Friday, July 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished?

As the U.S. withdraws from an active role in Iraqi affairs to military bases and then home, Iraqi leaders step up to the plate. Here's one story told by a U.S. soldier of a ceremony to re-open a bridge crossing an open sewer dividing Sunni and Shia communities, an event made possible only because Americans slogged it out hard with blood and spent treasure heavily for five years to reduce sectarian conflict:

In the 120 degree heat, we listened to readings from the Quoran, poetry from local civilians, and speeches from top generals. They talked about the great things the Iraqi Army has done and the secure future that is in store for the Iraqi people. Everyone felt good about themselves; you could feel it in the air.

As we stood to move to the ribbon cutting and bridge crossing there was an announcement. A couple of the religious leaders wanted to make statements. Everyone obliged and returned to their seats.

Sunni and Shia both stood and made the same claims. My translator began to speak, “A day of brotherhood, unity, and security. There was to be only one people; Iraqi Muslims. No more Sunni, no more Shia…..”

My translator stopped speaking.

“What are they saying?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

“Tell me.”

“Okay, sir. Coalition Forces and Terrorists are no long welcome in this country.” my translator stated.

Because we've given the Iraqis more than they can ever hope to repay, they must take the attitude that they owe us nothing at all - that it was the Americans who brought terror to their country and gave nothing in return.

Very much like the French who complained there was no fighting in Normandy until the Americans landed. Remember, the first speech DeGaulle gave after the Allied liberation of Paris was to give all credit to the French for the liberation. Not one word about British and American forces - and no word about collaborators, either.

Five years ago I wrote:
We Americans put too much faith in gratitude. The fond feeling the French had for us twice saving them faded in the 1960's. The Germans want to forget their debts to us for freedom and unification... Both want - desperately - to believe the U.S. today is just as bad as they were in their imperial days -- to lessen their collective feelings of guilt and moral inferiority, and to justify their refusal to stand side-by-side with the United States...Gratitude goes even less far in the Arab world. Arabs today have, at best, selective memories; at worst, they believe their own lies, and, by the noise of repetition, impress it into others...

...the Iraqis must feel that they created their own democracy, not one imposed by an "empire"...In the end, they may feel angry with us, but if they succeed, they will be a real, confident, country, one that will stand up for democratic values, like El Salvador is today -- not wilted lettuces like France and Germany. We want an Iraq that won't tolerate terrorists in its midst." link

But all we got was an Iraq that doesn't tolerate terrorists, and that may change. The Iraqis now have a republic of sorts - if they can keep it. I sense we are leaving without the values of democracy rooted in the government - the people don't feel empowered, as the Americans did with their (mildly) corrupt state governments after the Revolutionary War.

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