The legacy of the US presence in Iraq may include the rise of rap and hip-hop culture. Apparently, aspects of the American culture resonate with the youth of Iraq much to the chagrin of older segments of the population. Teens with baggy clothes and hats turned backwards are not an uncommon sight some neighborhoods of Baghdad these days. American slang and the tough guy bravado of 50 Cent have crept their way into hearts of Iraqis who have come of age during a time of bloodshed and occupation.
In disregard for strict Islamic codes against bearing skin in public, these youth are proudly displaying their new tattoos. According to Brett McGurk, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, nearly half of the population of Iraq is under the age of 19. The future leaders of Iraq are no longer spending their childhood being sheltered from the American ideal of personal expression. They are now growing up searching for who they are and who they want to be much like teens in the developed world.
The ability for teens in Iraq to have the freedom to express themselves outwardly through body art, rapping, break dancing, and dressing provocatively (for an Iraqi) sets the foundation for a population that values the freedom the of individual. When a population places value on the rights of individuals, I would bet, their value of human rights would also be high.
With all of the official diplomatic effort poured into Iraq, the most influential and lasting mark was made by the foot soldiers interacting with the population on a day-to-day basis. Our soldiers, with the exception of a few outliers, performed above and beyond the call of duty and well outside of their initial training. They became the ambassadors of a better life and they performed with distinction. I hope the youth of Iraq take ownership of their right to express themselves and never let their government take it away.