To the Editor:
In reading the article "Culture in Post-Saddam Iraq" by Nimrod Raphaeli (MEQ, Summer 2007), I was saddened to see that the article was so selective in its survey of Iraqi ethnography. This prompts me to surmise that the intent of the article is to demonstrate that Iraqis are essentially more violent than other cultures, rather than to discuss both sides of this debate. There are many people who have ascribed the violence of Iraq's modern history to factors other than cultural failing. There are also, naturally, Iraqis who have despaired of their country and their people. Mr. Raphaeli seemed far more interested in quoting these latter views—in fact they were all he quoted. Would it be an appropriate analysis of American culture to cite only those Americans who had an essentially negative or fatalistic view of their own people?
Political analyst, United Nations
Nimrod Raphaeli responds:
Mr. Damluji suggests that the intent of my article is "to demonstrate that Iraqis are essentially more violent than other cultures." To the contrary, my intent was to highlight the efforts by Iraqis to revive their cultural life after decades of oppression and political violence. By highlighting poetry, theater, and art, the article takes an optimistic view of post-Saddam cultural achievements. What the article is not, though, is a comparative study of cultures; it does not examine the extent to which violence in Iraq may or may not exceed that of other cultures. As to the question whether the Iraqi culture is rooted in violence, the answer, unfortunately, is yes. Saddam's rein of terror has historic precedent. Generations of Iraqi students memorized the speech of the seventh-century governor of Iraq celebrating the idea of problem-solving through violence.
An article by Shafeeq Ghabra, on "Iraq's Culture of Violence" (MEQ, Summer 2001), also makes the point that "the phenomenon of Saddam is planted deep in Iraqi social and political soil, a thesis supported by much evidence." My article quotes Iraqi historian and sociologist ‘Ali al-Wardi to the effect that Bedouin culture formed the bedrock of Iraqi society. ‘Ali Allawi, the first civilian minister of defense of Iraq in the post-Saddam era, wrote that a "sense of a conflict-strewn society, permeates the work of al-Wardi: tribe versus tribe; tribe versus government; intra-urban violence between neighbourhoods; tribe versus town; town versus town; town versus government." Writing in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Ma'ad Fayadh referred to the seat of power of the kings and the leaders of Iraq as "the seat of death."
I don't know under what circumstances Mr. Damluji left Iraq. Like that of many of my community with roots dating back to the pre-Islamic era, my citizenship was taken from me: I was handed a piece of paper stating, "His citizenship has been revoked, and he will absolutely not be allowed to enter Iraq." I was expelled from Iraq. Now, I can only look back with nostalgia as I read Mahdi Muhammed Ali's poem "The Flight":
He was carrying only
A friend's farewell,
A suitcase too small to be seen,
And his misgivings what the road might conceal.
 Shafeeq Ghabra, "Iraq's Culture of Violence," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2001, pp. 39-49.
 Ali A. Allawi, The Occupation of Iraq—Winning the War, Losing the Peace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 12-4.
 Asharq al-Awsat (London), Nov. 10, 2006.
 Saadi Simawe, Iraqi Poetry Today (London: King's College, University of London, 2003), p. 13.