Skip to comments.Kanan Makiya's War Diary [Iraqi dismisses leftist peaceniks]
Posted on 03/25/2003 2:08:27 PM PST by mondonico
The bombs have begun to fall on Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers have shot their officers and are giving themselves up to the Americans and the British in droves. Others, as in Nasiriyah and Umm Qasr, are fighting back, and civilians have already come under fire. Yet I find myself dismissing contemptuously all the e-mails and phone calls I get from antiwar friends who think they are commiserating with me because "their" country is bombing "mine." To be sure, I am worried. Like every other Iraqi I know, I have friends and relatives in Baghdad. I am nauseous with anxiety for their safety. But still those bombs are music to my ears. They are like bells tolling for liberation in a country that has been turned into a gigantic concentration camp. One is not supposed to say such things in the kind of liberal, pacifist, and deeply anti-American circles of academia, in which I normally live and work. The truth is jarring even to my own ears.
If you want to understand the perceptual chasm that separates how Iraqis view this second Gulf war from how the rest of the Arab-Muslim world views it--or from how these antiwar elites here in Cambridge or, dare I say, in Turtle Bay or Paris or Berlin view it--then you must begin with the war that has already been waged on the people of Iraq by their own regime. Then you will know, horribly, how the explosion of a JDAM can sound beautiful. For Iraqis, the absence of this new American-led war is not the presence of peace. Years before the first American cruise missile exploded in a "safe house" of the Iraqi leadership, the people of Iraq were living through a war. They have been living through that war since 1980, the year Saddam Hussein launched his futile war against Iran. Since then, one and a half million Iraqis have met a violent death. Between 5 and 10 percent of Iraq's population has been killed, either directly or indirectly, because of decisions made by its own leadership. The scale of such devastation on a people is impossible to imagine. Think of Germany or France after World War I. Think of the Soviet Union after World War II. The peoples that are thrust into such a meat-grinder are never the same when they emerge. Is it any wonder that we Iraqis do not look at this war the way so much of the rest of the world does?
The war rages on around me in the shape of the news broadcasts to which I have become hopelessly addicted. While I watch, my friends in the opposition are gathering in Kurdistan with the Iraqi National Congress and in Kuwait with Jay Garner's office. I should be there with them, but I am told I have to stay. I am needed here, to keep touch with Washington. I cannot stand it. All I have to think about is whether or not the U.S. government is going to once again betray the Iraqi opposition, and renege on commitments made regarding the democratization of Iraq.
There is enough chatter out of Washington to make me apprehensive. Last Wednesday, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, Marc Grossman, managed to deliver a long briefing to foreign reporters on "Assisting Iraqis With Their Future, Planning For Democracy" without any specifics on the issue. While Grossman summarized U.S. plans and offered statistical details on economic reconstruction, dealing with weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian assistance, and the role of the United Nations in all these things, all he could say about the central political question was that the Bush administration "seek[s] an Iraq that is democratic." Unlike its experience in Afghanistan, the administration has had months, if not years, to think about what democracy in Iraq would look like. And yet when the journalists asked Grossman to elaborate on the subject, he could add almost nothing.
Why? Does the United States have any ideas on this pivotal subject? Will the administration push for those ideas in the establishment of the still-ambiguous Iraqi interim authority that Grossman mentioned in his briefing? And what is the role of the leadership of the Iraqi opposition elected in Salahuddin last month? These are the questions I am left here to argue about with American officials while the war's progress provides a more pleasant soundtrack.
I have to admit this concerns me too.
At the risk of sounding like a selfish DU'er ("Ooh, I hope the casualties go into the 100's so we don't get Bush in '04..."), I have to say that the administration had better have a good plan for rebuilding that country and making it a textbook example of democracy. Otherwise liberals will make it into a pet issue and it could hurt us in the election.
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