Monday, April 23, 2007

Turning Baghdad Into the West Bank

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On Saturday, the New York Times had an article about a wall the U.S. military is building around Adhamiya, a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad that is surrounded by Shiite neighborhoods.

Today, Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post reports that it's not just Adhamiya:

The U.S. military is walling off at least 10 of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods and using biometric technology to track some of their residents, creating what officers call "gated communities" in an attempt to carve out oases of safety in this war-ravaged city.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made it clear he wants the wall-building to stop, immediately:

Iraq's prime minister said on Sunday he had urged the U.S. military to halt work on a wall separating a Baghdad Sunni enclave from nearby Shi'ite areas after sharp criticism from some residents.
Speaking in Cairo at the start of an Arab tour to drum up support for Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Islamist, said he objected to the 5-km (3-mile) wall, which residents said would isolate them from other communities and sharpen sectarian tensions.

"I asked yesterday that it be stopped and that alternatives be found to protect the area," Maliki said in his first public comments on the issue.

"I said that I fear this wall might have repercussions which remind us of other walls, which we reject," he added.

Some Adhamiya residents have compared the wall to barriers erected by Israel in the occupied West Bank.

Juan Cole has more on the comparison to Israel's wall:

The mainstream US media will sidestep this point, but al-Maliki pretty explicitly said that the reason he called off the wall building is that he doesn't want his government compared to that of Israel. That is, the Adhamiya wall is being likened in the Arab world to the Apartheid Wall being built by the Israelis in the West Bank. Al-Maliki made the statement in Cairo, and when he referred to the "other walls" he didn't want the one in Adhamiya compared to, he pointed toward Israel. The Western press is bringing up the Berlin Wall as part of his meaning, but the videotape makes it absolutely clear that his referent was Israel's project. On the other hand, Nassar al-Rubaie, a Sadrist member of the Iraqi parliament, did warn that the US is building a series of Berlin Walls in Baghdad.

The politics of the wall points to the ways in which the Israeli-Palestinian issue is absolutely central to the difficulties the United States is having in being accepted in Iraq. Many Iraqis perceive the US presence as just an extension of Israeli occupation of Arabs and Arab land, and routinely refer to US troops as "the Jews."

The Israeli government has grossly mistreated the Palestinian people, the current condition of which is grave. The wall the Israelis are building is built on Palestinian land and has stolen more land from Palestinians and has in some instances run through Palestinian villages, cutting them in two and separating families. The Apartheid Wall has provoked demonstrations.

So being a foreign military force in an Arab country and looking like they are building security walls similar to that of the Israelis just puts the US and its ally, al-Maliki, in a very difficult position.

Right-wing cluelessness reaches new heights, with Jules Crittenden comparing the sealing off of Iraqis into walled ghettoes, to exclusive gated communities for the wealthy in the United States.

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