Wishing Won’t Make It So

I read the transcript of the President’s interview with Tim Russert. One thing immediately jumped out at me—and now I know the answer to my previous post’s question.

Speaking about the possibility that Saddam’s despicable regime would be replaced by an even more frightening and dangerous fundamentalist regime, the President dismisses it out of hand.

“They’re not going to develop that, because right here in the Oval Office, I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim*, people from different parts of Iraq that have made the firm commitment that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion,” the President said.

“I said [to al-Hakim], ‘You know, I’m a Methodist. What are my chances of success in you country and your vision?’ And he said, ‘It’s going to be a free society where you can worship freely.’ “

Wow.

I guess that settles it, then. Iraq’s going to be a free country because the President believes it and a bunch of really nice men came to the Oval Office and told him that’s what’s going to happen.

You know, not a moment doesn’t go by that I don’t wish I’d rather be with my fiancee in Massachusetts, but wishing won’t make it so, despite what all the fairy tales say.

And that’s just what this dream of a free Iraq is: a fairy tale. Wishing that Iraq would be a free country that’s respects minority rights and the freedom of religion is great, but wishing alone won’t make it so.

What will make that wish a reality is hard work. It’ll be a long, long time before Iraq, or any Arab country, for that matter, will embrace individual rights or freedom of religion, for the simple fact that those two concepts aren’t recognized in any understanding of Islam.

Where freedom and liberty have taken root in a Muslim country (read: Turkey), they have done so despite Islam, not because of it. And sad to say, there don’t seem to be any Arab countries ready to follow Turkey’s decades-old lead in doing that.

Or non-Arab countries, for that matter. I know that people like to bring up Afghanistan as an example, but assuming that Hamid Karzai survives (a long bet, indeed), even that country’s constitution isn’t the beacon of Jeffersonian philosophy that the President’s defenders like to claim it is.

It embraces Islam as the state’s religion, and it’s notably silent on womens’ rights (ostensibly something the President likes), something that will allow many of the customs that we found so abhorrent under the Taliban to continue (remember, the burqa’s an Afghan tradition, not a Talib innovation).

Is that what we’ve been fighting for? To allow one despotism to be replaced by another? Because if it is, then how is that an improvement over what was there before?

It isn’t. And if that’s the case, then all those who’ve given their lives have sacrificed in vain.

Sorry, Mr. President. You’re going to have to do better than “they told me so, and I believe them.”

Wishing won’t make it so. Only our blood and our tears, our labor and our swither will ensure that. And that’s just what you won’t expend.

*That he depended on the say-so of these particular men is really mind-boggling. Let’s take a look at them.

Adnan Pachachi used to be Foreign Minister, and, I think, UN Ambassador,  back in the 1960s, under Iraq’s old military dictatorship, before the Ba’athists took over. Moreover, he’s an old school Arab socialist (something that went out of style back in the early ’70s, among the Arab public, after repeated failures at the hands of that old Arab enemy, the Israelis), and he’s over 80 years old. I know that West Germany turned to an octogenarian Konrad Adenauer, but Pachachi’s no Adenauer; he’s not even a Helmut Schmidt.

Ahmed Chalabi is the head of the Iraqi National Congress. Yes, those would be the same guys that famously said that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and flower bouquets, and were responsible for a lot (some would say the majority) of those bogus estimates about how many and what kinds of WMDs Saddam had. He’s also wanted in Jordan for reportedly embezzling $45 million from that kingdom’s citizens in a major bank fraud case (he was convicted in absentia).

Abdul Muhammed al-Hakim is the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Those are the guys who are eagerly awaiting their chance to replicate the 1979 Iranian Revolution in Iraq, only this time it would be through the ballot box. Let’s just say that al-Hakim’s not very interested in Methodist rights, or minority rights for that matter. Iran may be one of the more democratic countries in the region; it’s also one of the most repressive, in terms of human rights. That al-Hakim takes his lead from those blokes makes his claims to respect Iraqi human rights highly suspect.

But maybe I’m just a simple goober, and the President’s superhuman powers of perception saw through to their inner Jeffersonian. Who knows? Me, I play it safe, and make sure that Iraq becomes a free and stable society, by staying there and helping to administer Iraq for a long time.

We’ve barely mastered freedom and democracy, and we’ve been at it for the last 397 years (if you start from the founding of Jamestown); the Iraqis have down in just 14 months? I don’t think so.

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