A Fork in Iraq’s Vacuum

by Ryan Sanford Smith

The Shiite Prime Minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, has not had long to wait to see how quickly and to what volume the inevitable statement would be made in the wake of the withdrawal of US troops from the turbulent country. Whether or not the wave of some twenty explosions that took at least 65 lives with another 200 wounded ends up being claimed by al Qaeda or insurgent forces, there is now the expected and larger question of what kind of Iraq we will see under al-Maliki moving forward.

The questions we should not entertain however are the predictable outcries–ranging now from Iraq’s own Finance minister to unimaginative talking points coming from both political parties in the US–that are quick to blame the withdrawal of troops and the larger intervention itself as the linchpins for all such violence. These are the same folks that seem strangely oblivious to the rather long history of such turmoil in Iraq, particularly involving the civilian population of whom attacks from all sides draw causalities both intended and not.

Having watched Saddam’s unchecked campaign of genocide, so many of these voices both thought and continue to think that one of the must justified humanitarian interventions the modern world has ever seen was to be lamented, and having then complained about the war they somehow find the nerve to complain that we’ve left. They claim so much of the violence is the fault of the intervention, again ignoring Iraq’s long history and then thinking we should be dissuaded from removing those like Saddam, cornerstones of totalitarian violence and oppression, because his apprentice thugs might get angry and attempt to do everything necessary to make us think twice. Well, they certainly make some of us think twice, but for shame against those who would rather passively watch the slaughter continue saying it’s none of our business. This worldview only works to justify Osama bin Laden’s oft-repeated pep-talks to his murderous crew that while the fighting of the Soviets was really hard fighting and a rigorous jihad, that taking down the Americans would be easy, afraid as he says we are of fighting for any of the things we claim to believe in, that we’re ‘queer’ and ‘feminized’ and can’t take casualties or real warfare no matter what’s at stake.

Of course we’ve incurred additional violence for our efforts, but I’d argue to anyone that we’ve merely added justification to those minds that didn’t need any more than they already had in attacking civilians to make their point. Those that say there’d be a more peaceful Iraq without the intervention are morons of a tremendous order, completely ignoring the myriad, gruesome, sickening reasons that drew us to intervene to begin with. It barely takes even a cursory review of the Hussein regime to quiet these arguments completely.

Regardless, the intervention has ended. While a handful of troops and our relatively inept statecraft and nation-building fingerprints will remain for quite a while, Iraq today is in fact a far more liberated place than it was beforehand, if not nearly as well off as it could be. And regardless of everything that has come before, this is now al-Maliki’s Iraq. He must be the leader that stands in opposition to every last ideal that his predecessor stood for. In the vacuum left behind by the US withdrawal, much more violence and general disarray will surely follow. al-Maliki must do whatever necessary to establish a clear, cohesive direction for Iraq that bears the hallmark of the future its people deserve–one of a democratic government that will stand for no more unpunished violence or oppression of its people. If al-Maliki and his broader leadership do not work quickly and formidably to fill this vacuum, it’d be an insult to any thinking person to wonder what will fill it for him. Iraq will be filled with either reason and democracy, or it will continue to be filled with many, many graves of the innocent.