Thursday, December 29, 2005

Three wise men Iraqi dissidents visit the war crèche

Got sparked while reading this LA Times analysis of the Iraq parliamentary elections, especially these lines:
The myth of a unified Iraqi identity may have finally been laid to rest this month….[P]reliminary results from the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections show Iraq as three lands with three distinct identities, divided by faith, goals, region, history and symbols….

The results were like a bracing splash of ice water for U.S. officials, who had predicted that a secular, centrist Iraqi government would emerge after the invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein.
Well now.

There were a good many experts who said that post—Saddam Iraq would really be three nations, not one. Of course, the Bush administration chose not to listen to them.

Instead, they sought the counsel of three ex-pat Iraqi dissidents: Rend Francke, Hatem Mukhlis, and Kanan Makiya.

This set-piece (pp 258-260) from Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack — in which the Iraqi dissidents meet with Bush and Cheney in the Oval Office —always seemed stilted and contrived, especially Bush's facile use of the word "Diaspora." As if.

Also curious is the fact that most of the direct quotations are attributed to the respective dissident except for the remarks that would later prove controversial. That's an amazing piece of editorial foresight and courtesy on Woodward's part.

So this is Bush seeking the wisdom of the dissidents on January 10, 2003, in the Oval Office.
"Does the average citizen in Iraq hate Israel?" Bush asked.

"No," the doctor [Mukhlis] said. "They're so self-absorbed, they're just inward focused.
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"You're going to break the mold," [Makiya] said. "You will change the image of the United States in the region. Democracy is doable in Iraq. Force for destruction can be turned to a force for construction. Iraqis are a technically able people. They are literate with electricized villages."

"We're planning for the worst," Bush said.

"People will greet troops with flowers and sweets," one said.

"How do you know?" Bush asked.

They all said the information came from people inside Iraq.
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"The split between the ruling minority Sunnis and the majority Shiites was not as violent or pronounced as people outside Iraq generally thought, one said. Saddam's method was to divide and conquer."
Savor the yin-yanging of all this. Saddam is a divider and a conquerer and Bush is a uniter not a divider.

A post for another day: whatever happened to Francke, Mukhlis, and Makiya?

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