The Republic of Iraq is officially a parliamentary democracy. It is predominantly – 97 percent -Muslim (Shia 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%). Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands Iraqis gave their lives after 2003 to make this parliamentary possible, all part of President George W. Bush’s vision of spreading western democracy at the point of a sword.
Though thousands of American soldiers will remain to bolster the new government, President Obama declared an end to the American combat mission On Aug. 31, 2010.
Things have been much less clear-cut politically, as Iraq has teetered on the brink of anarchy. Warring factions are still in the field; people are still dying – including the occasional American soldier.
The Washington Post reports that in a addition to the fatalities,
As a result of the insurgent and sectarian fighting that occurred following the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003, an estimated 1.6 to 2 million Iraqis had left Iraq by the end of 2006, mainly to neighboring Jordan or Syria; a similar number had relocated within Iraq. Among those who have left are an estimated two thirds of Iraq’s Christians.
President Bush wanted a regime change. British Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted a regime change. Others, including Britain’s senior military officer at the time, did not. His concern was that the war be lawful (a concern largely overridden in the 9/11-traumatized United States). Bush and Blair got their way, Saddam Hussein got the noose, and the people of Iraq got the screw.
In May 2003, President Bush gave his infamous “mission accomplished” speech on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. One would have expected the story to end there. But you can’t wish away the world and you can’t legislate facts out of existence.
Plans for Iraqi self-rule were approved by the UN Security Council in October 2003 and Saddam Hussein was captured in December. In January of 2004 it was demonstrated that the American reasons for invading Iraq – weapons of mass destruction – did not – and had not ever – existed. By March of that year an interim Constitution had been signed and in November 2006 Saddam Hussein was tried and sentenced to death (he was hanged at the end of December). All the while fighting continued and people kept dying. In fact, as the Washington Post tells us by late that year nearly 3,000 Iraqis were dying each month.
The Iraqi elections took place in March 2010 but were inconclusive and it was not until eight months later, in November, that a new government was actually formed. Imagine a delay like that in the United States. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki (who won 89 seats) got a second term but it took another month for the loser, Ayad Allawai (who got 91 seats), to accept the result, rather a Miller-Murkowski situation writ large. Both men are Shiites but Mr. Allawai is the more secular of the two and he had support from the Sunni minority.
The Sunnis, you may remember, ruled the country when Saddam Hussein was in power. Mr. Maliki had the support of Kurds and the Americans wanted the Sunni minority represented in the government.
Parliament approved the outcome on December 21, a mere day before a constitutionally mandated deadline. The government supposedly elected by the Iraqi people was a secular government.
A year later, American combat forces are gone – home or to Afghanistan – and the remainder are supposed to depart by December 2011. Mr. Maliki has said he will not permit U.S. combat forces to remain.
That might pose a problem, and what’s new about that where Iraq is concerned?
Now a new report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is saying that, in the words of Army General Lloyd Austin – who commands U.S. forces in Iraq – “The situation in Iraq is at a critical juncture.”
The report goes on to say that
Terrorist and insurgent groups are less active but still adept, the Iraqi army continues to develop but is not yet capable of deterring regional actors, and strong ethnic tensions remain along Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries. Although a government has finally been formed, it remains to be seen how cohesive and stable it will be.
And American diplomats and other mission employees might not be safe.
You see, violence is far from ended in Iraq: insurgent attacks in January killed at least 159 Iraqi citizens and 100 police and soldiers – “the deadliest month for Iraq since September, according to data released Tuesday by security and health ministry officials in Baghdad.”
We could keep up to 800 soldiers in the embassy to protect them but as the report concludes, “though such a force would have little interaction with the Iraqi public, it might also be cited as evidence that the United States has no intention of leaving Iraq.”
On top of it all, Iraq isn’t looking much like what we would recognize as a democracy. In December the government closed social clubs that serve alcohol in the capital, sparking protests by writers and poets that the move was Saddam-style repression. Turns out they’re enforcing one of Saddam’s old laws. All those people dead, so Saddam could rule Iraq from the grave?
But that wasn’t all. Next was theater and music classes, banned by the Iraqi ministry of education. Iraqi’s parliamentary democracy – the Republic of Iraq – is beginning to look more like the Islamic Republic of Iraq. It’s not exactly what either freedom-loving Iraqis or Americans who gave so much to the war effort hand in mind.
Doesn’t sound like all that both Iraq and the United States have been through since President Bush declared Mission Accomplished has accomplished all that much, does it?
Maps from CIA World Factbook