Iraqi Democracy?

The best intentions often go astray, as the poet would have it, and the administration would do well to recognize that fact as it prepares for the time when the USA will be gone from Iraq. The word from the beginning of hostilities has been that a democracy will be founded in that benighted nation as a result of the overthrow of Saddam. It was unwise to have taken that position then, no matter how great was the idea, and it continues to be unwise to harp on that theme now. President Bush would have been well advised to stick with his campaign position that nation-building was/is not the business of this country. Making it possible for a country to rebuild itself is acceptable, as the U.S. has done, if only as an adjunct to another effort, such as destroying the threat of terrorism.

At least three things are vital for a people to govern themselves voluntarily and democratically: a reasonably well educated population; a significant modicum of integrity on the part of its people and institutions, especially including government; and the recognition that the rule of law must always prevail. Given the absence of any of these elements, the effort toward representative government will fail. These elements were present, on the whole, in the formation of the colonies and subsequent national government, with respect to the United States. They remain in place today, though each comes under constant fire from one group or another (and sometimes the courts) and must be maintained at all costs.

Sixty percent of the Iraqi population is illiterate, as compared to three percent in both this country and Cuba. Dictators must rely on either overwhelming military might or an abjectly ignorant population, or both, in order to grasp and hold power. By last year, when he was brought down, Saddam had ruled with an iron and bloody hand for 24 years. His people were/are predominantly functionally illiterate (education required only to age 11); he has epitomized a total lack of integrity and made that feature a mark of the country; there is no rule of law. After an entire generation enduring these circumstances, its people lack any sense of history or a large enough cadre of educated professionals to form an intellectual basis for governance. Lacking two of the needed qualities, Cuba is in the same predicament, having been under the thumb of Castro 20 years longer than Saddam's rule, two generations. The elections in both countries are a sham.

Lack of integrity on the part of its movers and shakers augurs ill for any enterprise since at the end of the day truth will prevail and often spell doom. A myriad of accounts of corruption on the part of government officials, elected or otherwise emplaced, is furnished daily in the USA by the media, reminding that this nation's stability, from the standpoint of integrity, is always in the balance. Saddam, along with his murderous and sadistic sons and the rest of his retinue of oppressors, has governed in such an intensity of corruption that it will take a long time for the people to understand that even the possibility of a better way exists. These thugs' preemption of "food-dollars for oil" for their own gratification (palaces, etc.), for instance, is evidence of the extreme venality that has brought starvation and a breakdown in the furnishing and maintenance of public utilities in Iraq.

Finally, the rule of law is paramount. In Iraq, it has been non-existent. The rule of terror has been paramount there. Also abundantly obvious in Iraq has been the desire of the people to have "rule by imams." Hopelessly brainwashed (another sign of ignorance) by religious fanatics who play the terror/ecstasy card with respect to Paradise or whatever else is involved in the mystical hereafter, they go to their deaths with explosives strapped on their bodies and the incentive of killing innocent people, unashamedly conned by the ayatollahs who depend upon the people's ignorance for holding their positions of power. This is disgusting to a rational mind-set, but it is set in concrete in nations ruled by Muslim tyrants, whether nominal government officials or outright religious despots controlling government. Because of this, there will be no democracy soon.

When sovereignty of a sort is handed to the Iraqis on June 30, it should be with the understanding that U.S. troops will immediately begin deployment home - no 150,000 left there for another year to be picked off in twos and threes. The Iraqis have the right to choose their own type of government, even if the imams/ayatollahs prevail (and they will) and the state becomes a theocracy or collection of same. The most important goal in the war vis--vis the Iraqis and the rest of the world will have been accomplished - the removal of the monster and his cadre of ogres. It is virtually inevitable that the Iraqis will choose up sides then and fight each other, as well as any available "infidels," as they have for centuries, and just as they will in eastern Europe when (probably if) the peace-keeping forces withdraw.

At home, the politicians should stop making the serious business of defeating terrorism into a political circus, thus trivializing the responsibilities and lessons learned, with regard to Afghanistan and Iraq. This grim work has only just begun, and it ill serves the nation for its leaders to constantly posture and preen concerning it in the effort to gain reelection at all costs. The president should begin now explaining that the matter of governance in Iraq will be left to the people there, and that the Iraqi army and police forces (largely trained by the U.S. military) will be responsible for doing their own dirty work, i.e., cleaning out the nests of terrorists.

May 2004