Spring 2005, we stayed the night in a friend's house in Hay al-Jami'a. There were four of us, next day was Friday - For some reason, we decided to go to the Friday prayer, the big problem back then was that I was wearing a Metallica t-shirt, our host, despite being several sizes larger than yours truly, did manage to produce out a shirt from his 'early cum period', sheesh! I didn't have another choice. We went walking, listened to the sermon, and prayed. Not one of us has looked twice on the fact that one of us, Haidar, is Shi'ite. He prayed with his hands down like a good Shi'ite as the sole abnormality in the line of hand-over-hand Sunnis, we did pray at the back, but still.
Looking back...this memory is almost looney in the suggestions it implies, and what maddens me the most even more is that it only happened a year ago, not five or ten years! Today, even thinking of him going out with is out of the question.
A few days earlier, I contacted a Shiite friend of mine, Laith, who lives in Najaf via e-mail, after a few jokes, I winded him into a religious debate we've been having for several months - I have been keenly researching the Sunni-Shiite conflict and was interested to find out what he, the most religious Shiite friend of mine thinks. That day, I asked him whether it was okay for a Shi'ite to pray with Sunnis, he said: "Well, some Shi'ites drink wine." He equated praying with a Sunni with a highly punishable vice.
Today, people like my Laith (who, despite having a computer full of pro-Iran files and prays in quasi-Persian, is one of the people I truly love) is all over the place, and there is nobody doing anything to stop them ; Haidar is just as good a Shi'ite as Laith, in fact, Baathists once broke into Haidar's house and pulled his mother's hair, but he is a great moderate and I still see him as a great example of a model for a perfect co-existent Iraq. With the ghost of civil war materializing ever more, I was almost paralyzed when I remembered this little public praying-together.
When one looks at this chaotic condition of Iraq, it is hard to imagine how exactly had a single regime managed to effectively all this hocus-pocus under one banner. And out of desperation, sometimes one wonders about the idea of restoring that power.
There are many temptations. First, Saddam is perhaps the most psychologically effective weapon in Iraq in terms of stabilization. It is hard to argue against the fact that Saddam, despite his many crimes, has a formidable personality, his figure can inspire the "Patriotic National Resistance (lol)" beyond morale, and he is especially destructive to the psychosis of any good Shi'ite because of a two-fold reason that greatly applies to both the near-history and the far-history/psychology of the situation: Saddam's minions were monstrous when they quelled the 1991 uprising, and most importantly - Shia faith is built upon losing battles to tyrants, subscribed to intense victimization that is kept alive by a cinematic scope - a lot of modern Shiite leaders draw parrels between any unjust ruler to Hussein & Yazid's Karbala, how can you win against the pernnial 'tyrant' figure when even your holiest figures falied? I really think that in terms of at-hand stabilization, nobody can do it like Saddam, the running joke is that: "Saddam once said to prison ward, you know, if they'd let me get back at that chair for one hour I'd whip this country into shape."
"Yeah. 55 minutes to wash up, shave and wear new clothes, and 5 minutes to appear on TV."
But this is impossible for a great number of reasons:
Saddam's resurrection will be only a temporary band-aid, knowning him, he will greatly entrench Sunnis and completely butcher Shiites beyond suffering, learning his lesson, he will be the USA biggest tool and will not bother them again. Iran, his sworn enemy, may step up to the challenge, but I have the feeling that it cannot really withstand a determined Saddam/USA alliance. The sectarain tensions has heated up considerably, and this will eventually lead to a regional war at some point.
Most importantly, USA will lose face to the entire world, and won't be ever respected again in the same manner.
It's just a quick temp job that won't do the trick and will only lead to negative escalation of the regional conflict. Of course, There is a way of resurrecting part of Saddam's psychological advantage, perhaps by killing him, to eliminate any chance of his return, then reconcilling the remaining Baathists with some promises and installing a regime with Baathist traces that will not abuse Shiites, but uses the same brute force against everyone, with loyalty to Americans alone. So what if we are loyal to America? It's better than being loyal to al-Qaeda, Saddam, or any given Ayatollah - I wanna do the funky dance and eat my junk food, man. an Allawi-led regime could work to this advantage, given that many Iraqis now ironically remember his brief era as the rosy part of the post-invasion period.