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Handing over Iraq best step toward freeing country

In Monday’s speech on Iraq at the U.S. Army War College, we saw a get-down-to-business President Bush. Mostly gone was his previous rhetoric about using Iraq to expand freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East.

He mapped out a nuts-and-bolts vision of what he wants to do to bring freedom and representative government to Iraq. Recent events — several books critical of his conduct of the Iraq war, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and unexpectedly high U.S. military casualties — seem to have made him realize that getting Iraq policy right will be difficult enough for this year, perhaps even for his next administration, should he be re-elected.

His plan for Iraq included five steps: handing over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, establishing security, continuing to build Iraq’s infrastructure, enlisting additional international support and holding free national elections “no later than next January.”

However, earlier Monday the United States and Great Britain presented a resolution to the United Nations that would grant Iraqis sovereignty while allowing U.S. and allied military forces to “take all measures” needed to fight elements resisting the forces of the United States and the new Iraqi government. Both the resolution and Bush in his speech did not set a time when all U.S. forces would leave. And the United States, not Iraq, would demolish the infamous Abu Ghraib and build a new prison.

So sovereignty, which means the ultimate controlling authority, for Iraqis would be limited.

Still, Bush was correct when he said, “A representative government that protects basic rights, elected by Iraqis, is the best defense against the return of tyranny. And that election is coming.”

And he noted that Iraqis must have a government that reflects their own culture. The problem, of course, is that Iraqis may vote for a Shia theocracy that might not keep the precious freedoms U.S. troops are dying to establish.

But at least the president now has pointed American policy in the right direction of handing matters over to Iraqis themselves.

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