Iraq is not the envy of the Middle East, btw

The Daily Beast has two pieces about Iraq’s election up on their website. One is written by Tunku Varadarajan, headlined “Iraq’s Political Miracle” and the other is written by me, titled “Iraq’s Last Election?” Clearly, Mr. Varadarajan see things a little differently from the way I do.

What amuses me most, though, is that we both warn readers about each other in a generic way. The top of his story says that critics will “escalate their grumbling” (as a critic, my grumbling has been escalated , it’s true) while I note we should expect “a rash of commentary and columns from once-upon-a time war supporters” who will tell us that Iraq is on “the road to freedom.” Mr. Varadarajan then spends his column explaining that Iraq is on the road to freedom, deeming any evidence to the contrary inconsequential.

Anyway, readers, have a look at both. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who you think has the more credible outlook.  Though an old journalistic witticism does come to mind: You should only write about countries you’ve flown over.

But I do want to take issue with one of Mr. V’s claim, oft repeated by types of certain ideological persuasions. That Iraq is somehow the envy of the Middle East because they have yearly photo-ops with purple fingers. It’s really not. Almost all the reporting I have done in the region suggests the opposite. Even among Western minded, secular, liberal Arabs. A) They don’t think Iraq is a democracy, they think it’s country run by criminals and thugs. B) They see the Iraq War as fundamentally tragic and stupid. C) They see the U.S.’s intervention as having a rather negative and profoundly counterproductive impact on political development in the region.

So. I’m going to stop myself there, as I don’t want to miss my flight. Naturally.


About michaelhastings

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One Response to Iraq is not the envy of the Middle East, btw

  1. Joe Kesner says:

    A) Yes every Iraqi knows the score. “Wasta” a corrupt political system is simply the un-written way of life here, and throughout the Middle East for that matter. Some of my friends will be voting and some (having voted twice before) will not. I do not believe wasta will go away anytime too soon. Moreover, it will be irresponsible for us to leave anytime soon either.

    B) It depends on the age of the Iraqi you speak to. Older Iraqis also include their war with Iran 1980-88 as being tragic and stupid. In addition, my Iraqi friends blame us for allowing Iran to become more powerful and a regional police force.

    C) Make no mistake, Iraq is a sovereign nation Wether or not U.S.’s intervention is having a rather negative effect, history will be the judge of this. Maybe negative in that Iraq suffers from a brain drain due in part to premature deaths and people fleeing to other countries.

    Regarding political development, things are slowly changing in Iraq. In addition, I would not say things are profoundly counterproductive, change takes time and is happening at a very slowly pace.

    Let us hope we have the resolve to see this through to the end.

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