Meanwhile for the New York Times' Sunday "Week In Review" section, Anthony Shadid contribues an essay entitled "In Iraq, Divvying Up the Spoils of Political War." The essay exists as an example of why Shadid became a bit of a name and why he's long ago hit a glass wall. His ability to obtain a telling quote from an official, his ability to mesh it all into a narrative compete with his refusal to see a full picture and to force things to fit when they do not, in fact, fit:
The United States was always simplistic in seeing Iraq, before the invasion, through the lens of sect and ethnicity. In that, it found like minds in members of Iraq’s formerly exiled opposition, which largely operated according to the same calculus. Mr. Bremer relied inordinately on them to choose the Governing Council, and they demanded numbers commensurate with what they saw as their demographic weight. Sect and ethnicity was thus a key determinant of who was chosen. In the end, with those decisions, the United States, aided by the exiles, helped bring to post-invasion reality its own pre-invasion preconceptions.
"I honestly believe that we all share responsibility," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, one of the members of the body. He blamed Saddam Hussein's withering oppression of Shiites and Kurds for forcing the once-exiled opposition to coalesce the way it did; indeed, Mr. Hussein did much to reinforce Iraq’s divisions. But, Mr. Rubaie added, "I think we fell into a trap."
In words at least, politicians have pledged to end the system of muhasisa, or quotas. The promise was a mainstay of the election campaign. ("Either quotas and corruption, or water, electricity and jobs," one poster read.) Many politicians lament its emergence as the political arithmetic, even as they work strenuously to reinforce it.
First off, it's laughable that Paul Bremer is still the focal point for the Bush policy. Is the Times to afraid to call out the Bush strategy that Bremer executed? That should probably read: Still too afraid. I'm not fan of Paul Bremer and criticized him in real time when he was in Iraq and have criticized him since but I don't use him as cover to avoid criticizing his boss.
Second, the thrust is: Quotas bad. We fix quotas, we fix all.
Again, the pieces just don't fit together. Shadid is aware, isn't he, that Iraq 'addressed' quotes before the March 7th election?
He's aware, isn't he, that quotas was one of the hold ups for passage of the election law?
So he should be aware that quotas were reduced. Which group suffered?
No group mentioned in his article.
He wants to focus on Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. (Oh my.) Their quotas really weren't messed with. The refugees were messed with -- external refugees. And some would argue that the external refugees include a large number of Sunnis; however, the more important and telling grouping might be that the external refugees include a lot of Iraqi Christians.
And there is where the target was. That's who got targeted, the religious minorities. They were targeted as refugees and they were targeted within the country. That's who got 'dealt with' in the election law, that's who had their representation reduced.
So if you're going to talk about Iraqi society and you're going to explore the issue of quotas, you need to deal with facts and not build your story around claims. Shadid builds his essay around claims. Claims of what might have been, of what could be and blah blah blah. His sources don't know what's going to happen and don't know what would happen if reductions in, say, Kurdish representation in Parliament took place.
But if he really wanted to write on this topic, all he had to do was to explore what's happened to members of Iraq's religious community. It's not pie in the sky for them, it's not abstract, it's not potential, it's not gas bagging. It has already happened to them, what Shadid's writing about has already taken place for them. But what happened to them doesn't fit his argument so he ignores them. An argument could be made that Shadid's attempting to look where Iraq could be. Looking for where it could be does not excuse ignoring where it currently is.
The strongest section of the essay is the ending, where Shadid quotes former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. I always feel like the meanest person in the world for beating up on Anthony Shadid (someone who you could argue could drown in all the praise he's earned) but if you want to write about quota reductions or eliminations, you need to include what happened on that very topic. Again, this was the big issue that delayed the election law. This was a major issue in October and November and the March 7th ballot reflected that outcome. You want to push a thesis on quotas, you better have some supporting evidence of some form.
We'll close by noting the following:
Tomorrow - Sunday, June 27, 2010 - Senator Levin will appear on CBS's Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
Face the Nation airs at different times on different stations, so check your local listings for the time and channel in your area.
We hope you'll have a chance to tune in and watch Senator Levin.
Senator Levin had a very busy week including chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on PTSD, TBI and military suicides as well as chairing a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Gen Ray Odierno (currently the top US commander in Iraq) for the post of Commander, US Join Forces Command and of Lt Gen Lloyd Austin for Odierno's current position.
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