Sunday, June 20, 2004
Before the war in Iraq, I wished for only one thing which is to replace Saddam Hussein with a decent government that would accept to step down if beaten in an election. During the war in the Security Council, I immersed myself in the writings of New York Time columnist Thomas L. Friedman and other Arab liberals who believed that a decent outcome can result from the war in Iraq. I had my doubts of course. What would happen if the Shias of Iraq who never tasted a "theocracy" choose to embrace a religious form of government? Arabs never experienced democracy yet alone understand it, who can they adopt a democratic system in Iraq? All those questions raced through my mind as the US and Britain were battling the axis of weasels in the Security Council.
I had no idea what Iraqis inside Iraq thought about this whole issue. Internet was banned under Saddam and so I couldn't find one in the chat rooms. I remember the first day I saw Iraqis in Iraq (normal citizens and not Saddam's officials). It was on April 9, 2003, the day Saddam's ilk fled Baghdad. I saw Iraqis walking side by side with American while carrying their weapons. "Wow, they are not shooting them" I told my dad. "It seems that they like them". I added. I saw an old Iraqi woman gently patting the chest of an American soldier. A man was embracing a soldier and handing out cigarettes to the coalition forces. If CBS, Paris, and liberals in the US are telling us that Iraqis did not welcome the coalition forces, they were simply asleep on April 9, 2003.
After seeing the reaction of normal Iraqi citizens, I added one wish to my wish list. I wished that Iraq would be the only Arab country that is not stricken by anti-Americanism. I wished that Iraqis (and here I mean Shias and many Sunnis) would love the US with both their hearts and minds. I personally love the US and the government of the US. That is what I am and I am not ashamed of what I believe in. I do not agree with everything the US does around the world but I definitely do not have anti-Americanism running in my veins. I simply wanted Iraqis to be like me.
Today, I announce that I removed my second wish from my list and its back to square one: praying for a decent government in Iraq that would be good for the region, the US, and the world. Terrorist attacks that alienated America from Iraqis and America's huge avoidable (and totally unforgivable) mistakes in Iraq made the US part of the problem. Today, if you want to score some political points then you'll have to start bashing the US lead coalition or the American forces in general.
I am not painting a grim picture here. I still believe however that the majority of Iraqis feel grateful towards the coalition in spite of expressing dissatisfaction with it. I am just lamenting the loss of April 9, 2003. As the coalition diminishes and Iraqi leaders' faces begin to appear, Iraqis will eventually realize that the US is not the enemy. This rift can be filled. Who knows, may be Iraqis will feel grateful one more time when they cast their first ballot in the election box. Terrorists know that, they don't want that, and they'll do everything to stop that. Let us pray they fail. Let us pray there won't be any more avoidable mistakes.
What went right?
What went wrong?
The way forward.