Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Post Correspondent Cautions U.S. on Iraq

Francesca Seta/The Hoya Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid speaks about his experience covering the war in Iraq.

Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid expressed skepticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in a speech on Thursday sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

The speech, entitled “Covering Iraq: the War and its Aftermath”, dealt with Iraq’s post-Saddam identity.

“[There is] difficulty reading the situation, but the new conflict has unleashed more forces than the U.S. thought,” Shadid said.

Shadid, one of the most prominent Middle East correspondents, visited Georgetown after spending the last several months in Iraq during the war. He said his proficiency in Arabic allowed him to see dimensions of the war that are not apparent to many western journalists.

“Most coverage is Baghdad-centric,” he said and followed up by remarking that the rise of religious fundamentalism has often gone ignored by the mainstream press since it is taking place primarily in rural Iraq. He also mentioned that more coverage is better, citing the bias of the Western press.

Shadid explained that religion is the most powerful and unpredictable issue in postwar Iraq. One such religious force is the Iraqi Shi’ites who have challenged their Iranian neighbors as well as the U.S. presence and have sought to create a uniquely Iraqi brand of Islam. This new movement, Shadid said, has ridiculed Iranian clerics who did not “weather Saddam.”

At the same time, Shadid said that the movement also reflects Iraqi anger toward their neighbors who stood by as Saddam persecuted religious groups. “Iraq has a lot of resentment towards the Arab world,” he said.

In addition, Shadid spoke of another more amorphous and nameless Islamic movement in the Sunni triangle that has resisted American presence. Although many of the recent attacks on U.S. troops can be attributed to members of the Baath party, Shadid linked them to young Iraqis who are resentful and suspicious of the United States.

“Young people are waking up, not for anything, just for God,” he said. “They prefer martyrdom to marriage.”

Shadid said he did not support attempts to assassinate Saddam because it would cause a backlash against the United States.

“Killing Saddam would have the opposite effect of removing his baggage,” he said. This is not to say that most Iraqis supported Saddam, he said. If anything it is only “nostalgia for what he brought, not what he stood for.”

Shadid also said that Iraqi unrest is a symptom of uncertainty toward the nation’s future. He expressed pessimism toward the newly formed Iraqi governing council as it tries to gain legitimacy in Iraq.

He was uncertain with U.S. efforts to rebuild the government, asserting that the average Iraqi sees the governing council as “a tool for occupation.” He pointed to the debate over the Iraqi constitution as the next crucial stage for its future.

Although expressing concern with U.S. occupation, he did say that Bush’s $20 billion aide package was “crucial” to Iraq. At the same time, he doubted that it would be sufficient to rebuild the country.

Shadid also contrasted the reality of the Iraqis with the Bush administration’s portrayal of stability in the conflict.

“Iraq is chaotic and swirling,” he said. “People are [really] just trying to get by.”

On the weapons of mass destruction issue, Shadid expressed uncertainty, but did say that, “if they were there they should have turned up by now.”

His remark touches upon the heated debate among world leaders such as French President Jacques Chirac who have accused the Bush administration of exaggerating the Iraqi threat. The United States has been in Iraq for several months and still has not produced any hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction, casting doubt on its justification for the war.

Although the United States has not given an official date for its stay in Iraq, Shadid predicts that the administration will try to get out by next summer. He argued that it is highly unlikely, however, that Iraq will be self-sufficient by that date.

In the end, Shadid was skeptical of America’s mission to create democracy in the region.

Shadid said, “Liberalism has unforeseen consequences for the future of Iraq.”

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