Roberts Owes Iraqi People Apology

As an Iraqi, I took serious offense to Paul Craig Roberts’ patronizing article, “Muslim Disunity: A Religion Divided Among Itself,” in Counterpunch, March 2, 2010. Roberts audaciously states that the “reason Americans are still in Iraq is because the Iraqis hate each other more than they hate the American invader.” Roberts blames the vast majority of the violence in the war on Iraqis themselves. It almost defies logic that, after the murder of 200,000 people in the 1991 war, the death of about 1.7 million under 12 year-long sanctions, the murder of more than 1.2 million under yet another war, brutal military occupation and the unrestrained use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium, Iraqis have caused more damage to themselves than the United States has. It is a claim as bizarre as Zionists’ complaints about Palestinian resistance in an asymmetrical warfare setting; while Israel possesses nuclear weapons, tanks and F-16’s, with which they murdered over 1,400 people in Gaza last year, Palestinians get the brunt of the criticism for killing 13 Israelis. Roberts’ condescending assertion, that Iraqis have harmed themselves more than the US has, echoes Donald Rumsfeld’s delusional statement: “The sooner the Iraqis can defend their own people and generate revenue, the sooner they will be self-reliant and not dependent on either foreign troops or international assistance.”

Roberts also insults the Iraqi resistance by stating it inflicted losses on the American superpower “in their spare time” off from fighting Shi’is. Completely disregarding 1,400 years of Islamic history, a single athletic dispute leads Roberts to conclude that “Muslims cannot even play together”. This focus on an isolated event is selective, as Mr. Roberts doesn’t appear to recall that Sunnis and Shiis both celebrated the Iraqi soccer team’s victory in the 2007 Asian Cup.  Even if we were to assume Iraq’s Muslims aren’t united enough for Roberts’ taste, he seems to have ignored the USA’s critical divide-and-conquer role in Iraq. He doesn’t appear aware of the USA’s deployment of Shii and Kurdish troops to battle Sunni cities, such as Fallujah in November 2004. He ignores the USA’s political and financial support of sectarian parties, politicians and clergymen. He also neglects to mention the Israeli role in sowing the seeds of conflict in Iraq, outlined in Oded Yinon’s infamous A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties. Roberts is unaware of 17-year old Othman from A’athamiya, a young Iraqi who drowned after rescuing nearly a dozen Iraqis when the A’imma Bridge in Baghdad collapsed in 2005. He also overlooked the joint Sunni-Shii celebrations of Muntathar Zaidi’s throwing his shoes at Bush. The US corporate media, which cheerlead for the war, has every interest to blackout, marginalize and ignore stories of Iraqi unity. It is regretful that Roberts condescends Iraqis in the same manner.

One wonders whether Mr. Roberts would’ve displayed this same white man’s burden, vilifying misbehaving oppressed peoples, by admonishing Native American tribes who may have been at odds during the theft of their land by white settlers. Would Mr. Roberts have weighed in on the dispute between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X? Would he have demonstrated moral authority to arbitrate between Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy of nonviolence and Malcolm X’s commitment to freedom by any means necessary? Would he have appointed himself as judge between the North and South Vietnamese? Dictating derogatory suggestions to the oppressed is no business of “solidarity” activists. If Roberts is entitled to instruct Iraqis to unite, surely Iraqis are far more entitled to tell Americans, including Roberts, to put their right-wing, left-wing, class and racial divisions aside to meaningfully mobilize to end their seven-year occupation of our country (by “meaningful”, I mean more substantive than symbolic anti-war protests every anniversary of the war). When they have extra time on their hands, Iraqis could probably tell Americans to unite on their debilitating healthcare disputes.

It is frustrating enough when the operators of the US war machine and their mouthpieces in mainstream media refer to Iraqis in demeaning sectarian language. It is far more disappointing when those involved in the “anti-war” movement, who are supposedly in solidarity with Iraqis, use such divisive, disrespectful discourse. I call on Mr. Roberts to apologize to the beleaguered Iraqi people, victims of two decades of his country’s ruthless foreign policy, funded by his tax dollars, for publishing such an undeserved portrayal.

Qais Nawwaf is one of millions of displaced Iraqis. He resides on a colonized part of Indigenous territory commonly referred to as the "United States." He has a degree in a discipline invented by his ancestors: writing. He may be reached at: Read other articles by Qais.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on March 4th, 2010 at 10:26am #

    Mr Nawwaf – I am very pleased that DV have given you this space to reply. Such authors as the one you refer to have not been bombed, made homeless, made a refugee, been widowed, lost their childen or harmed in any other way but write in the comfort of a warm home with their family and possessions around 7,000 miles away from the scene of the crimes committed. I cannot say how sorry I am at what has befallen your country and your people. 2m of us in the UK protested in 2003 but we were ignored.

    Today the BBC have given prominence to the terrible birth defects that are occurring in Fallujah as a consequence of the use of vile DU weaponry there in 2004. This matter has been known about for some time and my brother is one of the doctors who wrote to Treki at the United Nations last year. No reply was received.

    All of the war criminals responsible for these crimes and the ones ongoing in Afghanistan must stand in the dock at The Hague.

  2. bozh said on March 4th, 2010 at 10:49am #

    Had iraqis been united like finns, US wld have not, i think, invaded iraq. They cldn’t be united in any degree because its two cults were puting brakes on establishment of a more egalitarian society.
    In add’n, if iraqi people were more or much more egalitarian as finnish was and still is today, kurdish people may have not rebelled as much if at all against iraq empire.
    As always, and in most lands, ‘religions’ play a vitiating role in societies. Islam is not different.
    It is and always had been an antihuman org; promoting aghas, amirs, kings, princes, sultans; who rule their serfs with an iron fist in order to perpetuate their permament rule over their peasantry.The only reason that this privileged class of people treat their serfs better than ever is the vast amount of oil.

    Roberts’ analyses probably don’t go as far as mine. He most likely omitted the fact that both US and most arab lands are a bird of a feather, thus flock together.

    Nearly all arab lands are now uniting with US fascsists solely in order to forever maintain their ‘godgiven right’ to rule over, as it sees, stupid, uneducated, and lazy people. So, welcome to US-isr-arab-indian-european fascist alliance. tnx

  3. Boycott Israel said on March 4th, 2010 at 11:28am #

    Great article!

    Speaking of war criminals– The University of Michigan is catching up to Apartheid Israel.

    ‘Historic “Divestment Resolution Passed” at University of Michigan student government, in Dearborn ‘

    That resolution is here:

    Boycott Israel, and end every occupation immediately!

  4. kalidas said on March 4th, 2010 at 11:49am #

    This man has something to say.
    He might seem far out or even crazy but what he says is anything but..

  5. lichen said on March 4th, 2010 at 2:50pm #

    I agree with what you say; it is both insulting and ridiculous to make this condescending claim that the damage was caused by Iraqi’s when consecutive generations have had their lives ruined and destroyed by the US. Unfortunately, roberts, along with the cockburns, are a permanent mainstream/washington status quo-validating presence in counterpunch.

  6. Gary S. Corseri said on March 4th, 2010 at 9:18pm #

    Mr. Nawwaf, I agree completely with the first comment here by Mary of the U.K.: “I cannot say how sorry I am at what has befallen your country and your people.” Words–these trusted friends of mine–fail me; I can barely contemplate the horrors. Thirty five and forty five years ago, in my youth, I was staggered by what the country of my birth was doing in Vietnam. I have had to learn a lot about the gruesome history of this Empire in all the years since.

    One of the people who has taught me much in recent years in Paul Craig Roberts. Your article sent me back to Roberts’ original piece at ConterPunch. It’s written in Roberts’ clear, quick-paced, no-nonsense style and it covers, as usual, a broad range of topics. The focus, as you note, is Muslims’ lack of unity: divisiveness within nations (between Suniis and Shi’a in Iraq), between the upper classes and the masses in Egypt; as well as divisiveness between different nations and groups–between Persians and Arabs, for example.

    Perhaps Roberts has overlooked or minimized some areas of Muslim cooperation. But, why quarrel with the idea that conquerors exploit divisions within the conquered groups? I don’t see how Roberts is excusing that basic reality of military strategy. The U.S. military did, in fact, exploit animosities between the different tribes of Turtle Island (or, “North America”), employing Indian scouts and renegades to wrest the land from those who had made it their own for several millennia. This is our besotted history, and the besotted history of Empires. Roberts’ conclusion may not be perfectly true, but I suspect there is much truth in it: “As long as Muslims hate and fear one another more than they hate their conquerers, they will remain a vanquished people.” (In fact, he seems to be echoing a movie I saw almost 50 years ago: “Lawrence of Arabia.” In that instance, T.E. Lawrence made a similar comment, substituting “Arabs” for “Muslims.”)

    Let’s also not be divided among ourselves. Roberts has sounded a strong, dissident voice against war and against the rapacity of the American–and now global–economic system for several years. The Cockburns, too, and CounterPunch in general, have been stalwart guardians of truth and facts during our “low, dishonest decade.” These men had ample opportunity to “sell out,” take the easy path, join the establishment of lies and prevarications. Roberts, for one, turned his back on that, did a 180 in his credulity about our “democratic system,” our “free markets,” etc. Personally, I laud his and the Cockburns’ guts, fortitude and commitment to truth–as, indeed, I laud yours, too.

  7. mary said on March 5th, 2010 at 5:52am #

    Further comment on the birth defects.

    As my brother says, “The whole world should be weeping for Iraq and I mean that.”

  8. Boycott Israel said on March 5th, 2010 at 12:04pm #

    I hope that Gary is doing his best to lead marches against these wars on Iraq, on Afghanistan, and on Palestine.

    It’s not enough to provide “constructive criticism” to Iraqis who are strangling and drowning under the weight of U.S. military occupation.

    Here in the U.S., it’s better to criticize the hell out of the current government HERE and demand an immediate end to all 3 occupations: of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

    When I say “demand an end to these occupations”, I don’t mean here, where no one will read it. I mean at your City Council and at your University student government, where the media will pick it up.

  9. Habu said on March 5th, 2010 at 12:25pm #

    I have read your post and I disagree respectfully. Paul Craig Roberts, in his numerous articles, is a progressive and is contemptuous of the Empire. Indeed, he is one of my favorite people to read. He was against the invasion of Iraq. What has happened to the people and country of Iraq is nothing short of a calamity.

    What Roberts mentioned in his article was on the mark. Notwithstanding the good people of the Middle East, the region has enough sellouts who will gladly accept 30 pieces of silver. Just look at the number of Palestinian people knocked off by Israel. This could not be done without the complicity of some locals. Even the Iraqi Administration is mostly made up of people who have dual loyalties (and citizenships), doing the bidding of their masters. Just look what happened to a recent European expedition to Gaza which was barred from entry into Egypt. How about Saudi Arabia’s intransigence about helping its own people, let alone Arab causes. Just look how the leaders in Pakistan are pimping for the occupiers

    Indeed, Roberts is correct in his assertion although he should not have characterized it by religion (stating “Muslims”). Nevertheless, his thesis is on the mark and I don’t think he needs to apologize. In fact, it is the operatives in this region who are content to keep their own people down while they sidle up with their masters for protection. Is it any wonder that the Middle East governments are widely reviled around the world.

    Really, I hope that you look more honestly about the state of affairs in the Middle East and what will happen when the black gold runs out.

  10. mary said on March 8th, 2010 at 8:41am #

    “And I’d just like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. And may they come home safe. Thank you.”

    The end of Ms Bigelow’s acceptance speech for her Best Film Oscar. The victims didn’t get a mention.

    You can only weep for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, for those children left with birth defects in the aftermath of Fallujah, for those tortured at Abu Ghraib and Bagram and for the millions who have really been H+U+R+T.

    What a very sick world we are living in.

  11. Deadbeat said on March 8th, 2010 at 11:34am #

    It’s not a sick world we live in. We live in a sick society. It’s how money is made in the USA.

  12. mary said on March 12th, 2010 at 3:06pm #

    Layla Anwar tells us what she thinks of us all. Her rightful anger leaps from the page.