Bush is blessed. For the past two weeks, all we’ve been reading about in the blogs and newspapers (if anyone reads newspapers aymore) has been the NSA snooping on US citizens, and rather hysterical outcries from the right claiming that those who question this (and anything our great war-time president decrees) are traitors.
This has provided a marvelous smokescreen, allowing the biggest news story in months to slip quietly by, unnoticed and unremarked-upon. That story is the end of the myth of a peaceful unified Iraq, which became the justification for our dirty little war once the weapons of mass destruction canard fell apart.
The myth of a unified Iraqi identity may have finally been laid to rest this month.
More clearly than any other measurement since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, preliminary results from the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections show Iraq as three lands with three distinct identities, divided by faith, goals, region, history and symbols….
[T]he preliminary election results, which have trickled out through a series of haphazard leaks and news conferences and remain disputed by all parties, show a nation starkly fragmented into ethnic and religious cantons with different aims and visions.
Nine out of 10 Iraqis in the Shiite Muslim provinces of the south voted for religious Shiite parties, according to the early results from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Nine out of 10 Iraqis in Sunni Muslim Arab areas of central and western Iraq voted for Sunni parties. Nine out of 10 Iraqis in the Kurdish provinces of the north voted for Kurdish candidates. Nationwide, only about 9% voted for tickets that purported to represent all Iraqis.
The results were like a bracing splash of ice water for U.S. officials, who had predicted that a secular, centrist Iraqi government would emerge after the invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein. Many longtime observers of Iraq had hoped this month’s vote would foster national unity by bringing to power moderate politicians who might help draw down a minority Sunni Arab-led insurgency against a government now controlled by the country’s majority Shiites, and stanch Kurds’ secessionist tendencies.
Instead, more than 240 of the 275 legislators, who will decide the composition of the future government, will probably be Shiite Islamists, Sunni Arab sectarians or autonomy-minded Kurds. The Shiites, who make up about 60% of the nation’s population, will hold by far the largest share….
Regardless of the cause, the very idea of Iraq may be slowly fading, politicians and common Iraqis acknowledge, often sadly. Even the Iraqi flag seems to appear only in the posters of politicians bankrolled by U.S.-funded aid organizations. Government buildings such as the ministries of education and health are often festooned with posters of bearded and turbaned Shiite clerics instead of the red, white and black flag of Iraq.
This article (which requires registration) offers an excellent snapshot of the “three Iraqs,” and, if you read between the lines, is actually a eulogy for all the hopes and dreams of the naifs who rather stupidly fell for the liberty/beacon-of-democracy bullshit.
I suspect Bush hopes the NSA scandal widens and blossoms; it’s thus far acted as a protective wall, insulating him from the real news of the day. And besides, the NSA scandal bolsters Bush’s image among the fools who see it as proof he’s “tough on terrorists” and muy, muy macho. Our capacity for self-delusion is infinite. As H.L. Mencken put it, “No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
Wake up, America. The Iraq catastrophe hasn’t even started yet. Get out the popcorn and sit back.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.