Country on 'Cusp of Greatness' Three Years After Saddam's Fall
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2006 Three years after his brigade seized control of Baghdad's international airport from Iraqi forces' control, Army Col. William Grimsley said he believes that country is taking the critical first steps toward reclaiming its past greatness.
Grimsley, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Combat Brigade Team during the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said history - not current events - will tell the true story of Iraq's metamorphosis.
And that story will show how Iraq ultimately emerged from almost 40 years of a regime that ignored the people's needs and undermined its potential, Grimsley, now a military assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said during an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Noting Iraq's historical place as the cradle of Western civilization, Grimsley pointed to its traditional emphasis on literacy, education, math, sciences and arts and its foundation in elements critical to an effective civil government.
Saddam Hussein's regime "corrupted all of those things in its history" and undermined the very roots that made Iraq a pillar of civilization, he said. And in doing so, he said, it left a decrepit infrastructure and a whole generation that never understood the power of its history.
Three years after that regime fell to U.S. and coalition forces on April 9, 2003, a day observed this week as "Iraqi Freedom Day," Grimsley said he believes Iraq is on the right path to rediscovering its roots.
He compared today's Iraq to that of the day three years ago when Saddam's statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square came down. "Today, we have a democratically elected parliament based on an Iraqi constitution that was drafted by Iraqis and voted for in a referendum by Iraqis, on the heels of two other elections. That's remarkable," he said.
Establishing a new unity government "is a challenge" for the democratically elected parliament, Grimsley acknowledged, and will require it to apply "the democratic principles of compromise and give-and-take."
The democracy that ultimately emerges will be different from America's democracy, just as this country's democracy isn't like Great Britain's, he said. What matters, he said, is that it represents the Iraqi people and looks out for their interests.
"I believe it is going to work, because I believe the average Iraqi person, like the average American person, wants the kind of lifestyle that allows them to live in relative freedom and peace with the ability to earn a living commensurate with their neighbors and to move forward and have financial and personal security for themselves and their families," Grimsley said.
It's a path with bumps along the road as the country forms its government, builds its army and police forces, and confronts violence, much of it by foreign fighters and criminals, he said.
But Grimsley compared Iraq's progress to the United States' own efforts after its liberation from Great Britain in the late 1700s. It took years for the country to ratify its constitution and elect its first president, he noted. That new government's power got its first major test in 1794, when President Washington ordered federal troops into western Pennsylvania to quash an insurrection that became known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
Several years later, Vice President Aaron Burr killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel. And from 1861 to 1865, the U. S. endured its own bloody civil war.
Yet history shows how the United States has evolved, as it will show for Iraq, Grimsley said.
"Three years ago, we saw the fall of a despotic dictator as evil in his own realm as Adolph Hitler," he said. "I think we have probably yet to realize the lessons or the results of the fall of this kind of dictator in that part of the world."
Grimsley said he's proud of the role his troops and the United States have played in Iraq's evolving history. Their efforts will help bring stability to a volatile part of the world. "It's worth it, absolutely," he said.
"Americans did what they did and are doing what they do for the benefit of the world, and most importantly, for the benefit of Iraq itself," he said. "This is a country on the cusp of greatness."
Ten or 20 years from now, history books will tell the story of a transformation akin to what Germany and Japan experienced after World War II and South Korea experienced after the Korean War, he said.
These examples show how a devastated country can emerge from tyrannical rule and transform "into something great that works for the benefit of its own people and helps ensure the stability of the world," he said. And that, Grimsley said, is his hope for Iraq.