April 2, 2004

Iraq After One Year

Karl Zinsmeister's observations from a January trip to Iraq include this exchange between U.S. officers and one of the imams that had been preaching inflammatory sermons and inciting to violence:

Akram recognizes that this is a climactic conversation, and finally answers carefully: "Iraq is our country, but it is now occupied. We must accept the status quo. So I am going to try to avoid these subjects that have created misunderstanding."

Haight confronts him forcefully: "But you told me that on Wednesday. And then you went right out on Friday and conjured up more violence anyway. You know what? You may deny you are instigating attacks, but when you say people should attack 'infidels' and 'the enemies of Islam' they think of one thing: this uniform [tugging hard at his own sleeve]. And you both know that!"

Akram: "In my Friday prayers I asked God to 'kill the enemies of religion, wherever you find them, split them, destroy them, wherever you find them.' I did not say Americans or British."

Fuller, exploding: "I don't care who you said to kill! You cannot tell people to kill others. No holy man would do that! Where does the Koran sanction such a thing?"

Akram: "I have been doing that for 20 years. Saddam never objected to this."

Haight: "Then you've been wrong for 20 years."

Akram: "OK. I'm not going to say it from now on."

Fuller: "Yeah, and you promised that last time, then broke your word just a few days later."

Akram: "When you asked me to this meeting I consulted with my mentor at the Religious Science Organization. He counseled me to avoid words like 'enemies,' 'unbelievers,' and so forth, so I am going to try. I will preach only about patience, the Koran, and such. I will leave the problem alone now."

Dodging, rationalizing, and backpedaling when forced to, Akram and Riyad are skating at the brink of arrest for inciting violence. But American officers throughout Iraq are striving mightily to avoid such detainments. They are bending over backward to show respect for imams, mosques, and the Muslim religion, so as not to feed paranoia that the U.S. presence in Iraq is part of a crusade against Islam.

And here's Jeff Jacoby on "What's Gone Right in Iraq"

Posted by dan at April 2, 2004 10:47 PM