Iraq: September 23, 2004

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While al Qaeda manages to set off one or more suicide bombs a day in Iraq, it finds itself losing the war it is waging. The bombs are killing mainly Iraqis, and the Iraqis have noticed this. Iraqis have also noticed that al Qaeda's terror tactics are little different from those of their former, unlamented dictator, Saddam Hussein. But al Qaeda expects the Iraqi Islamic radicals to benefit from the bombing campaign. However,  the only Iraqi Islamic radicals that support al Qaeda are the Sunni Arab ones, and these are a minority of the Sunni Arab (20 percent of the population) minority. Moreover, most of the muscle, and money, for anti-government  violence comes from Sunni Arab supporters of the Baath Party. Saddam Hussein led the Baath Party for over three decades. While Saddam is locked up, as are most of the senior Baath Party leaders, the thousands of thugs and enforcers that maintained Baath's control over Iraq are still out there. Many of these guys are still doing what they have always done; terrorizing Iraqis into supporting Baath, or at least not opposing it. Baath has cleverly shaped it's message to sound like a patriotic call to "expel foreign invaders." But most Iraqis are not fooled. Opinion polls consistently show that over 80 percent of the population wants nothing to do with Baath. Yet the only alternative to a democratic government is Baath, or a religious dictatorship. Al Qaeda makes itself unpopular by killing hundreds of Iraqis with suicide bombs. Baath makes itself hated with its continued terror campaign, kidnapping and assassinations. The terror tactics of al Qaeda and Baath have succeeded in some other Arab countries, much to the dismay of the locals. Syria is the only other  country run by the Baath Party, and it is another Republic of Fear. Iran is dominated by Islamic conservatives, who rule by intimidation and terror. Afghanistan, when ruled by the Islamic conservative Taliban, also suffered under unpopular  applications of intimidation and terror.

For centuries, Western democracies have considered the Arabs unable, or incapable of creating a democratic government, or any government that did not depend on terror and intimidation to maintain order. This debate continues, although in a more carefully worded fashion. It's not just the Baath Party and al Qaeda that have a vested interest in seeing democracy fail in Iraq. However, if you talk to a lot of people who deal with Iraqis on a regular basis (military civil affairs, reconstruction workers, troops in general) and Iraqis themselves, you find that while Iraqis still fear Baath and al Qaeda, they still want to try democracy. Iraqis know what goes on in the West. Millions of Iraqis have fled to the West (Europe and North America) in the last two decades, and the migrants have made it clear to the folks back home how democracy works. While Iraqi culture puts more emphasis on believing rumors and outrageous conspiracy theories, you still have to eat. Most Iraqis believe that a government "of the people, by the people and for the people," would be better at putting food on the table, and a DVD player on top of the new TV set, than some Baath Party thug or religious leader. 

Al Qaeda will fight on until the last of their members is rounded up by Iraqi police. But al Qaeda have already lost their war in Iraq.

 

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