The Iraqi Road
by Abraham Rothberg
With the formal transfer of
sovereignty to the Iraqis it is time we Americans proclaimed victory in
the war and brought our troops home. In the process, it is also time we
talked frankly to the Iraqi people. We have succeeded in liberating your
country from a murderous tyrant and a corrupt Baathist dictatorship. We
have done so at considerable cost in blood and treasure. It is now time for
such costs to be paid by you, the Iraqi people.
We have made mistakes in this
liberation and even done some evil deeds—wars are never neat affairs—for
which we ought to be held accountable, but we are not responsible for the
breakdown of your social order. The nonsense of what in our country is
called "the Pottery Barn imperative"--You broke it, you own it!—is
just that, nonsense. We did not break Iraq, and we don't own it. We did
not loot your museums and installations, or blow up your oil terminals and
pipelines, or your turbines and electrical towers, or your water systems.
You did. In fact we have done our best to restore your various
basic services, water, sanitation, electricity, oil—after they had for
years been abused and neglected by Saddam Hussein and his cronies.
Yet many of you hold us responsible
for the violence and disorder in your country, but do little or nothing to
quell that violence or bring about order. You complain of being
"humiliated," but it is you who have humiliated yourselves by passivity
and compliance in not resisting -those among you who are ruining your
institutions and pillaging your natural resources, as well as killing your
own people under the pretext of resisting our "occupation." If you want to
be free, if you want to be safe and secure, if you want to be prosperous,
if you want to end what you call our occupation, it is your job,
not ours, to bring order and civility, to stop those among you who murder
and destroy your country, your citizens, your properties.
Beginning in January you will have to
assume responsibility for your own safety and well-being. You will have to
search out, identify and deal with your suicide bombers, your assassins,
your ambushes and explosions, your private militias. You will have to
disarm all those who would bring havoc and chaos to your society.
That is your job, not ours.
You want a unified Iraq? Fine, then
you better learn to live with and respect one another, Sunni and Shia,
Kurd and Arab, Turkman and Persian. You want to split your country into
three independent nations, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd? Fine, it's your
country, but you'll have to learn to be good neighbors and to cooperate
peacefully. You want a secular state or a religious state, a socialist or
a market economy? Fine, all of those are your choices to make, not
ours. Keep in mind, however, that if, once again, you become a menace to
your neighbors or a haven for terrorists, or a threat to us, the prospects
for your future will be bleak indeed.
We have liberated you from Saddam
Hussein and the Baath, but to make a civil society and a decent future for
you and your children, you must now liberate yourselves. That is not
our job: It's yours. We have won your war for you, thankless job that
it was, and now we're going home and leaving you to win the peace because that, too, is your job.
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