I wrote this in April 2004 , but it seems just as relevant now.
As the headlines of late scream about the destruction and death the insurgents are spreading in Iraq, few people seem to be speaking about all the positive exciting changes that are going on, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
In several recent Arab newspapers (because my parents speak Arabic they are adept at translating the language properly) what's being discussed is that the gov't's in Iran, Syria, and Libya, are all
beginning to move towards more openness, greater social reform, and a more enlightened approach to eduation.
They say that this is a direct result of what has happened in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
It's not because they fear that Americans will try to remove them from power or declare war on their countries. It's because they see the experiment in Iran and in Afghanistan is slowly working, and from there they see what is possible - that they too can move forth into the 21st century while honouring their Islamic roots.
In Afghanistan, American soldiers are training new military personel and police in order to help bring about a central miltary force, which in turn will diminish the power of warlords and eliminate the "mini warlordism"that now exists. This makes the country safer for all peoples. Highways are being built, women are included in the new governing body, music is being played, art is being created, and women along with men are being educated, and becoming literate. Women are becoming self sufficient, being taught how to farm sheep, and sell the wool to earn an income.These changes are slowly but successfully being implemented in a country where the Taliban once oppressed everyone.
Democracy is becoming a reality. At ground level, social, economic and women's justice movements are being nurtured and promoted. The schisms in the human community won't disappear overnite - but this is a great beginning.
Pre -9/11 when the Taliban ruled this was barely dream. Now it's a reality that becomes stronger and more vibrant daily. And an election is around the corner, where not only men but for the first time ever women will be able to vote for their new leader!
The same thing is happening throughout most of Iraq. Inroads are being made daily - rival Kurdish parties have come together to work within an Iraqi parliament when elections come. "Kirkuk is our Jerusalem," they say, and that oil-rich area — long the center of Iraqi Kurdistan, before Saddam's ethnic cleansing —" should be their regional capital in unified Iraq".
It's true that the transfer of power and control to the governing body will not come without some pain, yet it is still excitedly and eagerly being embraced.
The dream of a democratic and secular Iran, whose Islamic roots and traditions are respected, and whose landscape is one of opportunity and hope, is also growing stronger and more vibrant each day.
Democracy is more than just the right to vote....it must be preceded by and include literacy, education for women as well as men, (a sizeable portion of the countries financial resources must be poured into the education of women and girls) access to technological advances, womens rights, the elimination of the massive economic inequality through a more equal distribution of wealth and resources, and religious freedom.This is part of the dream of what a new Iraq and Afghanistan will look like.
These changes cannot be expected to take place overnite; they won't, and whether or not you agree that the removal of Saddam was legitimate, it's clear his removal has made room for these changes to begin to foster.
These changes will
continue to grow inspite of the insurgents sick attempts to hold on to the last remaining vestiges of an autocracy that benefitted them at the expense of other Iraqis. Saddam was removed for HIS continual violation of a surrender treaty that he agreed to and that the entire world signed off on, and regardless of the inability to find WMD's (Saddam's scientists duped him and in turn us) it was still a legitimate removal.
There are those who believe that the change should have been allowed to occur on its own...as if that was ever going to happen....HOW long as Castro been in power???
And there are those in the Islamic community that feel the imposition of a democratic government is yet another example of American colonialization. They feel that if Iraq wants to elect a fundamentalist gov't - it should do so -and that in time the people will come to see the problems with that type of gov't and insist on change organically.
Perhaps they need to be reminded that Hitler was elected freely and then there were NO MORE elections until he was removed forcibly. The British also fought dearly to hold on to the New America but in the end, the dream of freedom prevailed.
A new order was being born and the birth pains were challenging, but today those of us who live in America know they were worth it.
An aggressive foreign policy, implemented thru the World Bank and the IMF, and often shortsighted, has created some of the hubris that exists and set the stage for anger targeted at America. But that is slowly changing as well. By supporting the dictatorships of Afghanistan (when the Taliban ruled), Saudi Arabia and Egypt, America can at times be its biggest obstacle to the democratization of those countries. The Cold War policies of an era gone by remain with us today, but we are learning with each day to look at our mistakes, to understand why they have happened, to correct them when we can, and to move forward.
We must now learn to understand and to value the history of Islam and its contributions to humanity and we must ensure that it is those positive contributions(art, math, literature, education and religious tolerance)that are remembered and restored to muslim countries as they move towards globalization, and democratization.
When the world is made safe for democracy, it is made save for religious freedom (not religious terrorism) and it is made safe for all people.
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads onto fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."
In light of about a dozen American combat deaths yesterday, it may be difficult to remember that now more than ever is the time that " given their freedom from a savage tyrant, the three groups that make up Iraq could, with our help, create a rudimentary democracy that would turn the tide against terror".
There are those in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran, as well as in America who understand that the tide has changed and the time to take the current and forge new ventures is now.