Joseph Adams
April 3, 2005
Iraq: from dictatorship to democracy
By Joseph Adams

Two years ago, a US-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, which many of us forget was one of the most heinous dictatorships in modern history. Since the bulk of this week's campus commemorations of the war deliberately wax over the pre-war situation in Iraq and overlook the incredible progress that has been made there over the past two years, it is perhaps most important this week to take a look back at how far the Iraqi people have come along the difficult path from dictatorship to democracy. We cannot credibly praise or criticize the rate of progress in Iraq without understanding the nature of both our mission and our challenges.

Transitions from dictatorship to democracy have never been facile or fast. For example, Alfredo Stroessner acceded his dictatorship in 1989, yet Paraguay is still years away from becoming a consolidated democracy. Throughout Saddam's decades in power, the Iraqi people suffered innumerable offenses and cruelties, and the culture of tyranny that he ingrained in the Iraqi people's conscience is perhaps the greatest challenge we must overcome in securing Iraq's future. Although torture chambers, rape rooms, acts of genocide, and the other crimes against humanity perpetrated by Saddam Hussein are gone from Iraq, they are not forgotten by those who survived or witnessed the past cruelty of their government.

In order to appreciate the progress that has been made in Iraq and understand the difficulty with which it has been achieved, we should remember where the Iraqi people were just two years ago: abused, subservient, and all too frequently ignored. Just as often as the Iraqi people's condition was overlooked by the American government and international organizations such as the United Nations, it was also used as a political tool by the anti-American elite. Before the war in Iraq, critics of both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations lamented the economic and political impotence of the UN-approved weapons and oil sanctions that had been imposed on Iraq after Saddam Hussein's Kuwaiti misadventure in 1990. While we shamefully overlooked the danger that Saddam Hussein posed not only to his own people but to the greater Middle East, others used the suffering of the Iraqi people as a means to churn popular disdain for the United States and hostility toward its Middle East policies.

Saddam Hussein has been gone from power for more than two years, but unfortunately many critics of the war in Iraq continue to steadfastly denounce the US invasion and occupation; indeed, their desperate fear of a successful Bush Doctrine causes them to hope against hope. Some on our campus have argued that Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein than they presently are under the transitional government. Indeed, following Dr. Jim Zogby's coordination of a satellite dialogue between Davidson College and Iraqi students in the run-up to the war, many on campus became readily and irrevocably convinced that Iraqis were happy to live under a reign of terror, and the fact that the Iraqi students with whom they spoke were surrounded by government "minders" was irrelevant. Even now that the insurgents have resolved to undermine public support for Iraqi democracy by targeting civilians, the Iraqi people continue their brave march onward to freedom.

In an effort to distract from both the tyranny that preceded the war and the progress that has been made in its aftermath, one student organization has promoted a war casualty survey released by the British medicine journal Lancet, which that between 8,000 and 200,000 Iraqis died in the war. Although this survey's methodology and findings have been discredited to the point that it no longer carries any weight, the shock value of claiming the US invasion of Iraq killed more people than the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima mitigates the truthfulness of the survey. Why does this group avoid talking about the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein? Why does it overlook all of the progress that has been made in Iraq over the past two years? Had they to decide whether the United States would liberate the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the Iraqi people would still be enslaved.

The enjoyment of the basic freedoms we take for granted daily in America was an inconceivable notion to Iraqis just two years ago. Over the course of less than eight hundred days, a new birth of freedom has occurred in one of the least likely yet most needful places in the world: the heart of the Middle East. From the anarchy that immediately followed Saddam's ouster in early 2003 to the celebration of Iraq's first free elections last month, the Iraqi people's enduring hope for a secure and free homeland has inspired our contingent of more than 125,000 American troops stationed in the country. Indeed, Iraqis' hope for a better tomorrow has united our nation behind the instrumental and noble goal of helping to secure Iraq's future. We must finish what we have started not only for our own benefit, but for the good of humanity.

© Joseph Adams


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Joseph Adams

Joseph B. Adams is a senior political science major at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina... (more)

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