"Only by working shoulder to shoulder the nations of the free world will be able to bring about the rebirth of a new democratic Iraq."

Disaster and opportunity — the two-part Iraq crisis

By Kassymzhomart Tokaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Hill
June 1, 2004, Page 17

Events in Iraq have not developed the way those in favor of war thought they would. Instead, they have justified the most pessimistic forecasts of those who opposed military action, jeopardizing the democratic values put forward by the United States.

The liberation of Iraq began in ambiguity and half-truths as the entire world was being convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This has led to enormous distrust of the goals of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The White House would have been right if it had just said: We begin this war to free Iraq from a tyrant for whom there is no room in today’s world and to try to find weapons of mass destruction, which may be there.

The White House failed to understand the intricacies of interreligious and interethnic relations in Iraq. Iraqis are contemptuous of the provisional government because it is composed of people they do not trust. Most important, Americans underestimated the Shiites. They followed the illusion of an isolated Shiite community in disarray and received an unexpected blow.

There were too many words about democracy and too few deeds to support those words.

A handful of rascals who abused and tortured the Iraqi prisoners dealt a body blow to the U.S. reputation.

This tragic list could go on, but the most important point lies elsewhere. An American defeat and dishonorable withdrawal from Iraq could be the seed of a disaster that would dwarf current events.

I believe no one, not even those countries that were against the U.S. military action
and the neighboring Arab countries, wants to leave Iraq in such a mess. Everybody understands that the alternative to the American military presence is civil war and chaos with devastating consequences.

The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two parts, disaster and opportunity. I believe there is a decent way out, and the possibility of a free and democratic Iraq.

Talk of a “crisis” of American values and even the “sunset” of American influence with traditional allies is clearly premature and based on emotion, not fact. Based on history, I would not so easily reject a huge civilizing role played by the U.S. Remember American assistance to post-war Germany and Japan? And how can we forget the Marshall Plan, or the friendly hand of the United States as Eastern European countries built their democracies?

We in Kazakhstan will never forget that the United States stood with us at independence and was the first country to raise its flag in our capital. You gave us invaluable assistance as we built a liberal economy and a democracy based on shared values.

Any unbiased person must also give credit to Americans for toppling the Taliban and bringing Afghanistan out of the Middle Ages. The U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition saved the countries of Central Asia from the Taliban.

Today, the United States and its allies are in a hard struggle for a free Iraq. This struggle is not only met with resistance but with misunderstanding and gloating delight by some countries. Yet, the situation in Iraq is in a crucial phase, and the international community needs to be united under the auspices of the United Nations to build a free and democratic Iraq. There is no other way.

The U.S. administration has made the journey from ignoring the United Nations to considering seriously its help in solving the problem of Iraq. This is welcome. A few bad apples in the Army is no reason to doubt fundamental values that have served as a guiding star for many generations of Americans and their friends.

This is why Kazakhstan has stuck to its principled position on Iraq, sending 27
soldiers and officers. Since the summer of 2003, this contingent has found and destroyed more than a million explosives, saving lives and bringing closer the day Iraq returns to normal life.

There’s been much doubt and criticism in our Muslim-majority country about our presence in Iraq. I strongly believe, however, that we are doing the right thing. Our president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has confirmed that our military contingent will continue doing its duty in Iraq in these difficult times.

Only by working shoulder to shoulder the nations of the free world will be able to bring about the rebirth of a new democratic Iraq.