April 10, 2013

Something For Those Denigrating The Iraq War To Consider

I certainly understand those who look upon our nation’s military action in Iraq to have been a disaster. We discovered that our leaders had for at least a decade believed things that were untrue because our nation’s intelligence services had supplied wrong information. We watched as a quick victory became a much tougher slog due to a rising insurgency. And there was the financial toll on our country that weakened our government and our economy. One can make the case that the Iraq war “was not worth it”.

But while our media an opinion leaders are willing to look upon the question from a very American – and very political – perspective, what we don’t often hear is the answer to that question from Iraqis. Take this response from one of Saddam Hussein’s many victims – Kurdish activist Barham Salih, who suffered in the torture chambers of the Iraqi dictator.

Today, Salih is the chairman of the board of the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani, which provides a liberal education in a place not previously known for such a phenomenon. In recent years, Salih has served as both the deputy prime minister of Iraq and as prime minister of the Kurdish regional government. He was in the camp of people who argued that Saddam’s decision to commit genocide against Iraqi Kurds (sometimes with chemical weapons) in the late 1980s made his removal a moral imperative. I asked him if he thought the invasion was worth it.

“From the perspective of the Kurdish people -- and I dare say the majority of the Iraqi people -- it was worth it,” he said. “War is never a good option, but given our history and the brutality of Saddam’s regime, it may have been the only other option to end the genocidal campaign waged by Saddam against the Kurds and other communities in Iraq.”

Here is where his answer became a lament. “I must admit, however, that 10 years on, Iraq’s transition is, to say the least, characterized by unrealized expectations, both for Iraqis and for our American liberators. Iraq is not the friendly democracy that the U.S. had hoped for, and it is far from the secure, inclusive democracy that Iraqis deserved and aspired to.”

He went on to blame Iraqis, rather than Americans, for the failures of the past decade. “Much can be said about U.S. missteps and miscalculations in this process, but there is no denying that Iraqi political leadership bears prime responsibility for squandering a unique opportunity to deliver to their people. This has been nothing short of a drastic failure of leadership on our part! The Kurdistan region offers hope that all is not lost in Iraq.”

Is Iraq stable? No, it isn’t.

Is it what we had hoped for a decade ago? Again, it is not.

And certainly there are acts of terrorism and a government that is cozy with the Iranians – neither a desirable outcome.

But there are no government torture chambers in operation. There is a democracy of a sort, and opportunities for Iraqis that did not exist in 2003. So while maybe the most imperialist view of what “worth it” (ironically adopted by the Left who opposed the war from practically the beginning), the war ended up improving the human rights situation of millions of Iraqis – Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Doesn’t that count for something?

Which is not to say that the war was or was not "worth it" -- merely that the argument need not be viewed as so decisively weighted towards the negative response as some would like it to be.

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