Wednesday, April 07, 2004
"In Falluja, a reporter for the Associated Press saw cars carrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, following the US air strike.

The US Marine colonel said his troops attacked the mosque complex because Sunni insurgents were using the site to fire on US forces with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

'If they barricade themselves inside a mosque, we are not going to care about the mosque any more than they do' -- Maj Gen James Mattis, 1st Marine Division commander"

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US bombards Iraq mosque complex

This isn't good -- an understatement. If even during the Middle Ages someone could call for sanctuary within a church, shouldn't mosques, churches and synagogues be off limits for bombing as well? Not only do they represent relentless revenge, but they also plant further seeds for anti-US hatred among those who feel their religion has been disrespected. I think we have seen enough of what blind retaliation has to offer us.

In the words of Hannah Arendt, revenge "acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered the natural, automatic reaction to transgression and because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated." (The Human Condition, p241).

I remember when I first really understood why hatreds are built into the core of identity and do not die out over the years. I was fifteen, and had just watched the movie Before the Rain, a fantastic movie about the story of retaliation and blind hatred. It dawned on me for the first time that people really did hate each other simply because they were born on different sides of a feud, here the Albanians and Macedonians. Such bitter hatred seemed so senseless at the time, and yet the more I grew up the more I started to take this concept for granted.

Revenge isn't something new to us. It's as old as humanity itself, "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth." But if we look to history for lessons, we see that resentment goes a long way. If it is allowed to fester and escalate, it will not die with a generation, or with the memories of a past war. As in Germany after WWI, when many people feel unjustly treated, they can provide a fresh base for violent populist causes.

So what can be done in Iraq? Well, maybe -- just maybe -- giving Iraqis a public voice of their own. While the coalition has been so busy debating what is best for Iraq, no one's really asked Iraqis what they want. Salam Pax had a fantastic post on this a couple of months ago. I am taking the liberty of block quoting him:

Have you been noticing all the talk about Iraq as a federal country lately? Something made me itch every time I heard and Iraqi or CPA official talk about it, first I couldn’t figure out was bothering me, but during the long long drive to Amman I was finally able to put my finger on it. No one asked us what we thought of the idea.
I remember almost a month ago when Zibari (our minister for foreign affairs) talked about federalism and I thought “that’s nice we are starting the discussion finally”. I was wrong it was not a discussion; it was a done and made deal. It got so silly that Kurds and Arabs are having real trouble about the issue, the Kirkuk incident was . I can’t remember anyone asking me what I thought about the whole issue, neither was it put to debate openly. Someone high and mighty suddenly decided that is what’s good for you, and we are going thru the process of trying to fit into that prĂȘt-a-porter federalism. “The Officials” are not discussing whether that system is good for us or not they are way beyond that point, they are discussing into how many pieces Iraq is going to be cut up. Along “ethnic” lines or by governorates.
Have I mentioned already that we were not asked?

Looks like the doctors should maybe ask the patient what she feels before administering their doses.


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