After losing thousands of lives, suffering tens of thousands of casualties, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars, we have brought democracy to Iraq. Sort of. But we certainly haven’t created the sort of liberal politics and free society that Americans think of as characteristic of democracy.
The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is increasingly corrupt and autocratic. Aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Maliki’s bureaucrats routinely harass both foreign and domestic media outlets that dare to expose his administration’s abuses.
Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but matters escalated dramatically in February with the regime’s shocking brutality. As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations broke out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government’s rampant corruption. Those demonstrations culminated with a “Day of Rage.” Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least twenty-nine participants.
The beatings administered to the protestors particularly echoed prior times. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that respect for human rights is going to improve given the current constellation of political forces.
Nor is Iraq proving to be a loyal ally. When it comes to Washington’s friends, in this case the Sunni thieves in power in Bahrain, who relied on Saudi troops to crack down on the majority Shia population, Iraqis–people and officials–came down against the U.S. supported regime. If the Shia-Sunni split further widens things could get even uglier.
Not that this should surprise us. In Kosovo the U.S. fought a war for people now accused of having engaged in organ-trafficking, using prisoners, both Serbs and accused Kosovar collaborators. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared prepared to go to war with Russia over the country of Georgia, which actually started that little war back in August 2008 and whose president, Mikheil Saakashvilli, now appears to be a bit less of the democratic paragon that the senator then seemed to believe. (Of course, a couple years ago Sen. McCain was off in Tripoli toasting Moammar Qaddafi on a mission to discuss the provision of military aid. This was before the senator decided that Qaddafi was a vile dictator who needed to be removed.)
The next time someone urges a “humanitarian” war, they should think of Iraq. Irreplaceable human losses as well as a further boost along the road to national bankruptcy. Loosing civil strife which killed a couple hundred thousand Iraqi civilians. And no democracy any of us would want to live under. Some deal.