Seminar presents bleak picture of Iraq

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As a Villanova alumnus currently serving in the Army, I feel compelled to respond to Philip Craig’s article covering Dr. Farhang Erfani’s recent presentation sponsored by the VMSA. I take issue with Dr. Erfani’s assessment of the situation in Iraq, as well as factual errors within the article. It is indeed quite easy to come to the bleak conclusions regarding Iraq’s future, as Dr. Erfani has, given the terrible chain of events we’ve seen in the country for the last few years. Clearly, grave errors of policy had been made along the way, but Iraq’s destiny doesn’t inevitably lie along the road to sectarian strife and failed-statehood, or radical Iran-style theocracy. Rather, the nation stands at a crossroads, where the population has a choice between a brighter future or a return to a bloody past. Yes, the security situation seems grim. Yes, the economy is shaky. But if you speak with Iraqis themselves across all strata of society, you learn that they place great hope in their new government and it’s ability to remedy both. Time will only tell, but to assume that failure is foregone, is erroneous.

The recent elections were not simply a matter of a single day of going to the polls. The very profound impact of that event will have repercussions, most of them overwhelmingly positive, for years to come. I think we were all taken aback by images of the lines of voters risking their very lives to turn in their ballots. For me, one of the most moving was seeing an elderly woman being taken by her granddaughter to the polls by wheelbarrow. Though a culture of democracy has never truly existed in Iraq, even before the Ba’athists, the desire for such is in fact there, waiting to burst forth. Indeed, a national culture based on democratic ideals and respect for the individual will take time to take deep root, but the hope for this is greater now, in light of these elections, than ever before. This election clearly gave vent to the long suppressed Shi’ite majority, and the aspirations of the Kurds for even greater autonomy (granted, with the desire for independence always there)– though yes, Sunnis overwhelmingly sat out, for several reasons. But given the recent call by many within the Sunni Arab clerical establishment for their flock to join the political process and the security establishment, the insurgency is being undercut, and one can remain hopeful that Arab Sunnis will one day soon stand on line at voting stations in future local and national elections, joining their Kurdish (who are mostly Sunni as well, one must note) and Shi’ite brethren, even if merely to stake their political claim. As we all know, our own recent election was a bitterly fought won, which revealed the divisions on many issues among Americans. I myself saw the same political debates play out among my own unit. But regardless of how we might feel about the War in Iraq, the reasons behind it, the mistakes made, etc., we must stand united in ensuring the experiment in democracy Iraq does not fail. To use the old cliche: failure is not an option.

Additionally, the allusion to the recently named Prime Minister is off on many points. Ibrahim Ja’afari, is neither a Sunni nor has he been associated in any fashion with “killing other Iraqis.” Mr. Ja’afari, brought to power by the parliamentary coalition of Kurds and Shi’a, is a member of Iraq’s Shi’a Islamist Da’awa Party, which fled abroad after it’s failed insurrection against Saddam Husayn’s regime in the 1970s. As part of the Iraqi expatriate opposition he did return with the INC and others to help build a new Iraq. Unlike some, such as his own one-time protégé Iyad ‘Allawi, Ja’afari has revealed himself to be an independent political figure, neither held back by American interests nor those of his own party. Across Iraqi society he is widely regarded as a hero and a patriot, and in light of opinion polls over the past year, he has been cited as Iraq’s post popular politician, trailing only Shi’a leader Ayatollah As-Sistani. In his great efforts to unite all Iraqis across all sectarian and ethnic lines, he is possibly our and Iraq’s best hope for a leader for the country.

As one who was not able to attend this recent seminar, I am not able to fully comment on what was presented. I can only ask Dr. Erfani, my fellow Villanovans and all Americans to put our disagreements and bitterness behind us, and move forward to support the American effort in Iraq.

Sincerely, SGT David de Hosson, US Army A & S ’98