Sunday, August 29, 2004

Nice Muslims



Crooked Timber: Light a single candle

I've heard that before the war there were even some fairly civilized Muslims in Iraq--who had electricity and indoor plumbing and didn't carry assault weapons or marry off their daughters to cousins at the age of 9. I can imagine how they must feel now that the US is negotiating with a gang leader whose "militia" consists of young, lower class males from a Bagdad slum--or how they might have taken this article from the NYTimes proposing tribal rule as the semi-final solution to the Iraq problem.

As a thought experiment, imagine that 50 years from now the EU, now the world's hyperpower, invades the US to dismantle WMD and establish democracy. In the process they destroy the electricity grid, disrupt the water supply and demolish the sewage system. But they aren't worried: the US is, after all, a third world country--how many Americans had electricity or running water anyway? how many had ever seen a flush toilet much less knew how to use one?

The looting, rioting and ongoing insurgency is something of a surprise and poses a dilemma. If occupying forces go in with shock and awe the collateral damage will get all Americans up in arms; if they pull their punches it will go on and on and on creating even more hostility from the general public. The puppet regime doesn't seem able to control it.

An editorial writer at the Times (not of NY) proposes empowering Mafia bosses to run the country. They're thugs and we may not like the way they operate, but they have traditionally had the allegiance of many Americans (some 40% of whom are "tribal"--like Iragis according to the NYTimes article) and can maintain order. Most however believe that televangelists and other fundamentalist clerics would be the best qualified to put the lid back on. Pundits debate about whether the cost of supporting them--a fundamentalist Christian theocracy--would be acceptable. Most agree that, while they would put women into purdah, administer shock treatment to homosexuals and burn heretics it's better than chaos and the potential for breeding more terrorism. There aren't that many homosexuals and heretics and third world women are used to being being treated badly--it wouldn't bother them in the way that it would bother people like us.

Meanwhile, diplomats are negotiating with a young hoodlum who, with his gang of ghetto youths from the South Bronx, is holed up in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine trying to parlay his way into a high position in the puppet regime. EU policy makers have learnt from their Cultural Sensitivity advisors that St. John the Divine is the holiest shrine in Protestantdom and that if they storm the place to get the gang out there will be a mass uprising. Here endeth the epistle.

If I were one of those civilized Muslims in Iraq I'd pray for the return of Saddam--or someone like him.

1 comment:

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