Friday, December 08, 2006


The Kurdish tribe mentioned previously was non-Arab Sunni Muslims living in Iran. (There are a few ethnic Iranian tribes of nomads but, for the most part, Iranians are non-tribal.) That Kurdish tribe had been battling other Kurdish and Arab tribes and the Persians (Iranians) off and on for thousands of years, since before they became Muslim. It is a testament to their fighting prowess that they are still in existence.

In the Arab world there are hundreds of tribes all of which, through necessity, are warlike and have a custom of fighting each other without a great deal of provocation. In Iraq there are 150 identifiable tribes. This is from Wikipedia:

Most Iraqis identify strongly with a tribe ('ashira), and nearly half of Iraqis are more loyal to their clans or tribes than to the national government. Thirty of the 150 or so identifiable tribes in Iraq are the most influential. Tribes are grouped into federations (qabila). Below the level of the tribe, there are the clan (fukhdh), the house (beit) and the extended family (khams).
You can read the entire entry *HERE*. This entry makes clear the problems of trying to put a Western (American) political system in the middle of an Arab civilization.

There are two excellent, true to life movies that depict reality in that region. The Man Who Would Be King starred Sean Connery and Michael Caine and was based on a Rudyard Kipling short story. The story parallels pretty much how Mohammed managed to conquer the region except Mohammed had nucleus of tribesmen around him while the Sean Connery character did not. Mohammed also linked his conquests to religion which gave him much more power over his followers.

Also, Mohammed was probably quite mad which inspired fear and superstition in the Arab tribesmen. That would explain all the contradictions in the Koran which allow people to interpret it any way they want. It would also help explain the heights of Arabic prose which I’m told he reached in his writings. A bi-polar personality can sometimes achieve some marvelous things on the up-swings.

The other movie that would aid in understanding the region is Lawrence Of Arabia. This is a marvelous depiction of the squabbling tribes which a semi-mad Brit could unite against the Turks. But in victory their squabbling results in not achieving their goals. Their squabbling results in their not having a voice in the victory conference.

Much of the identical problem can be seen in Iraq today.


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