Rashid Khalidi Knows Little About Iraq

In a post-war attack on the US government and the “neocons” supposedly running the show, the future director of the Middle East Institute, Rashid Khalidi, shows that he either knows little to nothing about Iraq, or he is so politically motivated that he cannot admit the facts.
I will go one by one to show this lack of knowledge and insight–if only because I, as an undergraduate student, should not be able to find holes so quickly in a distinguished professor’s argument.
First there is the topic of why Saddam did not use Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) if he had them.

Its backers justified this war largely because of the dangerous arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that Iraq allegedly possessed. If they existed, the Iraqi regime did not use such weapons defensively against U.S. forces when its very existence was in peril. This shows that Iraq was eminently deterrable, contrary to the hysterical frothing of the war proponents about the irrationality of its regime. Moreover, U.S. forces have not yet found these weapons, meaning at the very least that they were probably not issued to military units. Indeed, they may all have been destroyed, as the defector Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel stated during his interrogation before his ill-fated return to Baghdad. And evidence from a variety of sources shows that Iraq had no nuclear or biological weapons (though it had programs to develop them before the 1991 war).

How about this thought: Saddam and his sons made a deal with the US government to be spared, as long as they left the scean quick and clean. Strong assumption? Not if you connect the dots. Uday reportedly took up to $1 billion with him, and the looting of the Iraqi museum was an inside job. The deal could go something like this: take the money, take the artifacts, and run all the way to either Syria or southern France–just as long as you do not kill our troops or your own people.
Would this be ethical? Absolutely. Would it be good policy? Undoubtedly. Numerous political scientists have preached the good in amnesty for despots, in that it can save lives. Such a deal would allow the US a relatively painless war while giving Saddam the incentive of staying alive–always a tyrant’s primary goal. Would the US government admit it? No, and they shouldn’t. Saddam has done so much harm that his people would want his blood no matter the consequences. Although their thirst for vengeance is understandable, sometimes in politics you have to grin and bear it and look for the best possible outcome. Gassing US, UK and Polish troops, along with the Iraqi people, would have gotten us no-where fast.

the administration deceived the public via its compliant organs of war propaganda, FOX, CNN and MSNBC, with transparent fictions like the existence of a “coalition” consisting of Britain, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and a few other states ashamed to be publicly associated with this disreputable effort…This war was unjustified and indeed dangerous because it has completely and utterly alienated the rest of the world. You will not see that stark reality conveyed in the pap served up by the American cable TV outlets, but you need just look at media produced literally anywhere else in the world to see that the United States is totally alone in its effort in Iraq, except for Sancho Panza Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.

No offense, Rashid, but not only did Eason Jordan of CNN come out and say that CNN was basically the propaganda organ of the Ba’ath party for the past 12 years in his op-ed in the New York Times, but the “coalition” was far from a “transparent fiction.” The only countries in Europe that did not in some way, shape or form, aid the US were France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Russia. Hardly the whole world. To discount all of Eastern Europe–most notably Poland which sent large numbers of forces–or Australia, is a deliberate obscuring of reality. Rashid wouldn’t be bending the facts to suit his politics, would he?

This war also was allegedly fought to bring liberty and democracy to Iraq. The war party would have been more honest if they had stuck to their original stated objective of “regime change.” The United States has changed the regime in Baghdad with relative ease. However, I would venture to predict that we are unlikely to see true democracy on the banks of the Tigris anytime soon. The Iraqis do not want U.S. bases established in their country, do not want others to control their oil resources, and undoubtedly do not want their country to recognize Israel and provide it with oil—all things that we have been explicitly told will take place under the shadow of the U.S. occupation. Moreover, most Iraqis are Shi’a and may want an Islamic government. They are unlikely to be allowed one by their occupiers.

This paragraph is so rich that it seems Rashid hoped someone would dissect it line for line. First, democracy is the stated goal of the administration, and the elections in Mosul were just one of the first steps in that direction. If Rashid were a political scientist and not a demagogue, maybe he would catch up on the research into democratization and know that democracy doesn’t come with a bang. A lot of work has to be done first, and if the US would get up and go, Iraq would spiral into an abyss of security vacuum and carnage.
Second, about US bases on Iraqi soil. What Iraqis is he talking about? The Kurds would very much like to see a permanent US military presence, if only to counterbalance the Turkish and Iranian threat. Are they not Iraqis to Rashid?
About providing Israel with oil: Ahmed Chalabi was the one who proposed that, and it doesn’t go against the traditional Iraqi sentiment. I don’t know how to break it to you, Rashid, but Iraqis don’t care much about the whole Palestinian problem. Traditionally, relations between Iraq’s Muslim and Jewish communities couldn’t have been better, and to automatically assume that all Arabs must hate Jews is, well, racist and ignorant. Why exactly should the Iraqis keep a state of War with Israel? The Palestinians have done nothing but support Saddam, repress the Iraqis themselves–Saddam even kicked Iraqis out of their homes to open them to Palestinian refugees, and when Iraqis were starving in the streets, Saddam was sending fat $25,000 cheques to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Lastly, about the Shiia, is it possible that Rashid doesn’t know anything about Shiia Islam? Because if he did, he’d know that Khomeini’s brand of State Islam has been almost totally rejected by the Shiia religious establishment in Iraq. Moreover, Iraq was the birthplace of Shiia Islam–Al-Najaf and Karabala are in Iraq and Qom, the Iranian center of Shiia, paled in comparison and prestige–while the entire underpinnings of Shiia Islam is that they have to wait for the return of the Imam. In many eyes, a theocratic state goes against the very tenants of Shiia, and Khomeini bordered on heresy when he suggested that he was the Imam. So no, Rashid, many Iraqis do not want an Islamic state.
I won’t even go into the rest of his argument, seeing as the above points do more than enough to illuminate this distinguish professor’s ignorance of Iraq and Shiia Islam. Just think, if I, an undergraduate student, can so easily poke holes in his articles, how good a professor can he be?


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