Wednesday, March 31, 2004

What happened in Iraq today underlines the reality. The US media have been too busy counting the kilowatts of electricity restored to the country, and been busy reminding Americans what a great job the troops have done. To put it bluntly: the US has lost Iraq, and the US does not deserve to own Iraq. Iraq belongs neither to Saddam, and nor to Bush (or Kerry for that matter). It belongs to its people. New York Times reported last summer that a Pentagon consulting team that was sent to Baghdad concluded that the US had--back then--3 months to "fix" Iraq, before it is too late. It is too late already, way too late for anything to change. Alas, colonialism could not work in the 21st century. Wolfowitz will rack his brain, and conferences and symposia will be held, under his watchful eye, to examine how this "benevolent" colonial project faced the defiance of restless population. A population that could not wait to get rid of Saddam, but one that would not settle for anything less than full self-determination and rule. I can see Bernard Lewis blaming the failure of the Iraq project on the softness of the US use of force. Not enough force was used, will Orientalists of his ilk assert. The US fell victim to promises that it had made--for propaganda purposes, but that it did not have any intention of keeping. The US can impose some of its will on Iraq by force, but the country has slipped away from its control. Chalabi, it turned out, has more support in DC than in Baghdad, and an Ayatollah who has not left his house in 6 years has more power than the commander of US troops in Iraq. The country will be difficult to patch back together; the Shi`ites will fashion some form of a "moderate" but quasi-religious government inspired by Hawzah rule; the Sunnis will be governed by a fracturous coalition of pro-Saddam Ba`thists, anti-Saddam Ba`thists, and a variety of Sunni fundamentalist groups; while the Kurds will live under the two ruling parties, who have killed thousands of innocent Kurds in the course of their internecine mini-civil wars over the years. When the official day of the transfer of power comes, and as symbolic as that deadline is and as empty as the announcement is, given the presence of US (and Macedonian) troops in the country, people will still cheer the failure of the American colonial project. Maybe the Iraq example was necessary for the US Empire to realize that colonialism does not work anymore. That people will uniformly reject it. I think of Lebanon after Israel was forced out of South Lebanon in 2000. Members of the surrogate army of thugs that Israel formed and armed had to flee for their lives. They ran, literally, across the border cursing at Israel for abandoning its loyal collaborators. The "commander" of the South Lebanon Army, Antoine Lahd, is now dubbed General Hummus by the Israeli media. Lahd just opened a Lebanese restaurant (Byblos, no less) in Israel. I can see something similar happening to US surrogate militias and forces in Iraq. Maybe Chalabi will also open a Middle East restaurant in Washington, DC. I can see American dignitaries flocking to the restaurant and hailing Chalabi as an Arab Sadat, as somebody who is misunderstood by his people, as somebody that the Arabs did not deserve. I can see Chalabi lining the restaurant with pictures of him shaking hands with top US officials. I just hope that his restaurant will serve fresh Arabic bread. That is now a requirement for good restaurants in the Middle East.