Two Wrongs Do Not Win the Fight



Sulaimani, Northern Iraq, April 9, 2011 

Today, almost eight years after George Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech, angry citizens protested in Sulaimani. This follows a protest the day before. And the day before that.  And the day before that.  Today is the 52nd consecutive day of anti-government protests in this city 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 40 miles west of the Iranian border. The protests have often turned violent: a grenade and gunfire killed one person and injured more than a dozen others in late February. To date, at least eight people have been killed.

These incidents occur against a backdrop of protests-becoming-riots-becoming-revolts across the Middle East. Here in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, we have had nothing like the high drama in Egypt or the low deeds in Libya, but political violence has increased. This is especially worrisome for a region that prides itself on being the safest block in a very bad neighborhood.

These are the kinds of stories that make even well-intentioned Americans want to wash their hands of Iraq. If the Kurdish region, the friendly corner, “the model of democracy for Iraq,” is roiling with sometimes violent anti-government protests, what can we do?

The security situation is the most common argument I hear against Americans working in Iraq. The second argument is subtler, but possibly more dangerous in the long run. It boils down to this: “Contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq is tantamount to endorsing George Bush’s invasion.”

Geoffrey Gresk
5/3/2011 3:30:50 AM

Mr. Eatenson makes an interesting connection between the work we are doing here in Northern Iraq and the recent Mortenson fiasco. I wrote about it on my blog,, in an entry called "Mixing Memory and Desire" (April 23). I would be eager to hear his thoughts on it.

Alex Ryking
4/25/2011 5:52:25 PM

Supporting the reconstruction doesn't vindicate George W. Bush's illegal, immoral, and unethical invasion of Iraq anymore than rebuilding your house after an arson fire vindicates the arsonist. That said, I think it's time we rebuilt our own house in America and let the Iraqis take over, building on the foundation we've given them.

steve eatenson
4/18/2011 5:28:47 PM

Greg Mortenson, "Three Cups of Tea," has dealt a negative blow to kindhearted financial intention directed at school children in difficult areas of the world. People will rightfully be reluctant to give donations that can easily be used for personal gain rather than intended loving kindness. It occurs to me that if we focused on improving education in America, that is, starting at an early age to teach charity over greed, good parenting, birth control, non-violence, critical thinking over memorization of useless facts, cooperation over competition, love and protection of the earth over plundering of finite natural resources for financial gain, then maybe we would stop producing idiots like the ones that use our tax dollars to wage war and idiots like the ones who vote for them.

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