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Iraq: 'dramatically freer, dramatically safer and dramatically better'

By Bashdar Ismaeel - posted Wednesday, 31 December 2008

President George W Bush departs Iraq amid controversy much the same way he entered in 2003, but can the US really be blamed for every Iraqi mishap?

The shoe-throwing debacle guaranteed that Bush’s aim of ending his Iraqi excursions on a high note were thwarted, but would the same journalist have dared to throw a shoe at Saddam?

The White House has been on something of a publicity drive in recent weeks, as George W. Bush’s tenure at the presidential helm comes to an end. Bush and his aides have tried hard to promote a positive image of his period in charge and point to successes from his time in high command, particularly in the Middle East.


Hopes for a productive and glitch-free farewell visit to Iraq, targeted to boost ratings and end undoubtedly his most contentious flash point as president on a high, were all but dashed. Bush’s grand finale in Iraq was tainted with much publicity and media attention, but for all the wrong reasons, as the now infamous shoe-throwing incident at a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, dampened all chances of a subtle but constructive departure from the Middle Eastern plains.

However, Bush can be far from blamed for every note of discontent arising out of Iraq or the Middle East generally. A conclusive assessment of his time as president must be made in context of the greater historical handicaps that have scarred the Iraqi horizon.

Contentious times

Bush’s legacy in Iraq can perhaps be best summarised by one of his last speeches in Iraq, warning his forces and Iraqi comrades that “the war is not over”.

This statement is all the more remarkable and speaks volumes of the “new” Iraq, when compared to the bold announcement he made on May 1, 2003, just weeks after Saddam Hussein was dramatically ousted from power that “major combat operations have ended”.

Almost six years since the highly-contentious invasion of Iraq, what was hoped to usher a new era of prosperity and democracy, to serve as a beacon of light for the greater Middle East, was swiftly bogged down with bloodshed, sectarian terror, political squabbling and obstacles on the Iraqi transitional road to democracy.

In 2003, while there were initial high-hopes that the focus could now be turned to rebuilding a shattered country after years of war, brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions and start the process of building a stable society, the Iraqi dream turned into a reoccurring nightmare.


But to blame the Americans for every mishap in Iraq is simply misleading and a distraction from other pertinent facts on the ground. Who can forget decades of barbarian rule under a cold-hearted dictator who launched wars on his neighbours and even chemically-bombed his own Kurdish civilians in broad-daylight?

Any critic, no matter what social background or political affiliation, who can condone the murder of thousands of innocent people, where mass graves are still been uncovered today, and the destruction of villages, is inhumane. In reality, the real weapon of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein, was disposed.

Lack of plan B

As events over the past number of years have hardly disguised, it is no secret that US policy to deal with the new dawn in Iraq was indecisive, incoherent and simply lacked practical assessment. The decision to disband the Iraqi army and the expectation that brief post-liberation euphoria would turn into mass support for the concept of democracy, that has been practiced for hundreds of years in the West but unseen in Iraq, was out of touch and lacked the due diligence one would come to expect from the world’s only superpower.

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First published in the Kurdish Globe on December 18, 2008.

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About the Author

Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance writer and analyst, whose primary focus and expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in Iraq and the Middle East.

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