The director of the Helsinki talks that concluded July 5 in Baghdad achieved an agreement on how the various factions and parties can move forward. It was a positive step. But O'Malley also witnessed some ominous cultural trends reasserting themselves:

What is most disturbing is that this is not the first time, we learned, that Maliki has acted with such capricious disregard for all institutions of governance with no explanation provided. When his mood hearkens, action follows, rational or irrational, and no one questions his behavior. He is, for all the propaganda about the advances of democratization, a despot in the making with all the appurtenances of power under lock and key.

It seems that the psychological pathology that pervades Iraq five years after Saddam Hussein’s toppling is the same: instantaneous capitulation to the whims of the most powerful, with orders from the top implemented unquestioningly. Bowing to authoritarian diktats is still embedded in the national psyche because the consequences of not doing so are unclear and memories of what has happened in the past are too clear.

Political culture does not change overnight. Or even in five years. More like fifty.

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