In 2003, as the United States invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, Kenan Makiya supported the campaign. After all, Makiya had written The Republic of Fear, the definitive history of Hussein’s rise to power and the brutal police state he ran. More than a decade later, Makiya is out with a new novel and new thoughts on the war and its aftermath. Today Brandeis will have the privilege of hearing his reflections and those of an all-star panel gathered to discuss the book.
Hayder Al-Mohammad, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dexter Filkins, Staff Writer for the New Yorker and author of The Forever War
Emma Sky, Director of Yale World Fellows and author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.
Wednesday, April 14
Rapaporte Treasure Hall
Middle Eastern food will be served.
2 Replies to “WED: Kenan Makiya and all-star panel discuss his novel of the Iraq War”
I believe this event had a really captivating environment. It was really interesting to have an insight into Professor and Kenan Makiya’s life from Professor Sohrabi’s point of view. This already captivating environment became a lot more interesting and even more captivating once the panel began. In his speech, Professor Makiya had deliberately asked the panelists to include candid criticism in their comments during the panel. Once the panel began, there was an abundance of thoughts the panelists had, and they weren’t afraid of speaking them out. As Emma Sky pointed out, the novel was also like a play, because the imagery and the descriptions were so accurate that it made the reader have a scene in front of him or herself. Also, as Haydar Al-Mohammad, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed out, the novel made him wonder “What would happen if these events didn’t happen? Would the unfolding of the situation in Iraq be much more different? How would that difference reflect to life today??” As a Middle Eastern international student myself, I can attest to the fact that Middle Easterners almost always try to foresee either what will happen next – in terms of politics, and we also wonder “What if? How would the events unfold if this one thing went differently, or this one treaty hadn’t been signed, or if this plane didn’t cross borders that it wasn’t supposed to cross.” I believe it is due to the constant turmoil situation that we live in, which also provides us with a completely different world view. This also corresponds to my personal thoughts about the panelists. Professor Haydar Al-Mohammad, an Iraqi who grew up in England, had a completely different view of the events in the Middle East from the other panelists. However, Emma Sky, Director of Yale World Fellows and author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, also pointed out some very interesting observations such as: “Iraqis are extremely loyal to their national identity.” and the fact that the US is looking for the wrong solutions, because the problem in Iraq was not the secterian differences that were incredibly present in public life, but rather, it was the weakness of the leadership. Emma Sky also pointed out that she was sent to Iraq by the UK government, and the UK government had told her that she would receive instructions once she got to Iraq and would be greeted by someone at the airport, who would give her her assignments. However, this was not the case and Emma Sky did not know what she had to do when she arrived to Iraq. In fact, she described this experience of hers as an irresponsible action of the UK government.
Overall, I enjoyed listening to the panel, and will definitely read the book, since all the panelists got me inspired to read it and think about it.
This discussion centered on Kanan Makiya’s new novel “The Rope” challenged my perceptions of the Iraq war, and offered different perspectives that I had never considered. The panel brought together three individuals (4 including the moderator) who had different personal relationships with Iraq, and all had varying views on how the conflict should have been handled. One of the most poignant points was made by Newyorker staff writer Dexter Filkins, who described Iraq under Saddam Hussein as a split and fractured entity being held together by a steel frame. The steel frame was Saddam, who used violent tactics to control and oppress his population, yet managed to hold together a region broken along religious and tribal lines. Once the United State Military invaded Iraq and removed Saddam from power, the cracked nation fell apart due to the power vacuum. Many argue that Iraq is in a worse place now then it was under Sadam’s rule. However, Kanan Makiya, who supported the U.S. invasion, felt foreign intervention was justified. As an individual who witnessed the true dark sides of the Ba’athist regime Makiya simply could not justify its continuation.
The other point that struck a chord with me was made by anthropologist Hayder Al-Mohammad. He remarked that anyone who could have possibly afforded to leave Iraq did during the initial years of the invasion. This meant that all the doctors, scientists, and well educated members of the Iraqi community had fled. What was left was a nation largely void of educated professionals. As a result, after the removal of Saddam Iraq lacked educated leaders and a stable population to rebuild a nation. So of course there were and still are massive challenges in rebuilding the country.