TCS Daily


Iraq: The Creators

By Charles Matthew Rousseaux - June 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Amid the car bombs and carnage, being optimistic about the situation in Iraq and the June 30 handover of sovereignty is quite a challenge. Many might say it could only be met by street pharmaceuticals or at least severe myopia. Yet it is far too soon to forsake the imperfect union being created in the cauldron of Iraq.

Last week was one of the grimmest to date: Three U.S. soldiers were killed; the Iraqi oil southern pipelines were attacked; five Iraqi officials were killed, including a deputy foreign minister and the head of security for northern oil fields; and many people died in two car bomb attacks, including the one last Thursday that left 41 dead.

To some, the blasts have proved that Coalition forces are incapable of keeping the peace. But they have also served as a rallying point for Iraqis against terrorism. A Boston Globe story about the Baghdad blast said, "The suicide attacks could be backfiring, judging from the comments of survivors of the bombing." Shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi promised to use all the forces available "to ensure that the Iraqi people enjoy security, stability, prosperity and democracy."

It must be remembered that the suicide attacks -- and there will be more -- pose a challenge to security, but not to sovereignty. It's a critical difference. The strength of such dead-enders -- their willingness to die to disrupt a developing democracy -- is also a terrible weakness. They offer nothing except a return to religious fascism, which few Iraqis want.

Their actions could lead to a significant challenge to democratic government -- the imposition of marital law. Mr. Allawi said he is considering imposing it in some cities immediately after the turnover. If limited in time and place, the drastic measure may help restore order, but those so empowered have a habit of prolonging emergencies to stay in power. A strongman that emerges from a situation might not be so pliable after the transfer of sovereignty is complete.

The only other real challenger to representative government -- Moqtada al Sadr -- has put down his arms and is apparently attempting to join the political process. Not long ago, Sadr said that Iraq would be another Vietnam. However, hundreds of his militiamen were killed in battles against Coalition forces. Moderate Iraqis turned, and stayed turned against him. Faced with those facts (and far fewer faces in his ranks), he has ordered most of the remaining members to go home and announced his provisional support for the new government.

Assuming he is not sitting in a cell due to the outstanding murder charges against him, al Sadr might even stand for office in January. It's unlikely he would do very well in a run for president -- a recent poll by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) showed him to be trailing another well-known Iraqi political figure -- Saddam Hussein.

Admittedly, the poll had such bad numbers that the CPA didn't release it to the public. But the drop-off in support and tenuous security situation should not obscure the tangible creations fashioned each day. According to the CPA, 15 of 26 government departments are under direct Iraqi control, and 737,000 Iraqi government workers (almost 60 percent) report to Iraqi ministers. The oil pipelines are rebuilt as fast as they are blown up, and late last month, a sewage treatment plant in Baghdad went on line. Better trained police and soldiers are beginning to graduate from academies, and even the long-troubled Fallujah Brigade is showing some fighting spirit.

Iraqi health has improved according to United States Agency for International Development. More than 3 million Iraqi children under five years old have been vaccinated, and the remaining 1.2 should be in the not-too-distant future. Most of the children between 6 and 12 years old have been immunized against measles, mumps and rubella. Over 50 health care clinics have been renovated; over 600 have been re-equipped.

Amid all of the bad news, it is easy to forget that Iraq is filled with willing creators of freedom. They are the members of the Iraqi government who know that they are being marked for death by accepting their positions but do so anyway; the members of the many Coalition forces who risk death and injury for duty and democracy; the members of private firms and charities, who help because someone has to and it might as well be them. They are most of Iraq's 24.6 million citizens, who build their country each day by working hard and praying for peace.

That process of creation has even led to greater procreation, if anecdotal sales of the little blue pill are to be believed. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, sales of Viagra and its friendly fertile companions have skyrocketed. While the primal reason for liberated libidos might be fear, it might also be freedom.

Freedom remains the fundamental reason for the sacrifices in Iraq. Freed Iraqis will gain unprecedented opportunity; members of the Coalition will be freed from potential terrors and gain a friend and partner.

The creation of freedom is a precarious business: Few democratic states are established without bloodshed or pain. Yet freedom a precious is gift with undeniable power. Its creators in Iraq might yet be rewarded for their craftsmanship.

Charles Rousseaux is an editorial writer for The Washington Times and a frequent TCS contributor. Email: crousseaux@washingtontimes.com He recently wrote for TCS about Iraq: the Warriors.


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