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Published by: m3282564 on Mar 30, 2011
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Moving beyond Humiliation:A New Role for the United Statesin Post-Saddam Iraq
YouhavebeenorderedtoIraq(i—RAKH)aspartoftheworldwideoffensive to beat Hitler.YouwillenterIraqbothasasoldierandasanindividual,becauseon our side a man can be both a soldier and an individual. Thiscan be our strength—if we are smart enough to use it. It can be ourweakness if we aren’t.—U.S. Army,
Instructions for American Servicemenin Iraq during World War II 
In March 1991, Colonel “Mohammed Fallujah” was on his way to droptwo heavy bombs onto civilian populations in the southern town of Karbala.
Because his MI-8 helicopter was not equipped to carry thosebombs, made for airplanes only, a special system had been put in placefor him to be able to carry out Saddam Hussein’s vengeance againstthe Shiite population of Iraq.
Their sin: to have taken advantage of his momentary lapse of central authority in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War to rebel against his rule.
This rebellion was originallyinstigated and supported by the administration of U.S. President GeorgeH. W. Bush, whose tactic was to favor an Iraqi-based regime implosioninstead of an outright regime change.
As Mohammed was about to reach his target, he looked up and saw aU.S.AirForceF-16abovehim.Astheplaneapproached,thepilotwaivedat him. Panic-stricken, Mohammed called his base to ask permission toabortthemission.HewascertainthattheF-16wouldshoothimdownif he continued. To his astonishment, his commander ordered him to carry
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156 Voices from Post-Saddam Iraq
on and fulfill his mission. As the F-16 pilot flew idly by, Mohammeddroppedhistwobombs,killingscoresofunarmedciviliansattemptingtoflee the city as Saddam’s Revolutionary Guard was carrying out groundattacksagainstallIraqiShiitecities.WhilethedeathtollofMohammed’sactions is impossible to know, the estimated toll of the 1991 repressionagainst the Shiites of Iraq ranges between 100,000 and 180,000 souls.
Why would the U.S. government favor this rebellion on one hand andlet Mohammed Fallujah and his colleagues crush it on the other? The re-sponse lies with Iran, whose influence in the rebellion was feared to havebecome too great.
While the Iraqi Shiites were supposed to rebel, theywere not supposed to have welcomed the help of their eastern neighbor,Iran—not after years of U.S. financial support of the Saddam Husseinregime against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.
On this March 1991 day,Mohammed Fallujah owed his life to realpolitik. The population of Kar-bala, among others, lost theirs because of their Iranian cousins’ supportfor the rebellion. On May 29, 2003, as I was witnessing the opening of a mass grave in the Iraqi desert, near the town of Jufur-Safa, borderingKarbala, I heard Iraqi Shiites cursing the man they believed responsiblefor this tragedy, not Saddam Hussein as most of us were led to think bythe Western media, but U.S. President George H. Bush, who, accordingto most, badly let down the Iraqi Shiites.
This is what a woman whohad lost family members buried in this mass grave told me that day. Shestressed that after this tragedy, it was now her people’s turn to use theUnited States for their political benefit. According to her, despite the factthat the United States had gotten rid of Saddam, the Shiite populationwould never trust the United States again for anything.
Was this political interference and subsequent abandonment of theIraqi Shiites worth the long-term political damage? Can the U.S. have apolitical future in Iraq, or should it just leave the country alone? Is anyeffort to redress the political situation in Iraq doomed to fail? Or canthe United States learn from its past mistakes and leave a positive andsustainable legacy to its Middle Eastern ally? More than seventeen yearsafterthe1991disaster,Iran’sandIraq’sfuturearemoreintertwinedthanever. Is this unavoidable? After looking into perceptions of humiliationasacatalysttosectarianandreligiousviolence,thischapterwillexaminecurrent U.S. efforts to bring sustainable civil peace in post-Saddam Iraq.It will examine how the United States could apply the lessons describedin this book to the future of Iraq.First, the mechanisms and impacts of the Sunni Awakening initiative,also known as the Sahwa movement, must be assessed. As the precedingchapters have illustrated, the administration of U.S. President GeorgeW. Bush has made many mistakes in relation to its occupation of Iraq,
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Moving beyond Humiliation 157
mostly due to a lack of sociopolitical and economic vision, both in theshort term and in the long term. An analysis of the Sahwa movementwill show how much the United States has learned from its past mistakesin Iraq. It will also enable us to look toward the future to ascertainwhether the United States has a role in the future of Iraq, and whetherthis role can be more effective for the sake of the Iraqi people. We willalso examine how this book’s findings and conclusions can contributeto a more effective and positive role. From being part of the problemto becoming part of the solution, a new role for the United States isenvisioned. Can and will it be up to the challenge?
In the fall of 2007, upon realization that the security predicament of post-Saddam Iraq could not be solved unless Iraqis themselves took partin the rebuilding of their own country, the U.S.-led Coalition formedgroups of mostly former Sunni insurgents. Soon, these groups, compris-inglocaltribeleaders,Sunniclerics,formernationalistinsurgentssuchasthe 1920 Brigades, former al-Qaeda militants, and so on, became activein eight provinces, including Baghdad.
The motivations for people tojoin these groups varied greatly, although most people involved agreethat they joined for three main reasons: money, the desire to crush astifling al-Qaeda, and the prospect of being able to integrate into Iraqisecurity forces in a near future.
As of December 10, 2007, an unex-pected 73,397 men had signed up, 65,000 of whom were receiving a$300 monthly salary directly from the U.S. military.
Among these menwere also Shiites, an estimated six thousand, mostly from religiouslymixed areas of Baghdad and Diyala Province. These groups, referred toas Sunni Awakening Councils, or Sahwa, were in charge of maintaininglaw and order, and, more important, rooting out al-Qaeda from Iraq.Overnight, Iraqi insurgents became allied to the United States for thesake of a common cause: to annihilate al-Qaeda. Were they successful?It seems that they were. At the time of this writing in mid-2008, theinfluence of al-Qaeda in Iraq seems to have been severely hampered.Violence in all of Iraq is reportedly at its lowest since 2004.
In com-parison to optimistic past reports, these seem to match the reality on theground: al-Qaeda has been successfully booted out of all major citiesin Sunni areas of Iraq, including former caliphates such as Fallujah andDoloyia.The question remains, Did the councils win over al-Qaeda, or didal-Qaeda lose the battle on its own? While the immediate results of the Sahwa initiative are undoubtedly impressive, an analysis of its

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