“Iraqi Voters to Decide Whether to Speed U.S. Withdrawal” Ernesto Londono

Baghdad2 "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet is submitting a draft law to parliament asking it to authorize and fund a referendum on the bilateral agreement that regulates the presence of U.S. troops, the government announced.

The referendum would be held during January's national election.

U.S. officials have quietly lobbied the Iraqi government to suspend plans to hold the referendum, because they're all but certain voters would annul the agreement.

If that were to happen, U.S. troops would have one year to depart, moving up their targeted December 2011 withdrawal date by almost a year.

A simple majority opposed to the agreement would be enough to annul it, according to the cabinet's draft law, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

When the security agreement was negotiated last year, some lawmakers demanded that its implementation on Jan. 1 be followed by a referendum. The referendum was supposed to happen in July, but the government took no action, leading American officials to believe it would never happen. "  Londono


It is amazing how much we persist in not understanding the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Palestinians, the Israelis, etc.

As a nation, we Americans are so committed to the idea of the essential sameness of people that this phenomenon, that of our own "cluelessness," arises time after time to bite us in the arse.

A year or so ago I was at an alumni event at my BAM (beloved alma mater) and at the obligatory dinner was seated with some nice people.  Among them was a classmate who offered the opinion that he had learned that "people are pretty much the same everywhere."  This fellow had lived in various places, had served in SE Asia and he still believed this to be true.  This event occurred in 2006, the absolute nadir of our experience in Iraq.  He was looking at me as he said it and it was clear that what he was really saying was that people like me who have a bizarre interest in the un-sameness of people are just useless.  People around the table understood the challenge perfectly well and sat looking at me, waiting.  I ignored him.  He said, "well?"  So, I said that sadly he was wrong about this.  He told me that I would see the truth in the outcome in Iraq.

OK.  Now, I see the truth.

If there is such a referendum, the SOFA will be annulled and we will leave a year early.  We won't?  Just wait and see.  We will leave because we will have no choice and all the oil in the world won't make the slightest difference in that process.

The Iraqis are a badly divided group of peoples, but not so badly divided that they will not vote to get us out of their country as soon as possible.

Why?  Because their ways and our ways are too incompatible for them to tolerate us any longer than they must.  Could we have softened this attitude toward us?  Yes, but that would have required that we actually respect their ways, which we never did.  pl



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22 Responses to “Iraqi Voters to Decide Whether to Speed U.S. Withdrawal” Ernesto Londono

  1. JohnH says:

    “It is amazing how much we persist in not understanding.”
    No it’s not. If we understood Iraqis, Afghans, Palestinians, etc., then we might feel a need to address their grievances and aspirations.
    Not understanding means that we can pursue our “national interest” without any second thoughts about its effects.
    Shielding decision makers from the impact of their decisions is what allows Washington, Wall Street, the health insurance industry, etc. etc. to do what they do.
    Think of these decision makers as drones on steroids.

  2. New Orleans says:

    It seems to me you prove the point that people everywhere are the same. If I were voting on speeding up the removal of occupation troops in the U.S., I have no doubt I would vote to have them out immediately. And I would be surprised if the people of Iraq were to do otherwise.
    OK, I concede that it’s silly to believe we all think the same. I don’t think like my siblings, let alone like people halfway around the world. But there are some common threads, and the hatred of meddling outsiders strikes me as one.

  3. YT says:

    “Ignorance is bold and knowledge reserved.” :Thucydides
    Col.,sir: The only similarities I know of between peoples of different ethnicities is that they are all prone to greed, violence & temptation. Can’t recall the simpler version of what the former strategos said ’bout human nature. My ignorant two cents.

  4. Matthew says:

    I sat next a nice lady on flight to Denver last week, who told me her son had just returned from Iraq and was a “proud parent” of the Iraqi democracy.
    For some strange reason, she was not amused when I told her that the Iraqis wanted us to leave, like yesterday.
    The Iraqis never really appreciated the forced adoption.
    Would we?

  5. VietnamVet says:

    If evolution is true, it appears that all modern humans came from a group living on the coast of South Africa just 30,000 to 100,000 years ago. They are the first to have the modern stone tools and culture that spread across the world. This is the foundation of the claim that we are all the same. We all have the same needs and emotions.
    What is different is culture and language. But, just from my observation, individuals, even if raised in different cultures but speak English, they are more “modern”, educated and less chauvinistic than those who only speak their native language, for example, the Chinese.
    Fundamentalists of all monotheist religions have this same chauvinism and behave the same though they won’t admit it.
    It is innate in man to defend their homes from foreign Invaders. Scots, Virginians, and Iraqis all have fought foreign invaders. It is just that the Afghans are the best having fought and won for thousands of years. Not admitting this most basic human truths is the strategic fault of the Pentagon and Washington DC that will collapse the American Empire.

  6. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Anyone care to speculate on the “Consequences?”
    Would be an interesting and relevant question for “The National Journal.”

  7. Cato the Censor says:

    In respect to people being the same everywhere, I don’t think anybody except Vidkun Quisling is going to appreciate being invaded by another country. In that respect, your fellow alumnus may have had a point, but not much of one.
    With respect to Iraq passing a referendum to speed up US withdrawal, this only underlines the point you’ve made to skeptics convinced that the US secretly plans to continue our military presence in Iraq, despite strong negative popular opinion on the question in that country and our own. How could we continue that presence in the face of united opposition from the Iraqis? The argument that we could linger on if we like seems especially tenuous when we reach the point where there are only 30-50,000 US troops stationed there.
    To my mind, the sooner we get out the better. For one thing, the real story about the many wretched war crimes that the Bush/Cheney regime has committed in Iraq might finally start to emerge in full.

  8. Let’s see:
    We invade their country, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, cannot repair their infrastructure, have alien religious beliefs, reduce their government to quasi-colonial status, trumpet our cultural superiority over them.
    And now they want us to leave?
    This must be some strange Arab custom. No American would act like that if perchance the Chinese, the Russians, or somebody were to do that to us.

  9. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Oho, I would never say the Iraqis are the same as us; in fact I say that some typically Iraqi game is being played here.
    Mr. Nouri’s purposes are surely tied to his new coalition’s electoral advantage, otherwise why have the referendum concurrently with the national elections?
    The standard electoral reason of placing a referendum on the ballot along with legislative elections is to boost turnout for a particular group or profile of voters.
    So what group of voters will be more motivated to turnout by the referendum?
    And wait for the wording of the referendum question before you make any conclusions.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    OK. We are alike in some things but different enough that any attempt to deal with alien peoples without understanding the differences is suicidal. Actually, many of you are demonstrating the inability of many Americans to deal adequately with human cultural difference and the significance of that. If you really think that the reactions of population groups across the world are the same when faced with crisis you are just wrong and have learned nothing from recent history.pl

  11. VincentS says:

    How many Americans have lived in other lands, or even honestly explored other peoples’ ways? Not enough. I lived for a few years in The Future (Tokyo) and came back utterly changed.
    The biggest realization was that, hell yes, humans all struggle with the same choices and issues. But one absolutely cannot expect (hell no!) to get along with others who live differently without tremendous sensitivity and adaptability. This means you, the outsider, adapting first, for those not getting the message.
    The second realization of living apart is of one’s feelings for one’s own birthplace. Empire, noble psuedo-empire or beacon of democracy, I’m arrogant enough to say the future of America must welcome more immigrants and accumulate not just stamps in our passports but millions more visas.

  12. Jackie says:

    In the run-up to the war on Iraq, I would have conversations with various people explaining to them that even though I despised Bush, if a foreign country came into the U.S. to overthrow him I would fight tooth and nail to keep the guy. And if that country wanted to occupy the United States, I would fight that to the death also.
    I think that is our similarity to the Iraqis. They didn’t want our guy to overthrow their guy and vice versa. A matter of national pride, I guess. And I would certainly vote for a referendum to get said foreign occupying army out of the U.S.

  13. Cieran says:

    I would suggest that the primary reason behind the desire to believe that “we are all the same” is simple intellectual laziness. One-size-fits-all theories are infinitely easier to comprehend than competing notions that require myriad special-case considerations.
    The list of commonly-held-but-fallacious over-idealizations that fail to accommodate the obvious considerations of the real world is long and undistinguished: the topic under discussion here may merely be one more example of this unfortunate form.
    So perhaps one truly common human characteristic is that we really don’t like to do any more intellectual heavy-lifting than absolutely necessary. Hence our desire to “understand” the world by projecting our own simplemindedness onto it.
    Or to borrow from Anais Nin, “we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are”

  14. DWhite says:

    “It is innate in man to defend their homes from foreign Invaders. Scots, Virginians, and Iraqis all have fought foreign invaders.”
    I assume you are referring to the War of 1812 with the Virginia reference.

  15. Grae Castle says:

    we’ve managed to exchange ugly for clueless. moved from naive to intentional.
    yet another new 3% are having their obligatory chuckle at the angst…

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    Very good. Mis-state your interlocutor’s point and then comment on it.
    Nevertheless, an inability to see that the various Iraqi groups would pretty much always vote for candidates and parties from their own ethno-religious community was rather suicidal. pl

  17. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Not to put words in the mouth of Vietnam Vet, but his reference to Virginians defending themselves against foreign invaders probably was a reference to the War Between the States, commonly known in my neck of the woods as the American Civil War. Virginians had resolved to part company with the United States of America, and to agglomerate with others of like mind into the Confederate States of America. Out in the western reaches of Virginia, this resolve was not shared, and a secession within a secession resulted in the birth of the new state of West Virginia.

  18. isl says:

    As noted, there are many aspects of the human condition that must be common.
    Yet, at a different level, value systems are dramatically different. Americans tend to start by assuming that “… ours is the best on the planet (observe the health care debate even though longevity statistics bear this to be delusional), and therefore all will see that our values are inherently superior. Here, key blinded intelligenteratsi (Milton Friedman?) mistake soda pop, for culture and value systems.
    Having lived in Europe, where development is not an issue, the differences with the US are stark. Globally, the US repeatedly ignores these to its repeated detriment. When the dollar crashes as globally no one has another trillion or two or more to lend us, I suspect not a friend will be found – thanks to our insensitivity we should expect insistence that we adapt to a different value system. I doubt the process will be pleasant.

  19. N. M. Salamon says:

    While it is true that on the basis of genetics, most humans are similar; it is also true that culture defines individual human nature.
    Along the lines of Goethe [of Faust fame] a person who does not speak two languages does not understand his own. As the powees to be in the elite class of the USA are almost all monolingual, they can not comprehend their own culture, never mind the culture of others – they are dependent on spin in politics, in economics and in advertizing. This is the greatest failing of USA Foreign policy, and it is the reason that the USA has never won any major wars [excl WWI and WWII in cooperation with others]. Recalling Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afganistan and Somalia the prospects for the future are dim.

  20. Great post! Of course what the world outside the US now fears is not the Armed Forces of the US but the self-absorbtion, ego’s and ignorance of our leadership in both the government and private sectors.Pride goeth before the fall? I could argue the GODS have made the leadership of the US Crazy!

  21. Fred says:

    “… many of you are demonstrating the inability of many Americans to deal adequately with human cultural difference ..”
    One doesn’t have to leave the USA to find the truth of this. There’s plenty of cultural differences within the geography of any large US city, be it Boston, Miami, Milwaukee or LA. Not to mention the difference between places like Big Timber Montana and Detroit. Our political leadership excels in exploiting the differences, not in bridging them.

  22. Of course forgot to add the phrase “Whom the Gods would destroy they first make crazy.”

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