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Iraq and Doublethink

As 2018 closes Iraq in significant ways resembles a dystopia, rather than a functioning democracy. The aspects of the dystopic Iraqi nightmare range from the ridiculous, the tragic and the critical. The epithet ‘Orwellian,’ often reached for in political discourse, does seem particularly apt in examining the sheer level of delusion and falsity that afflicts any serious perspective of Iraq in domestic and international evaluation.

George Orwell’s seminal novel Nineteen Eighty Four features the struggle of an everyman against a totalitarian and all pervasive regime that sustains its grip on power by systematic warping of the truth. The book has gifted the English Language with many terms and expressions that have great resonance for the modern world. These include ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Room 101,’ ‘Thought Criminal’ and many more. Orwell’s tropes have been used to lay bare the grim absurdities of many regimes, from the old Soviet Union to North Korea. Thus, dystopic fiction holds a mirror to corrupt and self-sustaining polities.

Iraq in 2018 is certainly not a monolithic dictatorship and so, at first glance, Orwell’s metaphors might seem a poor fit. However, one Orwellian expression coalesces much that is crucially wrong with Iraq. The term in ‘Doublethink.’ In Nineteen Eighty Four ‘Doublethink’ is explained as ‘the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’ The sheer catalogue of ‘Doublethink’ afflicting Iraq is staggering.

Here are some of the details:

Government. The 2018 election featured widespread election fraud but the flawed process produced a new Iraqi Prime Minister pretends that he has the mandate to govern Iraq. Absurdly Abdul Mahdi was appointed as a technocrat (along with the President) who would be able to rise above sectarianism. However, Abdul Mahdi is steeped in Iranian Revolutionary ideas of governance. Moreover, months after the election he is still struggling to form a stable government. The Byzantine deals with factions and religious groups certainly do not make Iraq stable. Nor do they make Iraq look like a modern representative democracy in any meaningful way. One has to use ‘Doublethink’ to pretend that the current Iraqi government is anything other than a contradiction in terms.

A Sovereign State. With many Iraqi politicians paying obsequy to Iran, being in the pay of Iran and taking their orders from Iran, how could any sane perspective assess that Iraq is sovereign? Iranian proxy militias do Tehran’s bidding in Iraq. Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives are embroidered into the highest echelons of Iraq’s decision makers. Iraqi sovereignty is an illusion which only ‘Doublethink’ can palliate.

Wealth and Corruption. Iraq on paper is a rich country, with great oil reserves and potential to elevate the prosperity of all its citizens. Yet in all significant measures Iraqis lack way behind the levels of prosperity that they should receive. Poverty has increased, healthcare is chaotic and literacy has fallen. Corrupt politicians collude to siphon Iraq’s wealth on a massive scale. Once again, Iraq’s wealth and prosperity is a mirage and only ‘Doublethink’ says otherwise. How long must Iraqis wait for the benefits of their birth right?

Conflict. The Iraqi leadership recently commemorated the end of the conflict with ISIS. Yet ISIS still exists. Moreover, the Iranian militias retain pernicious power in the country. Iraq carries out executions on an industrial scale. Murder, rape and ethnic tensions are still a blight on the country, often fomented by Iran. Therefore ‘Doublethink’ has to be employed to pretend that Iraq is a country at peace.

All this is not the fault of Iraq entirely or exclusively. Western countries are war weary and choose to pretend that Iraq has entered a settled and post conflict state. The inept and corrupt Iraqi political class try endlessly to arrange the cards they have dealt and delude themselves that they can build a new Iraq upon a flawed system of cronyism, sectarianism and quotas. ‘Doublethink’ ensures that the deceit at the heart of Iraq’s problems are perpetuated.

Only a secular Iraq that unstitches religious and ethnic agendas from the workings of the state has any chance of cutting through the ‘Doublethink.’ It is this fair and mature direction that is the only hope for Iraq. Until this happens Iraq will be remain broken and ungovernable.