something like that–works in mysterious ways?

  2. His comment that there’s no evidence the Sunni & Shia can’t get along is actually correct. Iraq has never had a civil war. I’m not aware of any ‘civil wars’ between different Muslim sects. The Baath party was mainly Shia. Iraqi families and tribes are mixed ethnically and religiously. There are Sunni living in Sadr City and Shia in the fictional “Sunni triangle”.

    The devout insistence on “sectarian violence” & “civil war” in the American media began after the capture of Saddam failed to end the guerrilla war. Since then the ongoing resistance to the occupations mass slaughter, torture, and collective punishment has been perversely spun as a “civil war” that the occupation is trying to prevent, when they’ve actually been desperately trying to foment one. Many Iraqis blame the “sectarian violence”, including the market and mosque bombings, on the occupation.

    1. His comment that there’s no evidence the Sunni & Shia can’t get along is actually correct. Iraq has never had a civil war. I’m not aware of any ‘civil wars’ between different Muslim sects. The Baath party was mainly Shia. Iraqi families and tribes are mixed ethnically and religiously. There are Sunni living in Sadr City and Shia in the fictional “Sunni triangle”.

      Fair enough, but insofar as he was predicting what would happen in Iraq after the U.S. disempowered the former ruling minority and empowered the embittered majority, Kristol was being rather disingenuous, no?

      1. Since the “ruling minority” (the Baath Party) was primarily composed of the “embittered majority” (Shia), I don’t see why anyone would expect a phenomenon that has never happened before (Sunni/Shia civil war) to suddenly appear.

        In any case, the “civil war” didn’t really commence until 2004 when the ongoing violence after the capture of Saddam had to be spun in a new way. “Guerrilla war” certainly wouldn’t be palatable to the American electorate.

        1. I was using “ruling minority” to mean Sunnis, which I realize is an oversimplification. I don’t know about the Iraqi Ba’ath Party being primarily composed of Shi’ites, but that seems somewhat irrelevant. As Juan Cole has written:

          “Shiites in Iraq were radicalized and brutalized by two major events: the Baath crackdown on Shiite political activity in the late 1970s and 1980s, and the crushing of the 1991 uprising and subsequent persecution of and even genocide against Shiites in the South.”

        2. I haven’t read Juan Cole since 2004, when he was tying himself into knots trying to maintain the pretense of being antiwar while openly supporting a pro-war candidate. Anyway, I’m not sure how a mainly Shia Baath Party cracking down on the political activity of mainly Shia Iraqis is explicitly about religion. Perhaps a conflict between secularism and pietism, but it has nothing to do with the Sunni/Shia nonsense that dominates the American media.

          As for the composition of the Baath party, here’s Riverbend from December 2006: “Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia).” I’ve seen Baathist communiqués on Uruknet that claim they were about 60% Shia, like the country itself. I’ll look for a link if you actually care about this.

        3. Don’t be obtuse. The Juan Cole quote was simply a statement of rather uncontroversial historical facts, so your opinion of Cole is irrelevant. Or did you read on Uruknet that Saddam didn’t persecute Shi’ites?

          Again, no one here said that Shi’ite-Sunni civil war was inevitable or that all Sunnis hated all Shi’ites (or vice versa) or even that life for most Iraqis was worse under Saddam. It’s simply worth noting, among Kristol’s other assertions and prognostications, his absolute certainty that everything would be hunky-dory after the U.S. invasion turned previous power relationships on their head. Hell, before the war, hawks like Kristol made a point of emphasizing the persecution of Shi’ites under Saddam — it was clearly dishonest and/or stupid of Kristol to dismiss any warnings that SOME Iraqi Shi’ites might be a bit peeved.

        4. Governments “persecute” anyone they dislike, just as every government has since time immemorial. This doesn’t change the fact that the Iraqi government was mainly Shia and that the cause of the violence, then and now, isn’t religious differences.

          Here’s another Antiwar.com article to make you happy: “I do not believe it is al-Qaeda any more,” a woman weeping near the scene of the bombing told IPS. “I do not care any more, I am just losing my loved ones. The last explosion hit my husband, and now he is disabled, and this one took my son’s life.”

          She referred to a similar bombing two-and-a-half months ago at the same market that killed 137 and wounded many more.

          U.S. leaders and Iraqi government officials again accused “terrorists and the Saddamists” of the bombing. But many people around Baghdad are blaming the occupation forces and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

          “I noticed that security officers did not carry out any site investigation,” a former police officer who lives in a neighboring area told IPS, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I have also noticed that no such crime has been solved since the first days of the occupation.”

    2. Exactly. The Baath also included Christians.

      Hussein’s was the most secular regime in the Near East.

      It is exactly Israel and the US that have been trying to engineer civil war between Shi’te and Sunni in Iraq.

      In fact, the US tried the same gambit at the end of the First Gulf War and then sold out both the Kurds and the Shi’ites it had encouraged to “revolt”.

      That is not to say that Shi’ites and Sunnis in Iraq were bosom buddies under Hussein. But, whatever he was, Hussein did indeed believe in and engineer to a degree an “Iraq” nationality.

  3. Biden’s proposal to divide Iraq into three sovereign states– Kurds (Sunni but secular and Kurdish first), Sunni, and Shia–is an old Israeli formulation, formulated also by the Neo-Cons here and there except when they were flacking the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    Encouraging civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites is part of the program.

    Is the US military in Iraq conscious party to the same program?

    It’s sheer guesswork on my part, but I would say most of them have no idea what is going on, or how they are being used by the Neo-Cons.

    Was bringing “Al Qaeda”, whatever it is, into Iraq part of the original equation?

    1. Encouraging civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites is part of the program. Is the US military in Iraq conscious party to the same program?

      Yes. Here’s Antiwar.com ironically: “They [death squads] evicted many of our good Sunni neighbors and killed many others,” Abu Riyad of the predominantly Shia Shula area told IPS. “We protected them for a while, but then we could not face the militias with all the support they had from the Iraqi government and the Americans. It is a terrible shame that we have to live with, but what can we do?”

      On the other hand, many Sunni Iraqis seemed unwilling to evict their Shia countrymen – for a while. But people in one mixed area of Baghdad described strange developments.

      “It is true that our neighbors did not evict us, but then the Americans swept the area and local fighters had to disappear from the streets,” Hussein Allawi, a Shia who lived in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood told IPS. “A group of masked strangers then entered the town right under American soldiers’ eyes. Only then did we realize that we must leave, and that our good neighbors could not help us any more.”

      Many such stories are told around Baghdad.

      1. Not sure where you’re finding irony. No one here is denying that the US exacerbated (and in some cases, created) Sunni-Shi’ite tensions, beginning with its support for Saddam in the war with Iran and continuing with its call for a Shi’ite uprising at the end of the first Gulf War.

        1. The irony derives from the article in question being contradictory to the daily avalanche of ‘Iraq is undergoing a sectarian civil war which will turn into a bloodbath if America ever stops murdering, torturing, and ethnically cleansing millions of people’ stories here.

          Here’s an excerpt from a great article by Dahr Jamail which I can’t find on your site. The myth of sectarianism – The policy is divide to rule: It may be worthwhile to consider that prior to the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq there had never been open warfare between the two groups and certainly not a civil war. In terms of organization and convention, Iraqis are a tribal society and some of the largest tribes in the country comprise Sunni and Shia. Intermarriages between the two sects are not uncommon either.

          Soon after arriving in Iraq in November 2003, I learned that it was considered rude and socially graceless to enquire after an individual’s sect. If in ignorance or under compulsion I did pose the question the most common answer I would receive was, “I am Muslim, and I am Iraqi.” On occasion there were more telling responses like the one I received from an older woman, “My mother is a Shia and my father a Sunni, so can you tell which half of me is which?” The accompanying smile said it all.

          Large mixed neighborhoods were the norm in Baghdad. Sunni and Shia prayed in one another’s mosques. As the rest of the article makes clear, the reason it has changed is because the “Americans thought they would decrease the resistance attacks by separating the people of Iraq into sects and tribes”.

        2. The irony derives from the article in question being contradictory to the daily avalanche of ‘Iraq is undergoing a sectarian civil war which will turn into a bloodbath if America ever stops murdering, torturing, and ethnically cleansing millions of people’ stories here.

          Antiwar.com has been calling for an immediate pullout since day one, so thanks for clarifying that you don’t actually read the site.

        3. I haven’t claimed that you support the occupation. I do claim that a depressing number of the articles on this site parrot shameful lies about Iraq that inadvertently (?) serve as war propaganda. All the gibberish about ancient sectarian hatreds preventing Iraqis from ever being able to live together peacefully (which they managed to do just fine before the invasion), “the surge” reducing violence, et cetera serve no other purpose but to get Americans to support prolonging the war – for humanitarian reasons of course.

          Since you’re apparently the editor, why can’t I find that Dahr Jamail article I linked to in your Dahr archives here? You usually run his stuff and it’s certainly very informative.

  4. The Baath Pary was founded in the 1940s by two Syrians, Michael Aflaq, a Syrian Orthodox Christian, and Salah al-Din Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, who met while studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. It was put together as a secular, left-leaning, pan-Arab political party and welcomed members from all religious groups.

  5. And Michael ‘Aflaq’s tomb is in the Green Zone in Baghdad. He died in 1989 amidst rumors he had converted to Islam.

  6. It should surprise no one that Crystal now has a NYT column. Bulletin to antiwar folks: The NYT is not your friend.

    1. The NYT is not your friend.

      Oh, we know that. Still, Kristol’s new job is noteworthy as a spectacular example of the phenomenon (commonplace in politics and punditry) known as failing upward.

  7. “The peoples of the imperialist countries are day by day, becoming, less enthusiastic, about these imperialistic wars. They increasingly withdraw from them so that the battle will finally be confined, without disguise, to those who are really interested in it. These capitalists, the adventurers and mercenaries who profit by wars, when they have reached this stage, will come to their end, for imperialistic wars do not depend solely on the imperialists but on the capacity of the latter to deceive their peoples drive them into such wars….”

    [Nichel Aflaq (Eng. Tr. albaath.online)]

  8. Thanks for this introduction to Tom Tomorrow, and The Modern World. They are the cat’s pajamas! I so appreciate all the educational commentary above.

  9. That Kristol is a perpetual dumb y’know-what is half of the joke. The other half is the New York Times defines rightwing thought solely in terms of the quasi-fascist ideology (i.e., “national greatness” conservatism) Kristol and his NY Times colleague, Charles Krauthammer, espouse.

  10. Most of the information about pre-occupation Iraq or the Iraq of Saddam Hussain that comes from Western media (including the BBC) is incorrect. The book “Baghdad Burning” by the woman blogger who calls herself Riverbend tells of the quality of the Iraqi intelligensia under Saddam. I have met others – Iraqi refugees and an Egyptian who worked in Iraq. All of them attest to the quality of the engineers, doctors and scientists of Iraq. There was free education for men and women, 24 hour water and electricity (quickly remedied after its disruption in the first war on Iraq by America) and a strictly observed distribution of essential food and clothing during sanctions. Saddam was secular. He had three Christian ministers in his cabinet. At the same time Saddam was a horrible dictator and would brook no opposition. He gaoled and tortured opponents. This was the reason why the distribution system worked very well. Yet Iraqis hated him.
    The present occupation was started for the purpose of establishing US bases in an oil rich region. The common opinion of the Arab street is that the Americans were goaded into this by the Israelis who could not stand the idea that an Arab nation could become technologically strong even if it were in the areas that were not nuclear. So the war was a method of achieving Israel’s goals and American goals.
    The disinformation campaign is not restricted to the NY times and Kristol. It goes right across and includes so-called liberal media too. Medialens.com throws more light on all this.

    1. I appreciate so much George Kurian reporting to us what he has heard is the voice on the street in Iraq. What I have learned from his comments and from anti-war.com staff is: Long live American Atheism.

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