Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wars that Shaped Iraq

Next month will see the publication by Dina Rizk Khoury of what sounds like an excellent contribution to the history of modern Iraq, Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering Martyrdom and Remembrance.  The work looks at the impact of constant conflict on the country, including how the government managed the significant military forces within society and how commemorations of wars became part of the national culture.  In an interview, Khoury says what she finds most important about the book at this time:
Perhaps the most important aspect of the book is to remind interested American citizens that the US war against Iraq started in 1991, not 2003. The Iraqi regime bore a substantial responsibility for the militarization of Iraqi society during the Iran-Iraq and Gulf wars. Its policies were divisive, corrupt, and corrosive to the social fabric of the country. But much of the post-2003 realities were a result of the First Gulf war and the embargo. The dismantling of state structures, the sectarian politics of the post-2003 invasion, and the disintegration of social/national cohesion were as much the result of Iraqi regime policies as they were the result of US policies after 1991.
After the invasion, US policy makers installed an Iraqi political elite heavily implicated in the conduct of the Iran-Iraq war, with clear agendas as to whom they planned to exclude from the new political order. They lacked a clear commitment to establishing a pluralistic Iraq. The clearest indication of this is the policy of de-Ba’thification through which they continue to maintain an ethno-sectarian state, a policy sanctioned by the occupation in its first months. In addition, the violence of the occupation itself, the use of private contractors, and the counterinsurgency campaign helped in strengthening a way of doing politics in which violence is the ultimate arbiter. So that rather than tame the militarization that Iraqi society had experienced under the Ba’th, both the occupation and the current elite have helped entrench it further. Ultimately, the Ba’th regime and the US bear equal responsibility for the continued violence that plagues Iraq.
This actually goes a bit with what I said yesterday: the invasion of ten years ago was not the beginning of violence in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein's rule has as much to do with how the aftermath of that invasion developed as the invasion itself and the Bush administration's management of the aftermath.

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