Morning Report 8/21/05Them’s Fightin’ Words


U.S. pushes theocratic stuff; Kurds say to stuff it

Don’t sell short the crack Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga

The U.S. is so desperate that Iraqis hurry up and produce a constitution — any piece of paper will do — that, only 24 hours before the new deadline, we’re making (and are willing to accept) all sorts of veiled threats.

The result would be a theocracy, and any attempt at guaranteeing women’s rights would be sacrificed.

That’s not a major surprise, I know, considering that Christocrats have disproportionate power these days in our own country and, with the avid help of front man George W. Bush, are constantly trying to roll back women’s rights and replace our own Constitution with the Bible.

Besides, the U.S. official peddling that idea in Baghdad is neocon theorist Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghanistan-born former RAND and Unocal consultant who had no problem cozying up to the Taliban during the Reagan years.

But Ellen Knickmeyer‘s story in this morning’s Washington Post is nonetheless interesting because it sharpens the focus on the sharp divisions that will tear Iraq apart. The Post‘s main story on Iraq talks about the rise of militias, including the peshmerga, whom my colleague David Axe wrote about in April from Sulaymaniyah.

Knickmeyer, in her piece today, zoomed in on the constitutional maneuvering:

Kurdish politicians negotiating a draft constitution criticized the U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Saturday for allegedly pushing them to accept too great a role for Islamic law in his drive to complete the charter on time.

Although a Sunni delegate made similar charges, U.S. officials declined to comment publicly while they worked with politicians as a Monday deadline loomed.

Khalilzad was playing mediator, shuttling between and among the various clusters of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites wrestling to meet the ridiculous U.S.-imposed deadline. The Kurds, angling for their own nation, want no part of Sharia. As Knickmeyer reports:

The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women’s rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women’s groups.

For a good, acerbic dose of the bigger picture — a view that encompasses the Gaza “disengagement” as well as the Iraqi “constitution” (ironic quote marks necessary in both cases), read Ian Macwhirter‘s piece this morning in Glasgow’s Sunday Herald.

Racist Southerners are always crowing about how proud they are of their Scottish heritage. (The bookstore at Bob Jones University is packed with such material — read my March 2000 story from the GOP primary stop in South Carolina.) Well, maybe they ought to pay attention to Scots like Macwhirter, George Galloway, and the late Robin Cook.

In “Time for the World to Save America,” Macwhirter argues that if the rest of the planet doesn’t step in to organize the inevitable withdrawal from Iraq, the U.S. will sink into isolationism, and dictators around the world will wreak even more havoc than they already do.

On his way to that conclusion, Macwhirter makes some interesting points. Noting that both the Pentagon and the British military are already talking about pulling troops out, he writes:

It looks like a withdrawal and has led some to speculate that the coalition intends to “cut and run.”

Chance would be a fine thing. There seems little prospect of any early disengagement, even if the Iraqi ethnic groups agree a new constitution tomorrow when the second deadline expires. America was clearly hoping that the Middle East would turn the corner this summer. The withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Gaza was carefully choreographed to coincide with the new constitution in Iraq.

With progress over Palestine (not that the Palestinians in the still Israeli-occupied West Bank would recognise it as such) and a democratic constitution in place for Iraq, the Americans could have returned claiming some sort of victory and announced the job done.

However, right now, a withdrawal from Iraq would look like a victory for the insurgents. The lightly-armed attackers have proved terrifyingly effective in keeping up the pressure with suicide bombs and, increasingly, with more sophisticated remotely-controlled detonations. The insurgents are better organised and trained than a year ago, and unlike America, there seems no shortage of recruits to the cause of jihad.

But insurgency is one thing, and full-on civil war is another. Macwhirter continues:

If America pulled out tomorrow, there would very likely be civil war. The Kurds in the north are determined to have an autonomous Kurdistan, and have demanded that the oil-rich region of Kirkuk should be part of it.

Unlike the Sunni Muslims in the centre of Iraq and the Shia in the south, the Kurds are intensely pro-American and want nothing of the Islamic theocracy that is likely to emerge in most of the country. It’s a little like Ulster in the 1920s after the creation of the Irish Free State. Like the Ulstermen, the Kurds are also determined to keep their Peshmerga armed forces.

If US troops withdrew tomorrow, the insecurity on both sides would be difficult to contain, especially since most of the country remains shattered and filled with armed Islamic fundamentalists. The suicide bombers who have been targeting the Americans would likely turn to the secular Kurds. The Sunnis and the Shia, meanwhile, would pursue their theological disputes on the streets in the traditional bloody manner.

Next year’s elections in the U.S. may feature some bloodletting as well. After all, there will be some mighty unhappy Americans by then. How many? Who knows? But as Macwhirter points out:

Whatever government finally emerges [in Iraq], it’s clear that most of the country will become an introverted Islamic Republic, closer to Iran than America. In Basra, fundamentalism already has a power base. What will the service moms say when they discover their boys sacrificed their lives to create another Islamic dictatorship which loathes America and everything it stands for, which treats women as second-class citizens, persecutes non believers and which regards Christianity as evil?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 21, 2005

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