The latest from Riverbend at Baghdad Burning (and it ain't pretty):
Last week my cousin needed to visit the current Ministry of Higher Education. After the ministry building was burned and looted, the employees had to be transferred to a much, much smaller building in another part of the city. My cousin’s wife wanted to have her college degree legalized by the ministry and my cousin wasn’t sure about how to go about doing it. So I volunteered to go along with him because I had some questions of my own.
We headed for the building containing the ministry employees (but hardly ever containing the minister). It was small and cramped. Every 8 employees were stuck in the same room. The air was tense and heavy. We were greeted in the reception area by a bearded man who scanned us disapprovingly. “Da’awachi,” my cousin whispered under his breath, indicating the man was from the Da’awa Party. What could he do for us? Who did we want? We wanted to have some documents legalized by the ministry, I said loudly, trying to cover up my nervousness. He looked at me momentarily and then turned to the cousin pointedly. My cousin repeated why we were there and asked for directions. We were told to go to one of the rooms on the same floor and begin there.
“Please dress appropriately next time you come here.” The man said to me. I looked down at what I was wearing- black pants, a beige high-necked sweater and a knee-length black coat. Huh? I blushed furiously. He meant my head should be covered and I should be wearing a skirt. I don’t like being told what to wear and what not to wear by strange men. “I don’t work here- I don’t have to follow a dress code.” I answered coldly. The cousin didn’t like where the conversation was going, he angrily interceded, “We’re only here for an hour and it really isn’t your business.”
“It is my business.” Came the answer, “She should have some respect for the people who work here.” And the conversation ended. I looked around for the people I should be respecting. There were three or four women who were apparently ministry employees. Two of them were wearing long skirts, loose sweaters and headscarves and the third had gone all out and was wearing a complete “jubba” or robe-like garb topped with a black head scarf. My cousin and I turned to enter the room the receptionist had indicated and my eyes were stinging. No one could talk that way before the war and if they did, you didn’t have to listen. You could answer back. Now, you only answer back and make it an issue if you have some sort of death wish or just really, really like trouble.
Can't wait to see how the Jeff Jarvises and Jonah Goldbergs of the world spin it when our crusade for freedom leads to the formation of a theocratic state in what was one of the few islands of secularism in the entire Middle East. Will they offer mealy-mouthed rationalizations about respecting the "will of the majority" as the Shiites turn Iraq into Iran one ministry office and city block at a time, or will they opt for the path of hypocrisy and call for yet another regime change to keep the mullahs from running the country, setting off an Algerian-style civil war? With unsavory options like these, you begin to understand why we supported Saddam Hussein and his brutal police state for as long as we did...
Could this have been avoided? Had we gotten the magic balance of troops and civil assistance right when we invaded, could we have ensured a post-Saddam Iraq that was secular and genuinely free? If we had not dissolved the armed forces, had we not devastated the infrastructure of the nation, had we not engaged in the witch-hunt of "de-Baathification" based on the advice of Iranian spy and international criminal Ahmed Chalabi, is it possible that right now we wouldn't be like the Tidy-Bowl Man attempting to ride out the Shitstorm of the Century? And had we actually fucking looked before we leapt - our elected officials, our media, our triger-happy, torture-approving, 'fraidy-cat nation of Jack Bauers and Bernie Goetzes - could we have steered clear of this whole mess to begin with?
Probably not. Being a student of history is a lot like riding shotgun with a drunk driver - there isn't a whole hell of a lot you can do except fasten your seatbelt and pray you don't end up in a head-on collision. Makes you wonder why anyone bothers paying attention to these matters at all, since unless you want to be a cheerleader/apologist for some pretty cold-blooded shit it's a bonafide horror show. Any surprise, then, that Fox's American Idol beat out Dubya's State of the Union address in the ratings the other week? The message: we'll (re)elect you so long as we don't have to watch...