Mocking the “culture clash” reporting about the Iraq War
Spencer Ackerman makes a valid observation.
Is this really such a culture clash?
“Blackwater shooting highlights a U.S., Iraq culture clash“, LA Times (4 may 2008) — Excerpt:
U.S. officials painstakingly examine evidence and laws while attempting to satisfy victims’ claims through cash compensation.
But traditional Arab society values honor and decorum above all. If a man kills or badly injures someone in an accident, both families convene a tribal summit. The perpetrator admits responsibility, commiserates with the victim, pays medical expenses and other compensation, all over glasses of tea in a tribal tent.
“Our system is so different from theirs,” said David Mack, a former U.S. diplomat who has served in American embassies in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. “An honor settlement has to be both financial and it has to have the right symbolism. We would never accept their way of doing things, and they don’t accept ours.”
If an unaccountable band of politically-connected soldiers-of-fortune shot my mother as she was trying to flee from a traffic circle, and the State Department offered me $5,000 in order to make the incident go away, I would not only be angry, I would be exploring my options for revenge. You don’t have to be an Iraqi to understand this.
In “Culture Clash” Matthew Yglesias goes one more step with this analysis. — Excerpt:
It’s really bizarre how, in the context of war, totally normal attributes of human behavior become transformed into into mysterious cultural quirks of the elusive Arab. I recall having read in the past that because Arabs are horrified of shame, it’s not a good idea to humiliate an innocent man by breaking down his door at night and handcuffing him in front of his wife and children before hauling him off to jail. Now it seems that Arabs are also so invested in honor that they don’t like it when mercenaries kill their relatives.
What a fascinating place Iraq must be! Maybe someday we’ll discover that in Arab culture they have this weird thing where people’s political allegiances are heavily influenced by issues of ethnic, cultural, and religious identity and that having their destinies controlled by a foreign, religiously alien, occupying army that doesn’t speak the language is kind of a drag. Who knows?
Some of the comment continue in this rich vein of gallows humor; here are two examples.
I. The obligatory story from The Onion: “Study: Iraqis May Experience Sadness When Friends, Relatives Die” (26 July 2007).
II. From Lon:
Do you think that the spokesman being quoted has never seen the legal drama in which the family refuses to accept a large settlement because they are insistent that their be an acknowledgement of wrong doing on the part of the evil company. And by “the legal drama” I mean every legal drama on tv for the last few decades at least once, and often more than once. It is funny to see an idea which is so common that our tv writers must say, “Can we really get away with using that one again” treated as something foreign to western values.
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