Sunday, May 07, 2006

Its all a conspiracy!

Found an interesting piece from Robert Fisk today on ChamPress. Its an illustration of the type of paranoia and conspiracy thinking all too common in the Middle East today. His Syrian "security source" relates stories gleaned from Iraqi Shia pilgrims to Damascus who tell of Iraqi policemen trained by American forces who are instructed to drive a car into crowded, public areas then park and walk away. When they call their American bosses and report the position of the car, the car explodes.

Two things come to mind when reading this story. The first is how the Bush adminstration's desire for secrecy and disdain of treaties, codes of ethics, and rule of law makes these stories harder to refute. Their enthusiasm for outsourcing and privatizing what were once core military functions puts these stories into the realm of the distantly possible. Very, very distantly. But no longer absolutely unthinkable. (Would some black-clothed security forces from an unregulated American security company operating outside the military chain of command and outside the American military's code of conduct do such a thing? . . . um . . . maybe. I would hate to believe so but here's the thing, they could and how would we know? How would anyone ever hold them accountable?) Listen to what National Guard Lt. and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff said about such security forces on Fresh Air this past Thursday.

The second thing is that such stories show just how hard it is for ordinary pious Muslims to believe that other Muslims could attack civilians with car bombs and suicide attacks. Violence directed against civilians is clearly outside of the bounds of lawful warfare as proscribed by the Quran. Both suicide and violence against fellow Muslims are unthinkable in traditional Islam. It is easier to think that such attacks must be directed by the occupying forces than to realize how Sunni insurgent extremists are distorting Islam and Iraqi society.

With the downing of a British heliocopter in Basra and growing unrest in the formerly quiet south of Iraq, the occupation looks increasingly untenable both on the ground in Iraq and politically in the US and Britain. (And yes, I think occupation is the most accurate term for it, there have been elections but a functioning Iraqi government has yet to be formed.) Blair and Bush both in big trouble is how Helena Cobban puts it.

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