Bouquets & Bullets - The Iraq Miscalculation genre: Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Bouquets And Bullets

Every now and then, an obscure little fact provides a huge amount of perspective into an otherwise complex situation with seemingly few answers. Such an event occurred in Iraq over the weekend. Let me offer a little background information. On Saturday, the Iraqi national soccer team defeated Vietnam to advance to the Asian Cup semifinals.

The Iraqi soccer team has been a bright spot in national unity for a country that seems unable to reach common ground in the political arena. Over the weekend, Sunnis and Shiites huddled together to watch the game and to celebrate the victory...many of them suggesting that the stalled government ought to take note and find the means to bridge their numerous sectarian differences.

Before you conclude that the apparent bond formed around the Iraqi soccer team is the obscure little fact that I'm seeking to illuminate, let me move on to the point of this musing. In the aftermath of the victory, the Iraqi's took to the streets to celebrate...and I came to my new realization after reading the following paragraph in the Washington Post.

On a negative note, five people, including two children, were killed and 25 were wounded in celebratory gunfire, according to health officials in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

Try as I might, I could find nothing to indicate how such situations are dealt with by the Iraqi security forces or our own American military forces. I wondered if an investigation took place to attempt to identify the shooters whose bullets killed these five innocent people...and wounded twenty five others. My suspicion is that nothing happens...other than the burial of five dead Iraqi citizens.

Perhaps I'm far too pessimistic, but when the inadvertent death of five innocent bystanders is viewed as a demonstration of national unity, I'm left wondering how many deaths would be an acceptable number to actually achieve a functional government? Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting our troops should attempt to extinguish long-standing Iraqi traditions…but I am arguing that our U.S. leadership must be in denial as to the degree to which the loss of human life is ingrained in the daily lives of the Iraqi people.

The mindset that must exist in the Iraqi population is rife with an acceptance of death and destruction and changing that perception is a daunting task that the Bush administration seems to minimize or ignore. If five American lives were lost in the aftermath of an Olympic playoff game as a result of celebratory gunfire, the story wouldn't be about the unity found in the victory; it would focus upon the lawless disregard for human life and the efforts being employed to bring those who perpetrated the tragedy to justice.

The Iraqi people have spent years becoming conditioned to unmitigated tragedy, injustice, and death. It is part and parcel of the Iraqi identity and altering that identity will take much more time and effort than the latest troop surge or any of the many other optimistic assessments and notions held by the Bush administration.

While I'm happy that the Iraqi citizenry can find joy and unity in some minor demonstration of national identity, the distance to be traveled in order to achieve a sustainable national government is immense. Even if one believes that the Iraqi's can establish a valid government entity, the inherent disregard for human life will require a sustained period of security and civility…one that remains quite elusive.

Further, if Iraq is to become a democracy that mirrors American society it will need to monitor and maintain a period of generational shift that will have to be able to overcome countless built-in societal norms that have their roots in religious doctrine and tribal traditions...doctrines that have absolute ideology at their core.

A soccer victory may provide a glimpse of the Bush administration's idyllic goal; but the effort and the costs to reach that goal may be well out of reach. In a demonstration of the miscalculation, I recall Dick Cheney stating that he expected the Iraqi people to toss flowers at the feet of their American liberators.

I could be wrong, but the last time I checked a hail of bullets from above is far different from a carpet of carnations at one’s feet. In the end, it looks to me like the Bush administration skipped over the essential cultural briefings. That and a quail hunt could get some people killed.

Tagged as: Asian Cup, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Iraq, Soccer

Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2007 | 10:29 AM
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1 On July 23, 2007 at 7:45 PM, Tim wrote —

The author tries to make the point that Iraqis are so jaded about loss of life that they have a long way to go and might even be un-savable. We should say the same about the author's family every time one of them becomes the innocent victim of a gang shooting. Most Iraqis want peace and want a forum to say so too. They fear al quaeda but are getting over that fear and turning them in. Their spine is growing. They still fear the militias and in a few areas, they have begun to ask to be heard, that they don't want militias that have no accountability to the law, that is no different than Saddam. They don't want partition, they want peace and electricity and water and schools. All are achievable goals (within less than a decade)if their national will can be heard. These are the feelings of normal Iraqis, not the power-mad-hopefuls who want to take their brand of Islam political.
We should hope that as much effort as possible is being made to ask and report how the "average Iraqi" feels. And bring to light every single reportable increment of improvement. There is SO much going unsaid that is good, like the soccer matches. This authors dangling of truly evident cooperation and goodwill during a national soccer game and claiming it must be empty progress is then downplayed in a tragic politicization AND falsification of the common Iraqi's hopes and feelings. It should be front page news all over the world that this is how we like to see the Iraqi people (cooperating at soccer). Only then will their thugs and gangs begin to realize that their temporary and ill got gains will not be allowed to last. It is a sadder commentary on western liberal press that their only perspective seems to be "hurry up and give up now". So even as the evidence is incrementally accumulating that Iraq is improving, here come the politicos yelling as loud as they can "We better get out, Iraq is unredeemable." So they write about how bad and how sad and how hopeless the ENTIRE country is even when their own words testify that this is not so. The tragedy to my eyes is the comfort that such lies give to the founders of the militias and gangs. It is not hopeless, but you have to want to see progress and you have to encourage it like an ember of freedom, with gentle puffs of encouragement. Criticize the average Iraqi as if he is a complicit hopeless thug and he WILL soon lose hope. I see where you are trying to go....

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