Thursday, February 01, 2007

No Wonder He Preferred Saddam In Power

I've always wondered if I was being a little over the top in suggesting that simple prejudice against Shiites and a preference for Sunni Arabs as the legitimate ruling race in the Middle East has been driving a lot of international opinion on Iraq. Turns out I needn't have worried. Here's Jacques Chirac gaffing it up in a truly amazing interview (text and news report):

The Shiites are very particular people. The Shiites, since the beginning, are people who have a culture of minorities. They are minorities, they have a culture of minorities. They do not react like the Sunnis or the Europeans.

The reporters, Elaine Sciolino and Katrin Benhold assure that Mr. Chirac

. . . over the years in private meetings has expressed distrust of Shiite Muslims.

Those people just don't think like us . . . (which, sotto voce, is why a guy like Saddam was doing the world a favor by keeping them down).

The funny thing is that, of course, this was not the big gaffe (the thing that everyone knows is true, but no one is supposed to say in public). No, the gaffe is that President Chirac said that a nuke or two for Iran would not be a big danger because if they used them on Israel, Tehran would be razed -- both of which are completely true, of course. The diplomats went into overdrive and President Chirac call the reporters in again to insist "Iran must not have nukes!" and that any use of nuclear weapons would be met not with retaliation, but with (non-existent) missile defense capability, etc., etc., the whole fantasy mode.

I have come to the conclusion that one can only understand the anti-nuclear proliferation mindset as the same kind of control-centered obsession that drives gun-control domestically. Here it is in the case of Iran when every government official and moderate in the world is supposedly terrified that President Bush will start a war with Iran, and yet those same government officials continue to insist that Iran "must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons!" Of course they also insist that a few concessions will make Iran a responsible player on the international scene. Do they realize that this makes no sense at all? That any country that will give up a nuclear program in return for economic and security guarantees is by that token a rational actor (even if they are Shiites, and hence nuts with a chip on their shoulder), and hence deterrable by the threat of retaliation? And that insisting "Iran must not have nukes!" ("Why not?" "Because," (lowers voice) "they're nuts, you know, Shiites") feeds the kind of thinking that would make war with Iran seem justified?

So we have a completely incoherent policy that encourages exactly the tendencies in the US government that the arms control wallas most abhor: does that make the arms controllers stop and think that maybe for once they could stop feeding the hysteria? No, apparently not. The rage to bind the world with rules, the bureaucratic dementia that got Mohammed ElBaradei the Nobel Peace Prize is a true obsession, and cannot be turned off at will.

Oh, and by the way, in case you haven't noticed, we too have switched sides in Iraq. Now we're on the Sunni Arab side too, and against the Shiites. This has proceeded entirely without comment in Washington from the right or the left. But the Iraqis don't have the luxury of not noticing:

A growing number of Iraqis are saying that the United States is to blame for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad on Saturday. They argued that the Americans had been slow in completing the vaunted new American security plan, making Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

A funeral was held in Najaf on Sunday for some of the victims. Many Shiites believe the Mahdi Army should be allowed to protect them.

The critics said the new plan, which the Americans have started to execute, had emasculated the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that is considered responsible for many attacks on Sunnis, but that many Shiites say had been the only effective deterrent against sectarian reprisal attacks in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods. Even some Iraqi supporters of the plan, like Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister who is a Kurd, said delays in carrying it out had caused great disappointment.

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders were either in hiding or under arrest, which was one of the plan’s intended goals to reduce sectarian fighting. But with no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver's truck bomb.

Good thing Sunni Arabs think like good Europeans, not those resentful Shiites. Otherwise they might do something irrational.

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