Iraqis want democracy


Henner F├╝rtig

To person

Dr. phil. habil., born 1953; Professor for Middle East Studies at the History Department of the University of Hamburg, Director of the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg. [email protected]

By reducing the reasons for war to democratization, the US created expectations that it could not meet. In addition to democratization, an open civil war and a new denominational dictatorship are possible.


As a reminder, a few weeks before the military strike against the Iraqi Baath regime, the US government drew far-reaching conclusions from the previously unconvincing legitimacy of the war against a sovereign member of the United Nations. Since neither the suspected weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, nor could Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Ladin's joint terrorist plans be proven, the planned war ran the risk of "failing" for lack of solid justification. Out of this emergency situation, just three weeks before the start of the war, a third reason for the armed conflict was given: to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.

The speech given by US President George W. Bush to the conservative American Enterprise Institute on February 26, 2003 can be considered key in this regard. The key sentence was that "a new regime in Iraq (...) would act as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for the other nations of the region". [1] The then Deputy Defense Minister Paul Wolfowitz, known as an outspoken "hawk", became even clearer in March of that year: "Iraq will be the first Arab democracy, and even small advances there will cast a very long shadow, first on Syria and Iran and then on the entire Arab world. "[2] With these proclamations, however, the US government put itself under considerable pressure to act. First, democratization was now the only reason for war, and second, not only the Arab, but the whole world was now looking to the progress of the Iraqi experiment. The relatively easy military victory over Saddam Hussein could not hide the fact that the far more difficult part lay in the stabilization and the apostrophized democratic restructuring. Here it would be decided whether from the victory a success is, as Jessica Mathews, President of the Carnegie Foundation, vividly put it. [3]