The Null Device

Saddam Over Iraq

An interesting thesis on the social history of Iraq, in particular the Ba'ath party's systematic annihilation of any possibility of a civil society arising any time soon.
In her book, The Outlaw State, she describes a common behavioral reaction that Iraqis exhibited when encountering foreign visitors like herself who happened to ask even apolitical questions. Sciolino referred to it as "the blank stare." (Sciolino, 77). By this she meant that when asked a question that might seem harmless to a Westerner, but that to an Iraqi connoted even the slightest hint that something political could be read into his or her answer, it was simply safest to reply by assuming a blank stare. For one could never be sure that an informer was not lurking nearby. Makiya takes this argument even further. Accordingly, to live in Iraqi Ba`thist society requires not just assuming the blank stare but putting on a mask
In one case, a government official and his family were executed and their house bulldozed simply because he happened to attend party where someone known to him had made a joke about Saddam in his presence. Informers were present at the time but his failure to report the joke cost him and his family their lives. (Miller and Mylroie, 50). In a more recent case, a telephone operator was executed simply for warning a businessman not to use a line that was bugged.

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