Saturday, November 29, 2008

You said withdrawal?

“Frankly speaking, the agreement is very clear,” said Alaa Muhammad, a 29-year old journalist from Basra, shortly after seeing the ratification vote on television. “But some members of Parliament disagreed with it just to attract attention. They have no idea about what benefits the people. What I saw today made me feel I want the forces to stay longer, because without these forces we will eat each other.” (New York Times, November 29, 2008)

The agreements—a broad “strategic framework” and a more detailed strategic pact that were ratified Thursday by the Iraqi Parliament—set a deadline that critics of the war have long waited. They require that all American forces withdraw from Iraq no later than December 31, 2011, but they offer no timetable for withdrawals.

Should the U.S. withdraw by 2011? Would Iraq be safe enough by that time? The Iraq war was fought with the total indifference of the American population, whether those who were for the war or those opposed to it, as it all derived from cultural symbols that go back to the 1960s, the students protests and the intensification of the Vietnam war. Iraq was therefore not perceived for what it is—a failed nation-state—and for what it really needs—a chance to become for the first time in its troubled post-Ottoman history a nation-state.

Could American indifference, coupled with an immature Iraqi political system, give birth to the beginnings of a modern stable nation-state? Is that possible? Like the 29-year old Iraqi journalist from Basra, one of those territories that used to be controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, until they were ousted early this year by Maliki’s federal governmental forces, I’m suspicious about the 2011 deadline and wish the US forces would stay longer—much longer to be honest.