Iraq in chaos: where would you start bringing back normalcy?

My Iraqi friend was comparing the situation during the rule of Saddam to nowadays; he was saying there are positive signs now and went on to explain. He described an interview between an unknown journalist and a government minister in which the journalist had the guts to ask tough questions with impunity. He compared this with an incident when Saddam was in power when my friend was challenged by a government agent over a simple complaint to a waiter. The waiter brought slightly discolored sugar, my friend objected but in the agent’s eyes such complaint meant dissatisfaction over the policy of the regime. The conclusion was that you could not voice any complaint when Saddam was in power but now you can. I suggested that freedom of the press alone is not enough, and that its achievement is so shallow that most Iraqis would gladly trade it for the relative personal security at the time of the dictator. My friends thought that I was slighting the achievement of freedom of the press, to which I replied on the contrary, I believe the media should have the highest priority. This suggestion did not register with those present, so I owe them an explanation.

Simply put, any stable society is regulated against threats to its instability, the institution that points the finger at threats is the media, other state institutions follow on with legal and coercive action. It is not enough to have freedom of the press, the media must have integrity and access to accurate information before it can be taken seriously by the other institutions. Politics is about prioritizing actions and allocating resources, any investment in the media’s integrity is leveraged, and I mean public investment, not disguised bribes and threats to journalists like what’s currently happening in Iraq. Such investments are leveraged because when you are protecting honest journalists you are really protecting the voice of the public; the killings of other innocent people is no less criminal but the crimes do not usually extend beyond the people directly affected.

My other suggestion for top political priority is boarder sealing, because it isolates the neighbors’ justifiable insecurity from affecting Iraqi society; if the occupiers cannot change their hostile policies towards Iraq’s neighbors, thereby removing cause of interference, then they should take full responsibility for protecting the political process inside.

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