When American administrator L. Paul Bremer III reported to Washington that the Iraqi people were not quite ready for reform, my mind flashed back to one of those British movies set in the 19th century. Typical plot: a colonial governor confronts the powerful nabob who won’t play the game the way they teach it at Oxford. He sends an urgent message to London: General election too risky. Stop.
Contrary to what most Americans believe, the United States is in deep trouble in Iraq, and its policies are adrift. Especially ominous are problems surrounding the plan for June 30 elections. If direct elections are held, the Shi‘ites, with 60 percent of the population, will prevail. If their representation is watered down by resort to closed caucuses, as the U.S.
Jessica Lynch resists America’s desire to call her a war hero. “They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff,” Lynch told Diane Sawyer during a television interview on Veteran’s Day. “It’s wrong.”
Many Democrats in Congress and plenty of other Americans find it hard to stomach President Bush’s $87 billion request for military and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. About $20 billion of that total is slated for rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure—its highways, schools, houses, hospitals, electricity system, water supply and communications.
The unfinished war in Iraq is the war that keeps on killing. Not least, it keeps on killing American troops. The death toll for American soldiers is steadily mounting. Last summer the Associated Press reported that attacks on U.S. forces were occurring “almost hourly—too frequent for military press officers to keep up with,” and the situation has not improved.
Regardless of what one thought of the legal and moral justification of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, or of the prudence of that action, now that the U.S. is there it has moral and legal obligations to Iraq, to the region and to its citizens.
The chief international correspondent of CNN, Christiane Amanpour, was asked her opinion of the U.S. media’s coverage of the Iraq war. She responded: “I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. Television . . .
Many of those who were skeptical about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, including the editors of this magazine, worried that sweeping away the devil of Saddam Hussein would—as in the parable in Luke 11—make way for several other kinds of devils. The devils appear alive and well in Iraq.
It’s easy to define a lie: it is a statement the speaker knows is not true. Being truthful is more complex. As Bonhoeffer argued, character matters. A truth told by an untruthful person could be worse than a lie told by a truthful person. And context matters too. What, for example, is the truthful response to a murderer who shows up at your door in search of your friend whom he intends to murder?
The air is thick with politics. Reportedly some 60 different political groups have emerged here since the end of the war. Driving around Baghdad, one suddenly comes upon a building surrounded by men with guns. Groups are staking their postwar claims to the real estate. In one case, the soldiers turned out to be members of a Kurdish party.