It would be a shame if Iraqi athletes were not permitted to perform in the Summer Olympics.
Yes, the Iraqi government should not try to trump leaders of the International Olympic Committee.
Yes, under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Olympic effort was a sham, a shame and abusive.
But the Olympics always have been as much about symbolic unity as playing by the book. Just the fact the Games are being held in communist China should be proof that if an aspect of the Games is considered significant enough, other concerns can be waived or at least finessed. If the feet of every country that participates in the Olympic Games were held to the fire, almost all would come up with shortcomings.
The Games are not about "worthiness." They are about "togetherness."
The IOC should have withheld its announcement and burned some midnight oil to try to find a way to get Iraq into the Games. Now that the decision to bar the country has been made public, the IOC still needs to look for ways to reverse itself. It needs to rethink its decision. Had the committee thought its actions through, its members would have realized that working through back-channels to get Iraq to the Games was in their own best interest. But the IOC has a history of not only shooting itself in the foot but putting that foot in its mouth.
Purity is not a prerequisite for a country to be considered part of the world community or part of Olympic competition. If so, what was Hitler's Germany doing there in the 1930s and what were oppressive and even genocidal nations doing there since?
The IOC should have learned that lesson years ago. Picking and choosing who is "appropriate" and who is not will almost always result in not only bad feelings but bad publicity. Now, as so often in the past, the directors at the IOC stand to get egg on their faces once again.
It's time to backpedal. Let the Iraqis join in the celebration and the competition.
Find a way to make it work.