Iraq, Again

I had written about Iraq before. I’m compelled to write again now because this week, the entire western media is busy observing the fifth anniversary of the war. Understandably, the noise is particularly jarring in the UK. From documentaries to public surveys to special supplements to newspapers, they are everywhere. Since I have been reading some of them and forming opinions, I thought I’ll add my two pence to these piling of reams.

The media across the world has been extremely critical of the Iraq war. Among others, it considers the failure to foresee the prolonged battle or the emergence of insurgents as the important one. It’s like Bush thought he will enter Iraq, overthrow Saddam, establish democracy, withdraw the troops and the Iraqis will celebrate him as the Saviour. Before the war, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a meeting of middle-east experts from the top universities for a consultation. The experts warned of a possibility of a prolonged battle and also the insurgencies. Today, the experts lament that Blair ignored their advice.

Overall, most of the world considers this war as a wasteful exercise and hence a bad decision. Not me. There are three angles to see this from, national, economical and international threat.

Nationally, Iraq is divided into three communities is something everyone would know, Shia majority, Sunni minority and Kurds. Of these, except Sunnis to a large extent, others have faced worst possible atrocities during Saddam. Shias are the majority but they were a ruling minority and there was genocide against them post Gulf War because they aligned with the US army. Kurds have been the guinea pigs for Saddam’s chemical warfare experiments for years on. There have been brutal ethnic cleansing exercises that, if Saddam was allowed further, would have attempted to match the Holocaust. Even among Sunnis, those who are against Saddam’s regime have been continually put through hardships, from loss of jobs to lives.

Peter Galbraith, the Iraq expert who is now critical of Bush has called for use of arms to remove Saddam in the early 90s. He has personally witnessed the atrocities against Kurds and recorded them in his book The End of Iraq. He was actually instrumental in bringing documented evidence to the US that forced the White House to slap comprehensive sanctions, which almost broke the backbone of Iraq’s economy. Life was not better before this war.

Life is not great after the war either but the news is hesitantly trickling in that the life is limping, albeit slowly, back to normalcy. The biggest achievement is that Saddam is gone. The US and Britain are pumping in money towards the national building exercises. There are some growth figures according to a study by The Observer.

The rise of children enrolled in middle and high schools (02-05): 27%
The rise of telephone subscribers (05-07): 3m to 9.8m
Monthly Wages of a university professor: $1300

According to a survey by Channel 4, 80% of people felt that the situation is improving and according to the statistics, the insurgent violence has come down.

Not all statistics are this encouraging. There are others that far less consoling but I’m not including them because the doomsayers must be already over quoting them.

Finally, the Kurds, who have always been the victims, have an autonomous state and their own president today.

Economically, the money being pumped in is slowly making a difference. The arrival of satellite TVs, Internet and mobile phones are trying to compensate for the lack of security to a little extent. The government should work towards Shia-Sunni unity, which will bring down the insurgencies and ensure that the money is spent on national building rather than security.

From the international perspective, Al Qaeda has lost another territory that could have provided an official residence to their business. Today, highly marginalised and reduced to living in the remote caves of Afghanistan, their terror network is being severely amputated with the elimination of Sadddam. I don’t know what would have happened if Osama were free to operate with Saddam around. Chances are that more of 911s were being planned by the group but could not materialise it due to a breakdown in their support structure, what with Afghanistan and Iraq gone. I am not ready to ignore the ‘What-If’ especially after the highly successful campaign on 911.

I do not believe that Bush really believed that he can let the democracy flower in Iraq and return victoriously within weeks of Saddam’s exit. With the worldwide track record of Islamic countries evident aversion towards democracy and ‘foreign’ occupations, it would be naïve to think that. Yes, I would be upset if Bush were to invade India and throw my leader out. But what would I do if my leader destroys my country and his presence is a threat to the world, and worse, if I’m powerless to overthrow my leader through democratic or other means?

As an aside, there is a personal consolation to me. Clinton once commented that Kashmir is the most dangerous zone in the world. This created murmurs among the Indian diplomatic circles. Today, Clinton will have to change his line because there is some place else that’s possibly worse than Kashmir. Also, he will perhaps empathise with India because he should now know what it means and costs to fight Islamic Terrorism.