Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the US Ever Backed

Russ Wellen, April 24, 2014

In yet another definitive piece for the New Yorker titled What We Left Behind, Dexter Filkins writes about Iraq today, especially Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who the United States helped install. Many Americans blame Iraqis for killing their fellow citizens simply because they’re of a different sect of Islam. But we need to remember: besides perpetrating a huge amount of the violence ourselves, by invading Iraq the United States effectively freed an evil genie – excuse any cultural insensitivity the metaphor may conjure up – out of its bottle. When it subsequently rampaged across the land wreaking death and destruction, the United States took little responsibility for catching it and stuffing it back in.

The best that can be said for the United States is that when it left Iraq, the murderous sectarian strife between the Sunnis and Shiites had lowered in intensity. But Shiites have been protesting against Maliki’s Shiite government and he has responded with a heavy hand that has sparked violence on a scale that harkens back to the worst of when the U.S. was still there. Filkins writes:

When Maliki became Prime Minister, some Iraqis hoped that he might help unify the country. He brought members of parliament into his coalition by promising to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds. But, far more often, Maliki used his position to continue the war for the Shiites, fighting what he sees as an irreconcilable group of Sunni revanchists.

Here’s an example of the resurgence in violence and how Maliki deals with dissidents. In 2011, shortly after the Americans left, he sent in troops to clear protesters from Ramadi.

Anbar Province erupted, along with the rest of Sunni Iraq, and the violence has not ceased. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling.

Another example:

[Maliki’s] government responded savagely to the new round of protests. In April [of this year], after a soldier was killed in the Sunni town of Hawija, troops attacked an encampment of protesters there, killing at least forty-four people. In a televised speech, Maliki warned of a “sectarian war,” and blamed the violence on “remnants of the Baath Party.” Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Sunni civilians, were killed as the crackdown continued.

To an extent, Maliki is fighting yesterday’s war. Before the Iraq invasion, he engineered attacks against the hated Saddam from outside the country and is described by Filkins as obsessed.

From the beginning, Maliki was fixated on conspiracies being hatched against him – by his Iraqi rivals, by the Baathists he imagined were still in the Iraqi Army, even by the Americans. A former American diplomat described it as “Nixonian paranoia,” adding, “We had a hundred and fifty thousand troops in the country, and he was obsessed that a few dozen former Baathists were going to try to overthrow him.”

Yet, “Maliki has grown steadily more imperious, reacting violently to the slightest criticism. He often claims to have files on his rivals, filled with evidence of corruption and killings.” In fact

Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law that makes it a criminal offense to criticize the head of the government. He has filed defamation suits against scores of journalists, judges, and members of parliament, demanding that they spend time in prison and pay damages.

In conclusion

Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge. On April 30th, Iraqi voters will go to the polls to choose a parliament and ultimately a Prime Minister; after eight years in office, Maliki is seeking a third term. … The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms.

Maliki may not be as bad as Saddam Hussein, but he can scarcely be viewed as an improvement, only slightly less worse.

When Maliki became Prime Minister, some Iraqis hoped that he might help unify the country. He brought members of parliament into his coalition by promising to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds. But, far more often, Maliki used his position to continue the war for the Shiites, fighting what he sees as an irreconcilable group of Sunni revanchists.

Here’s an example of the resurgence in violence and how Maliki deals with dissidents. In 2011, shortly after the Americans left, he sent in troops to clear protesters from Ramadi.

Anbar Province erupted, along with the rest of Sunni Iraq, and the violence has not ceased. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling.

Another example:

[Maliki’s] government responded savagely to the new round of protests. In April [of this year], after a soldier was killed in the Sunni town of Hawija, troops attacked an encampment of protesters there, killing at least forty-four people. In a televised speech, Maliki warned of a “sectarian war,” and blamed the violence on “remnants of the Baath Party.” Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Sunni civilians, were killed as the crackdown continued.

To an extent, Maliki is fighting yesterday’s war. Before the Iraq invasion, he engineered attacks against the hated Saddam from outside the country and is described by Filkins as obsessed.

From the beginning, Maliki was fixated on conspiracies being hatched against him – by his Iraqi rivals, by the Baathists he imagined were still in the Iraqi Army, even by the Americans. A former American diplomat described it as “Nixonian paranoia,” adding, “We had a hundred and fifty thousand troops in the country, and he was obsessed that a few dozen former Baathists were going to try to overthrow him.”

Yet, “Maliki has grown steadily more imperious, reacting violently to the slightest criticism. He often claims to have files on his rivals, filled with evidence of corruption and killings.” In fact

Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law that makes it a criminal offense to criticize the head of the government. He has filed defamation suits against scores of journalists, judges, and members of parliament, demanding that they spend time in prison and pay damages.

In conclusion

Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge. On April 30th, Iraqi voters will go to the polls to choose a parliament and ultimately a Prime Minister; after eight years in office, Maliki is seeking a third term. … The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms.

Maliki may not be as bad as Saddam Hussein, but he can scarcely be viewed as an improvement, only slightly less worse.

Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy In Focus.




11 Responses to “Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the US Ever Backed”

  1. Just as well you state ONE of the wrongest- the Shah,Pinochet,Batista,Somoza, really when and where has the US backed the RIGHT horse?!

  2. The "evil genie" is Maliki that that the US let loose on Iraq destroying that country to the point where it will take decades to rebuild.

  3. This article has a large chunk of repeated text beginning with "When Maliki became Prime Minister…" (in a different text type) through the end of the second "Conclusions" paragraph. And while "slightly less worse" gets the point across it is just plain bad grammar.

    If Maliki is only slightly better than Saddam Hussein, and exhibits "Nixonian paranoia," he may well decide – whether or not he is re-elected – that he rather likes being in charge, and refuse to relinquish his position. Since most of his opposition has already been killed, jailed, or exiled, who would object?

  4. All the radicalized Sunnis that are now conducting bombing campaign accross Iraq — do not get their weapons, communications, cars, gas, salaries — from Allah. And just because Maliki is by all accounts weak leader, I am wondering who would do better. On one hand, great power game is making us court Kurds, and then we close our eyes at the Saudi funded, and radicalized Salafi movement among Iraqi Sunnis. And by itself, radicalizing them does not require major effort — as they have been hunted and persecuted during US occupation, that allow all the Shiite fantasies run wind. Allowed, and encouraged. That is how former Sadam supporters find themselves ready to take revenge — not on those that caused it all, but on the helpless government in Bagdhad. And before, they had to fight guerrila war against occupiers and the new Shiia regime — now, they have discovered heaven, by becoming Salafis, well funded for their peace-of-cake high-yield bombing campaigns.

    It is amazing that people are yet to learn how to follow the money.

  5. only slightly better than Saddam Hussein, and exhibits "Nixonian paranoia," he may well decide – whether or not he is re-elected

  6. If one would look at a regime (change) implemented by USG since late 1970 when USG promised not to perform coup de Etta's, the "government" of such creation always been a worse then what they replaced with. It is not because they don't have any other alternative, is just that they know if they chose other, that other won't be cooperating or following USG policies, so they pick the most worst there is to ruin the country while they support the opposition, in Iraq case, USG supported Sunni terrorism during Iraq war, later they created the Syrian war where they support the very same gang of terrorism, Turkish government now is as responsible as Saudis, Jordanian king and UAE to arm, train and to pay these created bandits for what USG simply wants, if I don't get what I want no one will, but at least I have my "friends" and their dictatorial regimes in tact.

    Iraq war was a personal issue between Saddam Hussein, Saudi and UAE kingdoms in one hand and friends of Bush family, the Wahhabis, whom are part of Ben Saud ruling family, all and every one involved in Iraq war from John Negroponte to Rumsfeld and those democrats senators who voted for war knew that Iraq doesn't have any atomic bomb nor they are about produce it, in the other, after all it was the Wahhabis who were fighting the USSR Afghanistan occupation which in that point in mankind history Afghanistan was promised to be bin laden religious sanctuary by Bill Clinton and Bush for life, after all, such religious dictatorial, fascistic regime is much better then a socialist, or even a office democrat, after almost two decade USG leaving Afghanistan with absolutely nothing, living behind a corrupt government and ruined country as they have in done Iraq.

    In Syria is exactly the same scenario, so is the Ukrainian situation. By USG or its state department, or the us governing economic system not being based on a functioning democracy for the people and by the people, by USG governing system being under a tremendous influence of behind a scene militarism regime; therefore, USG won't cooperate with any others then dictators of all kind which in that regard no functioning democracy would want to work with USG. Maliki is not a puppet but rather hungry for his kind of Islamic "democracy" which thus far haven't arrived, in the other hand these gang of Sunni terrorism are feed by those whom their existence depends on continued wars in Iraq or Syria, which in general terms, is the ideal situation with USG and EU present foreign policies, if nothing, they still can sale billions of billions weapon to these regimes which feeds the USG militarism regime which is the real USG, don't forget the oil companies, like BP which in cooperation with Saudis supplying the US militarism energy consumption.

  7. No I would say Saddam was much more tolerate of his minorities . Look what happened to the Iraqi Christians . Funny a million Christians can disappear and the western media never even mentioned it ./

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