Last updated on: 6/6/2008 9:56:00 AM PST
Were sectarian differences a problem in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion?
George W. Bush, US President, stated in a Mar. 29, 2006 speech:
"Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing. In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He is a tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power...
To prevent these different groups from coming to challenge his regime, Saddam Hussein undertook a deliberate strategy of maintaining control by dividing the Iraqi people. He stayed on top by brutally repressing different Iraqi communities and pitting them one against the other. He forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of their homes using expulsion as a weapon to subdue and punish any group that resisted his rule. By displacing Iraqi communities and dividing the Iraqi people, he sought to establish himself as the only force that could hold the country together...
The argument that Iraq was stable under Saddam and that stability is now in danger because we removed him is wrong. While liberation has brought its own set of challenges, Saddam Hussein's removal from power was the necessary first step in restoring stability and freedom to the people of Iraq."
Mar. 29, 2006 - George W. Bush, MBA
Henry Kissinger, PhD, former U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. National Security Advisor, in a July 2, 2007 International Herald Tribune article titled "A Political Program to Exit Iraq," stated:
"The internal parties - the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds - have been subjected to insistent American appeals to achieve national reconciliation. But groups that have been conducting blood feuds with one another for centuries are, not surprisingly, struggling in their efforts to compose their differences by constitutional means. They need the buttress of a diplomatic process that could provide international support for carrying out any internal agreements reached or to contain their conflict if the internal parties cannot agree and Iraq breaks up."
July 2, 2007 - Henry Kissinger, PhD
David Gritten, former BBC News Correspondent, in a Feb. 25, 2006 article titled "Long Path to Iraq's Sectarian Split," stated:
"For more than 1,000 years, Iraq has served as a battleground for many of the events that have defined the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
In more recent decades, the political and economic dominance of Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs and their persecution of the country's Shia majority have only served to stoke sectarian tensions.
The US-led invasion in 2003, in which the nominally secular Baath government of Saddam Hussein was overthrown, finally gave Iraq's Shias an opportunity to seek redress and end the imbalance of power."
Feb. 25, 2006 - David Gritten
Patrick Cockburn, Iraq Correspondent for The Independent, stated in an Apr. 14, 2003 article titled "Looting's Roots: Poverty and Despair Behind Iraq's Ethnic Violence":
"Saddam Hussein's state was always deeply sectarian. On the day Kirkuk fell I talked to 10 Iraqi army deserters, all private soldiers, who had been defending a large village. Nine of them were Shias from the south of Iraq and one was a Turkoman. Although they came from different units, not one of the soldiers had met a Sunni Muslim who was a private soldier or a Shia who was an officer...
In 1991 the Shias and Kurds rose against President Saddam but the Sunni heartland did not. In the following years, Shia religious leaders within Iraq were systematically assassinated and their followers persecuted. I used to think that Sunni or Christian friends in Baghdad were exaggerating when they expressed terror at what would happen if the Shias of Saddam City in east Baghdad or in the south ever revolted, but it turns out that they were right."
Apr. 14, 2003 - Patrick Cockburn
Munir Chalabi, an activist for Iraq Occupation Focus, stated in a Jan. 24, 2007 ZNet article titled "Political Observations on Sectarianism in Iraq":
is a widespread misconception in the minds of many people that the US/UK
Occupation created the sectarian political map in
The sectarian massacres
of over 300,000 Shiites and 200,000 Kurdish civilians, whose bodies were dumped
in hundreds of mass graves, took place during the 1980s/1990s by the Baathist
sectarian state (and not by the Sunni community in Iraq), well before the
Jan. 24, 2007 - Munir Chalabi
Saddam Hussein, former leader of Iraq, stated the following in an interview with TIME magazine, as quoted by then Time Inc. Senior Edior Murray Gart and former TIME Correspondent Dean Brelis in a July 19, 1982 article titled "An Interview with Saddam Hussein":
great deal of misinformation has been spread in the Western press concerning
religious differences in
July 19, 1982 - Saddam Hussein
Al-Shikaki Ahmed, Political Researcher at the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World (CERMAM), stated in a CERMAM article titled "A Political Program to Help USA in Iraq" (accessed Aug. 22, 2007):
"Mr. Kissinger was...in error when he referred to centuries of conflict between Iraqis. On the contrary, despite the diversity of the Iraqi population, people have lived together in harmony in this part of the world for centuries. Although the population was often difficult to subdue by central government, a real civil conflict, based on ethnic or sectarian animosities, was rare."
Aug. 22, 2007 - Al-Shikaki Ahmed
Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Religion Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, quoted two Iraqis, Rod Shoubber and Berkeley Professor Hatem Bazian, in a July 3, 2006 article titled "Bay Area Sunnis, Shiites Find Common Ground":
'We never felt sectarian
issues between us,' said Shoubber, 52, a
After the invasion, it
brought all the historical issues of Sunni and Shia to the surface,' said
Shoubber, whose former San Bruno home was the site of a visit in 2002 from
current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunnis, who had more power than
Shiites when Hussein ruled, 'have changed hearts,' he said...
The power vacuum that
formed after Hussein's fall has allowed old divisions to return, UC Berkeley
Professor Hatem Bazian said. Fueling the conflict are colonial histories, the
rule of monarchs, the threat of
July 3, 2006 - Matthai Chakko Kuruvila
Erik Leaver, Research Fellow for Peace and Security at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Raed Jarrar, Iraq Program Director at Global Exchange, stated in their Aug. 10, 2006 Foreign Policy in Focus website article titled "Iraq's Sectarian Bloodshed 'Made in the USA'":
Shia and Sunnis have lived in harmony for centuries. Historically, the two
sects lived in the same areas, intermarried, worked together and didn't fight
over religious beliefs. During the decade of U.S.-imposed sanctions,
Aug. 10, 2006 - Erik Leaver, MA
Riverbend, the blog pseudonym for a Baghdadi computer programmer, stated in her Apr. 26, 2007 entry titled "The Great Wall of Segregation" on her website "Baghdad Burning":
always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign
capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign
capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in
Apr. 26, 2007 - Riverbend (pseudonym)