Juan Cole of the University of Michigan finishes up the year with the top ten myths about Iraq. Here’s one:
Myth: “The Sunni Arab guerrillas in places like Ramadi will follow the US home to the American mainland and commit terrorism if we leave Iraq.”
Cole: “This assertion is just a variation on the invalid domino theory. People [sic] in Ramadi only have one beef with the United States. Its troops are going through their wives’ underwear in the course of house searches every day. They don’t want the US troops in their town or their homes, dictating to them that they must live under a government of Shiite clerics and Kurdish warlords (as they think of them). If the US withdrew and let the Iraqis work out a way to live with one another, people in Ramadi will be happy.”
He also notes, “The Iraqi ‘government’ is barely functioning. The parliament was not able to meet in December because it could not attain a quorum. Many key Iraqi politicians live most of the time in London, and much of parliament is frequently abroad. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki does not control large swathes of the country, and could give few orders that had any chance of being obeyed. The US military cannot shore up this government, even with an extra division, because the government is divided against itself. Most of the major parties trying to craft legislation are also linked to militias on the streets who are killing one another.”
American troops continue to make a bad situation worse. “In my view, Shiite leaders such as Abdul Aziz al-Hakim are repeatedly declining to negotiate in good faith with the Sunni Arabs or to take their views seriously. Al-Hakim knows that if the Sunnis give him any trouble, he can sic the Marines on them. The US presence is making it harder for Iraqi to compromise with Iraqi.“
Read the whole thing (scroll down to December 26).
The eleventh myth is that the country’s full of good news that’s not reported. Columbia Journalism Review has multiple eyewitnesses on that one. Here’s Rajiv Chadrasekaran of the Washington Post: “You’ve got public information officers saying, ‘Sure, we’ll take you there, but you can’t say where it is, and you can’t name anybody, and you can’t take any pictures, because if we point out the location of this, it could be a target for the insurgency, and if we name people, they could be subject to retribution.’ Is that really progress when you can’t go and report basic facts of something because they’re too worried it’s going to be attacked?” (Hat tip to Beachwood Reporter.)