Saturday, February 27, 2010

Newsweek Cover: "Victory at Last" in Iraq

Newsweek Cover: Rebirth of a Nation, 27 February 2010 (issue Date 8 March 2010)
Something that looks an awful lot like democracy is beginning to take hold in Iraq. It may not be 'mission accomplished'—but it's a start.
(written with Babak Dehghanpisheh and John Berry, with additional reporting by Maziar Bahari)

"Iraqi democracy will succeed," President George W. Bush declared in November 2003, "and that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation." The audience at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington answered with hearty applause. Bush went on: "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."

In Iraq, meanwhile, an insurgency was growing, terrorism was spreading, and American forces were in a state of near panic. They had begun rounding up thousands of the Iraqis they had come to "liberate," dragging them from their homes in the middle of the night and throwing them into Abu Ghraib Prison. At the time of Bush's speech, some of those detainees were being tortured and humiliated. Iraq had entered a spiral of gruesome violence that would kill scores of thousands of its people and cost more than 4,000 U.S. military personnel their lives. American taxpayers month after month, year after year—and to this day—would spend more than $1.5 billion per week just to keep hundreds of thousands of beleaguered troops on the ground, fearful that if they withdrew too quickly, or at all, the carnage would grow worse and war, not democracy, would spread throughout the region.

Bush's rhetoric about democracy came to sound as bitterly ironic as his pumped-up appearance on an aircraft carrier a few months earlier, in front of an enormous banner that declared MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. And yet it has to be said and it should be understood—now, almost seven hellish years later—that something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraq. And while it may not be a beacon of inspiration to the region, it most certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East. ...