Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Letter from Baghdad

Salam Pax writes about what's going on in Iraq. He's seriously interested; he lives in (and posts from) Baghdad. This is the only online information I've found that doesn't come from a newsman or general pundit-type. Pax is "just" a guy who lives there, and as such, sees a lot that the news or political types never see,or want to see.

In his latest posting, he talks about who might take over after Saddam Hussein. This is a serious consideration; everybody seems to either ignore the problem or assume that the Spirit of Democracy will descend in the form of a dove. Personally, I fully expect the US to totally lose interest and just let some thug take over with dubious promises to Be Nice. In ten years, we'll be right back where we are now.

Pax takes it as a given that the Iraqi National Congress (the most prominent group) and it leader Ahmad Chalabi are simply American puppets, who would be little different from Saddam. He likes Nadia abdul Majeed; a Google search on her name (and some variant spellings) gives zero hits. Chalabi has supposedly promised oil concessions to American companies; it's hard to see Bush or Cheney (both oilmen, remember) resisting that kind of pitch.

Some things won't happen:

  • Iraq won't be rebuilt on a Kurdish model. I don't know what it is with the Kurds, but everybody in the area is scared stiff of them. Turkey, in particular, will not go along with the program if it means that nice things will happen to the Kurds. No Turkey, no war. It's a long drive from Kuwait City to Baghdad, especially in a tank.
  • A liberal democracy will not magically appear. There is no tradition of democracy in the Arab world. Assorted attempts have failed, with varying degrees of misery. Arab "democracy" has been described as "one man, one vote, once". If Iraq actually comes up with a democratic government, it will be the result of some really amazing diplomacy and hard work. Best of luck, guys.

People seem to forget why we didn't push for the removal of Saddam in the Gulf War. Basically, the idea of the United States as a "kingmaker" in the Arab world scared the snot out of every government in the area. As long as we were fighting to simply preserve the status quo, the Arab states were willing to sign on to the coalition. Now, I guess we just don't care any more.

The most dangerous time is the end of February. It's the dark of the moon; all American troops are equipped with night vision devices. The start of February is also the dark of the moon, but the UN report isn't due until 27 January and Georgie Bush & company have to pretend to look at it. Also, as Pax pointed out, the start of February is Haj season. Lotsa pilgrams getting in the way.

Anyway, best of luck to Salam Pax and his family. And everybody else in Baghdad. May it all be over quickly.

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