Sunday, August 05, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's many wars

The war in Iraq is not what it seems. In fact, there is no "war" in Iraq—there are many wars, some centuries old, playing out on this ancient land. But this is not what Americans are often led to believe. The perception portrayed by the White House and Iraqi government in Baghdad—and commonly reflected in the news media—is that the violence in Iraq is a fundamental struggle between two opposing teams: Freedom Lovers and Freedom Haters.

In this Manichaean and simplistic view of the fighting here, the tale of the tape is:

-- The Freedom Lovers: The 12 million Iraqis who plunged their fingers into purple ink on Election Day in December 2005, choosing freedom, democracy and to shut forever the door on Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Their team captains are the Iraqi government, the White House, the U.S.-trained Iraq security services, and the roughly 150,000 American troops in Iraq.

-- The Freedom Haters: Iraqi radicals, foreign jihadists, former Ba'ath Party members, and criminals supported by al-Qaeda, Syria and Iran, who have formed an alliance of convenience to reject the democratization of Iraq, each for its own motivation. The team's captains are al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni militant groups, Iranian and Syrian agents and, but not always, radical Shi'ite cleric Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

While there are certainly elements of truth to this narrative, the reality in this fractured country is much more complex.

Read the rest at Nieman Reports