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Greed Is Good: The Iraqi Version

Christopher Hitchens and Anne Applebaum are both wary of cheering the rosier state of affairs in Iraq. For one thing, the gains of the surge might prove temporary and in war journalism, hubris must be guarded by a bodyguard of … Read More

By / November 20, 2007

Christopher Hitchens and Anne Applebaum are both wary of cheering the rosier state of affairs in Iraq. For one thing, the gains of the surge might prove temporary and in war journalism, hubris must be guarded by a bodyguard of dispassion. For another, not even faithful hawks cotton to the "Mission Accomplished" rhetoric anymore (they say they do, but they don't). But despite the noticeable and (for Iraqis) palpable de-escalation in daily violence, one barometer of progress is, I think, also the most cynical.

The Washington Post carries a front-page story today about what's really motivating the insurgency:

"I was out of work and needed the money," said Abu Nawall, the nom de guerre of an unemployed metal worker who was paid as much as $1,300 a month as an insurgent. He spoke in a phone interview from an Iraqi military base where he is being detained. "How else could I support my family?"

U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations.

That means they can be bought off by other parties, too. Namely, us.

Let's be real, though. No one with a conscience has been able to look calmly on something like the Sunni Awakening and not fret about the fact that former wage-killers of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers are now fighting on our side against Al Qaeda. These are not allies in the true sense of the term because given the slightest change in the weather and they'll be back to killing those same civilians and soldiers. However, we must make do with what we can, especially in a region of the world where suicide is used as a weapon of mass destruction. So much of the nightmare that has defined this war has been a matter of sheer ideology. Clerical fascism that brooks no negotiation or compromise; it is totalitarian in the sense that individuality and personal materialism are anathema to the greater struggle. I recently happened upon this description of Islam by the Pakistani Qutb, Abu Ala Maududi:

“In reality Islam is a revolutionary ideology and programme which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. “Muslim” is the title of that International Revolutionary Party organized by Islam to carry into effect its revolutionary programme. And “Jihad” refers to that revolutionary struggle and utmost exertion which the Islamic Party brings into play to achieve this objective.

[...] 

Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which Nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State.” 

So it is a welcome occurrence that at least a handful of those fighting on behalf of such a doctrine look at the literal text of the thing and think, "Yeah, yeah. Show me the money."  This is a shift in hearts and minds, all right, however insufficient or preliminary it may be. 

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