WEEK 26: I read the Bible end to end after I returned from Iraq. I wish I had read it sooner especially the Old Testament. Abraham was from Ur. Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Assyrian Empire, lived in Babylon or what is now known as Babil. Jonah, of the whale, was from Nineveh. All of these famous figures lived in what is now modern Iraq. Most importantly, the way of doing business hasn’t changed much in 4000 years.
“I hoped that we would come here and reason together. And as a reasonable man I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to – find a peaceful solution to these problems…”
– Don Corleone
“Abu Dura? Hah. You cannot reason with him.”
– Prince Rabi’a, Emir of the Rabi’a Tribal Confederation
If I had it my way, I would have framed our campaign engagement strategy as conducting Mafia Politics. What have you done for me lately? How do we all get along? How do we make the peace? While it may sound practical, I don’t think the ‘Mafia Politics’ term would have gone over very well. Yet, we have to find a way to make the peace. Peace is found in Reconciliation.
This week we saw signs of further fracturing in the country. The Council of Representatives reportedly had a fist fight over Prime Minister Maliki’s Administration and its inability to provide security to the citizens of Diyala. The Council of Representatives demanded the Prime Minster attend a session and explain his security plan. The people are suffering. Al Qaeda can seemingly strike when and where it chooses.
Instead of meeting the Council, the Prime Minister announced his replacements for the ministerial positions vacated by the Sadrists. All of them are Dawa party and affiliates. The Sunni Tawafuq party threatened another pullout based upon the lousy security situation and lack of ministerial representation for the Sunni. Vice President Cheney was in town and seems to have dissuaded his Iraqi counterpart, Vice President Tariq Hashimi, from pulling out his party.
Even through the calls to pull out of the government, we have many actions of possible unity. The Tawafuq led a decree to sue Al Jazeera for criticizing Grand Ayatollah Sistani.
The Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution for Iraq (SCIRI) made a major change by shifting its ties from Iranian based Khomeini to the Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s religious authority. This latter is a political move for SCIRI to shed its image of being an Iranian puppet.
The common theme I hear from the people through Word on Street reports, media reports and even tribal leaders is that the government does not represent Iraqis. It is not so much the government’s votes don’t represent the Iraqi’s. It is because the government does not represent the essence of Iraq. So, SCIRI changing their affiliation is a move to be Iraqi.
These events, though, are a continuing circle of ambiguous events at the national level. It does not portend what will necessarily occur on the street. Thus, we need to push this through grass root efforts in our tribal engagement.
The men we meet will have once fought us. The men we meet may have killed some of our own. But, many of the men we meet are reasonable men. They are men who want peace. Inevitably, one or more will be working with Al Qaeda and we won’t know it. When we find such a person, we will have to resist the urge to ostracize the affiliated group. We cannot be like the national government and throw fists. We have neither the time nor the luxury of returning to the mattresses.
While the Green Zoners do their media dance, we will have to make the peace amongst the tribes. We will have to squeeze Al Qaeda out of the area and force them further to the periphery. Once we can prove that the tribes, the Iraqi Security Forces and we can co-exist in the neighborhood, the national stage will finally be set. The Confederation bosses can come together with the Government bosses to settle the Iraqi issues as Iraqis. When they can all wet their beak, the country can move forward.