07/19/2005: From "Back in Iraq", this is interesting....
Christopher Allbritton gives us a glimpse into the mindset of Iraqis.... and shows us the suprising fact that the Iraqis, despite the evidence of their own senses, think that we're much more on top of things than we in fact are:
BAGHDAD—The Iraqi national psyche is a Janus-faced beast when it comes to belief. On the one hand, Iraqis on the street will believe the very last thing you tell them. No conspiracy theory is too outlandish not to find some traction among the population. In a fit of black humor the other day I joked with A., my office manager and Y., an interpreter for us, that the Kurds were obviously behind all the suicide bombings.
Why? Because they could use a civil war between Shi'a and Sunni to claim Kirkuk and draw a green line around their territory. No one gets in from south of this line. Bingo! Instant Kurdistan. Or, alternately, if the Arabs discover this fiendish plot and counter-attack, the Kurds can set down their green line and set their pesh merga to defend their territory. Either way, they get Kirkuk and a state. Game, set, match.
Now, I don't really believe this. But A. and Y., got into the “fun” of it, and said I should go tell a few people on the street my theory. “In two days, it will be on every front page in the country,” A. said. Y. protested that it wouldn't be true. Ah! I countered. It doesn't matter if it's true or not. It only matters if enough people believe it to be true.
Y. smiled. “Now you are thinking like an Iraqi,” he said.
And yet, tell an Iraqi that many of the problems of their country—lack of security, meddling by Iran, Shi'a-Sunni violence, Zarqawi—is a result of a cascading series of American blunders and incompetence, and they will refuse to believe it. “America put a man on the moon,” said a friend of A. as we puffed on a nargilah last night. “That America has f**ked up so much is very hard for us to accept.”
“Iraq is harder than the moon,” I said, to much amusement. But like my earlier joke about the Kurds, it was black humor, and The Plot always hovered nearby.
Robert Fisk once wrote about Lebanon that The Plot—the plans of foreign powers to defeat and humiliate Lebanon during its 1975-1990 civil war—was always present in his conversations with Lebanese. He joked that The Plot should have its own chair at the table at every meal, since it was always a topic of dinner conversations. Well, Iraq has the same mentality. It is inconceivable to Iraqis that America, as powerful as it is, could have bungled this place as badly as it has. Americans walked on the moon! And they can't find Zarqawi?
It's a fair criticism, I suppose. But it's a frustrating phenomenon for a reporter to deal with, because getting people to tell you what's going on without the conversation degenerating into a convoluted sequence of events is next to impossible.
Len on 07.19.05 @ 06:48 AM CST