Friday, February 09, 2007

"Sunni Arab guerillas": Why not name the groups?

According to Al-Hayat today, The deputy governor of Diyala province said: "members of AlQaeda and of armed groups allied with it" control entire cities in his province.

Juan Cole changed that to: "Sunni Arab religious radicals" control entire cities... Similarly he said yesterday "a radical Muslim group" claimed to have shot down the Chinook helicopter, adding "it isn't clear whether the Sunni Arab guerillas are getting better weapons..." even though that claim was actually made by a specific group, the Islamic State of Iraq.

Why not name the groups ? What's with the "Sunni Arab guerillas"?

USA today reports a resurgence of activity in the US by the KKK, but it doesn't call them "white Protestant terrorists", it calls them the KKK. Only combatants or partisans refer to specific combatant groups on the other side by their ethnic or religious names in preference to the specific group name, and the purpose behind that is often to stoke the underlying ethnic and religious hatred.

At some point in the future, post-Maliki, the question of Iraq-government power-sharing is going to be raised again, and died-in-the-wool partisans of the SCIRI-Dawa Shiite establishment would surely like to see the phrase "Sunni Arab" take on a negative coloration in the run-up to that. Juan seems to be helping out with that.

There's nothing wrong with being a supporter of the SCIRI-Dawa establishment. What's wrong is propagandizing for them under the guise of objective reporting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! It is important to keep a ‘close eye’ on Cole. His is not just an opinion. Rather he is an opinion influencer. For example, I remember the fellow who publishes another influential blog ‘TomDispatch’ (I believe it is called) wrote that he is so impressed with Cole that the first thing he reads each morning is Cole’s blog, and he encouraged others to do the same. Interestingly, Cole regularly links to that blog.

I have been suspect of Cole from the beginning of the war. I believe a careful content analysis of his writings will demonstrate that he clearly hates the Sunnis and he supported the strategic goals of the war (although he was critical of tactics). Nevertheless, it is important not to ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’: he is still an important read as long as one keeps his fact separated from his opinion in the guise of facts. To that end 'missing links' has become an invaluable complement to ‘Informed Comment.’

4:42 AM  
Anonymous Compulsive Reader said...

This is the guy whom, maybe two months ago, used the term "Sunniism" to describe, um, I don't know what the hell he was trying to describe or attribute. What's with Cole? Is he the Mahdi?!!

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was really funny.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous GJ said...

The sub editors of USA Today would assume their American audience would be aware of who the KKK is and that they are a white protestant movement and therefore not requiring of elaboration.

In contrast, the fractured nature and different/conflicting motivations of the multiplicity of Sunni based groups opposing the democratically elected majority Shiite Govt obviously requires clarification for broad audience. Goodness, I get confused and I'm pretty well read and informed, more so since reading this site. For instance the Islamic Army of Iraq is supposed to be a nationalist non sectarian grouping - but if so why has it not been continually denouncing the bombings of civilian Shia? The grim reality is the Sunni resistance has acquiesed or collaborated in the bombings and slaughter of tens of thousands of Shiites since August 2003 instead of co-opting them into a united front against the occupation. Surely this places a huge question mark over the Sunni leadership's resistance credentials and if not their competence?

2:55 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Ever think of writing for "Informed Comment"? Juan might need a day off now and again.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Jmp said...

America will prevail. Why? Freedom cannot be defeated. Once freedom is consumed. It is addictive. It is real. It is natural. What is false is ignorance and propaganda. You know in your heart that America is great. You know in your heart that America is what you yearn for--but don't know how to achieve. It will happen. You will embrace it in another name because you are cowards. Cowards who follow your leader without the balls to say what you think which is--no. This is not right!! Think for yourselves!! You know in your heart that those who would lead you want you to hate!! Why--because in your ignorance & poverty it consolidates their power as long as you remain ignorant and they provide you with propaganda!! Ask yourself--who wants to defeat the Iraqi government and the USA to fail? Who is defending it and dying for the possibility of a free Iraq? 3,033 US dead as of this writing. This surge--is the last chance for Iraq. God bless the Maliki Government, if they can hold on and build a unified political government, the will then be in a position to oversee a re-building of Iraq's economy, to being the civilian population jobs, etc. That is what we should be supporting. A new Iraq. Not an Iraq in the dark ages--split between old sectarian divides.
A Unified Iraq consisting of all peoples, Kurds, Sunni, and Shia, this is what we should pray to Allah God for. JMP

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Compulsive Reader said...


9:03 PM  
Anonymous JMP said...

to compulsive reader.
What? Be specific--what are you asking WHAT? Don't keep us guessing.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous gj said...

Heh, heh, I don't know that Dr Cole would approve of my lecturing Sunnis how to successfully run a liberation!

1:27 AM  
Blogger badger said...

what I meant is that tendentious oversimplifications and loony tunes will be deleted. There are plenty of other forums for that.

3:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cole is not the only one who hates sunnis... one must read the latest crap by noam chomsky in today's independent to see another sunni hater..or should I say an arab hater...
Layla Anwar.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The deputy governor (Ibrahim Hasan) of Diyala province to the east and northeast of Baghdad admitted that Sunni Arab religious radicals were in control of many of the province's cities and towns"

Maybe he got it from this site, and not the one you linked too? Nahhh...

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my bad - that site just reposted his information. blech.

so aside from my awful mistake - did he state where he got the information from..

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sigh. didn't mean to save that yet.

"did he ever state where he translated al queda from, and not sunni arab" - is this something that could be accidental, or could only be intentional?"

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone here said there weren't sunni arab radicals, but what is being debated is why aren't the Mahdi army and the other Shite Militia's referred to in the same way, when they are betraying Iraq more than the Sunni's to both Iran and the US?

12:04 PM  
Anonymous BigBalls said...

I'm not a Cole fan but I don't have a problem with what he wrote.

The deputy governor of Diyala province stated that 'AlQaeda' controls control entire cities in his province. Juan Cole then writes that even the deputy governor of Diyala province 'admits' that Suuni extreemists control entire cities in his province. Cole is pointing out that things are out of control and disintegrating fast.

Also, the use of term 'AlQaeda' by the deputy governer is more of a pejorative rather than an actual intelligence assessment.


1:28 PM  
Anonymous gj said...

Shiite militias are frequently labelled perjoratively in the US and Australian media.

It's not being "Sunni hater" to point out that the Baath was tiny minority regime imposed on a minority demographic which in turn imposed its will on 80 per cent of the rest of the population. The only way they could survive over 40 or so decades was by virtue of a ferocious police state. Unsurprisingly the Baath did not take kindly to being deprived of power, but it is hard to see how this state of affairs could have been maintained in the 21 st century? To maintain power over the overwhelming majority Saddam and later his sons would have had to resort to even greater war crimes against the people than they already had.

I have often seen Muqtada referred to by western commentators as a potential Shiite Saddam. I tend to agree with that assessment. But here I see that Saddam is referred to as a "martyr". This indicates an acceptance, even a preference, for despots and police states, one choosing one's tyrant according to one's political or sectarian biases?

In contrast the proportional representation electoral system ensures powersharing, encourages negotiation and consensus, puts breaks on the majority and ensures the minorities not only get a voice but also to participate in the government. Regular elections hold all accountable.Wouldn't this be a better system than tyrants, police states, torture and mass graves? Far from being a Sunni hater, I think it a tragedy the Sunni professional middleclass that gave Iraq its strength has emigrated to the neighbouring states to escape the consequences of the civil war for which their leaders are, at the very least, equally responsible.

3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Sunni's ruled for centuries in Iraq ( not 4 decades )and the Shia only ruled once in the past, go read history before you comment. I didn't read anywhere here that Saddam was a martyr unless it was a quotation which you'll find on the bbc as well.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous gj said...

Am well aware the Sunnis have been the ruling class of Iraq for centuries. I was referring specifically to the four decades of Baath regime which imposed itself on the Sunni minority eventually resulting in the present disaster.

An "Anonymous" poster referred to Saddam as the "martyred" president in an earlier thread regarding Syrian attempts to influence the Iraqi Baathists.

From my reading the Sunnis have for so long been the natural rulers of Iraq because they were/are the most educated class, the most progressive, the most secular and the most nationalistic. The first years of the Baath regime saw Iraq arguably leading the Arab world in modernisation, education and healthcare for most Iraqis not just Sunnis. But that all ended in the late 70s when Saddam and his family consolidated their power and turned the place into a Stalin-style police state based on veneration of Saddam.

It's not the Sunnis fault that the demographics are so badly against them and they are not responsible for the crimes of the Baath regime. But in this modern age there is simply no way minority regimes can get away with ruling 80% majorities without having to resort to the most vicious oppression. Saddam and his family pushed their luck once too far.

The Sunni leadership needs to frankly recognise this reality, comes to terms with it and acknowledge the crimes against the Shia and Kurds that were committed in their name, before a genuine reconciliation can take place - that is, in my humble, tendentious, oversimplified and loony opinion!

If/when they do, and their professional middleclass returns to Iraq, then they will surely rebuild a significant presence in the Iraqi govt. The new proportionally representative electoral system is designed to ensure such an outcome is possible. Surely the Arab Sunnis have far more in common with the secular Shiites and the Kurds than any of those three entities have with the religious Shiites and therefore have the potential of balancing them?

9:15 AM  
Anonymous gj said...

ps: one of the best ideas I have read, I think on this site, was having a summit in Mecca of all the Iraqi parties to the conflict. They could have a go at putting on the table an unconditional ceasefire and hammering out a genuine reconciliation statement. Even if they failed at the first attempt, it would be a start.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"From my reading the Sunnis have for so long been the natural rulers of Iraq because they were/are the most educated class, the most progressive, the most secular and the most nationalistic."

It was because they were the majority in the "Arab World" so they had the support of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia ( which weren't there at the time )and if you noticed even Arab Shia's don't like Iran, that goes back even before the Arabs came to Baghdad. To add to your knowledge it was the British who chose the Sunni's over the Shia's in that region because they were more reasonable and easier to approach. The only people who were educated were the Turks during the Ottman rule which is why when they were faced with the Europeans the Arabs didn't and couldn't help even if they wanted to, since they were unarmed of both knowledge and guns.

"But in this modern age there is simply no way minority regimes can get away with ruling 80% majorities without having to resort to the most vicious oppression."

Who are 80 % the Sunni's? they are more than 40% ( Kurds are Sunni's) the Arabs are more than 60% ( don't mix apples with bananas ) anyway that statistic is American so don't rely on it much if it had any relevance the reality on the ground would have been different, no? And this modern world everyone is going on about its a result of two world wars and hasn't effectively lasted for more than 40 years and its seems its loosing its hype? what is the new modern world going to look like Buddhist's and Chinese?Why don't you beat the clock and learn both, since you flip so much with time ?

"The Sunni leadership needs to frankly recognize this reality, comes to terms with it and acknowledge the crimes against the Shia and Kurds that were committed in their name, before a genuine reconciliation can take place"

The war has lasted more than the Second World War and the Causalities are only starting to kick in, and it seems the Chinese and the Russians have started to take advantage of the situation and are flexing their muscles pretty well, who has to realize the reality ? If you read History the only invader to manage to Win in the Middle East and stay there were the Mongolians and they ended up Muslims and won South East Asia for us, so unless you can do what they did I think you should "recognize this reality" at least its good to see some of your politicians have woke up at last.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous gj said...

Anon - thanks for your extra comments on Iraq's history, especially the reminder about the Ottmans.

My figures on the demographics - NOT from US sources but from results of Iraqi elections. In Oct 2005 Constitution referendum Sunni Arabs mustered about 20% of No vote in a Yes/No down-the-line divide. In the general election two months later they again were still only able to muster 20% of vote. That pretty much confirms size of their demographic presence.

Interesting to me was that the UIA party only got about 42% of vote in the general election. This indicates that as much as 18% of Shiite vote in the gen election went to independant and secular parties.

As a result, in my reading of it, if the Sunni insurgency leadership chose to properly enter the political process there is clearly much scope for them to build coalition with the independant Shia and also the Sunni Kurds which over time could more than match the pro-Iranian parties.

This would require reconciliation. More gallingly it would require a rapprochement with the US which much of the Sunni leadership would find hard to swallow for understandable reasons.

The alternative is to continue the war, as you seem to prefer. However the demographic numbers are so clearly against the Sunnis in this respect that its leadership needs to weigh up the prospect that the Sunnis might be driven out of Iraq entirely or at the very least consigned to an irrelevant bantustan status in Anbar Province?

Those are the issues that need to be considered in my op.

Again, thanks for your reply to my earlier post, it is very illuminating for me an Australian outsider to read the Sunni perspective and this site is invaluable in that respect.

12:06 PM  

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