America had its civil war. Why expect freedom to come easy to Iraq?
BAGHDAD, Iraq--Americans keen to understand the ongoing struggle for a new Iraq can be guided by the example of their own history. In the 1860s, your country fought a great struggle of its own, a civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives but ended in the triumph of freedom and the birth of a great power. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation signaled the destruction of the terrible institution of slavery, and the rise of a country dedicated, more than any other in the world of nation-states then and hence, to the principle of human liberty.
Our struggle in Iraq is similar to the great American quest, and is perhaps even more complicated. As your country was fighting that great contest over its unity and future, Iraq was a province of an Ottoman empire steeped in backwardness and ignorance. A half a century later, the British began an occupation of Iraq and drew the borders of contemporary Iraq as we know them today. Independence brought no relief to the people of our land. They were not given the means of political expression, nor were they to know political arrangements that respected their varied communities.
Under the Baath tyranny, Iraqis were to endure a brutal regime the likes of which they had never known before. Countless people were put to death on the smallest measure of suspicion. Wars were waged by that regime and our national treasure was squandered without the consent of a population that was herded into costly and brutal military campaigns. Today when I hear the continuous American debate about the struggle raging in Iraq, I can only recall with great sorrow the silence which attended the former dictator's wars.
He watches the debate our country has about Iraq, our media's refusal to report everything and their complete seeming enjoyment at only reporting every bad thing that happens in Iraq and ignoring every good thing that happens and he appreciates it anyway, as only someone who understands that in his country this is completely new, they never had the freedom to express themselves honestly without the fear of being killed and seeing their families killed also, so even in our callousness, he finds the good, which is the fact that we have the freedom to express ourselves.
It is perhaps true that only people who are denied the gift of liberty can truly appreciate its full meaning and bounty. I look with admiration at the American debate surrounding the Iraq war, and I admire even those opinions that differ from my own. As prime minister of Iraq I have been subjected to my share of criticism in that American debate, but I harbor no resentment and fully understand that the basic concerns of Americans are the safety of their young people fighting in our country and the national interests of their society. As this American debate goes on, I am guided and consoled by the sacred place of freedom and liberty in the American creed and in America's notion of itself.
He also seems to understand that his "neighbors", clearly referring to Iran, are doing everything in their power to stop Iraq from attaining what they percieve as their ultimate goal, liberty and freedom and the ability to live in peace.
War being what it is, the images of Iraq that come America's way are of car bombs and daily explosions. Missing from the coverage are the great, subtle changes our country is undergoing, the birth of new national ideas and values which will in the end impose themselves despite the death and destruction that the terrorists have been hell-bent on inflicting on us. Those who endured the brutality of the former regime, those who saw the outside world avert its gaze from their troubles, know the magnitude of the change that has come to Iraq. A fundamental struggle is being fought on Iraqi soil between those who believe that Iraqis, after a long nightmare, can retrieve their dignity and freedom, and others who think that oppression is the order of things and that Iraqis are doomed to a political culture of terror, prisons and mass graves. Some of our neighbors have made this struggle more lethal still, they have placed their bets on the forces of terror in pursuit of their own interests.
Political reconciliation is not easy as evidenced by our own latest show on the immigration bill, yet we expect them to come to terms easier than we, ourselves, are proving able to.
It is definitely a double standard when we expect them, being a sovereign nation for only a short amount of time, in comparison to us, to be able to do what we still cannot do.
How obviously hypocritical is that of us?
Some 12 million voters took part in our parliamentary elections. They gave voice to their belief in freedom and open politics and their trust imposed heavy burdens on all of us in political life. Our enemies grew determined to drown that political process in indiscriminate violence, to divert attention from the spectacle of old men and women casting their vote, for the first time, to choose those who would govern in their name. You may take this right for granted in America, but for us this was a tantalizing dream during the decades of dictatorship and repression.
He is right, we do take voting and living free and being able to express ourselves freely, for granted...for us, it is our right, for them it was a dream... a dream they are now fighting to make a reality.
Daily we still fight the battle for our security. We lose policemen and soldiers to the violence, as do the multinational forces fighting along our side. We are training and equipping a modern force, a truly national and neutral force, aided by our allies. This is against the stream of history here, where the armed forces have traditionally been drawn into political conflicts and struggles. What gives us sustenance and hope is an increase in the numbers of those who volunteer for our armed forces, which we see as proof of the devotion of our people to the stability and success of our national government.
His last paragraph pretty well sums up the entire situation:
Our message has been the same to one and all: We will not permit Iraq to be a battleground for other powers. In the contests and ambitions swirling around Iraq, we are neutral and dedicated to our country's right to prosperity and a new life, inspired by a memory of a time when Baghdad was--as Washington is today--a beacon of enlightenment on which others gazed with admiration. We have come to believe, as Americans who founded your country once believed, that freedom is a precious inheritance. It is never cheap but the price is worth paying if we are to rescue our country.
It is not easy to beg for help from people and Maliki has time and time again thanked us for all the help we have given them and, hat in hand, is asking us to help him complete his mission which is the same as our mission, which the completion of helps both, Iraq and America.
So, as we watch what happens in Iraq, not just the death and destruction, but their attempts at political reconciliation and to vote on critical bills, turn your eye to Washington and the battles being fought there, compare the two and ask yourself this question:
Do we expect the Iraqi's to be able to reconcile and get bills passed easier than we, ourselves can between the Democratic and Republican party?
If we cannot get anything done in Washington between two party bases, the Democrat and Republican bases, how on earth do we expect the Iraqi's to get things done quicker than us, when they are dealing with THREE bases, Sunni's, Shiites and Kurds?
Maybe we should get off our high horses because, unfortunately, they are looking to us as an example and we are proving ourselves to be a very bad example.
"We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."... John F. Kennedy