Thursday, July 03, 2003

Salam Pax has a new column in The Guardian about his recent trip to Basra, and he seems to concur in the frequently heard idea that the UK is doing a better job than the U.S. One interesting excerpt, about the aftermath of an accidental shooting: "The British take the bodies to the hospital, and after conducting an investigation they find out they were not Fedayeen, a mistake has been made. So the next day two British officers, two Iraqi lawyers and a translator go to the hospital and ask how the locals deal with this sort of thing. The concept of "Fasil" or blood money is explained to them. A couple of days later the word spreads that the British have paid 15 million Iraqi dinars in blood money to the families of the two Iraqi men. Further bloodshed was stopped. Perfect. "

I will not here discuss the concept of blood money (which is a tribal custom you probably wouldn't see among most Iraqis), but I wish the U.S. was more willing to consider these sorts of options. (Would it really be that different than the result of a wrongful death lawsuit?) Instead, we simply decree that we will build new institutions and everything ourselves, and in doing so make some problems worse. Basically, the administration seems to feel that we should always do things our way like the new sherriff in town, when we could earn a lot of goodwill if we showed a willingness to occasionally play by local rules.


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