Abraham Rothberg  - Author


The Iraqi Road                                                                       Home
by Abraham Rothberg

With the formal transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis it is time we Americans proclaimed victory in the war and brought our troops home.  In the process, it is also time we talked frankly to the Iraqi people.  We have succeeded in liberating your country from a murderous tyrant and a corrupt Baathist dictatorship. We have done so at considerable cost in blood and treasure. It is now time for such costs to be paid by you, the Iraqi people.

We have made mistakes in this liberation and even done some evil deeds—wars are never neat affairs—for which we ought to be held accountable, but we are not responsible for the breakdown of your social order.  The nonsense of what in our country is called "the Pottery Barn imperative"--You broke it, you own it!—is just that, nonsense.  We did not break Iraq, and we don't own it. We did not loot your museums and installations, or blow up your oil terminals and pipelines, or your turbines and electrical towers, or your water systems.  You did.  In fact we have done our best to restore your various basic services, water, sanitation, electricity, oil—after they had for years been abused and neglected by Saddam Hussein and his cronies.

Yet many of you hold us responsible for the violence and disorder in your country, but do little or nothing to quell that violence or bring about order.  You complain of being "humiliated," but it is you who have humiliated yourselves by passivity and compliance in not resisting -those among you who are ruining your institutions and pillaging your natural resources, as well as killing your own people under the pretext of resisting our "occupation." If you want to be free, if you want to be safe and secure, if you want to be prosperous, if you want to end what you call our occupation, it is your job, not ours, to bring order and civility, to stop those among you who murder and destroy your country, your citizens, your properties.

Beginning in January you will have to assume responsibility for your own safety and well-being. You will have to search out, identify and deal with your suicide bombers, your assassins, your ambushes and explosions, your private militias. You will have to disarm all those who would bring havoc and chaos to your society.  That is your job, not ours.

You want a unified Iraq?  Fine, then you better learn to live with and respect one another, Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Arab, Turkman and Persian.  You want to split your country into three independent nations, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd? Fine, it's your country, but you'll have to learn to be good neighbors and to cooperate peacefully.  You want a secular state or a religious state, a socialist or a market economy?  Fine, all of those are your choices to make, not ours.  Keep in mind, however, that if, once again, you become a menace to your neighbors or a haven for terrorists, or a threat to us, the prospects for your future will be bleak indeed. 

We have liberated you from Saddam Hussein and the Baath, but to make a civil society and a decent future for you and your children, you must now liberate yourselves. That is not our job: It's yours.  We have won your war for you, thankless job that it was, and now we're going home and leaving you to win the peace because that, too, is your job.

Copyright © 2005, 
Abraham Rothberg

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