Liberty and the Future of Iraq
The numbers of captured, killed and released in the recent mass kidnapping at a Baghdad university is still in dispute, with differences between Shi'a and Sunni estimates still unresolved. While citing of Ralph Peters' latest column in Rigorous Imposition of Public Order, we noted a report that claimed all but two of the kidnapped men had been released. That appears an unlikely low-end tally.
The Iraq Minister for Higher Education, Abd Dhiab, maintains still that 150 were kidnapped and that 70 have been released. He also said that according to the testimony of the released men, some of the kidnap victims were tortured and killed by their captors. With 55 unidentified bodies showing up on the streets of Baghdad overnight, there is likely validity to his claim.
To the detriment of all Iraqis, Shi'a and Sunni, President Nouri al-Maliki is giving every appearance of minimizing the situation, leaving the impression among the Iraqi public that he is misrepresenting either known facts or suspicions or both. This highlights a greater issue for the Iraqi political leadership going forward, with consequences paid by the Iraqi general public. If Maliki continues to refuse to challenge Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army and all other bands of terrorist thugs - Sunni or Shi'a - the Iraqi general public stands little chance of realizing liberty.
That, however, is easy to say from the comfort of the continental United States. Action taken will certainly result in the peril of grave danger for the families of the brave at the hands of retaliatory animals. Unfortunately, there is no other path to liberty for Iraq and its citizens. Forget the elections for a moment. Think of the liberty lost (or yet to be attained) when one is fearful for his life to simply walk the streets or go to a university. Without liberty, democracy serves little purpose.
Liberty and liberty alone will transform the Middle East. Liberty does not necessarily require democracy, but it absolutely dies under the weight of brutal dictatorship or unyielding theocracy. Consider, for example, Jordan under King Abdullah.
There is an unfortunate reality of a required enormous sacrifice in order to attain such liberty. Many Iraqis in uniform live with this sacrifice and threats daily. Time will tell if Iraq can produce a political leadership with the required courage. As with the fathers of our own American revolution in the face of the mighty British, the personal cost for Iraq’s leaders will surely be extremely high. The dividends realized by untold generations are the reward for their selfless sacrifice.
While there are many measuring sticks in a complex situation, one truth will remain constant:
The degree to which Iraq survives as a free nation at peace will directly parallel the degree to which its citizens - Shi'a, Sunni or Kurd - enjoy personal liberty.