“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

NOTE FOR THE DAY: We haven't had a lot of editing or translating action, lately, over at RWG Communication. So remember, folks, he said in his radio voice, whether you need your paper edited so that it meets the highest academic standards, or you need translation done from French or German into English, contact: rgathman@netzero.net. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program....

LI – who has the ears of a monomaniac for this kind of thing – has noticed that a huge pall has fallen over Iraq’s election in the American press. When the press doesn’t have a narrative – like, Freedom Loving Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi Sets Pace – they don’t have news.

So what is the narrative coming out of Iraq? Alas, it seems that the eight points we printed as a sort of progressive program in Iraq are going to be battered to hell. Not that we expected secularist, anti-occupation forces would win squat in the elections. We didn’t expect, however, that the pro-theocratic element would do quite so awesomely well. LI has always suspected that Iraq would undergo some theocratic regression as it stumbled towards reasserting its sovereignty, but --- if the results are as they seem to be – this will be much harsher than we imagined.

We compared Sistani to a chess player in an analysis we did a few months ago. We should amend that to secret chess player, since according to the Independent:

“Cricket is allowed but chess is "absolutely forbidden". Women may not shake hands with men. Music is permitted but only if it is not for enjoyment. Men cannot pray when wearing earrings.

These are the views of the most powerful man in Iraq. After the US invasion, various American officials and generals believed they occupied this position. They turned out to be wrong. As the election victory of the Shias has confirmed, the most influential figure in Iraq, dressed in tattered grey robe and black turban, is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.”
That we got the balance of forces in Iraq wrong is understandable – our information has to be sieved from the relentlessly insipid and American-o-centric reporting of such journalists as John Burns in the NYT (whose ra ra style reads like a Negroponte press handout) and Jonathan Steele in the Guardian (whose comment, the day of the election, was that it seemed it would be Allawi in a landslide). But LI’s goal has always been to try to see the fragments and slivers of fact we get to their intrinsic connections – not just their connection to U.S. concerns.

We do think that the endlessly repeated new line – that the new Iraqi government won’t ask for a departure timetable from the Americans – is based on a reading of the apparent retreat from that position in the week leading up to the election by the United Iraqi Alliance. However, what was proposed and then non-proposed can be proposed again. The UIA has to tread a delicate path to avoid getting out gunned by Sadr’s people, who are apparently winning local elections in Basra. It is hard to see a combination that would allow the new Iraqi government to comfortably give the occupiers carte blanche, which is what the Americans want.

The Independent story, penned by Patrick Cockburn, is the best wrap up we’ve seen:
“Iraq could be on the verge of seeing the greatest setback to women's rights in the Middle East since Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran in 1979. Laws on marriage, divorce and inheritance could be changed in favour of men. Under Islamic law, daughters inherit less than the sons.

The views of Ayatollah Sistani on chess, cricket, music, earrings and almost any other topic can be found on his highly professional website (Sistani.org). They show tolerance of other religions. Last year he was swift to condemn attacks on Christian churches in Baghdad as "abhorrent crimes". He counselled restraint when Shia leaders demanded retaliation after the bloody bombings of Shia shrines and processions.

There is also no doubt that Iraq is heading towards some form of Islamic republic even if it is more liberal than Iran. This is likely to be reflected in the new constitution to be drafted by the National Assembly just elected. "We call for having Islam as the main and only source of legislation and we reject any article that runs contrary to the Islamic legislation," said Ibrahim al-Ibrahimi, the spokesman of another Grand Ayatollah, Ishaq al-Faladh. "We call on Iraqi officials to preserve the face of Iraq and not to separate religion and state." Ayatollah Faladh is not as influential as Ayatollah Sistani but, politically liberal though the latter may be, his views are in keeping with Islamic social norms.”

Given that the Americans haven’t done anything outrageously stupid in Iraq in a couple of weeks, surely they will be doing something stupid soon – some overt, bungled attempt to elevate one of their puppets to a prominence and power the puppet hasn’t earned – that will piss off the UIA. We’ll see. It will also be interesting if, in the States, it begins to sink in that 1500 Americans lost their lives to bring about the Islamic Republic of Iraq. This is the type of thing that could disturb the narcissistic stupor of the American booboisie. Surely, to forestall the awful consequences of something like that, we need and deserve another good celebrity trial of the century.

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