In the spring of 2003, Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid noted that, for Iraqis, the Arabic word for occupation is ihtilal. The word is "shadowed by humiliation, notions of resistance, and still resonant memories of the occupation by the British 85 years before.” Yet that same year the U.S. secured sweeping formal authority from the UN Security Council to serve as the principal “occupying” power in Iraq. John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the UN, declared that “the council has taken decisive action to help the Iraqi people.” This was not the way many Iraqis greeted the news.
Team of Rivals enjoys a first printing of 400,000 hardcover copies, it is the featured selection of two prominent book clubs, and its film rights have been assigned to Steven Spielberg. Somewhere in all that present and anticipated ballyhoo lies a major source of this book’s central problem.
The war in Iraq grinds on, now at the cost of over 2,000 American lives and uncounted thousands of Iraqi lives. Few are reluctant to attack the way the Bush administration has managed the war, but fewer still are willing to say that this war should never have been waged. The U.S. should make what amends it can to the Iraqi people for the damage it has done and let them decide their own fate. Our task is not to “complete the mission," but to abandon it.