"Those dirty A-rabs don't deserve democracy. We give them freedom and they kill our troops. We should nuke them all in their sh*t-hole." ... "Bring our troops home. What are they doing dying in some faraway land trying to bring democracy to people who don't want it?" ... "We Arabs are not yet ready for democracy. We need strong authoritarian governments to keep the peace and ensure economic growth." ... "We should be grateful to the Americans. They got rid of our dictator and brought us democracy." ... "Is this democracy? Is this freedom? The Americans killed all my family and destroyed my house. If this democracy, I tell you my brother, we don't want it!"
Such comments and their likes are unfortunately not uncommon among some Americans and Iraqis regarding the US-led invasion of Iraq. Whether American or Iraqi, pro-war or anti-war, one fallacy lies at the bottom of their reasoning: that somehow "democracy" had anything to do with the Iraq war. Not that possessing WMDs was ever -- objectively -- enough reason to subject the whole of Iraq to so much senseless destruction; but since it became clear that the only real threat Iraq posed was to itself, the rhetoric shifted into saving Iraqis from themselves by bringing onto them good old (well, in human history it isn't actually that old) democracy.
But the fact is, democracy was never the case. Not in Iraq and certainly not in the region. Not in 2003 and most definitely not before that. After the fall of Baghdad, there were no serious moves to install democracy. Instead, US policies were channelled to inflame the sectarian divide. After 12 years of merciless US-backed sanctions, all Iraq needed was one small push to descend into total chaos.
Yet many Iraqis still waited to see what the US would offer. What they got was complete absence of security, hundreds of thousands of jobs losses, and death and torture at the hands of US forces with the help of some "favoured" Iraqis. That's where the seeds of sectarianism had been sown. Instead of promoting reconciliation and unity, the US played a classic "divide and rule" game in Iraq and drew the new Iraq -- politically -- along sectarian lines. Militarily, Iraqis who had friends or family members killed or tortured by US forces in the presence (or under the advice) of other Iraqis weren't always strong enough to punish the Americans so they took vengeance on their fellow Iraqis. The result? A cycle of vengeance that could have been averted.
Meanwhile, on the "democracy" front, we had one segment of the population relatively prepared for campaigning whilst the other segment was barely struggling to stay alive let alone take part in elections. Who would they vote for? How can you have fair elections when all your potential candidates are in hiding for fear of being killed or detained and tortured? Voting may (or may not) have been free, but who would one vote for if his/her choice is not on the list that is approved by the powers that be? Adding to the confusion, Iraqis were requested to approve a Constitution that few had even had the chance to read, let alone contemplate.
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