Iraq: Consider the Iraqis' perspective 2008.09.17

There have been some very tough times for those who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Bush Doctrine of seeking regime change by starting an unprovoked war against another nation was not faring well.

Now, in 2008, the words “victory” and “success” are used rather frequently. Just last month a presidential candidate declared that Iraq is a “peaceful and stable country.”

Any of the dozens of Iraqi families that lose relatives each week to violence might quarrel with that notion. No one can dispute the fact that acts of violence have declined greatly, although the reasons for the decline and concerns about the fragility of the decline are debated frequently. but the decline doesn’t equate to peace and stability.

Sunday, 35 killed and 78 injured in bombings; Saturday, 28 killed, 40 wounded, four kidnapped, five bombings in Baghdad; Friday, 35 killed and 85 wounded.

For Iraqis, violence is still part of daily life. Bombings, kidnappings, dead bodies turning up on streets—these incidents may have returned to pre-2005 levels, but it doesn’t equate to peace and stability.

Americans tend to view success in Iraq from our own vantage point, and primarily from the large decline in U.S. military deaths. Eighteen in August, 14 in July—those numbers are a welcome relief from the past.

But from the Iraqi viewpoint, citizens of that nation are still getting by on a limited and erratic electricity supply, shortages of drinking water in many areas, and a lack of sewage treatment facilities.

In many parts of Baghdad, neighborhoods are now segregated along ethnic lines and divided by enormous concrete blast walls. They’re trying to live a normal life, but normality now includes rule by one armed group or another ruling inside the walls.

An estimated 2 million people have fled from the homes to live in other countries. Huge numbers are displaced within Iraq’s borders. Many who have returned find their homes damaged or taken over by squatters.

Corruption is rampant, oil smugglers harm production efforts, judges are still murdered—two in the past three months.

It’s a hollow victory that many people are claiming. The measure of success needs to go beyond our own needs.