After the Handover

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(Host) Commentator Madeleine Kunin reflects on the transfer of power in Iraq and what it may mean for the Iraqi people.

(Kunin) The handover of the government of Iraq from the United States to Iraq occurred two days early with just a few onlookers. That in itself is revealing – what was supposed to be a celebration marking a great American achievement was downplayed for one reason: security. Too many deaths have already occurred – 105 Iraqis killed on just one day last week. And now, a marine is in captivity.

I opposed the invasion of Iraq and have deplored the turn of events; and yet, today, I hope that the transition of power to the Iraqis will succeed.

What will success mean? Success has not been achieved in fulfilling President Bush’s vision of Iraq as a center piece of democracy in the Middle East. Neither does it look likely the Israelis and Palestinians will soon sit down together as a result of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

We’ve had no success in finding the much vaunted weapons of mass destruction. The recently released report by the 9/11 commission staff has found no linkage between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein – the primary reason for going to war.

Terrorism has not been reduced, despite preliminary claims to the contrary. The red-faced State Department had to correct a botched up terrorism report and admit that terrorist attacks in the last year have increased, not decreased. Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists and insurgents of all types who see this besieged country as a hunting ground. Instead of freedom of movement and democracy, the country may find itself under martial law.

Despite this bleak picture, and contrary to all the evidence that points to further chaos, I continue to hope that out of this morass of violence and uncertainty, Iraq will eventually emerge as a country that can govern itself. That would be success.

Iraq will likely not become a democracy as we know it. And it is likely that it will be living under siege for a long time. In the next few months, we will argue over whether Iraq is better off today than it was under Saddam Hussein. The Presidential election may hinge on the outcome of that debate, though we may not know the real answer for years.

A better Iraq is the last and most fragile reason that would justify this war. For the sake of the American soldiers who died for this cause, it would be comforting for their loved ones to know they had not died in vain. And for the sake of the Iraqi people, it would be a great success if they can achieve self government – and possibly peace.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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