The change that took place in Iraq was not only a political one but also, and more importantly, a change in awareness; something that isn't easy to detect.
This is what I see clear in the nature of Iraqi dialogue among the public, and I'm always pleased by the degree of awareness and open-mindedness that emerged in the years that followed the change. I believe it is an important indication about the future.
Recently I've been reading through one of the BBC forums whose topic is basically "do Arabs have the right to possess nuclear weapons?". I didn't hesitate to read all the contributions, which numbered over 600 from various Arab countries. I wasn't surprised by the nature of Iraqi contributions to the discussion. I had always called these "singing outside the Arab flock".
This "singing" is almost always faced by attacks from the rest of Arabs who often generously use the word "traitors" when addressing their Iraqi counterparts just because they have different views about one issue or another.
What made me tackle this issue was not only the difference between the Iraqi and mainstream Arab views but the characteristic understanding exhibited through these Iraqi contributions of the nature of the challenge posed Arab possession of nuclear weapons to the region and especially to Arabs and Muslims themselves.
42 out of 47 Iraqi commentators voiced absolute rejection to the idea of nuclear weapons in Arab hands. More important is the consensus among those commentators that stable democracy is prerequisite to the acquisition of immense tools of power such as WMDs. Not only that, in fact some of the commentators even emphasized that only Israel has the right the possess nuclear weapons in the region because of the hostility and fanaticism of the regimes it's surrounded by.
There's no doubt how dangerous it is to allow dictatorships and WMDs to exist in the same place, and it seems that the change in Iraq has strengthened this conviction among the people. I am not surprised that Iraqis, whose country's been the field of war are more vocal and serious about rejecting proliferation and violence that peoples in countries where change hasn't happened yet. in my opinion this is the answer to present to those who claim that war has led to more extremism. In fact war did lead to more extremism, but only among those opposed to the change and who see in it a threat to their extreme ways which they try to impose on the others.
Now I leave you with some Iraqi comments. I will avoid translating comments from other Arabs since I'm sure you already know what those sound like…
"Besides the fact that nuclear programs place a heavy burden on the weak economies of Arab countries, harming the poor day in and day out…I indeed do not feel safe when I know that an Arab regime possesses such weapons because these weapons would be commanded by the desires and impulses of rulers who have been proven incompetent in anything except for repressing and impoverishing their peoples.
Mo'ammar Qaddafi has been sitting on the chest of his people for 40 years, so can you imagine figure what it's going to be like when he acquires nuclear bombs? Not to mention our horrible experience with Saddam Hussein who used WMDs against his own people."
Lateef Baghdadi. Baghdad/Iraq
"I wish from all my heart that Arabs get to build nuclear weapons because they will use them against one another and against their peoples-what Saddam did is the best example. Consequently this would lead to the extinction of Arabs and by that Arabs would be giving a free service to the civilized western world by ridding the world of themselves and their terror. The world will become safer."
Ammar Rahmatallah. Baghdad
"My name is Haider Mousawi from Arabic Basra. I absolutely refuse that Arabs acquire nuclear weapons, at least for the time being, for several reasons. First, it's dangerous for them before others, as Arab rulers are not wise and might use them against one another or against themselves (just like the former rulers of my country did to their people and the region's peoples). Second, nuclear weapons could not save super powers like the USSR from collapse. Third, they are very expensive, so it's better to [spend money] fighting poverty and unemployment. Fourth, those weapons are going to be a burden on their producers in the future and fifth, a peaceful program makes more sense."
Haider Mousawi. Basra
"Arabs' or Iranians' possession of nuclear weapons is like putting a live grenade in the hand of a six year old. That's what I consider it a huge crime against themselves and their countrymen first, and against the world second. I had worked at the Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency for several years. And although I completely believe that the Iraqi nuclear program was over by 1991 and although I refuse America's justifications for invading Iraq, I still thank God day and night that that program had been destroyed. That's because otherwise Iraq's situation would have been worse than it is right now.
No to any Arab nuclear program."
Dr. Imad Abdulwahab. Canada
"The world shall not permit Arab countries ruled by dictatorships to possess nuclear weapons or any other type of WMDs because these countries are often ruled by the impulses of one man such as the dictator Bashar Asad. This technically means that the weapons would belong to an individual, not a state and this individual might decide to sue them in a moment of anger or recklessness leading to disasters. We witnessed what Saddam did with his chemical weapons and how he decided to murder Iraqis with these weapons without a reasonable justification for their use. That's why no tyrannical regime should be allowed to possess these weapons."
"Even thinking about this subject should be forbidden to Arabs, Iranians and Muslims because of the factor of religious and sectarian extremism. The world would be living in the dark ages had these dangerous weapons fell into their hands."
Saad al-Iraqi. Baghdad
"Arabs do not have the right to possess nuclear weapons. The Arab mentality cannot handle uranium; they're good for no more than rifles. Had Saddam had nuclear weapons, he would have bombed all Arabs; Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, even Saudi Arabia and the Ka'aba."
Fadhil Bayati. Mosul
"No, no Arab country has the right to possess nuclear weapons. The reasons are as clear as the sun at noontime…All Arab leaders are not qualified for leadership; first they're stupid and second they're criminals. Imagine what someone who commits crimes against his own people do if he had nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons should be in the hands of only civilized democratic regimes, not backward criminal regimes.
If Arab rulers get to acquire these weapons then, well, so much for planet earth!!!"
Abbas Husseini. Thi-Qar/Iraq
"Imagine that Arabs were in Israel's position and had these weapons, would they stand idle? Certainly they would bomb Gaza and destroy it altogether. Imagine that Hezbollah had these weapons, would it sit back and watch or use them? You have a big example in Saddam."
Tariq Sajid. Baghdad
"I think that only mature democracies have the right to have nuclear weapons…"
Ali al-Ali. An Iraqi in Jordan
"Only democracies like Israel or India can have these weapons while Arab countries would threaten world peace and the future of life on the planet. Even if Arabs don’t get to have strategic missiles to strike the west, they'd detonate [the weapons] in their homes and against their peoples in any case of revolt.
When Arabs acquired conventional explosives they strapped them to their cars and their own bodies and enhanced them with nails and ball bearings to attack civilian crowds at weddings and hospitals. This is what happened and keep happening in Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Egypt and all other places infested with terrorism."
Mohammed al-Iraqi. Baghdad/Iraq
"By no means can Syria, the member of the axis of evil and their followers be compared with Israel. If Israel wanted to strike Muslims with WMDs it would have done it long time ago. While if an organization like Hezbollah acquired these dangerous weapons-God forbid-they would murder the innocent and the guilty alike and then regret would be useless…peace be with those who want good for others the way they want it for themselves."