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Monday, 26 March 2007
Shi'ite Dreamer

Hugh Fitzgerald has written many times about the westernized Shi'ites who had a very pollyannish view of Iraq and imbued the American Administration with the same. So much so that the Americans were planning a big trade show in Baghdad immediately after the fall of Saddam because they believed in an Iraqi middle-class of the kind Kanan Makiya represents. Makiya continues along the same garden path, dreaming of "green spaces" in a re-vamped Baghdad and blaming the deep sectarian fissures between Sunni and Shi'a on American mistakes in this profile article in the IHT:

...Chief among the culprits, he said, were the Iraqis picked by the Americans in 2003 to sit on the Iraqi Governing Council, many of them exiles, who tried to create popular bases for themselves by emphasizing sectarian and ethnic differences.

"Sectarianism began there," he said.

Makiya said he preferred not to name names. But it is well known that he had a falling out with Chalabi after Chalabi began courting Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, to win support in Iraq's first national elections. For years before the war, Makiya had toiled with Chalabi to organize the Iraqi exiles who, despite disparate ideologies, stood united in their hatred of Saddam.

Then there is the issue of American policy. "Everything they could do wrong, they did wrong," Makiya said. "The first and the biggest American error was the idea of going for an occupation."...

I don't know that the Americans deliberately went for occupation. It seems to me the security situation got out of hand very unexpectedly and quickly because we were expecting a nation of Kanan Makiyas and instead found ourselves with a nation full of Moqtada al-Sadrs instead.

Mustafa Kadhimi, the Baghdad director of the Iraq Memory Foundation, said Makiya's faith in his homeland was wavering.

"When Saddam fell, Kanan started to discover many things he didn't have before in his mind," Kadhimi said in his office inside Baghdad's Green Zone. "Kanan is really shocked about what's going on the ground. He's starting to lose his hope that we can build a new Iraq, a real Iraq."

Last summer, Makiya, who studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed a sweeping urban renewal project to Iraqi officials on a trip to Baghdad. The idea was to create, in the heart of the city, a pedestrians-only green space.

"You're talking about a massive rethinking of the city," Makiya said, waving his hand across a satellite map of Baghdad hanging on one wall. "Someone has to keep dreaming."...

Posted on 03/26/2007 10:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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