Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hanna Batatu, Iraq : Social classes.

I have finally resigned and began the exhausting task of reading the mammoth "phonebook" of Hanna Batatu about Iraq, (apx. 1300 pages, with fine letters), I shall jot down some notable paragraphs on my blog as I progress through it:

P. 17, DIVERSITY OF IRAQIS:

Of course, the more conscious of the townsmen thought themselves as part of the realm of Islam, and Islam's ideals, though denuded of much of their old vigor, tended to rescue them to some extent from their localism and associate them with their brother Muslims within and beyond the confines of the Ottoman Empire. But Islam in Iraq was more a force of division rather than of integration. It split deeply Sunni and Shi'i Arabs, socially they seldom mixed, and as a rule they did not intermarry. To the strict Shi'is, the government of the day - the government of the Ottoman Sultan that led Sunni Islam - was, in essence, a usurpation. In their eyes, it had not the qualification to even execute the laws of Islam. They were, therefore, estranged from it, few caring to serve it or attend its schools.
Of course, today things are much different, mostly thanks to the pseudo-secular period of modern-day ideologies such as Pan-Arabism and Communism, there is social intermingling and intermarriage, although today, with the full-force resurgence of old Islamic models and the hostilities along it, it seems the problems are largely the same, except they got perhaps a little uglier with all that sly decades-long maneuvering, marriages are being broken apart and friends are re-examining their relationships. Let's hope for the next episode.

17 comments:

Bruno said...

Interesting post, Abbas.

Do you think that a concept like pan - Arabism can work today? I know that the Ba'ath was less than successful in uniting the states of Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but in your opinion, is a pan-Arab outlook dead as a result? Do you think that pan-Arabism can overcome the present difficulties of sectarian violence, or is a different approach needed? Is it a viable way forward?

onix said...

bruno, i guess it is about a mondial attitude. Disagree pan arab effort was no succes. u can hardly blame one of the 3 nations u mentioned for having no options.
Irak bombed to pieces, egypt ideologically obliged to africa, and under fervent us arrest , and irak that is bombed to pieces can hardy be expected to form some bloc. It's anyhow more usefull to work to a mondial aproach then to create new diversions. In that sense it is better not to look at pan-arabism, and just stick to the subject of objective social analysis (the communism u so obviously sweep aside.)

Don Cox said...

What date was this book written?

Bruno said...

I hear what you say, Onix, but for the moment I'm interested in specifically Abbas' views and what he thinks.

Questioner said...

So doesn't this counter the statements of so many Iraqis and non-Iraqis who say things like, "Iraqis never even cared who was Sunni and who was Shi'i until the Amreekans came"... "Amreekans want to divide Iraqis so they brought sectarianism..."

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Don,

I checked, it looks like it was originally published in 1978. It has just been recently reprinted.

Abbas,

Sometimes I feel rather like a yo-yo when I read your posts. :) Pulled one way and than another.

I don't know. Was Iraqi unity all a myth forced on the citizenry by Saddam? Or was it real and then torn apart by recent events?

(I don't think I'm going to tell you what I read about the seeds of Arab nationalism. lol! I am sure you wouldn't like it, and it would only fuel more of those horrendous conspiracy theories people in the ME love.)

Anonymous said...

abbas, what period in iraq's history was Hanna Batatu referring to in the segment you sited?

when you say

today things are much different, mostly thanks to the pseudo-secular period of modern-day ideologies such as Pan-Arabism and Communism

'modern' being a relative term. the book "The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq" was published in 78 and in the segment you quoted he speaks in past tense.

Was Iraqi unity all a myth forced on the citizenry by Saddam?

is equality in america a forced myth? considering how much difference a century made wrt civil rights in this country clearly ideas change thru generational passages of time. i don't think anyone could have imagined during the 60's that in less than 50 years a black man could run a serious campaign to become president. my point being that it does not render either the past or present as 'myth'.

assuming the 'unity' most young iraqis speak of was a reality for, ,at a minimum, their generation i wonder how much time elapsed between the segment you site, and the present.

i also wonder how long it will take for the healing of sectarian wounds from the current atrocities. how that healing will take place w/iraqis cordoned off in segregated compounds is a mystery to me.

annie

CMAR II said...

[abbas] marriages are being broken apart and friends are re-examining their relationships

Really? That's pretty extreme. How would something like this happen? Is divorce not seen as much of a disgrace in Iraq as in Iran? Have you had any friends who have re-examined their friendship with you or vice-versa?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

is equality in america a forced myth?

The establishment of quotas in hiring, for example, might be considered forced equality. If that pressure were removed, would the "equality" go away? Are quotas good or bad? Has more equality evolved from the use of quotas or from societal pressure to do the right thing and try to treat everyone decently?

Anonymous said...

Has more equality evolved from the use of quotas or from societal pressure to do the right thing and try to treat everyone decently?

lyn, you answered my question. the reason is unimportant to my premise, but the idea 'more equality has evolved' acknowledges it exists and takes it beyond the realm of myth. tho equality still can be measured by degrees.

i do think it is possible to force a myth on people, yet that won't guarentee it becomes a reality for everyone.

as an aside, more than anything quotas put people in positions where they were exposed to eachother as equals in the workforce and education systems. many people, being decent humans, simply adjusted. but more importantly was that following generations grew up not knowing life any other way. that has created a more color blind society. before the civil rights movement equality was primarily a myth, in many ways it still is.

so when you ask if unity was a forced myth, you imply it was limited to myth. i would have to argue from what i have heard, there was also a reality of unity for many iraqis. just as there are many americans who experience living in a society of equal opportunity.

what period Hanna Batatu was referring to in this passage? he speaks of the the government of the Ottoman Sultan. that runs from the 1500's to the early part of the last century. far before saddams time. so if there was ever a 'false myth' of unity, it could have started before saddam.

Or was it real and then torn apart by recent events?

i think a forced myth might be that there was no unity in iraq and once we invaded it just naturally, inevitably fell apart.

annie

anon1 said...

I think that either Batatu was exaggerating somewhat, or this passage of his is concerned with the urban population. Bedouins and rural tribes had only recently converted to Shi'ism back then, and put less value on sectarian identity than townspeople. Also, many of the tribes had adherents of both sects. The largest tribe in southern Iraq, the Muntafig, was mostly Shi'ite in the 19th century, but it remained loyal to its leading clan, the Al Sa'dun, who remain Sunni to this day.

As for the comment regarding "the Amrikan" and sectarianism, sure sectarianism may have existed, but I don't think it ever reached the level of vicious sectarian cleansing that occurred in Iraq recently. There were Sunni cities in the midst of Shi'a areas (e.g. 19th century Basra) and vice versa.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, no matter how much we try to grasp these issues, it always turns out to be more complex on closer inspection than we thought.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Annie,

as an aside, more than anything quotas put people in positions where they were exposed to eachother as equals in the workforce and education systems.

Yes, in that sense they were a good thing. They helped to force people to get over the barriers that may have been built by racial, gender, or other types of prejudices.

...more importantly was that following generations grew up not knowing life any other way. that has created a more color blind society.

So quotas were then seen as a good thing. We had grown up with them and had seen them work for us. Yes?

i think a forced myth might be that there was no unity in iraq and once we invaded it just naturally, inevitably fell apart.

Whether forced or not, or a myth or not, a situation that was dealt with as a reality. No? And when dealing with a problem most people will fall back on their experiences in dealing with it, no?

Anon1,

I guess what I'm trying to say is, no matter how much we try to grasp these issues, it always turns out to be more complex on closer inspection than we thought.

A very accurate thought. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

me
i think a forced myth might be that there was no unity in iraq and once we invaded it just naturally, inevitably fell apart.



lyn
Whether forced or not, or a myth or not, a situation that was dealt with as a reality. No?


very good lyn, you haveidentified the neocon jingo exactly! the reality reconstructionists (like you) created a myth and then pretended it was/is reality. for more understanding..

A senior adviser to Bush explained this to Ron Suskind back in 2002:


The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ........ "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We'http://ejectiraqikkk.blogspot.com/re history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."[1]

so based on what this advisor says, your analysis is spot on, it just isn't part of the 'reality based community'. we tend to make a distinction between myth and reality and proceed accordingly.

And when dealing with a problem most people will fall back on their experiences in dealing with it, no?

if that were the case, we wouldn't have to have psyops campaigns. the reason we invest so much in mind control, and mass control, is to determine how to get people to respond the way we want them to, to create a reality from our myth.

for if we could rely on reality, we wouldn't have to use propaganda to back up our agenda.

wrt will fall back on their experiences in dealing with it

to consider the response to the reality of iraq as 'falling back' to a separation of sect, ignores the REALITY of the provocations set in place to instill the reactions.

one can create a myth of unity and set about motions to create unity, just as one can create a myth about chaos or disunity to set about the same motions. once the 'motion' either disharmony or unity exist, then it becomes a reality.

the reality is, things are much less unified now than they were preinvasion. one can create a myth this was inevitable, however that is based on speculation.

annie

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