Update on Iraq: Not quite freedom on the march
The crackdown on political protest in Iraq, from Baghdad to autonomous Kurdistan, shows that the country is far from a flourishing democracy.
Toward the end of February, Iraqis took to the streets to commemorate the anniversary of their own – ultimately unrealized – attempt at starting an uprising against a corrupt, increasingly authoritarian political order.Skip to next paragraph
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"Security forces blocked access to protest sites in Baghdad; beat and arrested peaceful demonstrators in Sulaimaniya, Kurdistan; and briefly detained, beat, or confiscated equipment from media workers and prevented others from covering the protests," according to Human Rights Watch.
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On Wednesday President Obama hosted a dinner for a select group of veterans and officials involved with the Iraq war. "The nation's gratitude dinner," remembered the more than 4,000 soldiers who died, the thousands more who lost limbs and suffered permanent injury, and the sacrifices made by the families at home.
Obama called the men and women who fought in Iraq "the patriots who served in our name." He went on to say that "after nearly nine years in Iraq, tonight is an opportunity to express our gratitude and to say once more, welcome home."
But the stated purposes that war was fought – to remove Saddam Hussein from power and bring democracy to Iraq – is far from fulfilled. Sure, Mr. Hussein is gone, hung by his own people after being captured by US troops. But a flourishing democracy, Iraq is not.
Take Kurdistan, the pro-American ethnic enclave that was protected by a NATO no-fly zone from Hussein's troops in the '90s and has often been held up as a model by US policy makers about what all of Iraq could become. On Feb. 17, a few hundred democracy protesters sought to gather in Sulaymaniyah. Here's what happened next, according to Human Rights Watch: