Iraq: 65 Years Ago...


January 1, 2006: Sixty-five years ago, U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt called for the people of the world to have "Four Freedoms" (from fear and want, along with freedom of speech and worship want). The war on terror is making it clear that the Islamic world is desperately in need of the "Four Freedoms." Iraq is a vivid example, if only because 150,000 American troops are fighting to bring the Four Freedoms to this corner of the world.

"Freedom from Fear" is but a dream for many Iraqis. The professional terrorists who maintained control for Saddam are still at work, attempting to regain power, avoid prosecution, or just making a living the only way they know how. But that's not all, many Islamic conservatives feel justified in using terror to force other Iraqis to practice a conservative, Islamic, life style. And then there is the rampant criminality and corruption, adding to the climate of fear.

"Freedom of Speech" goes out the window if you espouse the wrong ideas. Islamic terrorists openly declare democracy un-Islamic. Publicly supporting democracy, or Saddam, can get you beaten or killed. Criticize the wrong people, or ideas, and the response can be violent, even fatal.

"Freedom of Worship" is at odds with the Islamic conservative's intolerance towards un-Islamic lifestyles. Thus Islamic terrorists burn down stores of Iraqi Christians, because alcohol or pork (OK for Christians, forbidden for Moslems) are sold there. Iraqi Christians drinking in public, at an outdoor café, are murdered by Islamic terrorists. Christian churches are bombed and burned. For over a century, Iraqi Christians have been fleeing the country, mainly because of the religion based hostility and terrorism. Even among Moslems, there is intolerance. Sunni Arabs murder Shia Arab worshipers in their mosques. Religious tolerance is not tolerated, and that's a habit that will be hard to change.

"Freedom from Want" is difficult because the other three freedoms are so often absent. Corruption, and the cost of running a police state (the prevailing form of government in the Middle East) makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to create new businesses and grow the economy. The safety of tyrants is considered a higher priority than the prosperity of the people. Despite over a trillion dollars in oil income, the Islamic world still brings up the rear when it comes to economic progress.

When the American troops showed up in Baghdad three years ago, it became possible for Iraqis to reach for the Four Freedoms. But other Iraqis barred the way, and still do. There is a civil war going on in Iraq over this. It's a struggle that's been going on since before Roosevelt's call for freedom, but has been a losing struggle until the G.I.'s arrived.

Slowly at first, but more rapidly of late, Iraqis are backing the Four Freedoms. For example, most of the population has turned out for three national votes in the last year. Since last Summer, the number of arms caches found has doubled, largely because more Iraqis are tipping off the police, or American troops. Iraqi troops are joining up, and working with American forces that are chasing gangs or Islamic terrorists from one Sunni Arab town after another. Without weapons or bases, the number of suicide bomb attacks is way down.

But still, there is no victory. The war is not over. The Iraqi "traditionalists" are still able to deny the Four Freedoms to so many. What Iraqis are learning is that no one can just give you the Four Freedoms, you must fight for them. That means there is the risk of failure, which has been the case for so many, for so long, in this part of the world. Right now, Iraqis have a chance, but no guarantee. Iraqis have to fight for their Four Freedoms. If they don't, after the Americans leave, the old ways will return.

Sixty five years ago, Britain invaded Iraq with three divisions, and took Baghdad in less than three weeks. A very similar performance to what happened in 2003. But in 1941, the British went in because Iraq had declared itself an ally of Nazi Germany. The Brits changed the government in Iraq, by replacing a pro-German Sunni Arab strong man, with a pro-British one. The Four Freedoms for Iraqis were not an issue, winning World War II was.


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