Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2007 21:03:04 -0400
From: Carl Coon
To: Robert Keeley
Gentlemen, you have been bombarding me with scores of erudite and
superbly well informed analyses of our manifold problems in the Middle
East. My cup started running over some time ago.
I gave a talk yesterday to a local humanist group on Iraq that reflected
some of this input. I offer it here as a small gesture of, I don't know,
My Talk to WASH, 4/7/07
Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for the invitation, it’s a pleasure to be
here discussing a topical issue with an informed and sympathetic audience.
Our misadventure in Iraq has been a disaster in so many ways…for us, for
our standing and interests in the region and the world, for the region
itself, and, first of all, for Iraq and its people.
I’ll start with why our invasion of Iraq failed. It wasn’t for lack of
information or understanding, it was because the people in charge
wilfully ignored that information and understanding. Then I’ll take a
look at who did it, who the people and groups were who managed to launch
us on this crazy adventure. And finally, where do we go from here?
*We should have known better:*
Early in the 20th century, mapmakers in Europe described boundaries in
the region and decreed that, hey presto, let there be nation states! All
that did was cover up existing divisions with a thin veneer of paint
that differentiated between Syrians and Saudis, Iraqis and Lebanese, and
so forth. Underneath that veneer people continued to identify
themselves not as Iraqis or Lebanese but as Christians or Muslims, Shi’a
or Sunni, Orthodox or Maronite, and so forth. This meant among other
things that when you achieved a position of influence in a national
government your first loyalty was not to the state but to your extended
family and then to your local community, defined usually mainly by
religion but also by dialect and ethnicity. There was nothing inherently
defective about this form of social organization, it was just old-fashioned.
Here’s a personal recollection that drove this home for me. [/Husseini
in Damascus in 1952]./