Apr 282003
Authors: Ashley Wheeland

The big bad witch is dead. Or maybe he just fled. No one is quite sure. On his 66th birthday, a day that was election day in Iraq for many years, Saddam Hussein is nowhere to be seen. Well, except on pictures with captions reading “Shame on you.” But there are new signs on this day. They proclaim “No more Saddam, only Islam.”

So the United States did it. The military ran over the Hussein regime and never even saw it fleeing. But what did we do it for? To help the Iraqi people? Like we have helped the people of Afghanistan? To deal with the war on terrorism? I see more people turning to fundamental Islam.

My concern is with the Iraqi people. “Shiite and Sunni Muslim clerics in robes, Kurds from the north, tribal chiefs in Arab headdresses and Westernized exiles in expensive suits…” (AP, April 28) The people are a diverse group. They are much different than the massive poverty-stricken population of Afghanistan.

They have lived in a secular society for the past 20 years. Many have been oppressed and not allowed to voice their beliefs (religious and political.) Many have been victims of Hussein’s violence, like the Kurds to the north. Many have prospered as western-style bureaucrats in the capital of Baghdad. Bringing this many voices into the conversation is a challenge, and the United States is supposed to manage the challenge.

But how do you reason with people who have never learned that they can reason, can compromise, can come together to find a middle ground? Many of these people have only seen leadership with a heavy hand, and in turn think that is the way to lead. Others see the fractionalization and sigh in disgust at the situation before them.

And in front of them stands the representation of power, an appointed United States general who is supposed to help find compromise. I am not sure if this is the right fit for the job. Why not appoint a leader who has worked with groups to come to compromise, who has helped groups that have never had access to compromise or know what it looks like?

Compromise for the Iraqi people may not be the objective. The United States has shown the world its strength in the destruction of the Hussein regime. (So there, all you other big bad witches!) Appointing a military leader has benefits such as setting up systems that allow the United States to monitor Iraqi military development, political leadership – basically any power organizations. It also gives the United States a powerful hand in the Middle East. It puts them in the situation of running a country with the very same groups that plot its destruction through terrorism. I am not saying that these are not rational reasons for a military-led organization of Iraq.

However, I am reminded of the British, the French, the Dutch and their colonies. They had many reasons for running India and other colonies. They made a lot of money for the colonizers (which Iraq can do for the United States) and they kept the colonizers in power on the East side of the globe.

My point is that the imperialist, colonial, military domination of developing countries has only impeded much of their growth. One only needs to look at the political fragmentation, the nasty leadership and the failed infrastructure systems of many formerly colonized countries to see this. The United States using the military to “develop a new Iraq” leads to many of the same problems. The people within the system learn that this is to be expected of leadership, and the local leadership that takes over follows the outline set by the colonial powers.

We will have to watch and see. U.S. retired General Jay Garner may prove me wrong. I hope he does. I hope he realizes the legacies of white people creating systems for other people. I hope he considers how the people of Iraq have to be given the knowledge and the abilities to come to compromise and democratic leadership.

If not, we may see painful despair in Iraq and in turn repercussions in our own country. For the United States it is now the time to show the world that it is not about power, rather it is about learning, knowledge freedom, choice, and exploration. These make up democracy, and it is democracy that the Iraqi people deserve.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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