Say what you want about Saddam Hussain, he did have an effective hold on state violence. Rather ironically, it was the loss of that stranglehold on the various factions and interlopers in the post-Baathist Iraq that led to many left-wing pro-Iraq war supporters revising their opinion on the war. The loss of life, regardless of your views on The Lancet study, has been appalling. The opinion of Kanan Makiya is but one example:
Last year, before the “surge,” Kanan Makiya was asked if, knowing what we now know, he would still have supported the invasion. Makiya, who had escaped Saddam’s regime, documenting its atrocities in his book Republic of Fear, still cannot bring himself to regret the fall of Saddam. But his reply to the question of regretting the invasion was as follows: “Bodies matter. I come from a tradition in the far left, back a long time ago in my life, where… bodies did not count. You know: the historical process, the victory for the working class. I would not make that argument any more. It is utterly repugnant to me.”
Given that the loss of Iraqis lives, regardless of the group that killed them, is used as the chief argument that the war was wrong by long-term opponents of the Iraq war, it might be hoped that the restoration of a monopoly on state violence in the hands of the Iraqi government (as existed before) might be welcomed. Like the Israelis before them, whose IDF forces under Gurion had to fight for such a monopoly with the Irgun, the Iraqis under Maliki have decided enough is enough.
The prime minister laid down four conditions — that militia disarm, stop interfering in state affairs, stop running their own courts and hand over wanted fugitives — or face a military assault.
“To refuse these conditions means the continuation of the government’s efforts to disarm them by force,” Maliki said at a news conference inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic compound.
“There is no alternative to these conditions. The alternative is the continuation of force and clashes until we reach the end, to get rid of the weapons and the gangs who are carrying weapons.”
The future of Iraq may be being signalled in Basra, where the imposition of Iraqi State forces seems to have created a rapid change in conditions.
Last week Haider Lefta took the boards off his shop hiring out musical instruments and session bands for parties, and dusted off a wooden “oud” — the traditional Arabic lute central to much Iraqi music.
The 26-year-old could scarcely contain his joy. He abandoned the business three years ago after Shi’ite Islamist militiamen bombed his shop, then threatened to kill him: music and parties were against Islam, the black-masked gunmen had said.
Back in March, the SWTC opposed the attacks on Basra (spotting the evil hand of Dick Cheney). However, on the basis of both the “Don’t attack Iraq because they are a sovereign country”, and the “The war was wrong because of the Hobbesian nightmare you have unleashed on the Iraqi people”, their opposition is intellectually inconsistent. Imposing Weber’s monopoly of force on Basra wasn’t pretty, and will be even less so in Sadr City. But then neither was Saddam’s Iraq, and that was something many were willing to put up with for many years to come.