Staying in Iraq will bring officials more dilemmas

The scene was a sad reminder of the dangers that
remain in Iraq, long after the nation has been
liberated from Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. Four civilians who worked for a North Carolina-based security company were killed in an ambush of their SUV in Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, on Wednesday. Then crowds dragged the bodies through the town and hanged them from a bridge.
Five U.S. soldiers were also killed Wednesday as a bomb exploded under their armed vehicle north of Fallujah.
“Associated Press Television News pictures showed one man beating a charred corpse with a metal pole,” AP reported. “Others tied a yellow rope to a body, hooked it to a car and dragged it down the main street of town. Two blackened and mangled corpses were hung from a green, iron bridge spanning the Euphrates River.”
It was reminiscent of the scene in Somalia in 1993, when a dead American soldier was dragged through city streets. The televised pictures of that atrocity helped speed up the U.S. withdrawal.
We opposed the Iraq war, fearing that the quick victory would turn into a long, drawn-out, bloody affair — which is exactly what Americans are witnessing these days. By The Associated Press’ count, since the war began last year, 597 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, 459 of them after the war’s main military mission was declared completed.
At this point, the United States seems to have little choice but to hang in there and try to piece together some semblance of a functioning government that protects certain liberties. That’s what the Bush administration says it is committed to do.
But even if and when that happens, American officials face a dilemma.
They want a free and democratic Iraq, yet to allow true democratic institutions could give ultimate power to the majority Shiite Muslims who could install an extremist theocracy that would in the end mean the end of a free society. Hence, the United States is stuck doing very undemocratic things like closing down newspapers and trying to suppress expressions of fundamentalism.
Meanwhile, American soldiers and civilians are targeted by those who wish that we would leave Iraq sooner rather than later. There are no easy answers here. Just a mess, and another day of violence. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims.