Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Iraq is on the verge of all out civil war following last week's bombings of scores of Sunni mosques. Counter bombings are underway as we speak. These acts are being carried out by extremists who, instead of celebrating freedom from a ruthless dictator, seek to gain control through the elimination of their rivals. It's a deadly turf war that's made keeping the peace painstakingly more difficult for U.S. forces. So what's all this fighting about? Why can't they all hold hands and sing songs in the street together?

When a team of blind British invalids drew up maps of the region following World War I, they paid little attention to the cultural differences of the people who called the land home. It’s the same story in Africa, and Israel, and pretty much anywhere else in the world the British had a mandate to play bordermaker. To be fair, they had plenty of help destroying the region, primarily from the French. The two allies agreed to a double super ultra mega mega secret understanding in 1916 regarding their respective spheres of post-war influence. This understanding, called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, laid the foundation for the creation of the modern State of Iraq, which was later drawn up with, understandably, the political interests of the European powers in mind – and, unfortunately, virtually zero consideration for the PEOPLE living in the region they were roping off.

The consequences of these myopic modifcations to the world map weren't as significant back then for a lot of reasons. Nations of the West hadn't yet begun their deadly affair with oil-bearing Sheiks. Weapons weren't nearly as prolific. Communication and transportation weren't at all what they are today. The world was a completely different place. So the folks deciding how to carve the pie couldn't have imagined it would end up like this. They just wanted to get it done in time for tea.

Fastforward about 90 years. (Can you believe it's almost been a century since WWI?)

In the Iraq we have come to know and love (and pay for) so well, a variety of warring cultures had been kept peaceful by a menacing dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein. He was what you might call the common enemy who kept the citizens united. They hated him because he was a no-nonsense murderer who didn’t find discriminating a particularly effective use of time. People he didn't care for were tortured and killed. Sure, like most people, he disliked some people more than others – but at the end of the day he was an equal opportunity tyrant.

Say what you want about Saddam’s lack of humanitarian zeal, civil war wasn’t an issue when he was in charge. Homicide in the 1990’s, a period more and more Iraqi citizens are referring to as “the good old days,” was state-sponsored. The oppression was awful, but well defined and predictable.

Today, the Iraqi people still have a common enemy in, tragically, their great “liberator,” the United States military. In the power vacuum created by the deposing of Saddam Hussein, countless interests have stepped forward to influence the country’s future. Few (if any) of these interests share the Bush Administration’s vision of what Iraq should look like. They are deeply religious, passionately partisan groups and they fear the new U.S.-endorsed government isn’t going to give them a fair shake. So they march and protest, bomb, kidnap and assassinate.

If we offer Saddam a raise, do you think he’ll take his old job back? He may have been a bad man, but he was a good sheriff in a town that desperately needed order.

While I’m making ludicrous suggestions, here’s another one: Why not, finally, redraw the map of Iraq to account for the people living there. Give the Sunni folk a place to chill, the Shiites a hood of their own, and designate a central area around Baghdad the county seat where CNN reporters can go when they want to give their career a boost by taking a dangerous assignment.

I’ve got plenty more mind-blowingly cool ideas where these came from. Why don’t we let Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling run Iraq. They did such a great job making that money-pit Enron look profitable, let’s hand over the reins to Iraq and see what they can do. They owe a lot of Americans a lot of years of community service – sentencing them to prison would be such a waste of their god-given talent for bullshit. Shouldn't their punishment fit the crime? They made a fortune in the energy business – let’s give those geniuses control over some of the world’s largest oil reserves so they can start paying America back. Or at least make them drive important people around.

Wouldn’t that be ironiq?

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