IRAQ — As Iraq is liberated, the Iraqi people and the U.S.-led Coalition face the task of creating a new government in Baghdad.
The short-term aim of such a government is to put the shattered nation together again. The longer-term aim should be genuine democratization, so no future tyrant can emerge.
Few people in the outside world, even among our Arab brethren, fully understand the depth of our sufferings at the hands of Saddam Hussein, known to Iraqis as “the Vampire” (al-Saffah). An Iraqi proverb says: He who is watching the club does not understand the one who is beaten with it.
Rightly or wrongly, most Iraqis believe that their sufferings are, at least in part, a direct result of the support given by foreign powers to the various despots who seized and exercised power in Baghdad. Fear of foreign intervention has been a central theme of Iraqi politics, literature, and art ever since the country came into being after the First World War.
That fear often paralyzed the Iraqi political parties and movements and provided an excuse for tyrants to push issues such as human rights, democratization, and pluralism out of the national discourse. The standard claim was that a nation that faced the threat of foreign domination could not afford the luxury of internal debate and dissent in the context of a democratic system.
Should we allow that claim to be revived and reinvigorated by insisting on direct American military rule in Baghdad?
Most Iraqis agree that the U.S.-led liberators cannot — indeed should not — just walk away as soon as “the Vampire” is killed or captured. The U.S. and its allies must play central roles in rebuilding the Iraqi economy and helping our people develop the institutions of democracy.
The best way in which the U.S. and its allies, notably Great Britain, can make their historic contribution to the building of a new, free, and democratic Iraq is by helping remove our people’s obsession with foreign intervention. That, of course, cannot be achieved through the imposition of an Anglo-American military rule beyond the minimum period that all reasonable people accept as necessary.
Can Iraqis rule themselves?
There are some who say “No.” They base their claim on pseudo-political mumbo-jumbo according to which the destruction of Iraqi civil society by Saddam Hussein has drained our nation of the resources it needs to create a people-based government.
Anyone with any intimate knowledge of Iraq would know that claim to be not true. Iraqi people have been fighting Saddam Hussein’s tyranny since 1968, long before the U.S. and the rest of the world got wise to his evil schemes and methods.
The ease with which the U.S.-led Coalition captured virtually the whole of Iraq in two weeks is, at least in part, due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of our people did not, would not, fight in support of their oppressor.
Today, the U.S. and its allies have almost all of the 24 million Iraqis as their friends.
This is why whoever forms the future government of Iraq will be a friend of its liberators. Our people will not allow it to be otherwise.
The U.S. and Britain should start urgent talks with all Iraqi political parties and personalities to form an interim authority to work alongside the allies during a period of transition that should be as short as possible.
Iraq has the largest urban middle class in the Arab world. It has tens of thousands of qualified people, both inside and outside the country, to man help create and run a new democratic system. All those could be mobilized in the service of a new Iraq with the help and guidance of the liberating forces.
The U.S. and Britain should remember that the liberation and democratization of Iraq could mark the start of a new phase in the history of the Middle East as a whole.
They have to confound Saddam’s villainous apologists who have been shouting all along that the Anglo-Americans came to Iraq only for its oil. They must prove wrong the French and others who have been telling the Arabs that Washington has a hidden agenda to colonize Iraq.
An Iraqi government backed by the U.S., Britain, and their 40 other “willing” allies will be bad news for the region’s despots and terrorists, and good news for its long-suffering nations.
A democratic and prosperous Iraq under a government of its choosing could become only true friend of the United States in the Arab world. It could also inspire the people of other Arab countries, as well as neighboring Iran, to fight for their own freedom and in pursuit of their own democratic aspirations.
— Awad Nasir is one of Iraq’s leading modernist poets. His latest book Here Is The Rose That Dances Here was published in Beirut, Lebanon last year.