Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Are There Any "Iraqis?"

Among the things I've come to doubt is the existence of Iraq, and of a people called the 'Iraqis.'

Remember when we all used to think there was a place called Yugoslavia and a people, the Yugoslavians? It was there on the map. On the Olympics broadcast the announcer would say something like, "And the Yugoslavian water polo team won the gold medal..."

Only one day we woke up to discover there was no such place and no such people. There were Serbs, and Croats, and Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Albanians, but no Yugoslavians. They never existed.

Iraq looks more and more like "Yugoslavia." I've been reading a book about the creation of the modern Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and "Iraq" is just a bunch of lines drawn on a map by the English. It's filled with religions and their sects, tribes and their smaller clans, ethnicities and language groups, but nothing much really in common except that they all happen to live inside a line. The more I read Iraqi blogs that claim they're really not like this and there won't be a civil war, the more it sounds like whistling past the graveyard. I hope I'm wrong; I really wanted this Japan Solution to Iraq's problems to work out, but it won't happen if there are no 'Iraqis.'

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