A Memo & an Article (III)
Amir Taheri says:
"In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks… it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein."At that time, many people displacements took place. The implementers of that policy were mainly the baathists, and many of them were greedy for the possessions & properties of certain people. Others used their authority of adding people to the expulsion lists for blackmailing, since every one who had been sent out of Iraq was deprived of citizenship & all his/her properties were confiscated.
Processions of trucks pulling trailers filled with Kurds jamming the streets of Baghdad was a repeated event in the mid of the 1970s. Thousands of Kurds were displaced from their domicile in northern Iraq to the southern parts. On the other hand, Arabs were encouraged to move northward, especially to Kirkuk, granting each Arab settler $30000.
The policy of changing Iraq demography was a permanent feature of the Baath regime. Another example was a decision issued by Saddam in the mid of the 1990s which prevented any person, who had not been registered in Baghdad province in the census of 1957, from possessing a real-estate in Baghdad. The decision was designed to prevent Shiite & Kurd newcomers from owning real-estate in the city. Moreover, campaigns were organized to kick out of Baghdad those who had not owned residential units in the city. Those who were renting houses were included in driving out of Baghdad.
Astonishingly, Mr. Taheri notes:
"Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen… To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark."The second sign which the writer refers to as a sign of improvement in Iraq is:
"…the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely… In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina."It is true that visiting the Shiite shrines, during Saddam's era, could stain one's reputation (according to Saddam's criterion) and cause him/her lot of troubles with the government.
Then he speaks about some features of Iraq economy:
"Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses."I go with the above. A merchant who works in toy business whose main stores are located in Shurja (the most important trade center in Baghdad) compares the number of lorries freighting goods to Nasirya (a southern city) before and after the 2003 war. He says that a transportation agency he deals with used to send one lorry every three or four days before the war to Nasirya. After the war, at least three lorries are to be sent daily to that city. It gives an indication of how many times the economic standard improved.
I may add the level of depending on the rations distributed by the United Nations under Oil-for-Food. Till the war, people were so dependent on the ration. Nowadays the number of the dependents declined.
The sophisticated Baath institutions, working nowadays underground, noticed the importance of crippling Iraq economy to undermine the whole new political process. One of their methods in doing so is launching a campaign to assassinate every store owner they can reach. And to double the outcome, they try to target Shiites in neighborhoods of Sunni majority and vice versa. The result is closing businesses and provocation of sectarianism. Still, businesses are flourishing in southern parts of Iraq but not to the level expected, since stability there is fragile.
Mr. Taheri says:
"Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people… Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage… To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised."I might doubt the last statement in the above since speaking freely nowadays in Iraq might cause one's death. The difference between Saddam's days and nowadays is that repression was practiced by the government, while nowadays it is practiced by the community, especially by clerics and terrorists. It is safe to criticize or use bad language to describe any member of the government, but one should be completely aware that such deed is dangerous to be against clerics, militias, Saddam, and terrorists.
Mr. Taheri argues for fostering the new born democracy in Iraq:
"A related argument used to condemn Iraq’s democratic prospects is that it is an “artificial” country, one that can be held together only by a dictator. But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so...Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom House came into being after Iraq’s appearance on the map."Mr. Taheri makes a significant point by saying:
"But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future."That's right since Saddam and his regime represented a real obstacle in the way of a normal social development. It is so obvious through observing the new Iraqi generation, especially those who were born after 1970; a generation which has been brought up amidst a series of wars and chaos.
The writer refers to certain principle which is deep rooted in old democracies, considering the Iraqi one likewise:
"…all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections."A principle which I doubt that it would be sustained in Iraq without keeping close eye on the political elite, and the whole society in general, by some rational power for equilibrium. Once again, I am completely convinced that our society must be educationally rehabilitated. Much work needed to change the collective mentality from admiring coup schemers to freely elected leaders. The majority of 'parties and personalities' are viewing the democratic process as a one-time-use method to seize power. So, one can hear rumors about a coup which is prepared by certain parties in collaboration with the Americans. Mr. Taheri rephrases it:
"Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination, and luck... if the military mission has been so successful, the U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least another two years. There are three reasons for this:
The first is to discourage Iraq’s predatory neighbors, notably Iran and Syria.
The second reason is political. The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities and political factions.
Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and testing Iraq’s new army and police."
'But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it.' as Mr. Taheri says. It is believed that the party which rules in Iraq is the one which can maintain the US interests. So, the Iraqi groups work hard to abort each other achievements, just to tell the Americans that the party you are allying with is of no use. These political groups:
"…have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure."I find the closure paragraph, of Mr. Taheri's article, inspirational and represent a hope for those who are steadfast in their determination to help Iraq to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East:
"Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is “messy.” Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?"