Friday, December 29, 2006


Iraq - Blame the Victim

American politicians and commentators started a new shift in the blame for the Iraq situation recently: it's all the Iraqi people's fault.

The argument, superficially valid, points out that the civil war in that long suffering country consists of Iraqis killing each other. The United States did not start the sectarian violence, we have been trying to stop it.

For those who avoid the depressing news, the KC Star ran a fascinating look at the current situation in Baghdad in today's edition. The streets are full of armed men, belonging to various groups. Trucks piled high with belongings ferry the last few stragglers in and out of enclaves. Illegal checkpoints dot the roads; people are detained and killed pretty much at random, based on the most superficial signs of which sect a person happens to adhere to. Anyone foolhardy or desperate enough to leave whatever shelter they've found must carefully consider how they tie their head scarves, which colors they wear, and what phone numbers are programmed into their cell phones. Even if you don't make any mistakes, you still risk death by torture.

Much of the violence is between Sunni and Shiia followers of Islam.

Before the United States travels too far down the road of blaming the Iraqis for the current state of affairs, a review of very recent history would be helpful.

Under the leadership of president George Bush, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq. Under Mr. Bush, the United States dismantled the Iraqi military and police forces, and nearly all the government. Under the direction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the occupying force was too small to replace the functions of the police force. Looting broke out almost immediately. With the advice of Vice-President Dick Cheney, the United States, instead of employing the jobless men of Iraq, awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton and other rich domestic companies to re-build the nation. The United States made no discernible effort to disarm the Iraqi people, who were already well armed by Saddam.

Therefore, the United States created a large, hostile, idle pool of armed men in a nation which already held deep sectarian hatreds with long histories.

So be very clear; yes, the Iraqis are killing each other. But it is the United States that bears the brunt of the moral responsibility for allowing that to happen.

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