by Patrick Lang (bio below)

From “Shattering Iraq” published in the National Journal by Paul Starobin:

“But by the end of 2003, close observers of Iraq were seeing in the conflict a localized, sectarian element that was separate and apart from Arab or Iraqi nationalist stirrings against the United States as occupier. For three decades, W. Patrick Lang has been an Arab specialist in the U.S. government, in positions including intelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency and the first professor of Arabic language at West Point. Now a consultant in the private sector, Lang has visited Iraq some 20 times over the years. Less than a year after the U.S. invasion, “it became clear,” Lang said in a recent interview, that a civil-war-like conflict was under way. (Stanford political scientist Laitin says he would backdate the onset of civil war, more formally, to the point of legal transition from foreign occupation to self-rule: the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government in June 2004.)

At the root of the civil war, Lang says, are Sunni Arabs contesting for control of an Iraq in which Shiite Arabs feel newly empowered. Like Bosnia under the Austro-Hapsburg Empire, Lang says, pre-invasion Baathist Iraq was a kind of “ecumenical melting pot.” And even though Sunnis were largely in control, secular Shiites occupied important posts in institutions like the police force, the civil service, the universities, and the army. It was “a pressure-cooker approach to forming national identity,” Lang says, and “we interrupted this process of amalgamation…. By taking the lid off this pressure cooker, we have allowed these various elements to resolve themselves into their basic form.” Some 20 cities and towns around Baghdad, once mixed, are segregating along Shiite and Sunni lines, according to a recent New York Times count. ”

Read the full National Journal article.

Col. Patrick W. Lang (Ret.), a highly decorated retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces, served as “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism” for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and was later the first Director of the Defense Humint Service. Col. Lang was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For his service in the DIA, he was awarded the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive.” He is a frequent commentator on television and radio, including MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (interview), CNN and Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room (interview), PBS’s Newshour, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” (interview), and more .

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Drinking the Kool-Aid,” Middle East Policy Council Journal, Vol. XI, Summer 2004, No. 2

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