As an Iraqi, I took serious offense to Paul Craig Roberts’ patronizing article, “Muslim Disunity: A Religion Divided Among Itself,” in Counterpunch, March 2, 2010. Roberts audaciously states that the “reason Americans are still in Iraq is because the Iraqis hate each other more than they hate the American invader.” Roberts blames the vast majority of the violence in the war on Iraqis themselves. It almost defies logic that, after the murder of 200,000 people in the 1991 war, the death of about 1.7 million under 12 year-long sanctions, the murder of more than 1.2 million under yet another war, brutal military occupation and the unrestrained use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium, Iraqis have caused more damage to themselves than the United States has. It is a claim as bizarre as Zionists’ complaints about Palestinian resistance in an asymmetrical warfare setting; while Israel possesses nuclear weapons, tanks and F-16’s, with which they murdered over 1,400 people in Gaza last year, Palestinians get the brunt of the criticism for killing 13 Israelis. Roberts’ condescending assertion, that Iraqis have harmed themselves more than the US has, echoes Donald Rumsfeld’s delusional statement: “The sooner the Iraqis can defend their own people and generate revenue, the sooner they will be self-reliant and not dependent on either foreign troops or international assistance.”
Roberts also insults the Iraqi resistance by stating it inflicted losses on the American superpower “in their spare time” off from fighting Shi’is. Completely disregarding 1,400 years of Islamic history, a single athletic dispute leads Roberts to conclude that “Muslims cannot even play together”. This focus on an isolated event is selective, as Mr. Roberts doesn’t appear to recall that Sunnis and Shiis both celebrated the Iraqi soccer team’s victory in the 2007 Asian Cup. Even if we were to assume Iraq’s Muslims aren’t united enough for Roberts’ taste, he seems to have ignored the USA’s critical divide-and-conquer role in Iraq. He doesn’t appear aware of the USA’s deployment of Shii and Kurdish troops to battle Sunni cities, such as Fallujah in November 2004. He ignores the USA’s political and financial support of sectarian parties, politicians and clergymen. He also neglects to mention the Israeli role in sowing the seeds of conflict in Iraq, outlined in Oded Yinon’s infamous A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties. Roberts is unaware of 17-year old Othman from A’athamiya, a young Iraqi who drowned after rescuing nearly a dozen Iraqis when the A’imma Bridge in Baghdad collapsed in 2005. He also overlooked the joint Sunni-Shii celebrations of Muntathar Zaidi’s throwing his shoes at Bush. The US corporate media, which cheerlead for the war, has every interest to blackout, marginalize and ignore stories of Iraqi unity. It is regretful that Roberts condescends Iraqis in the same manner.
One wonders whether Mr. Roberts would’ve displayed this same white man’s burden, vilifying misbehaving oppressed peoples, by admonishing Native American tribes who may have been at odds during the theft of their land by white settlers. Would Mr. Roberts have weighed in on the dispute between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X? Would he have demonstrated moral authority to arbitrate between Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy of nonviolence and Malcolm X’s commitment to freedom by any means necessary? Would he have appointed himself as judge between the North and South Vietnamese? Dictating derogatory suggestions to the oppressed is no business of “solidarity” activists. If Roberts is entitled to instruct Iraqis to unite, surely Iraqis are far more entitled to tell Americans, including Roberts, to put their right-wing, left-wing, class and racial divisions aside to meaningfully mobilize to end their seven-year occupation of our country (by “meaningful”, I mean more substantive than symbolic anti-war protests every anniversary of the war). When they have extra time on their hands, Iraqis could probably tell Americans to unite on their debilitating healthcare disputes.
It is frustrating enough when the operators of the US war machine and their mouthpieces in mainstream media refer to Iraqis in demeaning sectarian language. It is far more disappointing when those involved in the “anti-war” movement, who are supposedly in solidarity with Iraqis, use such divisive, disrespectful discourse. I call on Mr. Roberts to apologize to the beleaguered Iraqi people, victims of two decades of his country’s ruthless foreign policy, funded by his tax dollars, for publishing such an undeserved portrayal.
Iraq, by Emad Hajjaj
Original article published on March 4th, 2010
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