The road ahead

Gary Kamiya writing in Salon:

Why should we celebrate? Because what happens to those Iraqis is more important than our political beliefs. Even if — especially if — we opposed this war, even if we are disgusted with and deeply suspicious of the U.S. administration, we should celebrate. Their fate matters more.

It is a strange celebration, and not an easy one. It is tinged with sadness, and for some of us with bitterness. The new Iraq is coming into being because of a war solely initiated and largely fought by my country, a war fought not for liberation but for other reasons, none of them convincing or good. It killed many thousands of people, almost all of them Iraqis, most of them innocent. To destroy the tyrant, we also had to destroy much or most of his wretched, doomed army — untold thousands of semiliterate peasants and poor young men from the cities, conscripts, decent men who might have become auto mechanics or teachers but never had a chance before they were sent out onto the killing fields outside Baghdad. We killed many, many civilians. And then there are the American and British dead, young men and women, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who would be alive today had the United States not invaded a foreign country that posed no threat to us.

— snip —

It is possible that we who celebrate today will be forced to recant tomorrow. But that should not stop us. Nor should it be our concern. Those who opposed this war in part because they feared what it would do to the Iraqi people must now make every effort to protect and raise up those people. And to do that, they must pay attention to what is happening to them — the good, the bad and the in-between. This is the most compelling reason to celebrate the end of Saddam. Call that celebration a leap of faith, if you will — but you could also call it a binding contract, American to Iraqi, human heart to human heart. We smashed your country and we killed your people and we freed you from a monster: We are bound together now by blood. We owe each other, but we owe you more because we are stronger and because we came into your country.

The left’s role, now, must be to make sure that debt is paid.

I think it is less likely that postwar Iraq will be forgotten in the way that Afghanistan has been largely forgotten, because I don’t actually believe that the “liberation of the Iraqi people” has ever been anything more than a happy side-effect of the war. The powers that be have agendas at which we can only make educated guesses — to establish a strategic foothold, to secure control over vital resources — but it’s probably safe to say that setting up an independent democracy whose decisions we will respect even if they are contrary to US interests is not highest on the list. Which is exactly why it’s important to demand that our leaders fulfill their promises of liberation and democracy in the days ahead.