The US outlined three objectives for the pre-emptive strike against Iraq. One was finding weapons of mass destruction, the second was dismantling the terrorist network and the third was establishment of democracy.
While no chemical or biological weapons have yet been found, the only sign of the Iraqi connection with terrorism has been the arrest of a retired Palestinian militant. As for democracy, the initial venture hasn’t been a conspicuous success. Although a meeting of sorts was held, it was noteworthy for those who didn’t turn up rather than for those who did. One of the notable absentees was the Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, who is better known than most among the Iraqi exiles.
The other was a prominent Shia group based in Iran.
It isn’t difficult to see why they chose to stay away. Evidently, those who see a future for themselves in Iraq wouldn’t like to be associated too closely with the Americans. As the protestors near the meeting place said, the Iraqis are against both Saddam Hussein and George Bush. The death of 10 people in Mosul after the Americans fired on a crowd protesting against a pro-US speaker and also reportedly fired on the US troops shows how volatile the situation is.
In their determination to play a ‘dominating’ role in Iraq, as Colin Powell has said, the Americans are tending to ignore the anger and dismay which the Iraqis evidently feel at the overt signs of a quasi-colonial rule. Things might have been different if the UN had been asked to play a genuinely ‘vital role’, as Mr Bush and Tony Blair promised that it would, to introduce democracy in Iraq. But the thinking in the American establishment is currently so much against the UN that it is inconceivable for Washington to stand aside and let the world body in. The expectation in the US capital is that the American ‘viceroy’, Jay Garner, a retired general, will be able to preside over the transfer of power to Iraqis. It is obvious, however, that he will need a considerable American military presence to establish his authority. Yet, the longer the Americans stay in Iraq, the more unpopular they will become.