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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | April 03, 2003

The Holistic Shooting Match

You may know who Kanan Makaya is. He's an Iraqi exile, a professor at Brandeis University, and one of intellectual leading lights of the Iraqi National Congress. He also wrote a book (under a pseudonym) called Republic of Fear, which was one of the first accounts of Baathist terror to receive much attention in the West.

Mayaka has been writing columns for the web edition of The New Republic, most of them dealing either with his hopes for postwar Iraq or his fears that Team Bush will betray him and his Iraqi colleagues, just like they've betrayed . . . well, just about everyone they've ever dealt with.

I have a lot of respect for Makaya, who was struggling against Saddam back when the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were still bringing him cheap presents and advising him on the finer points of killing Iranians. But a headline on one of Makaya's recent columns really made me wonder if maybe he hasn't been living in the ivy tower a bit too long to make a plausible leader of the "new" Iraq:

De-Baathification in Iraq needs to be defined as a holistic social process.

Hmmm. . . a holistic social process. Complete with deep encounter groups, aromatherapy and weekends at the Esalen Institute, perhaps?

Now the first thing that popped into my head when I read that was an image of Stuart Smalley trying to help Saddam Hussein get in touch with his inner tyrant. (Saddam: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, I. . I. . I will EXTERMINATE THE ZIONIST SCUM WITH CHEMICAL WEAPONS!")

Then I remembered a passage from Republic of Fear. It concerned a combination riot/revolt that broke out in the city of Mosul in 1959, shortly after the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown (page 237 in the Pantheon paperback edition):

For four days and four nights Kurds and Yezdis stood against Arabs; Assyrian and Aramean Christians against Arab Moslems; the Arab tribe of Albu Mutaiwat against the Arab tribe of Shammar; the Kurdish tribe of al-Gargariyyah against Arab Albu Mutaiwat; the peasants of the Mosul country against their landlords; the soldiers of the Fifth brigade against their officers; the periphery of the city of Mosul against the center; the plebians of the Arab quarters of Al-Makkawi and Wadi Hajar against the aristocrats of the Arab quarter of ad-Dawwash; and within the quarter of Bab al-Baid, the family of al-Rajabu aggainst its traditional rivals, the Aghawat. It seemed as if all social cement dissolved and all political authority vanished.

In other words, a pretty close approximation of what the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called "the war of the all against the all."

A very "holistic" social process indeed.


Posted April 03, 2003 06:27 PM | Comments (15)


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