A modest comparison – the Old South and the New Iraq

Sunday, July 12th, 2015
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

The recent massacre in Charleston and the threatening emergence of ISIS are both dominating the news these days. The relationship between these two events leads to a meaningful lesson.

Starting with Charleston, the June 17th murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a young man who wrapped himself in the Confederate flag as an emblem of racism and justifiable murder highlighted the irony that in the old Confederacy, the heroes of the South commemorated in statues throughout the South and lending their names to the roads and bridges of the South are the names of treasonous enemies of the United States and dedicated slave owners. Reporters and pundits have pointed out the hypocrisy and the need to eliminate all vestiges of the Confederacy and most certainly the veneration of the Confederacy. These same reporters and commentators marvel at the idiocy of the Civil War’s victors for  allowing for the honoring and glorifying of Confederate politicians, theoreticians, and soldiers.

Also these days, the world is being rocked by the specter of the Islamic State  which now controls a vast swath of Mesopotamia and is threatening to make a move on Damascus and perhaps Baghdad. From whence came these monsters? Let’s go back to beginning of the misery, 2003. The United States invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein – not literally just Saddam Hussein, but also the Ba’athist government he controlled. So the Americans occupy Iraq and what do they do? They eradicate the Ba’athist regime. The Ba’athist Party was essentially a secular Sunni party and the institution for the domination by Sunnis of Iraq’s Shi’ites and checking the aspirations of Shi’ite Iran. Disbanding the military and the police, run and led by Sunnis as a power center for the Ba’athists, firing Ba’athist officials from all government positions, and allowing for Shi’ite power in Iraq and Shi’ite influence from Iran meant the stripping of the Sunnis’ wealth, power, and safety. Then the killing began.

The Sunnis, besieged by the emergent Shi’ite government of Iraq, Iranian-advised and supported militias, the Americans, and by the Shi’ite powers in Syria and Lebanon, and without any secular state champion, radicalized into the ferocity that is the only story of Sunni success in the region, the Islamic State.

Suppose instead of Paul Bremer, the post-invasion viceroy of Iraq who had this pedigree:

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Bremer was educated at New Canaan Country School, and Phillips Andover Academy. Bremer graduated from Yale University in 1963 and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard University in 1966. He later continued his education at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, where he earned a Certificate of Political Studies (CEP)

the head of the occupational authority in Iraq had been a Southern gentleman who spent his life surrounded by Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davies Avenues, Highways, and statues and breathed in every day how peace was best established and maintained by treating the defeated South with dignity and honor and allowing Southerners to retain their myths and conceits, as awful as some of these myths and conceits were?
Would Iraq now be a stable democracy as the invasion had hoped to accomplish instead a disaster becoming more of a disaster every day? Come to think of it, the first head of the occupational authority, before Mr. Bremer, was Jay Montgomery Garner,  born in Florida and presumably raised there. His plan for Iraq was to form an integrated government including large numbers of vetted Ba’athists, acknowledging that they had the know-how to run Iraq. What happened to him? He got canned. And his plans for Iraq? Discarded.

Is it possible with a different attitude toward the defeated, Iraq would have turned out to be a success story in democratization and successful nation building? Could it have been that 150 years from now tourists would have walked around Baghdad (something now not even imaginable) and wondered how come those assholes didn’t tear down the Saddam Hussein statue in 2003?  Posted July 12, 2015.


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