Sunday, September 28, 2003

"In this country, whoever is in power will bring his relatives in from the village and give them important positions. That is what Saddam did, and now those relatives are fulfilling their obligation to protect him from the Americans."
Sheik Yousif Sayel, Iraqi clan leader

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I don't know how to convey an evil "I told you so" laugh, but that is the best I can do. Today the New York Times printed an article about the importance of family and kinship ties in Iraq . It turns out that know-it-all, smarty pants, ivory tower, Ivy League, Pulitzer Prize winning pundits, and arrogant neo-cons didn't know jack when they insisted that Iraqis would love us for ridding them of Saddam Hussein.

I hasten to add, as those of use opposed to the war always do, that I am not apologizing for the awful human rights abuses of the Hussein regime. But if the quotes in this article are accurate, many with family and personal ties to Saddam have let him off the hook because their culture demands it. An Iraqi sociologist says, "If one person in the clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way."

The last part of that quote is key, because apparently some Iraqis don't even believe that Americans will pay the $30 million reward for Saddam's capture. Saddam is at a relative's house secure in the knowledge that he won't be betrayed. All because he hooked up a cousin with a great gig in Baghdad.

Joking aside, it is quite disgraceful that our nation has caused the deaths of thousands, alienated allies, and ruined chances of Middle East peace to help people so distrustful of outsiders that they only consider marriage to first cousins. I am sure it doesn't help matters any that we are raiding Iraqi homes in the dead of night and can't keep the electricity flowing.

Some of those who supported the war insisted that it was an opportunity to bring liberal democracy to an Arab country. It didn't cross these do-gooding minds that Arabs may not want liberal democracy, at least not in the way we understand it. I am sure they want more open governments and greater prosperity, but it may look a little different in that part of the world and it certainly has to evolve from within. It would also help if we didn't support dictators like Saddam Hussein and the Saudi royals when it suited the interests of powerful individuals and institutions in this country.

What is the moral of this story? Don't invade a country until you know a little about it.