Monday, June 27, 2005

Marshall, Islam, and Iraq

Some interesting comments in today's London Times by Iraq's Prime Minister, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari:

I am not only the first democratically elected leader of an Arab country. I am also the first prime minister in the Middle East to come from a religious, Islamic opposition movement — at the head of a diverse ethnic and political alliance. Embracing diversity within human society is not just a political necessity, it is rooted in my faith. Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion and that freedom of choice is divinely granted; it is dictators who need to cater to fanatics in order to stay in power.

Saddam Hussein is a case in point. He passed laws to limit religious freedom and degraded women’s lives. I will reverse Saddam’s legacy and welcome Iraq’s diversity. I welcome the strong contribution that women can make in its workplace and political life, where they make up one third of our National Assembly — more than most Western democracies.

Marshall said: “Our policy is not directed against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” Today is the time for a new international Marshall plan towards Iraq and the broader Middle East — directed not for or against any policy but against ignorance, tyranny, hatred and anarchy.

Marshall repaired the decaying infrastructure of Germany after six years of war and 12 years of Nazi rule. In Iraq we have had nearly 40 years of fascist rule and have been in practice at war for half that time. I have seen throughout Iraq the marks of economic collapse and depredation this has left. Iraq today has few English speakers, it has hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers trained for nothing but war, and its universities — which once enjoyed a worldwide reputation — now lag behind those in the rest of the region. It has debts totalling hundreds of billions of dollars and there has been no investment in its infrastructure for more than 20 years.

Three generations of Iraqis have grown up under a dictatorship, learning to take orders but not take initiatives or responsibility, and educated in religious and political hatred and isolationism. My people are a strong people: their will survived. The marks of Saddam’s brutal and divisive rule, however, will take time to heal. Many of my people, as well as soldiers from the multinational force, are still being killed by terrorism.

The way will not always be easy. I am confident, though, that the prosperous democracies of the world will be as far-sighted today as Marshall was in 1947. Much blood had to be shed, and money spent, before peace was achieved in Europe. In Iraq the fight for democracy has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. In the long run, however, it can secure centuries of peace and prosperity. Iraq’s fight against terrorist networks and training camps, and the poverty and ignorance that supply them, has become the world’s fight for the security of humanity.
(via Harry's Place)

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