By Samuel Burke & Claire Calzonetti, CNN
Ten years ago this week Baghdad fell. It had been a scant three weeks since the United States had invaded Iraq.
The world watched as jubilant Iraqis and U.S. Marines tore down a giant bronze statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. The image was played over and over again all over the world. In the United States, it was taken as a sign of victory. The world later find out that images weren’t all that met the eye. For example, some accounts later claimed that the crowd was made up largely of troops and journalists, not every-day Iraqis.
But then, as now, the toppling of Saddam's statue remains the perfect metaphor: Perception did not match reality. A war the U.S. thought it had easily won instead dragged on for another decade, killing thousands of American forces and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
After years of death and destruction, the majority of Iraqis, today, say they don't think democracy can work.
The American people thought it would be a quick and clean war because that's what their leaders told them. And those leaders were citing assurances from prominent Iraqi exiles to back up their case.
One of those exiles was Brandeis professor, Kanan Makiya. Just days before the invasion, then-Vice President Dick Cheney cited Makiya as one of the people who led him to believe that U.S. troops would be “greeted as liberators.”
Ten years later, Makiya believes Iraqis are indeed better off without that brutal dictator, but he now admits to errors of judgment about just how the war would turn out.
“It's unfolding inside Iraq, at the moment in bad ways, but tomorrow very well it may not be in bad ways,” Makiya told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
Makiya does not think the picture is as bleak as some paint it and cites the success of Iraqi Kurdistan – an northern region where security improved and the economy has flourished.
But could Makiya look at the parents of a dead American soldier and say the war was worth it?
“The truth is I can't. I would have to lower my eyes and just be quiet, be ashamed,” he said. “But at the same time, I can't say that for the people in Iraq in general. I think the picture is very different for Iraqis coming out of the Saddam era than it is for the rest of the world.”
The war may not have been worth it for Americans, but Makiya still clings to the sense that it is was a victory for the Iraqi people, despite the continued insecurity.
He hoped for democracy to flourish; while that may be a just cause, many believe he was naïve and was out of touch with Iraq at the time of the invasion.
“I made errors of judgment,” Makiya admitted. “My judgments were, in part, based upon the hope that things would turn out differently.”
Though Makiya is quick to point out that he cautioned that Shiite rule could result in a period of retaliation.
“I made those warnings. As it turned out, the Shiite political class put in power by American force of arms on April 10th, 2003, did behave selfishly, did think only of themselves and even began to lose the very idea of Iraq,” he said.
Despite some of the misgivings he has about how the Iraq War turned out, Makiya says the world should intervene in Syria for moral and strategic reasons.
“It's a simple matter here: Intervention to reduce the killing,” he said. “Or at least decreasing the killing will help increase the chances of a stable Syria surviving.”
In the shadow of the Iraq war he admits intervention poses many dangers.
“I'm not even sure the United States should do it. I hope the Turks will do it, frankly,” he said. “Everything is fraught with danger in the Middle East today.”