Comment at end
7th March 2010
Been away for a few days, so catching-up. To save time here is a cross-post from Julie here. Thanks Julie.
Julie also has a great post here on Gordon Brown’s evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on Friday. Excerpt:
“So it was, for me, a hope right up until the last minute that diplomatic action would work, and I think the efforts that Tony Blair and Jack Straw made in putting our case to the other countries and putting our case to the United Nations, they should not be faulted, because they tried everything within their power to avoid war.”
Great article in the Evening Standard. Speaks for itself.
[Just ignore the stupid comments below. Know-All-trash]
Why Tony Blair and George W Bush were right about Iraq
On Sunday the Iraqi people go to the polls in the most important election since the US and British invasion of 2003 removed Saddam Hussein. It is also probably the freest election ever in the Middle East, outside Israel.
The election will be untidy, votes will be bought and bullied, there will be violence, perhaps even atrocities by those determined to stop Iraqis from making their own choices. The results will almost certainly produce no clear winner. There may have to be weeks of tortuous negotiations until a coalition government is formed, with all the new parties, such as the Ayad Jamal Al-Din’s Ahrar party, propelled into kingmaker roles. Iraq still faces many dangers.
But the transformation is extraordinary. The give and take of politics now exists in a country which, under Saddam, was described as “a concentration camp above ground and a mass grave beneath”.
More than 6,000 parliamentary candidates are standing on Sunday. As the election has approached more parties, secular and sectarian, have been campaigning. There is a party representing women. There have been countless live TV debates. The press in Iraq is the freest in the area.
All such progress is watched with envy by neighbouring populations (especially in Iran) and with concern bordering on rage by their rulers.
The years since 2003 have been horribly bloody as different sects and national groups in Iraq have struggled against each other, reinforced by terrorist murderers from outside. The most brutal fights have been between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Under Saddam the Sunni minority viciously suppressed the Shia majority. The invasion ended all that.
Inevitably many Sunnis reacted with fury. With the direct help of al Qaeda, Sunni extremists did everything they could to bring down the first Shia government elected in 2005.
Fighting for re-election in Iraq is the Shia Prime Minister Maliki, an exile under Saddam who has developed into a strong, indeed sometimes ruthless leader. Many Sunnis fear that he is too close to the Shia dictatorship in Iran. Some people feared that the Sunnis would boycott this poll, as they did in 2005. But so far they have not.
For the elections to be really significant they have to be regarded as legitimate by all parties, otherwise frustration could spill into violence. And the real test of democracy is whether those in power are willing to surrender it if they are defeated at the ballot box.
The scholar Fouad Ajami said this week: “Peace has not settled upon Baghdad but Iraq is, even in its present condition, a rebuke to the dynasties and dictatorships of the Arab world.” Ajami says America, and Britain, can be proud of what the blood of their soldiers has achieved — “a representative government, a bi-national state of Arabs and Kurds, and a country that does not bend to the will of one man or one ruling clan.”
I have an Iraqi friend who returned from exile in London and has been working non-stop for women’s groups and secular parties, despite being targeted many times by terrorists. So long as Iraqis like her believe Iraq has a great future, so do I.
Brown at Iraq Inquiry