Cruelty & Silence also contains this melancholy reflection:

[A] country like Iraq has been left with the worst of everything; its society is suspended in a void, no longer having any real traditions (Islamic or otherwise) from which it can draw at least temporary comfort. This conclusion has enormous political implications for the shape of things to come in the post-Saddam era.

It's been frustrating that we've heard so little of Makiya lately. (He's clearly had his differences with the coalition authorities.) The good news is that he has a sobering but unmissable op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal:

Having been subjected to the gravest of depredations, and having been scarred by a brutal dictatorship unmatched in its capacity for cruelty, the Iraqi people are today an unknown quantity. To be sure, the men and women who took their lives in their hands as they went out to vote are heroes. They are heroes in a way that it is difficult for people who have not been subjected to such abuse and intimidation to understand. But they are also victims. And, in spite of what so much of modern Arab culture has been trying to persuade us of in recent years, there is no virtue in victimhood; it is a debilitating condition, not a quality.

Iraqis have yet to come to terms with the meaning of their victimhood. They have yet to reconcile this debilitating condition with the political attributes of citizenship in a new Iraq. Above all, they have yet to create the leadership that is capable of making them reason through the very many pitfalls that coming to terms with one's own victimhood entails.

Makiya certainly doesn't belong among the nay-sayers - he still believes in the democratic future. All the same, he doesn't try to minimize the task that lies ahead:

To be sure, there are hopeful signs, among them Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's call for Shiite restraint in the face of terrorist violence. Yet the Grand Ayatollah is not a politician, and he has yet to find his moral equivalent among the politicians. The fact that Iraqis are still competing with each other over who has suffered the most, and who did or did not collaborate with Saddam, is a sign that whether or not Saddam is in jail, what he represented still lives on inside Iraqi hearts. Herein lies the greatest danger of all for Iraq's future.

There's equally guarded optimism from Tim Hames in the Times.
|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/02/view-today-cruelty-it-is-debilitating.html|||2/07/2005 11:26:00 am|||||||||