Baghdad Five Years After: The Failure of Vendetta Governance

Today is the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Baghdad is near and dear to all Arabs and Muslims. It was the capital of the Muslim world for many years. It is the capital of the glorious Abbasids who encouraged arts and learning. It is the home of Imam Abu Hanifa al Nauman, a great Muslim scholar, whose shrine is in the town of Al- Azamiyeh.

The fall of Baghdad was a traumatic experience for Arabs and Muslims.

Yet- Many hoped that the fall of Baghdad is a new beginning for freedom in the Arab world from police states that have suffocated all creativity. The hope was that an entrenched dictatorship would be be replaced by an enlightened unity government and a representative government that is guided by the American values that are universal. The hope was that the new government of Iraq would bring rule of law, economic and political freedom, and fight corruption.

Also, it was hoped that the oil riches would be spent to modernize Iraq instead of this wealth being squandered on military adventures. The Iraqis, well educated and modern, deserved better.

They, just like President Bush said, deserved the God-given gift of freedom.

These hopes were dashed.

Instead of seeing a modern unity government, inspired by American values, a government trying to replicate the success of Dubai or Qatar, instead what emerged in Baghdad is a “Vendetta government."

A government intent on settling scores, punishing and killing its adversaries and enemies.
This Vendetta governance, alien to American political culture, made Iraq descend into the abyss of chaos and mass killings.

It’s a choice Iraqis in charge made and Iraq and the US paid for.

The governments that followed, in particular Al Jaafari’s and Al Maliki's, are government more interested in looking back with bloodthirsty eyes than in looking to the future with hopeful eyes.

Once you keep that fact in mind, all events in Iraq are easy to fathom.

The insistence on Debaathification was designed to get rid of the professional competent Sunni seculars in government to be replaced by inexperienced sectarian incompetents. The Vendetta government insisted on dismantling the national professional Iraqi army but left intact and in fact empowered the sectarian fanatical militias with Iranian loyalties.

The Vendetta government, despite US pressure, refused to spend money in Sunni areas, thus deepening and hardening the grievances of the Sunnis of Iraq, who were being wooed by the Al Qaeda terrorists.

The Vendetta government insisted on killing the former President of Iraq on the eve of the Eid Al Adha, in violation of its new Constitution that required the signatures of other officials who have refused to sign on the killing. One Vendetta government official responded to an inquiry on why his government would kill Mr. Hussein on the eve of al Adha that the Eid in Iraq is on the (Shia) Eid day not the Sunni day of about 1.1 billion Muslims! This short sightedness and foolishness, born of a vendetta outlook, had dire consequences for Sunni-Shia relations in Iraq and Sunni-Shia relations across the Muslim world. Even The New York Times, no fan of Saddam Hussein, had a scathing editorial about the way the former President of Iraq was killed.

In Iraq, the Vendetta Government is unable to realize President Bush’s vision of a democratic Iraq.

The ball is in the Iraqi’s court- again.

In the upcoming elections, they have a choice. They can continue empowering visionless small politicians that dwell on the past and its real and imagined grievances or they can elect politicians that focus on the present and the future.

The US gave Iraqis an undreamt of chance to rebuild their country- at great expense. They so far have squandered it.

Vendetta governance has failed Iraq. The US hasn't.


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