Freedom is not just a word!
By: Calvin K. Preddie - 04/11/03
In the immediate aftermath of Saddam Hussein and his regime being driven out of Baghdad, the US media and guests, members of the Bush Administration and some members of the US government are prone to speak of “freedom” being brought to the Iraqi people. American viewers are privy to scenes of joyous celebrations by Iraqi citizens and some who chant endearing statements about President Bush to the TV cameras and there are, probably, some Iraqi citizens who actually believe they are now “free”. But to an America that is quite “hung up” on polls, they should be interested in the percentage of the number of people of Baghdad and the demography of the group of Iraqi citizens who are caught up in the instant euphoria of relief from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.
The US supporters of George Bush who have always been convinced that there could be no change in Iraq without the removal of Saddam and his regime are, obviously, correct. They were, probably, also correct in the belief that military force was required to remove Saddam and his regime. But they may yet have to reap the bitter fruit of the manner in which they chose to apply the solution to the problem faced by the Iraqi people, neighboring states, the Islamic world, the US and every other nation. A U.N. whose continuing support would be much needed has been maligned and some friendly nations whose support in the aftermath of the war would be very helpful have been severely criticized and almost “demonized” in one instance.
It might be very important to understand that the people of Iraq now “drunk” with the heady wine of apparent “freedom” because Saddam’s grip has been loosened are the same Iraqi people who, 28 days earlier would have been shouting Saddam, Saddam, Saddam in front of TV cameras. They are (several of them) Iraqis whose first taste of freedom is in the lack of authority that permits them to steal not only from government stock that must be replaced, but also from other Iraqi people at the same time. They are also free to shoot off their guns and do not have to answer to anyone as they are being guided by some of man’s baser instincts for some kind of retribution for previous ills and the grabbing of opportunities and material possessions that were denied them.
Whether the reactions of these “small” amounts of Iraqi people should be considered genuine expressions of love for President Bush and the coalition armed forces should be carefully studied before they are seen to be the promised reaction of the exiled Iraqis who convinced the US administration of the ready acceptance by the people of Iraq. The Iraqi people (many of then for their entire lives) have been forcibly and totally schooled into obedience out of fear of the powerful leader and of doing and saying what they are told and required to believe to be pleasing to the leader with the gun and the might to ensure that his wishes are carried out. Today, Mr. Bush and the coalition represent the leader with the more powerful gun and the military might to back them up. Their displays of welcome and support for Mr. Bush and the coalition may not be a sincere reaction to a genuine acceptance of “freedom”.
Freedom does provide rights for citizens, but the more important element of freedom is, probably, the acceptance of responsibilities for maintaining these rights of peaceful existence, fairness and justice, equality of treatment and protection from unnecessary and harmful abuse. Freedom is born of education, experience and enlightenment. It is not an instantaneous transformation that could be caught on TV cameras to be easily displayed to the world. That freedom might become even more elusive when the first taste is in the power to loot and disregard property value in a climate of absence of authority.
The morning after (today), some reporters speak of Iraqi people who express uncertainty and concern because they do not know the nature of the government that would replace the one that has been uprooted. They are afraid of exchanging one dictator for another. But the problems in Iraq are beginning to surface, partially because of the void of leadership and the resulting lawlessness that is damaging economically, socially and psychologically.
Under international law, it is possible that the US and coalition forces would be considered an occupying force which would render them responsible to provide for the needs and safety of the people of Iraq. It is a situation that is being more complicated by happenings today (04/10/03) where a returning popular cleric expected to be active in the reconstruction effort was assassinated and a suicide bombing act was carried out against the US military in Baghdad. These happenings along with a revenge killing of an Iraqi in Kurdish lands are not consistent with “freedom” of a people from tyrannical rule.
As the military force in occupation in Iraq, the coalition forces would be responsible for the policing of Iraq, but it might be impossible to police the people without coming into contact with them that would expose US and coalition forces to suicide missions. The situation would also make it difficult for international aid organizations to function because of safety considerations which could lead to severe hardships for the Iraqi people and blame might be levied at the US and coalition forces for any ills that result. The situation is even more complicated because the oil for food program is a U.N. operation with the government of Iraq, which effectively, no longer exists.
I am surprised that at this time where cooperation with the U.N. to facilitate humanitarian activities is necessary, the US appears to want to continue to distance itself from the U.N. because of the failure regarding the second resolution to 1441 for which the US must also bear considerable responsibility. Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s recent remarks indicate that the vital role for the U.N. is in the form of early recognition of the US led coalition forces as the legitimate governing authority in Iraq. But the US plans to keep the U.N. out of the political transformation of the country other than for endorsing US actions.
The reasons given by Mr. Powell that, “the coalition having invested the political capital and life and treasure into this enterprise are going to have a leading role for some time as we shape this process” is a selfish and support-discouraging attitude. He recognizes that the U.N. is needed to “endorse what the coalition is doing in order to begin setting out in due course, and in order to make sure that humanitarian supplies continue to flow in for the oil for food program”. It appears that the apparent, dismissal of the U.N. under whose resolutions the US seized the right to go to war with Iraq could actually turn out to be a colossal act of folly.
The looting of government offices, and even hospitals that are already suffering from a lack of supplies has already spread to looting of private homes and shopping centers as well and the needs for policing actions might only grow. Should public order not be assured, the humanitarian effort might not continue and if suicide bombings continue it might be doubtful that people would want to enter Iraq without guarantees of protection from bodily harm. Is the US arguing that the coalition alone should bear total responsibility just as the coalition alone might reap the financial benefits of reconstruction? The US should be very careful as their wish might be forced upon them. They might also find themselves busy trying to keep the Turks and Kurds separated.
Calvin K. Preddie, a contributing writer to Liberal Slant, is a concerned citizen of the world. Sharing his views with the many readers of the web publication who reside in over 100 countries is part of his personal contribution for a world of greater understanding and acceptance of differences. It is his hope that all people would recognize that there are many common needs that we share and those needs could be utilized to bring us together despite our differences. He can be reached at: [email protected] or at www.calpre.web.com
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