As I'm sure you've heard by now, on a recent surprise visit to Iraq, President Bush had to duck when a Shi'a Arab journalist threw shoes at him in protest of American policies and presence in Iraq. During a news conference, Muntadhar al-Zaidi yelled out, "this is a gift from the Iraqis, a farewell kiss, you dog" and fired away.
Thrown shoes and dogs are about as low as you go in the Arab world. Forget about Marley and Me, Rin Tin Tin, or Old Yeller. I wish I could say that I was shocked by this disrespect usually reserved for such folks as the tolerant Arabs' kilab yahud—Jew dogs. I wasn't. Polls show that most Arab Iraqis—especially Shi'a—supported both al-Zaidi. While he was roughed up by those with a stake in the current regime, those later reports reveal the pulse of the nation.
While the Sunni have no love for America either—they were Saddam's folks—they now fear what's in store for themselves later on. While estimates of the dead vary (some hundreds of thousands), the 60% of Iraq who are Shi'a had their own aspirations suppressed only via the iron fist of the Sunni Arabs' Saddam. He employed the same murderous tactics against them as he did with non-Arab Kurds in the north.
Similar bloody actions against others in neighboring Iran by the majority non-Arab, Persian Shi'a are probably not a bad model for what to expect after America leaves a Shi'a-dominated Iraq as well …Payback time, so to speak. And don't expect a President Obama to move back in.
Unfortunately, the Kurds will also be caught up in this murderous, age old Arab feud. The one thing both Shi'a and Sunni Arabs can agree on (just like with Israel, the black African Sudan, Berber North Africa, and elsewhere) is that Kurds should have no claims on alleged "purely Arab patrimony." Having supported America's move against Saddam, decades of intense study, publication in academic journals and elsewhere, and involvement with the region still made me very wary.
While the Arabs owed Great Britain a huge debt for the very creation of a united, Arab-ruled Iraq out of the post-World War I Mandate of Mesopotamia, this didn't stop them not long afterwards from rising up against what they only saw as British imperialism. No giving the devil his due here…Use him then lose him. I can understand that. Too bad Arabs can't grant this same understanding to others though.
Imperialism is only nasty when it's not Arabs dishing it out. How do you think the region became "purely Arab patrimony" in too many an Arab mind? Without the Brits' involvement, the Turkish phoenix rising under Ataturk from the ruins of the centuries' old Ottoman Empire would have surely grabbed the oil-rich region around Mosul (which it formerly ruled) and probably would have extended its claim to the black gold of Kirkuk as well.
To make the new prospective Arab state viable (the British navy had recently switched from coal to oil and was the main arm of the British Empire), the Brits had to attach the oil of the Kurdish north to the Sunni Arab center and Shi'a Arab oil of the south. In the process of siring the Middle East's version of Yugoslavia, London thus shafted Kurds out of the best chance they ever had at regaining their own independence…something the Brits had promised them earlier as well.
After having their very country created and handed to them by the Brits (who also supplied aircraft and such to fight the Kurds), the Arabs soon revolted to try to drive the Brits out. Granted, imperialism has its nasty side, and the Brits created an Arab Iraq for their own reasons, yet still…
So, the point here is that America should have known not to expect any gratitude from most Iraqi Arabs either. Hence the thrown shoes, the thrower now a national hero, and so forth. There's yet another angle to this…
Think of all the American blood, lives, money, and other aid which have been spent for the sake of Arabs in Iraq, giving them new freedoms which they have never had. Trillions of American dollars will be spent before it's over, billions each month. Visit a local VA hospital to see just some of the other tragic, lasting costs…
That shoe-thrower who called President Bush a dog would have literally been fed to the dogs if he tried that trick with the man America freed him from. The innocents who died whom the shoe thrower complained about mostly died because of the same cowardly Arab trick Israel deals with daily. Arabs love to use their non-combatants as human shields…against the Geneva Conventions, and so forth. They shoot and then run behind the skirts of their women and toys of their kids.
Was/is America hoping to get something positive for itself as a result of its Iraq expenditures? Sure…But does that erase the above truisms? Think about those anti-Israel voices quick to protest about two billion dollars in aid sent to Israel each year…an investment whose return comes back to us positively in many ways. The current war in Iraq costs America more (for the sake of Arabs who mostly hate us as "infidels" in a context of a war for their Dar ul-Islam) in one week than Israel gets in foreign assistance in one year.
And, in exchange for that assistance, the State Department feels it has the right to pressure Jews into suicidal concessions. America has already spent about $500 billion dollars for Iraq, with much more set to come. It would take Israel centuries to get this much aid from America. And Israel doesn't ask for American blood to be shed on its behalf or to be bribed to display America's own values and democratic inclinations.
How long will the latter last among Arabs after America's exit from Iraq? Ironically, the one people in Iraq who better share our values--the Kurds--are the folks the Arabist James Baker types in the State Department are determined to shaft yet again on behalf of Arabs who want to be sure that oil in Kurdish lands remains part of the "purely Arab patrimony."
Same shafting game you read above…just different shafters.
While I didn't vote for the Obama-Biden ticket largely because of the long list of known anti-Semitic and anti-Israel friends and advisors Obama has aligned himself with (he's already brought several into his future Administration), Senator Joe Biden has a better understanding of the Yugoslavian nature of Iraqi demographics than most politicians.
I'm hoping against the odds that he'll pull more weight than the shaft the Jews and Kurds Arabists who are all-too-common in the State Department (and among Obama's buddies) which Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will soon be leading.
~ Gerald A. Honigman
These Boots Are Made For Walking