Right after the invasion of Iraq, Lujai told me, Shiite clerics took over many of Baghdad’s hospitals but did not know how to manage them. “They were sectarian from the beginning,” she said, “firing Sunnis, saying they were Baathists. In 2004 the problems started. They wanted to separate Sunnis. The Ministry of Health was given to the Sadr movement” — that is, to the Shiite faction loyal to Moktada al-Sadr.
Following the 2005 elections that brought Islamist Shiites to power, Lujai said, the Sadrists initiated what they called a “campaign to remove the Saddamists.” The minister of health and his turbaned advisers saw to it that in hospitals and health centers the walls were covered with posters of Shiite clerics like Sadr, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Shiite religious songs could often be heard in the halls. In June of last year, Ali al-Mahdawi, a Sunni who had managed the Diyala Province’s health department, disappeared, along with his bodyguards, at the ministry of health. (In February, the American military raided the ministry and arrested the deputy health minister, saying he was tied to the murder of Mahdawi.) Lujai told me that Sunni patients were often accused by Sadrist officials of being terrorists. After the doctors treated them, the special police from the Ministry of the Interior would arrest the Sunni patients. Their corpses would later be found in the Baghdad morgue. “This happened tens of times,” she said, to “anybody who came with bullet wounds and wasn’t Shiite.”
On Sept. 2, 2006, Lujai’s husband went to work and prepared for the first of three operations scheduled for the day. At the end of his shift a patient came in unexpectedly; no other doctor was available, so Adil stayed to treat him. Adil was driving home when his way was blocked by four cars. Armed men surrounded him and dragged him from his car, taking him to Sadr City. Five hours later, his dead body was found on the street.
As she told me this story, Lujai began to cry, and her confused young children looked at her silently. She had asked the Iraqi police to investigate her husband’s murder and was told: “He is a doctor, he has a degree and he is a Sunni, so he couldn’t stay in Iraq. That’s why he was killed.” Two weeks later she received a letter ordering her to leave her Palestine Street neighborhood.
On Sept. 24 she and her children fled with her brother Abu Shama, his wife and their four children. They gave away or sold what they could and paid $600 for the ride in the S.U.V. that carried them to Syria. Because of what happened to her husband, she said, as many as 20 other doctors also fled.
- Nir Rosen, NYTM
Once conventional wisdom congeals, even facts can't shake it loose. These days, everyone "knows" that the Coalition Provisional Authority made two disastrous decisions at the beginning of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: to vengefully drive members of the Baath Party from public life and to recklessly disband the Iraqi army. The most recent example is former CIA chief George J. Tenet, whose new memoir pillories me for those decisions (even though I don't recall his ever objecting to either call during our numerous conversations in my 14 months leading the CPA). Similar charges are unquestioningly repeated in books and articles. Looking for a neat, simple explanation for our current problems in Iraq, pundits argue that these two steps alienated the formerly ruling Sunnis, created a pool of angry rebels-in-waiting and sparked the insurgency that's raging today. The conventional wisdom is as firm here as it gets. It's also dead wrong.
Like most Americans, I am disappointed by the difficulties the nation has encountered after our quick 2003 victory over Saddam Hussein. But the U.S.-led coalition was absolutely right to strip away the apparatus of a particularly odious tyranny. Hussein modeled his regime after Adolf Hitler's, which controlled the German people with two main instruments: the Nazi Party and the Reich's security services. We had no choice but to rid Iraq of the country's equivalent organizations to give it any chance at a brighter future. – L.Paul Bremer
LI was impressed that Nir Rosen touches, however lightly, on the story of class in Iraq – for the peculiarity of the Iraq war, as we have often emphasized and expect, one day, some heavier honcho in the punditosphere will pick up, is that the U.S turned against its one natural constituency in Iraq – the upper class – from the beginning of the occupation, thus rapidly making itself irrelevant as anything more than a random force in Iraq. Rosen’s article is great. Bremer’s article is why the Washington Post needs competition. When a paper uses its editorial page as a white house corkboard, pinning up the self-serving lies penned by self-deluded failures to actions that were near that fine edge between dumb and pathological imbecility – well, that paper needs competition. Fred Hiatt and Marty Peretz are, I suspect, one person, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is very depressing that Hiatt has the ear of the public with his position. Is there a worse editor in the U.S.?
ps - Rosen's piece also contained a paragraph of such pure Bushism that LI must quote it. It is a treat, in a way. Since Idi Amin and Mobutu, there have been few world leaders willing to venture so far into the most impudent of excuses for mass murder. Lucky Ducky Americans are seeing, in their leadership, a resurgence of the rhetoric of Kampala in the 70s. Truly refreshing.
“What I find most disturbing,” Bacon went on to say, “is that there seems to be no recognition of the problem by the president or top White House officials.” But John Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the Bush administration, and later ambassador to the United Nations, offers one explanation for this lack of recognition: it is not a crisis, and it was not triggered by American action. The refugees, he said, have “absolutely nothing to do with our overthrow of Saddam.
“Our obligation,” he [John Bolton] told me this month at his office in the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, “was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.” Bolton likewise did not share the concerns of Bacon and others that the refugees would become impoverished and serve as a recruiting pool for militant organizations in the future. “I don’t buy the argument that Islamic extremism comes from poverty,” he said. “Bin Laden is rich.” Nor did he think American aid could alleviate potential anger: “Helping the refugees flies in the face of received logic. You don’t want to encourage the refugees to stay. You want them to go home. The governments don’t want them to stay.”
The United States is really just beginning to grapple with the question of Iraqi refugees, in part because the flight from Iraq is so entwined with the vexed question of blame. When I read John Bolton’s comments to Paula Dobriansky — the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs — and her colleague Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, they mainly agreed with him. Sauerbrey maintained that “refugees are created by repressive regimes and failed states. The sectarian violence has driven large numbers out. During the Saddam regime, large numbers of Iraqis were displaced, and the U.S. resettled 38,000 Iraqis. We would take 5,000 a year at given points in time. After 2003, there was great hope, and people were returning in large numbers. The sectarian violence after the mosque bombing in February 2006 is what turned things around. The problem is one caused by the repressive regime” of Saddam Hussein. She did add, “We take the responsibility of being a compassionate nation seriously.
Ah, that last sentence is such whipped cream! One does so wish that there were some curse that would cause vampires like Sauerbrey, Bolton, Bush, Cheney and the rest of the horde to fall, frothing, on the ground, crumbling as the rays of the sun hit their disgusting bodies. Alas, they will end up well fed and having their assistants pen nice little op ed pieces for the Washington Post. America, Night of the Living Dead, 2007.