A Tipping Point in Iraq?

There is a growing number of stories that seem to all support the same conclusion… Good things are happing in Iraq since the election. Very good thing indeed…

Suddenly, It’s ‘America Who?’

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Through 22 months of occupation nd war here, the word “America” was usually the first word to pass through the lips of an Iraqi with a gripe.

Why can’t the Americans produce enough electricity? Why can’t the Americans guarantee security? Why can’t the Americans find my stolen car?

Last week, as the euphoria of nationwide elections washed over this country, a remarkable thing happened: Iraqis, by and large, stopped talking about the Americans.

With the ballots still being counted here, the Iraqi candidates retired to the back rooms to cut political deals, leaving the Americans, for the first time, standing outside. In Baghdad’s tea shops and on its street corners, the talk turned to which of those candidates might form the new government, to their schemes and stratagems, and to Iraqi problems and Iraqi solutions.

And for the United States, the assessments turned unfamiliarly measured.

“We have no electricity here, no water and there’s no gasoline in the pumps,” said Salim Mohammed Ali, a tire repairman who voted in last Sunday’s election. “Who do I blame? The Iraqi government, of course. They can’t do anything.”

Asked about the American military presence here, Mr. Ali chose his words carefully.

“I think the Americans should stay here until our security forces are able to do the jobs themselves,” Mr. Ali said, echoing virtually every senior American officer in Iraq. “We Iraqis have our own government now, and we can invite the Americans to stay.”

The Iraqi focus on its own democracy, and the new view of the United States, surfaced in dozens of interviews with Iraqis since last Sunday’s election.

This really is no surprise; though it would have been nicer to seen immediately after the fall of Baghdad. It was going to happen sooner or later. I guess we can’t blame the Iraqis for not “getting it” at first…

Since April 9, 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s rule crumbled, Iraqis have viewed themselves more or less as American subjects. American officials ran their government, American soldiers fought their war, American money paid to rebuild Iraq.

Indeed, the American project to implant democracy in Iraq often seemed to be in danger of falling victim to the country’s manifest political passivity, born of a quarter-century of torture centers, mass graves, free food and pennies-a-gallon gasoline. The more the Americans tried to nudge the Iraqis towards self-government, the more the Iraqis expected the Americans to do. …

After June 28, when American suzerainty here formally ended, not many Iraqis bought the notion that the interim government of Ayad Allawi was anything other than a caretaker regime, hand-picked by the Americans and the United Nations.

After living a generation in a totalitarian dictatorship, it really should come as no surprise it took a while for the reality that they were on the road to freedom to sink in. It was a cultural thing. They didn’t have the benefit of growing up in a land where the culture places as high a value on freedom as we do.

An analogy could be made to raising a child… When a child is young, they can’t comprehend the ways of the adult. — At some point, the child matures and realizes it was for their own good and is grateful to the parent for all the work. Having no “baseline of freedom” it just took the Iraqis a while to trust our intentions and to have faith in their own abilities of self-governance.

What surprised me is how few Democrats got it… They kept (keep) saying we were only there to occupy Iraq… And they have no excuse like the Iraqis, they knew better!

All that seemed to change last Sunday, when millions of Iraqis streamed to the polls. Few if any Iraqis had ever voted in anything approaching a free election, yet most seemed to know exactly what the exercise was about: selecting their own representatives to lead their own country.

It appears the Iraqis now have a better understanding of this “freedom thing” than many in the American left. Amusing, but not altogether surprising.

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8 Comments

  1. Uncle Mikey February 7, 2005
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