Nation & World

'You cannot judge a nation based on four years of its history.'

Mohamed-Ali Hasan, an associate professor of engineering at UNC-Charlotte, fled Iraq in 1980 after Saddam Hussein’s regime executed some of his college classmates, a cousin and two of his wife’s cousins. His parents died in Iraq before he could safely reunite with them. Hasan’s brother and three sisters still live in Iraq.

On life in Iraq today: “Most of the violence is concentrated mainly in Baghdad and the surroundings of Baghdad, especially the Western provinces. ... My brother and his kids moved to the south to seek more safety. Baghdad is a more dangerous place to live. You hear explosions every day, there are random actions of violence and so on. One time, one of my nephews was joking when I asked if they had any terrorist action today, and he said, ‘If we don’t hear an explosion, it’s not a normal day.’

“... I think the new security plan for Baghdad has started to do its work. You cannot stop all the bombers, all the anti-people actions, but there is much more security today in Baghdad than many weeks ago, at least this is what I’m hearing. People on the streets are not bothered much about the lines and delays they get because of the security measures, they feel this is something done to protect them. Also I hear that the police and the army are treating people with respect and frequently apologize for the delays. This is good news. They are tired of the terrorists and their daily mayhem.”

On whether the war has been worth it: “You cannot judge a nation based on four years of its history. It will take time to see the final effect and make the final judgment. We have to look at what would be the results after 10 years or more. The first achievement was the removal of dictatorship. Return of dictatorship is beyond the imagination of most Iraqis. Today, Iraq has hundreds of newspapers, parties and clubs, although the new freedom was used in the daily cycle of killing. Policymakers have taken a venture and have made some mistakes, and they should identify these mistakes.

“I’ll give you one example: They released the Army and didn’t secure the barracks. There were billions of dollars of ammo and equipment in those barracks. ... You’d see people selling weapons on the streets. Effectively, you can buy any light weapon you may want (new in the box). Much of these weapons are now in the hands of the terrorists, militia, etc. It has this monstrous chain of reactions that became beyond control today.

“The other example is what I hear from my relatives, about the Americans releasing the terrorists after captured by the Iraqi police. I have a hard time comprehending this, but that’s what they tell me repeatedly.”

On U.S. policy in Iraq: “What the U.S. should be focused on in terms of policy is to be a granter of democracy, preferably through the U.N. It doesn’t matter who comes to power. It matters that the process of democracy continues. Whoever comes to power -- be it bad guys or good guys, people will see them and accept them or they reject them. The whole beauty of democracy is that it is a process that if it’s done right, it will clean itself.

“Over time, I see that U.S. policy is more focused on who’s coming . We’re forgetting that if you let democracy correct itself, we will have more friends everywhere in the world.

“If we stay the course and build demo cracy in Iraq and let the process take its own course, and be there so nobody could hijack the power, if we do that, eventually we won’t have to fire a shot anywhere else in the Middle East. Fairly soon, we will find changes happening in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iran. People in the region will see the good example and will follow it, just like West and East Germany. I hope that politicians understand that. The reason I’m worried is I don’t see that this is understood. Internationally, I think we lost much more by supporting thugs and dictators compared to the instant ‘wins’ we made with them ­-- one example is Saddam Hussein himself.”