How do you bring peace to a kleptocracy (a government run by competing
thieves)? Corruption is still the one common thread found throughout the Iraqi
government and society. Oh, you will also find honorable, hard working,
patriotic men and women. You'll also find evil megalomaniacs, fighting on
against impossible odds for an improbably cause. But mostly you will find a lot
of people looking for something to steal. Iraqis take this for granted, and
those that immigrate to Europe or North America are pleasantly shocked at the
relative lack of corruption they find in their new homes. But for all those
Iraqis who cannot flee to those exotic foreign lands, life must go on.
soldiers quickly learned the power of the bribe. In 2003, there were Special
Forces troops who knew, and Civil Affairs officers who had experience from
1991, so cash was quickly obtained and palms were greased. Military lawyers
were appalled, and journalists were delighted. The problem is, bribes have a
short shelf life. Those who are bought don't stay bought. Moreover, Arabs have
this superiority complex, and disdain for foreigners, which makes "frank
discussions" difficult to arrange. Over the last four years, a generation
of army and marine officers have learned that old British colonial dictum;
"you can't hustle the east." If you want to build a lasting
relationship and get things done, you have to spend a lot of time talking and
sipping tea. Most brigades and divisions built databases of contacts and
suspects. Over the last two years, most of that data has been combined into
even more powerful databases. This sort of work is kept very secret for obvious
reasons. The intel people take advantage of the fact that the media does not
find this kind of work sexy. Moreover, all this knowledge of how Iraq works,
and who-is-who is too complex to be newsworthy. It's also a success story,
which makes it good news, and thus not news.
it comes down to this. It's no secret how the dynamics of social conflict works
in the Arab world. There's a pattern to it that has been operating for
centuries, and it's all about factions running out of steam (as expressed in
terms of money and fighters). Iraqis understand this, which is why the Shia
want the Sunni Arabs run out of the country. The United States understands
this, and wants to avoid the ugly photo-opportunities that would accompany the
flight of the Sunni Arabs. Many Iraqis believe the upcoming "Baghdad
Pacification" campaign will only delay the Sunni expulsion. Pro-Iran
groups in Iraq, and around the world, believe that disarming Shia death squads
will only make Shia Arabs more vulnerable to Sunni Arab terrorism. About the
only thing everyone can agree on is that peace will come when the Sunni Arabs
are gone. Well, maybe.
American belief is, that enough factions (there are several dozen
factions) on all sides (there are over a dozen different wars going on) are
beaten down sufficiently, they will accept a ceasefire and peace. That's not an
end to the war, just as the 1990 Lebanese peace deal (ending fifteen years of
violence) is about to be revoked. The Israelis and Palestinians have been going
at it for decades. The Yemeni civil war is almost as old. Most Iraqis want peace,
and the belief is that killing a few more of those who don't will make it
happen, at least for a while.
4, 2007: In Baghdad, a senior Iranian diplomat was kidnapped by what appeared
to be Iraqi security troops. Iran blamed the United States, which is normal.
However, not all the kidnappers got away, and four were eventually arrested.
The investigation into which faction these men belong to is under way.
3, 2007: In the largest terror attack so far, a truck bomb went off in a Shia
neighborhood, destroying a market place. There were nearly 500 casualties,
including 135 dead. The Sunni Arab groups carrying out these attacks continue
to believe that the Shia Arabs can be intimidated into allowing the return of
Sunni Arab rule, or that the retaliation against Sunni Arabs will be so savage,
that other Sunni Arab countries in the region will be forced to intervene. That
this plan is so divorced from reality, is simply something you have to deal
with in Iraq. Saddam created a generation of Sunni Arabs who were trained and
encouraged to believe that boldness and ruthlessness would overcome any
obstacle. Saddam's seemingly miraculous "victory" (it was actually a
draw) over Iran in the 1980s made many Sunni Arabs believe they could do anything.
The invasion of Kuwait fed into that delusion. The American/Coalition
liberation of Kuwait dismayed many of Saddam's supporters, but Saddam created a
myth that this was just another clever move on his part, and that he would
eventually prevail. The hanging of Saddam reduced the pool of believers still
further, but there are enough left lusting for power, revenge, a job, or just a
few hundred bucks, to keep the suicide bombers coming. Every part of the world
is different, but in Iraq some of the differences come with loud noises and
flying body parts.