Robin Yassin-Kassab

Shoes and Bullets

with 3 comments

George Bush has had shoes thrown at him in Baghdad. As he threw the first, Muntadar az-Zaidi shouted, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.” As he threw the second, he added, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.” It was gratifying to see the Iraqi journalist’s human response to one of the destroyers of his country, even if it was woefully inadequate. In a just world, Bush would be imprisoned for the rest of his life (I oppose capital punishment even in the most deserving of cases).

Meanwhile the empire’s top criminals continue to spout self-justifying vomit. What do you say about a Condoleezza Rice? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal she says her regime removed the Taliban, but doesn’t say that America helped bring the Taliban to power in the first place, nor that the new Taliban is now winning against the occupation and its warlord/ druglord Afghan allies. She doesn’t say that Pakistan’s previously peaceful borderlands are controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, that hundreds of thousands have been displaced from these areas, that there are regular bomb attacks in Pakistan’s major cities, or that Pakistan faces the real possibility of collapse.

She gloats that the Palestinian intifada has been defeated, noting as if it’s a victory “that last year Bethlehem was the site of a huge investment conference, hosted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, aided by Israel.” Fayad is an unelected moneyman. The West Bank is governed by collaborators, and split from the flawed but elected and independent government in Gaza. There is no end in sight to the unbearable apartheid reality of the West Bank, and Gaza is, quite literally, starving. This is how the empire likes things.

Most grotesquely, Rice describes ethnically-cleansed, sectarian, splintered, brutalised, cholera-ridden Iraq as “a multiethnic, multiconfessional democracy that isn’t threatening its neighbors.” The woman needs a lot more than shoes in her face.

Multiethnic? On the last day of Eid, Arab and Kurdish leaders were meeting in a Kirkuk restaurant to negotiate the future of the city. A bomb killed 55 of them. Throughout northern Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga jostle against Turkman and Arab militia. Throughout the country, Gypsy villages have been burned to the ground.

Multiconfessional? All major political forces in Iraq are sectarian. The Arab tribes, and even families, have split into Sunni and Shia components. Walls and barbed wire divide Baghdad neighbourhoods. Sectarian murder is at nothing like the level it reached in the apocalyptic days of 2006 and 2007, but the few families who dare to return to their homes in areas controlled by the other sect are most likely to be murdered. Millions of Iraqis are internal or external refugees. The fires of sectarian hatred, fanned by America’s Arab clients, threaten to burn the entire region. At least half of Iraq’s ancient Christian community is now in Syria.

Democracy? Well, that’s a quarter true, but no thanks to the American occupation. The original US plan was for US-appointed caucuses to elect a government. It was Ayatullah Sistani’s mobilisation of the street that put paid to that idea. There is perhaps greater freedom of expression than there was under Saddam Hussein, and the potential for future democratic developments, but democracy is not much use to people who are scared to cross the nearest bridge, who can’t afford to buy more than bread.

Not threatening its neighbours? Saddam’s worst external crime was his attack on Iran and the bombardment of Iranian cities with poison gas. All through the long Iraq-Iran war, the Ba’athist regime was supported politically, funded and armed by the West. US ambassador April Glaspie gave a green light for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Today Iraq is in no position to threaten its neighbours by war because Iraq is no longer a coherent power, but Iraq’s terrorists and militias, its sectarianism, the prostitution and drugdealing its impoverished people are forced into, do indeed threaten its neighbours. And the occupying forces use Iraq as a springboard for aggression into neighbouring countries; the American terrorist attack on Syria in October is a case in point.

I wonder what Rice would say to my very good Iraqi friends M and F, who now live in exile. These are the kind of Iraqis the country needs if it is ever to stand on its feet again – highly educated, moral people who firmly opposed Saddam Hussain and what he represented. Both of them lost family members in Saddam’s torture chambers; both believe that ‘liberated’ Iraq is immeasurably worse than the Saddamist police state. M is Sunni; F is Shii. It would be dangerous for him to live in her home area, and dangerous for her to live in his home area. It would be dangerous for him to return to his job as a professor of Arabic. Before they left, academics – Sunni and Shia – were being regularly and professionally assassinated, by sniper bullet through their windscreens and cleanly into the brain.

Many people blame Iran for the assassination campaign. I don’t know, of course, but I find it unlikely that Iran would want to kill pro-Iranian Iraqi academics as well as those who oppose Iran. Some might say that Iran will find it easier to dominate Iraq if Iraq’s educated class has left. Again, I don’t think Iran is so stupid. The clerical regime probably does want a pliable Iraq; I’m sure it doesn’t want a permanent state of explosive chaos on its border. Much more likely is an Israeli-US effort to keep Iraq, and the entire region, in turmoil.

More to come in part two.

Mossad hit squads?: http://www.williambowles.info/iraq/2006/0506/mossad_hit_squads.html
The shoe event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNlqPH1NEvY
The Rice interview: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122904339882300339.html

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

December 15, 2008 at 11:52 am

Posted in afghanistan, imperialism, Iraq, USA

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3 Responses

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  1. As usual, no one will put it as succinctly and eloquently as you do… Thanks..!


    December 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm

  2. The shoe is mightier than the sword.

    The images of the shoe throwing are everywhere in the U.S media – a potent message to Americans about how Iraqis feel about the occupation.

    There even the beginning of a campaign in the U.S. for Americans to send their old shoes to the White House.


    December 16, 2008 at 12:33 am

  3. very well put about the shoe news. now let’s hope that al-Zaidi will be out of prison soon, although many of the news reports don’t look good.

    i meant to post a comment much sooner but i can’t access blogspot in syria. will keep reading up here!


    December 18, 2008 at 4:52 pm

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