Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Iraq, the unraveling (XXIX): The politics of revenge

One of the most interesting sub-genres of journalism is the article reporters write as they leave a country or beat. Often, they vent feelings and views they’ve kept pent-up for year. Here is a classic of the type. As she leaves Iraq, Alissa Rubin of the New York Times summarizes the harsh lessons she learned ...

577831_091102_AliPoster25.jpg
577831_091102_AliPoster25.jpg

One of the most interesting sub-genres of journalism is the article reporters write as they leave a country or beat. Often, they vent feelings and views they've kept pent-up for year.

Here is a classic of the type. As she leaves Iraq, Alissa Rubin of the New York Times summarizes the harsh lessons she learned from years of living in Baghdad:

. . . Army checkpoints -- legal ones -- are the only ones that stop you, but huge posters of Imam Ali punctuate the streets, a signal that this is now Shiite-land. Imam Ali is revered as a founder of the Shiite branch of Islam, but a poster of him is also a silent rebuke to Sunnis, a way of marking territory, of reminding them that the Shiites run things now. It is a sign of victory as much as peace.

One of the most interesting sub-genres of journalism is the article reporters write as they leave a country or beat. Often, they vent feelings and views they’ve kept pent-up for year.

Here is a classic of the type. As she leaves Iraq, Alissa Rubin of the New York Times summarizes the harsh lessons she learned from years of living in Baghdad:

. . . Army checkpoints — legal ones — are the only ones that stop you, but huge posters of Imam Ali punctuate the streets, a signal that this is now Shiite-land. Imam Ali is revered as a founder of the Shiite branch of Islam, but a poster of him is also a silent rebuke to Sunnis, a way of marking territory, of reminding them that the Shiites run things now. It is a sign of victory as much as peace.

And victory in Iraq almost always begets revenge.

In my five years in Iraq, all that I wanted to believe in was gunned down. Sunnis and Shiites each committed horrific crimes, and the Kurds, whose modern-looking cities and Western ways seemed at first so familiar, turned out to be capable of their own brutality.”

I think this is a good prism through which to view Iraq’s upcoming national elections.

Photo: ALI YESSEF/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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