2006 June 10 Saturday
Iraq Talibanization Leads To Ban On Falafel Stands

I'd expect to hear this in some comedy skit but here it is in real life.

In a bizarre example of Iraq's creeping "Talibanisation", militants visited falafel vendors a fortnight ago, telling them to pack up their stalls by today or be killed.

The ultimatum seemed so odd that, at first, most laughed it off - until two of them were shot dead as they plied their trade.

"They came telling us, 'You have 14 days to end this job' and I asked them what was the problem," said Abu Zeinab, 32, who was packing up his stall for good yesterday in the suburb of al Dora, a hardline Sunni neighbourhood.

"I said I was just feeding the people, but they said there were no falafels in Mohammed the prophet's time, so we shouldn't have them either.

"I felt like telling them there were no Kalashnikovs in Mohammed's time either, but I wanted to keep my life."

This brings to mind a great scene in the movie Lawrence Of Arabia. Right after Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) kills the guide Talas in response Peter O'Toole as TE Lawrence says.

"Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they remain a little people. A silly people! Greedy, barbarous, and cruel-as you are!"

Some of those dull minds in Iraq are banning falafel stands. How little and silly can you get?

I do not expect that the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi will make the falafel stand killers any more reasonable.

Lawyers in Iraq are very afraid.

Such is the life of a lawyer in a nearly lawless society. Iraq's legal system, once one of the most secular in the Middle East, is a shambles. If a "Law and Order" spinoff were set in Baghdad, it would feature police who are afraid to investigate sectarian murders (or are complicit in them, many say), lawyers afraid to take either side of a case and risk the wrath of powerful militias or well-armed gangs, judges assassinated for the decisions they have handed down, and the occasional car bombing at the courthouse.

These events probably have little or nothing to do with the foreign fighters who were under Zarqawi. Criminal gangs and militias will continue to kidnap, kill, and rob.

Now, many of the best-educated have fled the country, and yet life goes on in the lawyers' union, Iraq's equivalent of a bar association, which has 42,000 members nationwide. Well-dressed attorneys flitted in and out of Hamdoun's office quietly, asking the union leader to sign papers. Downstairs, they met in the dark, cigarette smoke-filled cafeteria below Hamdoun's office, where they talked shop with each other or their clients. Their sentiment was unanimous: They preferred the dictator's law to none at all.

"We were waiting for the day when Saddam was gone," said one lawyer, Ali Gatie al-Jubouri, who spent nine years studying engineering in Michigan, only to become a lawyer after he inherited a fortune in property from his father. "But now we feel sorry that Saddam's days are over. It's a tragedy."

These lawyers are right about the lawlessness. A recent kidnapping group rounded up 56 people in one fell swoop.

Many people, like Shamaa's friend, believe the kidnappers are actually police. Usually the hostages are held for ransom. Sometimes they are killed because of their faith or ethnicity.

The fate of the 56 people was unknown Monday night. But the scale and audacity of the operation were unusual even by the capital's lawless standards.

The gunmen seized workers from several bus companies that offer transport to Syria and Jordan, witnesses and police said. Others of those taken were passengers aboard the buses: Syrian businessmen going home, a handful of Palestinians, Iraqis. Many Iraqis are leaving their own country precisely because it is the sort of place where a trip to the bus stop can end with being led away at gunpoint.

The US invasion - and insufficient US soldiers to maintain order - shattered Iraq. Humpty Dumpty had a big fall. All King George's horse and all King George's men can't put Iraq back together again.

People are afraid to report kidnappings to the police.

Abduction statistics are unreliable because many families do not report crimes, fearing the police as much as they do the kidnapping gangs.

Imagine living in a country where you would be afraid to report a kidnapping. We can't trust official figures on the number killed since many of the kidnapped and killed never even get reported as kidnapped, let alone killed.

Many US soldiers want to succeed in their mission and some insist on going back even after serious injuries. (and see this chart of the rate of wounding of US soldiers in Iraq) But Iraq's biggest problem is the Iraqi people. Too many Iraqis are willing to join criminal gangs and insurgencies and too few feel much motivation to personally fight against the lure of factional loyalty, the insurgents, the criminal gangs, and the fundamentalist Muslims.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 June 10 04:07 PM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights

John S Bolton said at June 11, 2006 2:53 AM:

A moslem country is going to be an atrocitocracy; who can impose the rule of law on those who by their faith, are commanded to pursue the rule of violence?
Our present-day government is by no means clear that what they mean by freedom, is freedom from, or freedom for, aggression.
Meanwhile, it's nation-building for Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo; then perhaps Sudan, Somalia and Iran, and nation-demolition for America.
The US cannot command its Army or Marine corps, to send troops sufficient for any such nation-building projects.
Proof of this, is the need to use the National Guard in large numbers and %, even years after the initial intervention in Iraq.
They have to use the militias, because they refuse to give promotions to 'white men without disabilities' on the scale which would be required.
That would cause the % of minority officers to decline, so it's out of the question, for the quotamongers.
They would rather use a large part of the military as alternative welfare projects for the disadvantaged minorities, than transfer them to Iraq in sufficient numbers, since minority enlistment and retention would drop relentlessly, if they did.
Perhaps this is also part of what is meant by high officials, who want to push blame far down the ranks.
They can't mobilize sufficient numbers from the Army and Marine corps without pushing the minority percentages, quite far down.

Conrad said at June 11, 2006 11:33 PM:

Are there some people (some cultures) that can only be governed by a police state?

John S Bolton said at June 12, 2006 2:08 AM:

One could put through a better system for moslem countries, but it means ruthless war in the first instance.
America does not have the will to imperialize subject peoples, and tell them every detail of how their society is to be run, while killing as many as would need to be killed in such countries.
Equality, brotherhood and openness to humanity in general, without discrimination, have stepped on an IED. Everyone wants the same things we do, says the paraplegic 'brother' of the oppressed moslem.
It is not thoroughly unnatural for people to want power, and to fail to conceive of the complex social order in which they might safely desire only freedom from aggression.

Randall Parker said at June 12, 2006 4:22 PM:


Some societies sure act like they need at least a moderate authoritarian police state.

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