Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Life was grand

Below are some of the statements a couple members of the Iraqi soccer team made during Olympics about America's occupation of Iraq.

"My problems are not with the American people," says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. "They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"

The statement above is really interesting. The coach asks "What is freedom...", when he is getting shot at going to the national stadium in Iraq. That is a very simple question to answer. Freedom is what you just did, speaking your mind. The soccer coach just exercised his "freedom", and did not even realize it.

Other comments represent the feelings of Iraqis, ""I want the violence and the war to go away from the city," says Sadir, 21. "We don't wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away.""

The above feeling is justified, and happens to coincide with the goals of America.

I really feel sorry for the Iraqis, they have been forced to endure the occupation of a Madman, the military tendencies of his regime, the sanctions that were the result of this military tendencies, and the removal of his regime. Unfortunately, the cure is turning out to be almost as painful as the disease. They have been forced to resolve their knee jerk hatred of Saddam with their knee jerk hatred of the US, which as resulted in quite a pulled groin.

If you will notice what they did not say. They do not say they wanted Saddam back. Yes, they dislike the US, but they are not championing the cause of Saddam.

Then their were the comments from a few blogs I read about these statements. First one that I read is here in the comment section.

"Maybe they felt like the torture was worth it for a stable country or something. *shrug*"

Second one I read here in the actual post.

"Yes, I understand that these same athletes endured torture at the hands of Uday Hussein under his father's regime. And yes, it seems they don't have much in the way of gratitude. But I find it hard to find fault with the people who, you know, actually endured Saddam's regime. Seems they're more qualified to their opinion than I am."

These two comments slightly imply the Iraqis were saying they wanted things the way there were (Saddam in power). I don't believe that these statements say that at all. I believe they were saying they wanted America to leave, they were clear on that. I sincerely believe these Iraqis were not saying they wished America had not invaded.

Just because an Iraqi believes life was better under Saddam, does not necessarily mean they want Saddam back in power, though it could be a strong indicator of their feelings. If you asked the Russians weather their life was better under Communism or if they wanted Communism back, you would probably get two different answers. I hope that is the case in Iraq also.

Transition times are tough, Americans seem to understand that better than most. I can see how that lesson can go unlearned and people can be afraid of change when their leader and life has not changed much in thirty years. Yes, their lives might have been bad, at least they were consistently bad.



Andrew said...

You are correct that the article didn't quote them as explicitly saying "I wish Saddam was still here", and that because it wasn't printed they may not think that.

However, your ardent "well of course they don't want Saddam back" is pretty fricking arrogant. [no personal offense intended, I'm just characterizing the statement.] Without putting words directly into the mouths of these quoted people, let's just speak in generalities:

It is actually possible that the stability offered by a predictable dictator is prefferable to the chaos of a nation in the midst of a power struggle. Especially if you happen to have little or no confidence that the power struggle will end soon or end favorably. A dictator may suck if you got on his bad side, and you may have had to watch your back while he's in power, but over time you actually start to learn when to watch and what rules to follow. On the other hand, when a state is thoroughly embattled, and there are a new groups vying for power every day, you never get to learn the rules--you have to be on-guard constantly and you're almost guaranteed to be on somebody's bad side all the time.

So you may not be happy with it. And yes, you did seem to admit to that in your post--that the discontent Iraqis may rightfully be discontent with their current state. But then you turned to making forward-looking statements, and the (non-personal) arrogance slipped in. You assumed that the Iraqis have the same confidence in America's goals and methods as you do.

And while maybe they should share that confidence, reports about the Middle East tell us they don't. Reports about the Middle East tell us that many Iraqis are fed a worldview where America has come to Iraq for its own selfish reasons--oil, military bases, Muslim-ocide, and moral debasement/consumerism. They're led to believe that America may very well set up a shitty, corrupt, or unbalanced democracy in Iraq, if they even bother to stick around long enough to finish the job.

For instance, here's some futures they might expect:
*America sets up a sham democracy that exploits many groups of people, then leaves. Seeking aid for reform of a poorly-constructed 'democracy' is a lot more difficult than seeking aid for reform of a dictatorship. It's in a gray zone of legitimacy. Would that be better than Saddam? For some people, yes; for others, probably not.
*America secures oil/military locations, but quits national occupation, incidentally leaving something like a Shi'ite theocracy in place. Would that be better than Saddam? For some people, yes; for other, probably not.

The key is to recognize that not all these people don't view our country the same way you do. They never had American civics classes that taught them about us saving Europe in WWII, or protecting the Americas with the Monroe doctrine. But you can bet that they have heard stories about us pitting the mujahadien against the Soviets, then turning on them, or about the CIA engineering totalitarian revolutions in South/Central America.

What they see may be wrong, but its what they believe and is what forms the basis for their statements. So rather than assuming "only the craziest Iraqis would prefer Saddam, next question!", you might want to go with "how can we convince these poor people that we really are committed to doing good?"

Cubicle said...

I thought addressed the content of you comment with this statment.
"They have been forced to resolve their knee jerk hatred of Saddam with their knee jerk hatred of the US, which as resulted in quite a pulled groin."

They have heard a lot of bad stuff about the US, but they see us doing good things for them also, so they are in quite a situation.

As to your question?

"you might want to go with "how can we convince these poor people that we really are committed to doing good?""

Probly by actually doing good, which would include but is not limited to handing them a sivler plate full of democarcy.

Andrew said...

I didn't notice that statement of yours. Yes, it does catch a lot of what I elaborated on. But I still have two more comments.

You said "but they see us doing good thing". I'm not positive of that. Some of them may be seeing good things, but as we've talked about in terms of reading Kerry and Bush, it's very easy to draw plausible interpretations that perpetuate your past view. It's still very easy for an Iraqi, or anyone for that matter, to be very suspect of American behavior no matter what we do. Did they build a school to help us or teach our kids about McDonald's? Did they build a school to help us, or to placate us until they get what they want? Did they really build a school or is it just a front? If you've got yourself neck-deep in anti-anything it's pretty easy to keep yourself there.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of Iraqis are neck-deep in anti-Americanism right now. It doesn't help when we order raids on Mosques and kill somebody's nephew or sister--even if those things are necessary from our strategic standpoint. Sometimes its hard to validate 'the big picture'.

Furthermore, I think that'll continue to be the case for decades even if we give them a democracy. There comes a point at which the cost of transition is so high, at which the chaos between equilibriums stretches on for so long, that you form a lasting resentment for whomever brought on the change.

If you've ever played Sid Meier's Civilization games, you know that switching governments in the middle of a war or a space-race is not the best idea. [To those of you who haven't played, when you switch governments you fall into an anarchy where productivity, taxes, and happiness all have low yield.] You may end up better than ever (per year) once you get on the other side, but the losses you've incurred in the interim (in total) may ultimately set you behind for a really long time.

[I can't believe I just made a game-reference. I swear I'm not that nerdy; it just happens to be apt.]

Cubicle said...

"Furthermore, I think that'll continue to be the case for decades even if we give them a democracy."

I hope not, and what i base my hopes on are the younger ones who will like us. I think that they will have a good (hmm better than most muslims) shot of decidig for theirselves if they hate us or like us.

Though i could be wrong about that.

"I didn't notice that statement of yours. "

Really, i spend the entire day trying to come up with that one. I feel that was one of my best lines ever.
And i am completly serious.

And these games you speak of, do you have any links. they sould a might step up from risk. And maybe a step of from axis and allies.

Andrew said...

My God. You've never played Civilization? And you work in software? That's crazy. The original civilization is *the* classic PC empire-simulation game, it's received literally hundreds of awards. Civilization 3 (and a few add-ons) is the latest and by-far-greatest version. You can find it at your local store, but here's the eb online link:

http://www.ebgames.com/ebx/product/242986.aspI'm sorry if I gave the impression that it was a table-top game. They did release a table-top version a couple years ago, but I never played it. I don't know how good it is, but as far as depth-of-simulation, no tabletop game can compare to the PC version.

I strongly recommend you pick up the game. Just make sure you don't schedule anything important for the next few weeks because you probably won't be seeing much daylight.

Official Website: http://www.civ3.com/.

Cubicle said...

hmm i tend to be fairly resistant to game addictions. No matter how good it is i get bored after awhile. I played Everquest (somtimes called ever crack) by SOE (sony online entertainment).

I might have to check this out, it sounds intresting