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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

April 21, 2003

a matter of trust.

Liberation is not the same as liberty. After all, the Taliban liberated Kabul from the depradations of the Northern Alliance - which itself liberated Kabul from the Soviets. It is one thing to be free of Saddam, but another to determine your own destiny without interference.

There are lessons that it is clear the Bush Administration will not learn from history - one of the most important being, that self-interest is human nature. Why do Iraqis still distrust the Coalition? Why is it that there is so much anger at the Americans even as the statues of Saddam fell? Because we, the Americans, are seen as untrustworthy, because we will not admit publicly that the fall of Saddam was in our interest.

When President Bush goes on television and lectures the world about how the desire for freedom is a universal human trait, the oppressed peoples of the postcolonial Middle East can only laugh bitterly. Whose hand funded the sources of their oppression? Which flags flew over the piles of money and power and tanks that kept them from achieving that universal desire? The same flags that fly over Umm Qasr and Basra and that were (briefly) draped over Saddam's statue in the main square. Colonized peoples have a long memory, whereas Americans have virtually none.

The British, in one sense, were more upfront about it. In India, they did not pretend that the East India Company and the Indian Railways and the countless other massive infrastructure and economic investments were for the good of the Indian people. It was for teh ruling class. Any side benefit to the people (and there was much benefit) was simply a silver lining. The civil society of Britain did its utmost to ensure that planning for the needs of the subjects was taking into account, but there was never any pretension that the EMpire was for the good of India.

Iraq is not India. America is not Britain. But the face of empire is the same, to people in that part of the world where there have been nothing but empires, one after the other, unending. Iraq has seen them all. America may not be after Iraq's oil or gold or even after its vast consumer market potential or the contracts to Bechtel for rebuilding infrastrcture we destroyed. But America does indeed gain these things, as well as strategic prominence in the middle east to a degree never seen before. Bush will not admit to this, but doing so might be the first step to achieving a true measure of trust.

unless of course, Bush doesn't need the trust of the Iraqi people. In which case, the motives for this war will be clear after all.

Note: Joshua Marshall points to the proposed Iraq-Israel pipeline as another example. He notes:

This captures what's at the heart of my deepest misgivings about this whole endeavor we're now embarked upon: fatal overreach on the part of American policy-makers. It's an overreach with multiple causes, none of which will lead to anything good.
What sort of government in the Arab world, born of what is at best the iffy origin of an American invasion, would kick things off by establishing warm relations with Israel and opening a pipeline to sell Iraqi oil to the Israelis? The answer, I'd imagine, is one that won't last a second longer than American troops are on the ground.
It's already clear that our credibility and Arab perceptions of our motives are extremely poor. To make this democratization project work, we will really have to be, as the old-timers say, purer than Caesar's wife. If we treat Iraq simultaneously as a democratization project and as grab-bag to fill out our geopolitical wish list, then we're heading for disaster.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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