Saturday, December 18, 2004

How we botched the Iraq operation

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe explains just how badly the Iraq operation was botched through the eye's of history:

Yes, it is. But liberations are often dangerous and turbulent, less clear-cut while they are happening than they later become in retrospect. There was chaos during the US occupation of Germany after World War II, and journalists were certain then too that military victory was being squandered through postwar blunders. In 1946, leading publications concentrated bad news in articles with headlines like "How We Botched the German Occupation" (Saturday Evening Post), "US seen 'fumbling' its job in Germany" (New York Times), and "Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe" (Life).
Jeff then goes on to describe the situation in Iraq from the Iraqi point of view. This was done by handing out hundreds of video cameras and then editing the tape into a movie:
"Voices of Iraq" is by turns heartbreaking, exhilarating, and inspiring. The war and its destruction is never far from the surface. One of the opening scenes is of a car bombing in Sadr City, and when a little girl is asked by her off-camera interviewer, "What do you want to tell the world about Iraq?" she answers poignantly: "These explosions are hurting everyone." A mother weeps for her son, killed in the crossfire during a fight between US soldiers and looters. There is even footage -- supplied, Drury told NPR, by a sheik from Fallujah -- of insurgents preparing a bomb.

But bad as the war is, the horror it ended -- Saddam Hussein's 24-year reign -- was worse.

In the film, a young Kurdish mother tells her daughter, who is wielding the camcorder, how she would burn herself with cigarettes to prepare for the torture she knew was coming. A policeman recalls what it was like to arrest a member of the Ba'ath Party. "You'd be scared," he says. "You'd shake with fear." One man explains that Saddam's son Uday "used to come often to Ravad Street -- every Thursday for the market -- to choose a girl to rape." A few brief clips are shown from a captured Fedayeen Saddam videotape: A blindfolded man thrown to his death from a rooftop, a man's hand getting severed, someone's tongue being cut out.
Jeff then ends on a more hopeful note:
Iraqis haven't had much experience with democracy, but we see the delight they take in the new opportunities Saddam's defeat is making possible. Two women celebrate the freedom to get a passport. An artist talks proudly about work for which he went to prison. A young woman says her dream is to be a lawyer. And one rough-looking fellow says simply, "I wish for a government elected by the Iraqi people."

Yes, it's a liberation. And the men and women we liberated, it turns out, are people just like us. The headlines dwell on the bad news, and the bad news is certainly real. But things are looking up in Iraq, as the Iraqis themselves will be happy to tell you. All someone had to do was ask.
So it may be that Iraq is not irredeemably botched after all.

Hat tip LGF.

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