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August 1, 2004 - Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice!

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Also in Boston this week … Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice!
And one of them explains the history of Iraq…



It seems everyone is linking to this –

Iraq: What Went Wrong?
Stephen Soldz, Z Magazine (Znet), July 26, 2004

Soldz is identified here as a psychoanalyst and a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice, and maintains their Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page.

One shouldn’t confuse Soldz with Juan Cole, the professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who travels down to Washington to testify before congess now and then, and pops up on the PBS “News Hour” every month or two.  Cole’s site is called Informed Comment.

Cole is an expert on Iraq – its politics and history – and fluent in Arabic.  Soldz is an expert is how people think – although he’s not an expert in fixing how people think.  He is, after all, a psychoanalyst, not a psychotherapist.  Big difference.

The Soldz piece here - A Short History of 21st Century Iraq - isn’t short. If you glance at it you’ll see seventy-two footnotes.  Soldz is either thorough, or obsessive.  Or the history of Iraq is complex.

Don’t worry.  Soldz ends with the basics.  In clear prose anyone can understand – absent of any psychobabble -


To conclude, imagine yourself an Iraqi. You've suffered terribly under a ruthless dictator. The Americans invade your country under false pretenses. They promise democracy but don't organize elections. They appoint exiles to rule you, exiles who spend most of their time out of the country and the rest in a few highly protected areas. The occupiers break into your homes in the middle of the night and arrest your men, who then disappear, with no accountability. They shoot Iraqis at roadblocks and from convoys. They declare war on the second most popular man in the country, announcing his death in advance. They open the economy to US corporations and give them sweetheart contracts, ignoring local business. Then they write hundreds of laws and establish commissions limiting any future government. They build permanent military bases on your soil. Then they turn your country over to a former associate of Saddam Hussein, also a former CIA agent, known for his ruthless brutality. Imagine that was your country. What would you do?


Well, that certainly “reframes” our heroic efforts to free Iraq.

What we have done, seen from the point of view of the locals, doesn’t look so heroic.

The counterargument, the one that has been made to me, is that the Iraqi populace, even with their sorry national history weighing on their minds, doesn’t see the bigger global picture – and that would be the Global War or Terror and Evildoers and how they fit in.  They have also seemly forgotten how bad a fellow Saddam Hussein was to them, and should thus be, as Wolfowitz and Chalabi and all the rest said should happen, tossing flowers at us and welcoming us with open arms.  But they toss bombs.  And those arms aren’t exactly open.

Wolfowitz and Chalabi and all the rest said what one would logically expect would be scenes reminiscent of the Liberation of Paris, but in Baghdad, with the flowers and cheering in the streets.  Now they don’t know just what is wrong with these people.

Soldz says, given our actions, one should not be surprised that we get something more like Algiers in 1954, not Paris in 1944.  And there is nothing at all wrong with these people.

So, who is a better judge of what is logical to expect from human nature – a cabal of neoconservative theorists who have been thinking about this stuff since their days at the University of Chicago and their years at the Rand Corporation – or a psychoanalyst musing in his office in Boston, far from the corridors of power in Washington?

And the larger question hangs in the air – one that has been around long before we actually rolled into Baghdad.  Should we care at all what these people think?  Are there not more important issues?  Don’t we have to do… well, what we have to do?

Maybe so.  But expecting folks to like us for it was a bit of a miscalculation.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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