Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Leaving Iraq-But Better Than We Found It

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Leaving Iraq-But Better Than We Found It

Article excerpt

AFTER THE fall of the statue of Saddam Hussain in Baghdad's Ferdoos Square on April 9, 2003, Iraqis were full of hope. Unfortunately, their hopes quickly faded as they began living a nightmare of violence, death squads and abductions. This pre-emptive war turned Iraq into a battleground by leaving its borders open and inviting in all who wanted to fight. President Bush, himself, went on the record with his famous challenge to "Bring It On." First to accept was al-Qaeda, which made Iraq its new battleground. Sunni and Shi'i extremists took advantage of the opportunity to settle past feuds. For the past five years, no one in Iraq has been spared the violence.

During 2008, the daily cycle of violence has subsided. This can be attributed to a multitude of changes and events-including the engagement of those who previously were disenfranchised, the addition of troops on the ground, and the widespread ethnic and sectarian cleansing of mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad and throughout Iraq.

Today, hope has returned once again, and we have an obligation and an opportunity to support the Iraqi people by fixing what we broke. Americans have invested much blood and treasure in Iraq, with little to show for it. Even after thousands of dead and injured, and billions of dollars spent, we are told that the modest gains made are "fragile and reversible." As the current debate intensifies about the future of the U.S. in Iraq, we should at a minimum secure our legacy and leave Iraq in a better condition than we found it.

One of the major problems with this region of the world is its non-representative governments. Most of them are dictatorships that have held onto power for generations, with no accountability to their people. The current government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad was elected through a flawed process that disenfranchised many communities in Iraq. Its power is derived from parties that depend on foreign benefactors, the U.S. occupation and Iranian meddling.

While Iraq's current transitional government has brought some stability to the Green Zone, it has been plagued with rampant corruption and incompetence and can very easily fall into the pattern of other regional dictatorships. It will be hard for the current ruling group to voluntarily cede power and hold free and fair elections in 2009 without supervision. …

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