Fwd: [saymaListserv] Thomas Friedman Op/Ed piece on Iraq

Janet Minshall jhminshall at attbi.com
Thu May 1 13:40:56 JEST 2003


Hi Michael,  Thanks for forwarding the Tom Friedman piece.  SAYMA 
Friends might be interested in his point of view.  He has won three 
Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2002 for his commentary, and is 
Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times. You may not enjoy 
or agree with what he has to say, but it is
important to know what he has to say.  Many Friends need an entry 
into the other political and economic realities (sets of truths) 
which are different from those held by most Friends, and Tom 
Friedman's writing is a good entry point.

His books that I have read are:  The Lexus and The Olive Tree: 
Understanding Globalization, and Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring 
the World After September 11.  The Lexus.. is in paperback and 
published by Anchor Books/Randon House in 2000, and Longitudes.. is 
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2002.

				Janet





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>Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 21:28:41 -0400
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>From: Michael Austin Shell <bright_crow at mindspring.com>
>Subject: [saymaListserv] Thomas Friedman Op/Ed piece on Iraq
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>Dear Friends,
>
>This is a very important Op/Ed piece from the 4/30/03 NY TIMES by 
>Thomas Friedman.  It addresses concerns about the future of the 
>Iraqi people and their self-governance which all of us should attend 
>to.  In particular, Friedman's Point 3 gives a good summary 
>explanation of crucial facts about historical Shiism which most 
>Americans do not know or understand.
>
>Traditional Shiism going back centuries has taught that religion and 
>the state should be separate.  The blurring of the two in modern 
>Iran is one version of what has happened often in the history of 
>Islam: in reaction to an abusive, secular government, religious 
>leaders decide that they should be the government.  Iraqi Shiites 
>tend toward the more traditional ethic of separation, but the 
>influence of the movement lead by conservatives in Egypt and Iran is 
>great.
>
>I encourage you to read and share this piece, and to seek further information.
>
>A good additional source is Karen Armstrong's short, articulate 
>book, ISLAM: A SHORT HISTORY (NY: Modern Library, 2000).
>
>Blessed Be,
>Michael.
>
>
><><><><><><><>
>This article is reproduced from the NEW YORK TIMES
>
>
>Dear President Bush
>
>April 30, 2003
>THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
>
>Memo to: President Bush, the White House
>From: Saddam Hussein, in a Baghdad basement
>
>Well, you sure ruined my birthday. . . . O.K., you won, and your 
>prize is Iraq. Are you ready for it? I don't think so. Truth is, I 
>hope you fail. But because my people have suffered enough, I'll give 
>you a few tips on how to run this place, before you make a total 
>mess:
>
>   (1) Yes, Iraq was the way it was, in part, because I was the way I 
>was - and I was a bad boy. But what you're seeing now is that I was 
>the way I was, in part, because Iraq was what it is - a very 
>difficult place to rule without an iron fist. You see, I know the 
>Iraqi people didn't want me. And you will soon discover they don't 
>want you. The big question here has always been: Do they want each 
>other? Can Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis find a way to live together 
>without an iron fist holding them together? Maybe, but they're not 
>going to find it on their own. They are going to need a firm hand 
>guiding them. You need to have a very clear idea of where you want 
>to take this place, because, trust me, if you don't, others will.
>
>   (2) If you want to build a self-governing authority here, you had 
>better understand that "shock and awe" is not just for war-making. 
>It's an everyday tool for running this place. Why did it take you 
>two weeks to throw out that bozo who declared himself mayor of 
>Baghdad? What about all the others? You now have armed gangs or 
>Shiite clerics grabbing control all over the country. You thought 
>that you were just going to decapitate my army and then rely on it 
>to run the place for you. But the whole army collapsed instead, and 
>you don't have enough troops here to fill the security vacuum. So 
>when a few of your guys come under fire, they panic and start 
>shooting up the place. I ran Iraq with an iron fist. You're trying 
>to run it on the cheap with an iron finger. No way. This ain't 
>Norway here, pal. Your powerlessness will scare people here much 
>more than your power.
>
>   (3) When you broke my army, you broke the most important secular 
>institution in the country, and the clerics are rushing to fill the 
>void. Some are O.K., and some are bad news. Since the Shiites make 
>up 60 percent of Iraq, if you're going to let the people here rule, 
>that means the most important question for you is: Who dominates the 
>Iraqi Shiite community? Not only is the future of Iraq at stake in 
>the answer, but also, to some extent, the future of Iran.
>
>   How so? Remember, the real academic and spiritual center of Shiism 
>is the Iraqi town of Najaf, not the Iranian city of Qom. Qom is a 
>backwater that became religiously important only because I crushed 
>my Shiites, while Khomeini created a Shiite theocracy in Iran.
>
>   Most Iraqi Shiite spiritual leaders in Najaf have long opposed 
>Khomeini's notion that Shiite clerics should be in power. They think 
>this has corrupted the clergy in Iran, angered the people and driven 
>young Shiites away from their religion. You've now set off a fight 
>for control of Najaf, between those Iraqi Shiite leaders who believe 
>in the separation between mosque and state, and the pro-Iranian 
>clerics who want to run Iraq Khomeini-style. That's why the Iranians 
>are so concerned about what's happening here. They know if Najaf 
>re-emerges as the center of Shiism - and if it's dominated by Iraqi 
>ayatollahs who don't believe that the clergy should be in politics - 
>the claim of the Iranian clergy to remain in power will be weakened.
>
>   This is the most important power struggle in the Middle East 
>today. For now, the Iraqi Shiite clergy in Najaf are weak. They 
>don't have many senior clerics. I kept it that way. But you can't 
>just install your own Iraqi Shiite leaders. They will have to emerge 
>on their own. You need to create the conditions in Najaf whereby 
>students can come back and the natural Iraqi-Arab Shiite traditions 
>can flower again to counter the Iranians.
>
>   (4) Always remember: This is an Arab country. Iraqis want to be 
>first-class Arabs, not second-class Americans. If you want to build 
>a legitimate, moderate political center here, you need to enlist 
>some help, and some cover, from Arab states and the U.N. Iraqis will 
>eventually want their parties and leaders legitimized by the Arab 
>world and media. They won't want to be seen as U.S. stooges. They 
>don't watch Fox News here.
>
>   Mr. Bush, I know you're wondering why I did not do more to avoid 
>this war, which ended my political life. What in the world was I 
>thinking? Who was I listening to? The answer isI was listening only 
>to myself. Don't make my mistake.
>
>http//www.nytimes.com/2003/04/30/opinion/30FRIE.html?ex=1052714332&ei=1&en=4ad671d9c64f1b36
>
>For general information about NYTimes.com, write to help at nytimes.com.
>
>Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
>
>
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