Differing Perspectives

A few weeks ago I said I’d write about different groups having different perspectives.

My last interview in Jordan was unsettling. It wasn’t with a woman but a sweet, gentle man who had worked as a translator for the US forces. This man, Abu Muber* loves America, and during his year working with the US soldiers he was treated with more respect than he had ever received in his life. He’d worked for the British and been treated like a low-level lackey and so quit after a few months to translate for the Americans. He was a great asset, translating the deeper meanings and giving insight into the Iraqi culture and mind-set rather than just giving verbatim translations. In mid-2004, an envelope with three bullets in it was delivered to his house. He had been discovered to be a collaborator and the extra bullets were a warning that it wasn’t only he who was at risk. So, he quit and moved his family to Jordan where he’s currently waiting for his visa application to be processed. It costs $565 or $755 per person, depending on the type of immigrant visa one applies for. The truth is that although he has many glowing recommendations, he is unlikely to get his wish and his money will be wasted.

Later in the conversation I asked him what should be done to resolve the situation in Iraq. His response was that the US should “clip the toenails” of Iran. Being Sunni, he believes that Shia Iran wants to take over Iraq. What does he mean by “clipping toenails”? We should nuke Iran’s 30-40 (his figure) nuclear power plants. But… wouldn’t the radiation blow back over Iraq? No worries. Use the neutron bomb.

This was the first time I’d heard the suggestion from an Iraqi that the US should attack Iran, but other Sunnis have told me that US troops should stay in Iraq until they are sure that Iran won’t attack them. I guess they have a legitimate fear since Iraq had attacked Iran beginning the eight-year long Iran/Iraq war in 1980.

The various Shia (as well as UN reps and other outside observers) to whom I posed this question told me that Iran has no such intentions and that at most, they just want some influence over the outcome and that Saudi Arabia is also in the fray trying to exert it’s own influence.

A Christian ex-translator (who also loves America and is also waiting for his visa) told me that it is only the Christian translators who can be trusted; that the majority of the Muslim ones are actually terrorists in disguise. He also believes that both Muslim sects are out to commit genocide against the Christians. Many Shia believe that the Sunnis are doing the same to them as evidenced by the Sunni gangs and militias that line the road from the Jordanian border through Faluja to Baghdad. I have heard many reports that along this border the first question you are asked when stopped is about your religion and that unless you are Sunni, or can convince them that you are, you are shot. Unfortunately, the Jordanian police (with encouragement from the King as evidenced in a recent speech) are targeting Iraqi Shia for deportation.

During this blog, I have tried to dispel the myth of “The Iraqis” or “The Shia” or “The Sunnis”. Within these broad categories there are many subgroups and within them, many individuals. There is a joke that says that if you have two Iraqis in a room discussing politics, you’ll have three political parties. I will say, however, that the vast majority of Iraqis I met believe that the US forces will be unable to accomplish any success militarily and that the solution to the “Iraq problem” can only be found via negotiation. More on this later.

It seems that I’ve gotten in to a pattern of writing each week on Sunday. By Monday mornings, you can find a new entry.

*Not his real name


I’m back from Jordan! I’ll be the featured guest along with Oliver Rajamani at A Gathering Under the Oaks, a backyard event as a benefit for Austin Center for Peace and Justice. It will be held at the home of Steve and Rene Morris Larson (2703 Bridle Path, Austin, TX) on June 14th from 6:30-9:00 pm. The event is a fundraiser for ACPJ with a suggested donation of $25/student $20. For more information, call 799-5117. It will consist of a short presentation followed by an informal discussion. I hope you can come.

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