Blaming the bogeymen in Baghdad


Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

Joel Wing critiques the Iraqi government’s response to the recent catastrophic attacks:

In August, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki tried to defer blame and distract public opinion from a domestic security failure by turning it into an international event. This time, the Iraqi government’s response was better at first. That didn’t last long as more and more politicians are beginning to turn on each other, and pointing fingers at foreign interference again, even though Al Qaeda in Iraq is the only one that has publicly come out saying they were behind the bombing, just like they did in August. Syria has definitely allowed a plethora of militants to operate out of its country against Iraq, but no convincing evidence has been publicly aired to imply that either Damascus or the Baathists were behind either the August or October attacks. With Iraq caught up in campaigning for the 2010 elections, and the Prime Minister’s reputation on the line with the security lapses, it is easier for officials to accuse others than admit that they have made mistakes.

It’s rare for politicians all over the world to admit making mistakes, and Iraqi culture in particular does not reward showing weakness. Whenever something bad happens regarding security, there are three bogeymen who usually take or share the blame:

1. Baathists

2. Al Qaeda in Iraq

3. Other “assorted foreigners plotting to destroy Iraq”

The reasons these categories are the go-to targets for government officials are straightforward. The specific groups are indeed the perpetrators in many cases, they have become catch-all shorthand to describe the umbrella of entities that wield violence in Iraq, and blaming them plays well on the street. With the exception of a positive or neutral perception of “Baathists” in some segments of Sunni society, all three are about as popular as cancer.

In Maliki’s case, perhaps his only PR strategy, in addition to holding people accountable and beefing up security, is to deflect blame by loudly pointing fingers in these areas. It plays into a sentiment that could buy him a sliver of room to scramble, given his noisy focus on security as a platform. It’s unclear whether the standard posturing will work or wear thin, but he has few options, given that he’s fairly powerless to prevent all such mass casualty events. We’ll see how the electorate reacts early next year.

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  • KW64 says:

    The blaming of the Syrians, Iranians and generic foreigners doesn’t just distract from Goverment failures, it may well help build Iraqi unity and nationalism. The Iraqis that I meet, whether shiite or sunni do not like the Iranians. Even feuding neighbors will stop and cooperate in the face of a bigger mutual threat.

  • Bill Ardolino says:

    I agree, with the starry-eyed caveat that once existential threats subside (knock on wood) and Iraqi political society matures, xenophobia doesn’t hamper minimal self-reflection by political institutions, public servants and the electorate.


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