Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Announcing the 'New' UIA

So the revamped United Iraqi Alliance was finally announced today, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, this marks a seminal moment in Iraqi politics. The big news is not who was on stage as the announcement was made, but rather who was absent, namely Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Da’awa Party.

Negotiations proceeded at a feverish pace right up to the moment when the main actors began heading out to the conference hall, with the Da’awa Party pleading for a delay. However, these pleas fell on deaf ears since Maliki’s representative to the preparatory meetings, MP Hassan al-Sineid, had already agreed on the 24th (today) as the final date for the launching of the new UIA. Needless to say, the refusal to postpone the announcement took the Da’awa by surprise, believing as they did that they had far more leverage given Maliki’s popularity.

Yet Maliki’s political fortunes have been sinking as of late, as his claim to fame for bringing an end to violence, especially in Baghdad, was dramatically torn asunder by Wednesday’s multiple bombings aimed at high value targets. The political atmosphere is so poisonous that Da’awa apparatchiks had been insinuating, with Maliki in the lead, that the bombings resulted from the “strained political atmosphere,” implicitly accusing the Islamic Supreme Council headed by the Hakim family as the main culprits.

The Iraqi government for its part has been putting out conflicting stories about the bombings. The Defense minister claimed that the bomb parts were Iranian-made, again casting aspersions on the Hakims, who are perceived as close to the Iranians. But ‘Baghdad Operations Command’ released televised confessions from a Ba’athist who claimed responsibility for the truck bomb at the Finance Ministry, adding that he answered to the splinter Ba’athist wing headed by Mohammad Yunis al-Ahmad. (Note: a New York Times story today by Steven Lee Myers mistakenly attributed the confession to the Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri wing of the Ba’ath Party.)

This move by the new UIA effectively splits the Shia Islamist vote, and would naturally mean that the Sistani establishment in Najaf would be forced to pick sides.

The mathematics behind the announcement has to do with the notion that the principal parties of the new UIA got more votes in total than Maliki in last January’s provincial elections (Hakims 11 percent, Sadrists 7 percent, Ja’afari 4 percent, versus Maliki’s 19 percent). The chief power brokers are Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmad Chalabi, while Sunni representation is simply garnish, with Hamid al-Hayess of Anbar Province (former Iraqi National Congress bureau chief in Ramadi) taking the podium to give a Sunni face to the show. Former Allawi ally Qassim Daoud is there too, as are a smattering of non-aligned tribal leaders such as Hatim al-Sultan of the Banu Tamim.

Both Ja’afari and Adel Abdel-Mahdi said that they had hoped that Maliki and the Da’awa would have been on board, and kept the door open for a future realignment, but that is very unlikely at this stage. The chief stumbling block in the negotiations was that Maliki demanded assurances that he would remain the UIA’s sole candidate for the PM job post-elections, which the Hakims were not prepared to commit to.

The Bombings:

I didn’t want to comment on the bombings, since it involved a personal fright. But the headline in the Washington Post the following day (Aug. 20) was simply shrill and ridiculous: ‘Iraq Carnage Shows Sectarian War Goes On’. The write-up by Ernesto Londono was equally hyperbolic, but I’m used to by now his attempts to over-dramatize events in Iraq. The Iraqi ambassador to the US has a letter to the editor published in the paper today addressing the WaPo’s headline and shoddy reporting.

Yet the most disturbing aspect of how the bombings were reported upon by the US media were the quotes by current and former U.S. officers in Iraq, as well as U.S.-based analysts, commenting on what happened. These statements reeked of what seems like gloating; they sounded like a jilted ex-wife taking pleasure that the younger bride for whom she was dumped ran away with the mailman. The ‘Blame The Iraqis’ crowd among America’s military and security classes are taking great pains to bleach-out their blemished legacies; they did nothing wrong and it was the always the Iraqis who screwed everything up. It is the common refrain of the insecure and the recognition-hungry. The atmosphere between Iraqis and Americans has been poisoned, by careerism and activist reporting, far beyond the effects of whatever antidote may be available. To me it is high time for full disengagement: leave the Iraqis to sort out their own problems without the snide commentary, and let’s see what those folks can do to ‘win’ in Af-Pak. U.S.-Iraqi relations should be restructured towards private sector investment and energy security. There’s very little other ground for ‘feel-good’ cooperation.

Lastly, check out a story in today’s NYTimes about beach life in Habbaniya Lake. This piece of reporting by Duraid Adnan and Timothy Williams is a far clearer reflection for how life goes on, and going well, in Iraq. At the end, it’s all about boys and girls flirting and creating happier memories.


Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...

Astute observation of American shallowness, they don't see the good, that all this bombing is supposed to be the catalyst which is failing to ignite popular sectarian violence, and they don't see the bad, like the perpetrators could be America's old allies.

10:30 AM, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"they sounded like a jilted ex-wife taking pleasure that the younger bride for whom she was dumped ran away with the mailman"


1:04 PM, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are referring to Pete Mansoor, Stephen Biddle and John Nagl.

Nagl sounds like Naghl in Arabic. Doesn't it? Funny and appropriate.

3:55 PM, August 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>The ‘Blame The Iraqis’ crowd among America’s military and security classes are taking great pains to bleach-out their blemished legacies; they did nothing wrong and it was the always the Iraqis who screwed everything up.

Well, in this case it WAS the Iraqis who screwed everything up. Or was it American soldiers taking bribes to let VBIEDS through their checkpoints? You know, Nibras, from the perspective of an American enlisted guy who's been on dozens of missions with the IA/IP, you seem pretty ungrateful. I mean, to read your blog, it would seem like the ISF are a bunch of regular guys, military professionals, not the corrupt, unmotivated, undisciplined brainless douches that 85% of them are. You guys wanted the SOFA, you wanted unilateralism, and now that your boys are fucking up by the numbers, it's still somehow the bad Americans' fault? Come on, dude.

7:00 PM, August 24, 2009

Blogger mqmqm said...

that was a great nytimes article. inno wow.

8:41 PM, August 25, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

to the enlisted guy..
haven't you figured out that Nibras is anti US establishment because his boss was dumped by the "careerists" in DOS and Professional Military when at the time Chalabi was the champion of neo-conservative. Things only turned worse when in 05, Chalabi was screwed over by UIA and deprived of legitimate votes that he got to end up outside the tent.

this time, the old fox wants to get inside the tent to outmaneuver his allies.

it will be an interesting elections and post election game. I am looking forward to watching the shenanigan of Nibras's old pal.

12:52 AM, August 26, 2009

Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...

Hey Anonymous,

Sure, if Ahmed Chalabi can't beat the UIA then he will join them.

I wonder why so many Iraqi politicians are still clamouring to join the new UIA (named INA by Reidar Visser but the initials are already used by Ayad Allawi's party)? The old UIA lost badly in the local elections, beaten by Maliki who himself, according to Nibras, wants to join. Neither Maliki nor Chalabi need political money from the new UIA. Could it be the new UIA and its backers have a lock on the new elections? If you ask me, and I don't pretend that anybody will, then I would guess so, and I think that we are well on our way to an Iranian elections scenario.

How much damage does the Obama administration need to see before it acts? How much noise before it wakes up? There are more holes in the Iraqi elections than a sieve; we need the US to call for a Security Council mandate for UN supervision over census and the elections in Iraq.

11:28 AM, August 26, 2009

Anonymous Snuffy said...


I figured it was something along those lines, but here's the deal-if not for the US, Chalabi would at this very moment have absolutely no play in Iraqi politics. Hell, I doubt that he would have been dumped in the first place except for the piss-poor performance of his boys on the ground during the initial invasion and the occupation. I know, I know, again it was somehow the Americans' fault.

I figure that Nibras (being the smart dude that he is) knows this for a fact, but, in typical Iraqi fashion, his gratitude for American help has outlasted the duration of said help by about three seconds. Afwan, habibi. Are you going to love us again once it's become apparent that your boys can't find terrorists without an American holding them by the hand and pointing out their house?

5:47 PM, August 27, 2009

Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...

Hey Snuffy.
The philosophy of ingratitude is covered by the story on Faust (see my blog entry here: http://montrealiraqi.com/?p=150), BTW your position seems much like Khalilzad's.
My moral perspective: The US was not true to itself when it adopted Israeli style democracy in Iraq instead of its own nonsectarian democracy, therefore it should not expect better truthfulness from a country it invaded. I am not interested in recrimination, or in defending Chalabi and his associates, only in what will happen next. The Obama administration seems to be better suited, more truthful, than its predecessor in taking responsible action in Iraq.
As for American help in locating terrorists, look around the Middle East, do you see many countries not run by the police? Iraq can deal with its own enemies but it needs transparent democracy, or it will have to settle for an Islamist dictator. BTW to my mind there were too many non-terrorist victims of U.S. intelligence, I hope Iraq will never need American "help" in identifying terrorists.

6:24 AM, August 28, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


1) The US is not responsible for Iraq being split up along sectarian lines. That's ludicrous. And democracy in any country so split will reflect that split.

2) Regardless, I agree that the US should not expect truthfulness from Iraq, but not because of anything it's done. The culture of Iraq, from what I've seen, does not encourage truthfulness for its own sake, or doing the right thing when no one is watching you. It's a classic shame-based culture where getting over is the highest good. This goes from the dirtiest hovel in Hay Al Rathma, Najaf, to the top. The only people I met in Iraq that seemed to be driven primarily by morals and integrity were the Yezidis, and maybe some of the AQI guys we caught.

3) What will happen next? My guess is that Iraq will continue to wallow in its crapulence. Fortunately, the bad guys (JAM and AQI) are Iraqis too, with all the associated stupidity and incompetence, so the ISF will probably keep their heads down. If spectacular VBIED attacks continue, the government will probably quietly ask some US forces to start advising on hits again. That would be the logical thing to do; of course, it's also possible that foolish pride and dickmeasuring competitions will keep them from asking for that help. Eventually, Iraq will be a typical Middle Eastern dump with the occasional boom. The only way that this will change is if there is a cultural revolution causing a drastic difference in personal values.

4) The Obama administration is implementing policies first developed and implemented by Bush. In Iraq, there is practically no difference between what was going on in December 2008 and what is going on now.

5) The Middle East is full of police states for one reason only-the culture. Everybody's a little Mussolini, full of bombast and incompetence.

6) I'm not going to get into the specifics of intelligence gathering and targeting here. Iraq is not good at either, for the same reason that it lacks quiet professionals in most fields. The culture sucks. I guess you guys could go back to ye olden days, where intel consisted of finding one guy, torturing the shit out of him until he rolled over, then moving on to the next one, but that doesn't seem to be a satisfactory solution. At this time, Iraq is incapable of effectively finding and catching terrorist executives without major US help.

7) I will give you this, though-the Iraqis have impressed me with their ability to move a bunch of ISF into a terrorist stronghold like Basra or Diwaniyyah and resume governance. The sceptic in me says that this is because the ISF, fucked up as they are, are marginally less fucked up that JAM or AQI. Regardless, this is something, but it's not enough. It might keep the insurgency out of stage two (establishing strongholds,) but it does nothing for stage one (delegitimizing government through pinpoint attacks intended to demonstrate its powerlessness and incompetence.)

8) 75% of American efforts in Iraq have been wasted through our own organizational stupidity, but that's neither here nor there. The US military and civilian agencies have their own cultural stupidity problems, but compared to those of the ISF and GOI, they are nothing.

11:12 AM, August 29, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snuffy: you suffer from a classic case of psychological tranference. You take all your insecurities and inferiority complexes and you transfer them to Iraq so that you will seem like a hero in your own eyes. You are probabaly a sad loser and you hate Iraqis because they made a fool out of you and put you face to face with your deficiencies as a man and as a human being.

7:02 PM, August 30, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


you're right, the amazing people of Mesopotamia have brought me face to face with my personal deficiencies time and time again. Deficiencies like my tendency to use a toilet without pooping on the floor, the fact that sewage in my house does not run out into the street, the arrogance that keeps me from begging random strangers (whom I secretly despise) for charity even though I'm actually not in need, my distaste for cosanguineous marriage and the associated birth defects...I could go on and on, but why? You've won. Great success!

Now go celebrate by firing your AK in the air and wondering why there are 7.62 rounds coming down around you. Hint: it's probably somehow the Americans' fault.

10:41 PM, August 30, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Habibi Snuffy: Do you think your ass is clean when you swipe it with a couple of tissues as Americans do? Have you seen how clean the ghettos are in America? Have you seen how many homeless people beg for a cigarette or a bus ride in America? Have you seen how many women Mormons marry including their nieces? Have you seen how many women claim to be molested by their fathers and uncles in incestuous America?

No, no, no. You won my Sir. So now go celebrate by joining a anti-government militia in Alabama or the KKK. Hint: it's probably somehow the fault of the evil and uncivilized Iraqis!

7:58 AM, August 31, 2009

Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...


I am honored by your attention to my comments. Here are my responses to the same.

1) Almost every country in the world is divided along sectarian lines but they have stronger national identity, the US choice of political system exagerated the sectarian identity at the expense of the national identity, that's elementary, not ludicrous. The US is responsible for its choice of system and friends.

2) As I said I am not interested in recrimination or passing judgment, and I was not talking about truthfulness for its own sake but for consistency and reliability; true elections are consistent thats why they are unobjectionable. I am glad you brought the issue of the Yezidis, Iraq's society is so tolerant that it did not force the Yezidis/Chaldeans/Mandeans ..etc.. out of their faith and culture for millenia, except now. You are adopting prejudice and overlooking history.

3) In other words Iraq will survive but you don't like it. It will, eat your heart out.

4) I agree with one difference: There doesn't seem to be Faustian pacts with US-friendly factions like before. This is not enough for drastic change, I know.

5) When there is no sense of direction at the top, when the leaders stay because of their servitude to other nations and you can't vote them out, that's when you get everybody to himself situation and all are little Mussolinis.

6) Sir, you don't know much about Iraq. You may have experience but like an old friend of mine used to say: you don't have twenty years of experience, you have one year repeated twenty times. You didn't meet quiet Iraqi professionals because they avoided you, or were killed by your Iraqi allies. And your allies may not share the same concept of who is the terrorist.

7) You wouldn't be talking about the ISF if you left the Iraqi Army alone. I know, that's not the fault of the US.

8) You are comparing efficient American process with no process. There is no clean process in Iraq, and without process we don't have hope, recrimination and coverups don't replace clean elections. Call for UN run census and elections then leave, for good. Thank you very much!

10:58 AM, August 31, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


1. You really think that the US is primarily to blame for the fact that the Sunni Arabs don't really consider the Shi'a muslims, the Shi'a hate the Sunnis because they killed Hossein, the Kurds want nothing to do with either (and if you've been to Suli or Zakho, you can probably understand,) etc.? The US didn't do as much to prevent sectarian violence as it should have in the first days of the occupation, but the Iraqis were the ones who enthusiastically engaged in it. Please don't make the claim that everything was marshmallows and unicorns before the US showed up and made the peaceloving Iraqis grab their electric drills etc.

2. You should really ask the Yezidis about the tolerance historically shown them by their muslim neighbors.

3. I hope that Iraq will survive, as it would give my time over there and the death of my friends (American and Iraqi) meaning. As much as I dislike the place and most of the people, I would prefer it to have a stable government which refrains from committing atrocities. In theory, I'd prefer its inhabitants to start acting like normal grown ups instead of children, but that's probably a bridge too far.

4. Word? I guess the AAH is getting its ass beaten black and blue again?

5) I saw the little Mussolini altitude displayed by everyone from NCOs in the Iraqi Army/IP to larger kids beating the crap out of smaller kids for kicks in the villages. Probably that foreign influence at play.

6) I met a couple of quiet Iraqi professionals, but since the system you guys have is based around wasta, connections and bootlickery, they did not rise to the top. The culture is at the root of the problem.

7) Yeah, the Iraqi Army was so much better at governance than the ISF before we destroyed it. Why, look how professionally they dealt with those pesky Kurds and Shi'as! Of course, that was before we came with our crappy democracy and made things all sectarian-like!

8) The American process is a reflection of American culture. The Iraqi process is a reflection of Iraqi culture. Period. I've seen other countries in the Muslim world, and not from an embassy. Compared to Uzbekistan, Bosnia, etc., Iraq is pathetic. Picture that, dude. Your country sucks worse than mine-strewn, mountainous, poverty-stricken Bosnia.

6:09 PM, August 31, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snuffy,,, does your definition of American culture include Paris Hilton, metrosexualism, the KKK, southern confederates, Wall Street predators, Bernie Maddoff, Catholic priest pedophiles, corrupt Congressmen with cash in their freezers and other national embarassments?
Do all these things define all Americans as you think that the bad things about Iraq define all Iraqis and Iraqi culture?
In that case, it is no wonder that 85% of the world thinks that Americans are douchebags. The difference between me and you is that I am not so personally insecure that I try to prove my superiority over other nations. You are a sad and disturbed individual. You are another American national embarassment and I am sure that the Iraqis you met formed a bad image of Americans because of you. I see the good and bad in Americans I meet and interact with and understand it as part of the human condition. You my friend are too unbalanced in the head to see anything clearly.

8:36 AM, September 01, 2009

Anonymous Faisal Kadri said...


1- Sunni Arabs don't really consider the Shi'a muslims?? Guy, you got to go back to school. Let me repeat a point because I don't think you read my response well. In Iraq, the US did not promote its own non-sectarian image and values of national identity and separating religion and state, in this sense the U.S. was not true to its interests and did not show faith in its own democracy. Iraq had secular regimes since its creation. And yes emphatically, the US is responsible for encouraging sectarian identity and violence.
2- I don't need to. All minorities complain about bad treatment by the muslims in Iraq, but after millenia they are still alive to tell the story and they kept their faith, which is more than can be said about other European societies.
5- The Mussolini attitude is not exclusively Iraqi and it wasn't always there.
6- Wasta is important when supply is much less than demand, and it is everywhere, probably in a lesser degree, including the US.
8- The Iraqi process now is a transplant. Hate is fear in disguise, you hate Iraq because you feared it. Yet, even now there is no shortage of Iranians and Kurdish Turks who don't mind being called Iraqis, there is no shortage of love for Iraq.

10:20 AM, September 01, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


1. The Sunnis I met would generally say "oh, I'm an Iraqi, there's no difference between Shi'a and Sunni" at first. It took about three seconds of "heart-to-heart" conversation for their true feelings to come out. Ditto vice versa. You're blaming the US for not turning around 1300 year old trends in several months. How'd those secular regumes work out, BTW?
2. In other words, they should be thankful that they haven't all been killed, and anyway, Hitler was worse. Good point, but I'm not sure how much of the fact that Hitler was worse is due to the Germans' competence compared to Iraqi muslims.
5. No, it's common across the Arab world, but that's neither here nor there.
6. You've got the cause and effect backwards. Supply is much less than demand everywhere where wasta is everything, because wasta prevents free market mechanisms from working efficiently. Which brings me to another point. When I first got to Iraq and started getting to know its people better, I'd always be the guy going, "yeah, they're fucked up but look at the environment they have to deal with." After a while (probably a year in total,) I realized that the environment is the way it is because of the people who create it.
8. What process would not be a transplant? A tribal council, perhaps? Since you seem to equate a thing's foreign origin with its uselessness to Iraqis, perhaps you should start a campaign against Iraqi use of cell phones, sattelite TV, antibiotics, the internal combustion engine, etc.

What is it with you guys and the pop psychology? Hate is sometimes fear in disguise. Sometimes it's revulsion, and sometimes it's just hate. I don't have any real hate for Iraqis, though, just contempt. My fear was at a maximum when I first got there, but was very quickly replaced with a feeling of "I'm gonna do my job and inshaalah won't lose any guys." The contempt grew slowly, as I spent time walking down streets with raw sewage flowing down them (it's called a fucking cesspool, fellas,) being begged for everything you could think of by people who were living pretty well by local standards (the Yezidis were an exception-they were poor as shit compared to their Arab neighbors, but even their little kids behaved with dignity,) watching our medics treat women and children who had "had an accident and gotten burned," watching Kahtaneeya get bombed, watching the guys we were training steal the bullets that they were supposed to be training with, watching their officers demand better stuff than their soldiers had, watching the ubiquitous thievery and corruption, watching the total ignorance of most of the population, including the ISF soldiers (they couldn't answer basic questions like the number of provinces in Iraq, and you should have seen a company full of them staring at their fingers when we told them about how fingerprinting works,) going into houses and almost puking from the stink, seeing outhouses with a hole in the floor and turds everywhere but in the hole...fuck, dude, even our non-Iraqi interpreters were appalled. Somalis, Sudanese, Egyptians all looked down on the Iraqis, even though until they came to Iraq they thought the Iraqi people were the most advanced in the Middle East.

Oh, and I should probably also mention the ubiquitous homosexuality and constant attempts to pick up Americans for some pillow-bitin' fun. Not cool, dude.

So, not too much fear, but lots of disgust.

7:41 PM, September 01, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact is that the middle east is full of horribly sectarian people.

Arabs and Persians dislike each other, Sunnis and Shiites dislike each other, different tribes dislike each other, Arabs and Kurds dislike each other, the religious majorities dislike the religious minorities, and on and on ..

Blaming the Americans for your multi-layered bigotries hurts you more than it hurts the Americans because it prevents you from seeing where the real problems are.
Corruption is so widespread in your part of the world because, at some level, too many of you find it acceptable.

Nothing is going to change until hearts and minds start changing at the grass-roots.

9:19 AM, September 02, 2009

Anonymous Free quark said...

Anon at 8:36;

If 85% of the world thinks Americans are douchebags why do millions immigrate to the US? There's some 196 other countries out there. Is there some kind of collective masochism on the part of these immigrants that they are going to the douchebag of the planet?

American cultural problems are miniscule compared to Iraq's. Americans consider corrption to be a punishable crime, not an acceptable means of social networking.

9:34 AM, September 02, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...

To the two guys above,

You're both mistaken. Pointing out actual problems and solving them is not the Iraqi way. That is rude and hurtful, plus if you point out a problem, that means YOU are the problem. So let us all put our hands over our eyes and chant the Iraqi slogan: maku mushkilah, habibi! No broblem, mistah! No broblem! And if there is a broblem, let us swiftly blame the Americans, or Jews or whoever.

Speaking of "no broblem," has anybody noticed the GOI using its newfound independence from crippling American restraints to tear the shit out of the MEK's camp and kill a dozen of their guys? To me, that's significant in two ways: first, because AQI is blowing shit up left and right, but apparently the priority is to beat up on some refugees. Second, Nibras, how's that pipe dream of a democratic Iraq stirring up some shit in Iran coming along? The people most qualified to be at the tip of that spear (probably the only really qualified people in Iraq) have just been alienated by the GOI.

6:08 PM, September 02, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snuffy,,, You speak of contempt, are you sure it is not contempt for yourself? It seems the Iraqis made a monkey out of you. They outwitted you at every turn. Now you are angry for being born so stupid. Your only reaction is contempt: find a way to be superior so that your internal balance does not fall apart.
To maintain superiority you want to judge Iraqis by the worst of their society. It is like judging America by the people who show up on the Jerry Springer Show. The world is more complex than your simplistic formulas and that frightens you because of some childhood trauma maybe.

9:03 AM, September 05, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


Those Iraqis sho' did fool me! Why, all those times that they conned me out of bottles of water "for baby," and for all I know, they weren't even thirsty! Gosh, how could I have been so stupid? Oh, and all those JAM/AQI guys we caught-I totally believed their stories about how they were construction workers and how god could kill them if they were lying and so on. I felt so dumb when we found the evidence on them. Silly ol' me. It must be that childhood trauma acting up-only way I can explain it. You're not a psychologist, are you?

I wish that there were some other, better, smarter, more dignified Iraqis for me to base my judgement on-sucks that I didn't meet any (except the Yezidis) over two tours. Maybe they've all popped smoke and now live overseas-say, you're not currently overseas, are you? Funny how such fervent defenders of Iraq often put as many miles between themselves and its wonderful people as possible...

6:22 PM, September 05, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snuffy,,, you don't speak any of the languages of Iraq. You have no training or education in Iraqi or Middle Eastern culture, politics, society or economy. You spent two tours in Iraq. Now you consider yourself a PhD and you give fatwas as to who the nice Iraqis are, the Yezidis, and who the bad one are, everyone else. Does a part of you realize how stupid you sound through what you have written? also delusional, irrational, angry, racist, and insecure. That is why your character made us want to analyze your psychological issues. You are a man who does not realize that he is mentally disturbed. Please take what you have written to any psychiatrist and see what a real professional has to tell you about your mental state.

9:31 PM, September 06, 2009

Anonymous snuffy said...


You assume a lot based on very little. My academic background aside, I call it like I see it, and pretty much everybody I worked with in Iraq concurred. I guess we were all mentally disturbed and didn't realize it. Seriously, the real reason you're questioning my mental health is that you've got nothing to say against the substance of my argument.

6:22 PM, September 07, 2009

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear Snuffy,

I've stood back from this argument, for many reasons. You seem to be a champion of the 'Blame the Iraqis' school for explaining away the blunders of the last six years. Fine, what else do you have to add other than that? What purpose do you seek by harping on about how the Iraqis, in your view, are probably the planet's worst lot? Are you starting a new anti-Iraqi (but pro-Yezidi) religion or cult? Are you here proselytizing for your new faith?

I cannot speak for all Iraqis, for they are a varied and complex people. I speak for myself: I thank you for your service, wish that your experience in my country had been happier and more rewarding, and that as much as some of the wrath you feel towards Iraqis is a result of something that I have done or written, then I apologize for making you feel that way. I hope that my apology would go, even if it were miniscule in effect, towards allaying some of your negative impressions of Iraqis. And may you prosper and grow plentiful, and may your fruit trees blossom in an eternal Spring.

Happier now? I hope you do better in Afghanistan, a country I hear is rough and difficult.



7:56 PM, September 07, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hi brother. I've been to Iraq twice myself. You've paid a steep price in the lives of your soldiers, and the posters here probably don't understand that. I would make two comments.

First, that Katrina revealed that looting, rape, lies and murder are only one disaster away from our big cities when the cops all leave. (that wouldn't happen in my town, but it WAS here in the states) Consider further that for 22 years Iraqis lived in a prison/insane asylum in which parents had to fear being turned in by their children for insulting Saddam. 22 years. They grew up lying to survive under a regime we supported.

My second point is to Nibras. I like your blog because you seem a decent and honest man. Now we fought and bled and died to give you a shot at a free country in Iraq. Now we will go to Afghanistan and fight and bleed and die to try to build their country. Afghanistan is a rough country, you say. Fuck you for your tone. How about you enlist and help us out? Really.

10:52 PM, September 07, 2009

Anonymous Free Quark said...

Dear Anonymous @ 9:03 AM,September 05, 2009

Thank you for your insight. I knew someone would eventually see the moral equivalence between Jerry Springer’s guests and people who bomb their fellow pedestrians on a routine basis.

Dear Anonymous @ 10:52 PM, September 07, 2009

Yes, it is certainly true that Iraqis lived under a horrid dictatorship. But did they have no other choice but to attack each other with bombs and electric drills because Saddam was toppled?

Other peoples have lived under equally horrid conditions yet did not devolve into the sectarian and religious terrorism that Iraqis find so appealing.

Again, a moral equivalence between post-Katrina behaviour and post-Saddam behaviour is silly. There isn’t one.

Societies are what they are because of the collective habits and attitudes of its citizens. If Iraqis want to turn their country into Switzerland, they could. If they would rather hate each other and accept rampant corruption, then let them live in backwardness. I have no stake in it – it isn’t my affair.

7:02 AM, September 08, 2009

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear Anonymous 10:52,

History did not begin the moment you started paying attention. Some people will invariably have longer memories. What you don't seem to understand is that the reason that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis turned up dead, ploughed under in mass graves, is because they gave their lives against the Ba'ath regime, and hoped for a better future. It should also be remembered that at many junctures when the Saddam regime was vulnerable, the United States came in and gave Saddam a lifeline; hushing up the attack in Halabja is one example, allowing Saddam to crush the 1991 rebellion is another.

I don't see the 2003 war as an act of kindness: had the war been sold on the misery of the Iraqis, the American people would not have been on board. It was sold as a war to prevent WMDs from reaching terrorists, who may attack America. Remember, Saddam using WMDs to attack Iraqis was something that Washington could live with in 1988. While I am individually grateful for every soldier who served in Iraq, I am under no illusion that it was not a war waged by Washington for liberty. That rationale came later, after the WMD was not found. And when it came, I embraced it, hoping that Washington would expand it to other places in the Middle East. Then again, taking down Saddam was the responsibility of the Iraqi people, but not for lack of trying, and often due to outside intervention, this was not possible on their own.

But I do believe that in the long run, when far harder challenges come up, the New Iraq will make strategic sense to the US as one of the few allies willing to fight a war against the chaos I expect to unfold in the next decade. So the war and sacrifice, in hindsight, would make a lot of sense, and historians will debate who gets credit, rather than who gets the blame.

As for my tone on Afghanistan, I admit, it is glib. But that glibness is directed solely at the 'Blame the Iraqis' crowd. How will they explain the errors of Afghanistan, or the greater error of not learning the lessons of Iraq? With they transform themselves into a 'Blame the Afghans' chorus too? If they thought Iraq was hard....Well, let's just say I don't take kindly to those who imply that there is something inherently and uniquely wrong with Iraqis. I think they are racists, with very little sense of the world and how it works.

Generally, I think the usefulness of this blog is winding down. I don't see the value of writing in English, primarily for a US audience, about Iraq and the region any more. I simply don't think it matters to give a contrarian assessment of what goes on there that loops around the dominant media narrative in the US. Iraq will become an academic matter in the English language, while the real and vibrant discussion will be conducted in Arabic, occuring between Iraqis themselves. I will keep this blog alive until the end of the January elections, then I plan to pull the plug.



8:13 AM, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Snuffy said...


I don't have a purpose in harping on my negative impression of Iraqis in general, any more than you have a purpose when you talk about stupid US military, intelligence and State Dept officials. I don't need apologies from you for your opinion. When I first started reading your blog, I was running around Najaf, Babil and Qadissiyah, and seeing your perspective on the process from a birds-eye view was fascinating to me. Lately, however, it seems that you've drifted off into obscure Iraqi party politics and pipe dreams of Iraq's future. Though I'd love to see them come true, I think that Iraq's culture will hobble it. Look at this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/07/iraq-bombing-checkpoint-ramadi -six years of war, and the Iraqi Police still do shit like "let's randomly open fire in all directions after something blows up." This is not atypical-I actually felt much safer doing raids with the ISF than being on a live-fire range with them, and these were guys who'd been getting training from the US for YEARS. Am I racist because of this? Who are going to be the quiet professionals of the New Iraq?

The US supported Saddam and did not support the rebelling Shi'a and Kurds. But who's to say that had those Shi'a come to power, their regime would have been any better than Saddam's? You act like Saddam was an anomaly in Iraqi history, but he was only anomalous in that he made the trains run (sort of) on time. He was no better or worse than, say, Ashurbanipal. He was a product of Iraqi culture, and a son of Iraq. I think that if the Shi'a had succeeded in their attempt, right now we'd have a Shi'a Saddam oppressing the Sunnis through a million enthusiastic Shi'a soldiers, policemen, mukhabarat, etc.

And you're right, the people of the US would not have supported a war motivated solely by giving the Iraqis freedom; given how most of them have used that freedom, the Americans would have been right at making that call.

Do I blame the Iraqis for squandering the incredible opportunities they were given in corruption, violence and incompetence? I used to, but now I think that those qualities may be part of their nature, so not really blameworthy. I've adjusted my expectations accordingly, though I'd love to be pleasantly surprised by the New Iraq that you assure me is just around the corner.

Speaking of Afghanistan-you may not believe me, but I've had several hardened infantrymen who have enjoyed deployments to both OIF and OEF tell me that despite Afghanistan being a shithole, they genuinely liked its people. They didn't have much nice to say about Iraqis, for all the reasons I listed.

Anon from 10:52- bro, Nibras is right-Iraqi history did not start with Saddam. The lying, corruption, violence etc., that we see in Iraq is not something that the Baath party invented. I don't have any more respect for those denizens of NOLA who went apeshit the second things broke down than I do for the Iraqis. That's not the behavior of citizens, it's the behavior of subjects. Until that mindset changes, Iraq will never be a first-class country of free men.



7:04 PM, September 09, 2009

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