Dick Cheney: Champion of Torture

The Senate recently passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill (by 90-9, by the way) “prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel,” in spite of a White House veto threat.

That’s right: Bush, who has never vetoed a single bill while in the White House, has picked this one as the place to draw the line.

When asked why Bush would feel compelled to veto, Scott McClellan said that the additional regulations were unnecessary and duplicative, a pathetic excuse.

And now, their latest volley, led by Dick Cheney himself: “Hey, we’ve got the CIA! Let’s let them be our torture guys, and do it overseas to make sure that it’s all nice and legal (except for those pesky international agreements).”

The Washington Post’s condemnation is extremely satisfying:

…CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency’s performance.

It’s not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration’s decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney’s counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney’s threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate’s earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.

Read the Full Editorial in The Washington Post
“Vice President for Torture”
October 26, 2005

The Miers Fiasco

Last Friday, on my favorite morning newscast, The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel made the prediction that the Harriet Miers nomination was going to be scuppered, and that the excuse used would be that the Senators were insisting on seeing the documents of her work at the White House. Rachel credited a piece by conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer:

Read Charles Krauthammer’s column
“Miers: The Only Exit Strategy”
October 21, 2005

Listen to Friday’s Rachel Maddow Show
October 21, 2005

On Monday, a reporter asked George W. Bush about whether or not they had any contingency plans waiting in the wings in case Miers didn’t work out, and out of the blue, Bush answered that he was concerned that so many Senators on both sides wanted to see those documents.

Q: Mr. President, as a newspaper reported on Saturday, is the White House working on a contingency plan for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’ nomination?

BUSH: Harriet Miers is — is an extraordinary woman. She was a legal pioneer in Texas. She was ranked one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States on a consistent basis. [That last is a lie, by the way -TJC] She is — look, I understand that people want to know more about her, and that’s the way the process should work.

Recently, requests, however, have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork and — out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other Presidents to be able to make sound decisions…

Nobody had even mentioned the documents in the press conference, the question wasn’t even about that, and he brought up the subject himself.

Rachel Maddow’s comment in response: “Harriet Miers’s nomination is over!” (Her segment on this subject, which includes the above Bush quote, was really quite funny):

Listen to Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show (segment starts at 13:46)
October 25, 2005

And today, Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination. Bush’s office issued a statement:

It is clear that Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House — disclosures that would undermine a President’s ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers’s decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers…

Read the Full Article in The Wall Street Journal
“Harriet Miers Withdraws Nomination to High Court”
October 27, 2005

Way to call it, Rachel!

The Open-Source War

John Robb, a software executive and former Air Force counterterrorist operative, makes an interesting analogy between the open-source software movement and the Iraq insurgency in a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times:

Like software developers in the open-source community, the insurgents have subordinated their individual goals to the common goal of the movement.

He continues:

…The United States can try to diminish the insurgency by letting it win. The disparate groups in an open-source effort are held together by a common goal. Once the goal is reached, the community often falls apart. In Iraq, the original goal for the insurgency was the withdrawal of the occupying forces. If foreign troops pull out quickly, the insurgency may fall apart. This is the same solution that was presented to Congress last month by our generals in Iraq, George Casey and John Abizaid.

Unfortunately, this solution arrived too late. There are signs that the insurgency’s goal is shifting from a withdrawal of the United States military to the collapse of the Iraqi government. So, even if American troops withdraw now, violence will probably continue to escalate.

What’s left? It’s possible, as Microsoft has found, that there is no good monopolistic solution to a mature open-source effort. In that case, the United States might be better off adopting I.B.M.’s embrace of open source. This solution would require renouncing the state’s monopoly on violence by using Shiite and Kurdish militias as a counterinsurgency. This is similar to the strategy used to halt the insurgencies in El Salvador in the 1980’s and Colombia in the 1990’s. In those cases, these militias used local knowledge, unconstrained tactics and high levels of motivation to defeat insurgents (this is in contrast to the ineffectiveness of Iraq’s paycheck military). This option will probably work in Iraq too.

In fact, it appears the American military is embracing it. In recent campaigns in Sunni areas, hastily uniformed peshmerga and Badr militia supplemented American troops; and in Basra, Shiite militias are the de facto military power.

If an open-source counterinsurgency is the only strategic option left, it is a depressing one. The militias will probably create a situation of controlled chaos that will allow the administration to claim victory and exit the country. They will, however, exact a horrible toll on Iraq and may persist for decades. This is a far cry from spreading democracy in the Middle East….

Read the Full Article in The New York Times
October 15, 2005

‘I Swear, I Swear I’ll Have Revenge’

Knight-Ridder has been doing some amazing reporting lately, and as just another example of this, here’s a story from Iraq that you could have cut up into a bunch of little parts, and any one of them would still be important:

The Bush administration’s exit strategy for Iraq rests on two pillars: an inclusive, democratic political process that includes all major ethnic groups and a well-trained Iraqi national army. But a week spent eating, sleeping and going on patrol with a crack unit of the Iraqi army – the 4,500-member 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division – suggests that the strategy is in serious trouble. Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that’s tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population.

The brigade last week raided the home of Saleh al-Mutlak, one of the most prominent Sunni politicians in the country, a day after an Iraqi soldier was shot and killed in the neighborhood. Soldiers said some gunfire had come from the direction of Mutlak’s house during the raid on his neighborhood.

Arab satellite news stations carried images of a car with its windows smashed in Mutlak’s driveway, and Mutlak held a news conference, saying that the soldiers who came into his home were thugs.

Sgt. Maj. Asad al-Zubaidi said Mutlak was lucky he wasn’t shot.

“When we are in charge of security the people will follow a law that says you will be sentenced to prison if you speak against the government, and for people like Saleh Mutlak there will be execution,” Zubaidi said. “Thousands of people are being killed by Saleh Mutlak and these dogs.”

The soldier who was gunned down in Mutlak’s neighborhood was with a group manning a checkpoint when he went to a nearby shop to buy cigarettes. A dark BMW with gunmen pulled up; three shots to the head later, the soldier was on the ground.

The brigade leader, Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalif Shwail, drove to the site less than an hour after the shooting. The sidewalk was covered in blood, “like a sheep had been slaughtered,” Shwail said.

“These people in Amariyah are cowards,” he said, his voice full of rage as he stood at the spot where his soldier had fallen. “I swear, I swear I’ll have revenge.”

The shop owner was rousted from bed. He said over and over that he had nothing to do with the killing and he begged the soldiers for mercy.

Maj. Saad al-Mousawi, an intelligence officer with the brigade, shouted at the man to shut his mouth.

“Even if you people, you Sunnis, roll tanks on our heads we will not give this country back to you,” Mousawi said. “It’s ours now.”

Shwail, the 1st brigade’s top officer, regularly reviews important decisions, including troop distribution, with a prominent local Shiite cleric who’s closely aligned with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shiite religious figure in Iraq.

During a recent meeting with his officers, several of them asked Shwail why he didn’t send more troops to the troubled Sunni neighborhoods of Amariyah and Ghazaliyah when he has more than 1,000 patrolling the streets of Kadhemiya, the Shiite neighborhood where the brigade is based and the site of a major Shiite shrine.

Shwail told the officers that Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr had informed him that the troops must stay in Kadhemiya to protect the Shiite faithful.

“Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr has more influence than (Prime Minister) Ibrahim Jaafari,” Shwail said, using an honorific title. “The battalion in Kadhemiya won’t be moved from there for the next 100 years.”

The officers looked at each other, dismayed. Their men, stretched thin in the insurgent hotspots, are shot and killed regularly.

“But sir, we need more troops,” one officer said.

“The problem,” Shwail said, “is convincing Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr.”

Some Iraqi troops went a step further, saying they were only awaiting word from the marja’iya before turning on American forces. Although many Shiites are grateful for the overthrow of Saddam, they also are suspicious of U.S. motives. Those suspicions partly stem from the failure of the first Bush administration to support a U.S.-encouraged Shiite uprising against Saddam in 1991. Saddam suppressed it and slaughtered thousands.

“In Amariyah last week, a car bomb hit a U.S. Humvee and their soldiers began to shoot randomly. They killed a lot of innocent civilians. I was there; I saw it,” said Sgt. Fadhal Yahan. “This happens all the time. If they keep doing this, the people will attack them. And we are part of the people.”

Sgt. Jawad Majid chimed in: “We have our marja’iya and we are waiting for them to decide when the time to fight (the Americans) is, when it is no longer time to be silent.”

Two days after the shooting [of Sgt. Hussein Jabar by a sniper], Sgt. Ahmed Sabri stood outside the Umm al Qura mosque, home to the militant Sunni Muslim Scholars Association. The mosque is just down the road from where Jabar was shot.

“Every man we’ve had killed and wounded is because of that mosque. Thousands and thousands of Shiites are being killed, which is why they’re joining the army,” Sabri said. “Just let us have our constitution and elections in December and then we will do what Saddam did – start with five people from each neighborhood and kill them in the streets and then go from there.”

Asked if he worried about possible fighting between his men and the Sunnis at Umm al Qura, the brigade’s command sergeant major, Hassan Kadhum, smiled.

“Your country had to have a civil war,” he said. “It will be the same here. Everything in this world has its price. In Iraq the price for peace will be blood.”

Kadhum thought the matter over for a few more moments.

“There will be a day when we take that mosque and make it an army headquarters,” Kadhum said.

Read the Full Story on Knight-Ridder’s Washington Bureau
“Sectarian resentment extends to Iraq’s army”
October 12, 2005

A Polling Free-Fall Among Blacks

NBC / Wall Street Journal polls on Bush’s approval rating among African-Americans:

    A few months after 9/11:

    Six months ago:


Two percent! And to be fair, with a margin of error of 3.4%, the actual approval percentage might be anywhere from 5.4% to, well, negative 1.4%, which would mean, I suppose, that if there were suddenly 1.4% more black people, they would all hate him too.

“African Americans were not supporters, but I don’t think that they outright detested him — until now,” [Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart] said. “The actions in and around Katrina persuaded African Americans that this was a president who was totally insensitive to their concerns and their needs.”

Read the Full Story at The Washington Post
“A Polling Free-Fall Among Blacks”
October 13, 2005

Say it Again, Yeah

Britain’s The Telegraph reports the first-ever authorized adults-only episode of…
The Smurfs!:

The short film…opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand-in-hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom- shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky.

Tiny Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.

The final frame bears the message: “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.”

It is intended as the keystone of a fund-raising drive by unicef‘s Belgian arm, to raise £70,000 for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi.

Like you, perhaps, I read the above and thought, “Wow! I hope they’re being extra-careful to try to show that ad only when no children are around….”

Belgian television viewers were given a preview of the 25-second film earlier this week, when it was shown on the main evening news. The reactions ranged from approval to shock and, in the case of small children who saw the episode by accident, wailing terror.

Ok, that part of the campaign could use a little work, apparently.

Read the Full Story at The Telegraph
“Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers”
by David Rennie
October 8, 2005

See the video here or here.

Trapped by Moon Light

The Chicago Tribune has a horrifying series of articles this week about impoverished Nepalese workers being lured to Jordan, supposedly for relatively good jobs available there, only to find that they are in fact being sent to Iraq (earning half as much money as promised) to work for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Thousands of such workers are sent there, because of course we’re not employing Iraqis.

American tax dollars and the wartime needs of the U.S. military are fueling an illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labor, mainly impoverished Asians who often are deceived, exploited and put in harm’s way in Iraq with little protection…

Several nations, including Nepal, have banned or restricted citizens from work in Iraq, but KBR allows people from these nations to work under its contract anyway.

Bishnu Hari Thapa [an impoverished Nepali restaurant worker] found an advertisement in the June 13, 2004, edition of the Kantipur Daily, the leading Nepalese-language newspaper…”Vacancies in Amman, Jordan.”

More than 100 jobs were waiting for Nepalese men, the ad promised. They would fetch $200 to $500 per month. Just one month’s salary would be enough to cover rent for Bishnu Hari’s family for more than half the year. Enough for him to send his little brother to college…

Near the bottom of the ad was a logo, a crescent moon and six stars slung low over two mountain peaks. Arching over the stars and the mountains like a rainbow were the words “Moon Light Consultant Pvt. Ltd.”…

In less than three months, Moon Light’s logo would become the focal point of rage for thousands of Nepalis wielding torches, tire irons and Molotov cocktails in their own streets. They would burn and loot Moon Light’s office, along with scores of others.

But on June 13, it was still a symbol of hope for men such as Bishnu Hari.

[It was now weeks since Bishnu Hari had left Nepal for a job in Jordan.] The long-distance line into the Katmandu restaurant carried a familiar voice.

It was Bishnu Hari Thapa…he told the restaurant owner that he wanted to speak to his younger brother, who was now sleeping on the same tables, hoping for a similar opportunity.

“Where are you?” asked Gana Magar, owner of the restaurant, the New Bamboo Cottage.

“In Jordan,” replied Bishnu Hari, whose family had been desperate to hear from him.

“I am done for.”

On Aug. 19, 2004, about three weeks after he tried to phone his brother, Bishnu Hari would be among 12 Nepalis kidnapped from an unprotected caravan in Iraq. They were on their way to work for a major subcontractor of KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary that runs military support operations in Iraq.

KBR relies on more than 200 such subcontractors, many based in the Middle East, that employ thousands of men like Bishnu Hari imported into the region from some of the world’s poorest corners. The company leaves every aspect of the workers’ recruitment and deployment in the hands of those firms, which tap the pipeline that has long pumped laborers from South and Southeast Asia into the Middle East.

In retracing the trail of Bishnu Hari and the 11 other men kidnapped with him, the Tribune found a chain of brokers, middlemen and subcontractors along the way, all of whom stood to profit from the trade.

Thousands of workers are needed to meet the demands of the unprecedented privatization of military support operations unfolding under the watch of the U.S. Army and KBR, its prime contractor in Iraq.

The U.S. bases there are like self-sufficient cities, and almost all logistical support is outsourced to KBR–from electricity generation, ditch digging and mail delivery to the operation of dining halls, latrines and movie theaters.

KBR, in turn, outsources much of the work. Mansour said his take of this action was from $300 to $500 per worker, paid by other brokers and subcontractors in Amman who send the laborers directly to the bases in Iraq.

Bishnu Hari and his 11 compatriots rode in the two lead cars.

Because of clearance delays at the Jordan-Iraq border crossing, those two cars got well ahead of the others in the caravan at the very start, according to an account from Mansour. As such, the drivers violated the most basic rule for convoys in dangerous places: Stick together.

About 40 miles south of Al Asad, a handful of men dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi security forces stopped the two cars at a checkpoint, according to Mansour’s account.

The Iraqis told the drivers they had to leave the workers at the checkpoint, that Americans would come from the base to pick them up. The drivers complied and dropped off the Nepalis.

The drivers may not have known it, but the men at the checkpoint were insurgents or Iraqi soldiers working with them.

When Mansour found out about the kidnappings, he phoned Bisharat & Partners. The firm checked with a Daoud foreman working at Al Asad base and called Mansour back.

The convoy had arrived, he recalled being told, but it was 12 men short.

…the Foreign Ministry received video footage on Aug. 24 featuring 10 of the 12 men. They were speaking in Nepali and into the camera. Some were so terrified they broke down, their words making little sense.

All but two blamed Prahlad Giri, the Moon Light general manager.

“My name is Bishnu Hari Thapa,” said the 18-year-old from Siudibar. “The Nepali agency, Prahlad Giri, had said that we had been offered employment in Amman. But today he sent us to Iraq.”

Another hostage lashed out at the brokers who had deceived them. “Trapped by Moon Light,” his statement ended, ” … in Jordan, Jordan.”

A third hostage made the stakes clear: “I do not know when I will die, today or tomorrow.”

…two days later, in images released by the kidnappers and beamed across the world, the families learned what some in Iraq and the West already knew: The Ansar al-Sunna Army wasn’t interested in negotiating or money, only blood.

The terrorists sliced one Nepali’s throat, holding him down as he wheezed through the gash for air. After beheading him, they shot the other 11, one by one, as they lay face down in a ditch.

The carnage was captured in a grainy video. Judging by the blurred image of a young man in bluejeans and long-sleeved shirt, it appears Bishnu Hari was the fifth man shot.

Although it was barely noticed at the time, and largely forgotten by the outside world since, it remains perhaps the worst massacre of foreign workers since the outbreak of the Iraq war.

Read the Full Series in The Chicago Tribune
“Pipeline to Peril”
October 10-11, 2005

Read an earlier story covering this topic in The Los Angeles Times
“Poor Migrants Work in Iraqi Netherworld”
October 9, 2005

The Best Damned Fascist State The World Has Ever Seen

In Harper’s Magazine this month, Lewis Lapham takes a list of ideas held in common by fascist states, compiled by Umberto Eco in 1995, and uses it as the starting point for satire that draws blood.

Let’s start with Eco’s list of fascist precepts, as quoted by Lapham:

The truth is revealed once and only once.

Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn’t represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader.

Doctrine outpoints [trumps] reason, and science is always suspect.

Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values.

The national identity is provided by the nation’s enemies.

Argument is tantamount to treason.

Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear.

Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of “the people” in the grand opera that is the state.

I’d like to remind you that the above was compiled in 1995. Yeah, I know, you’re way ahead of me. Lapham continues:

…As set forth in Eco’s list, the fascist terms of political endearment are refreshingly straitforward and mercifully simple, many of them already accepted and understood by a gratifyingly large number of our most forward-thinking fellow citizens, multitasking and safe with Jesus. It does no good to ask the weakling’s pointless question, “Is America a fascist state?” We must ask instead, in a major rather than a minor key, “Can we make America the best damned fascist state the world has ever seen[?]…” I wish to be the first to say we can.

…Who better than the Americans to lead the fascist renaissance, set the paradigm, order the preemptive strikes?

…By matching Eco’s list of fascist commandments against our record of achievement, we can see how well we’ve begun the new project for the next millennium–the notion of absolute and eternal truth embraced by the evangelical Christians and embodied in the strict constructions of the Constitution; our national identity provided by anonymous Arabs; Darwin’s theory of evolution rescinded by the fiat of “intelligent design”; a state of perpetual war and a government administering, in generous and daily doses, the drug of fear, two presidential elections stolen with little or no objection on the part of a complacent populace; the nation’s congressional districts gerrymandered to defend the White House for the enxt fifty years against the intrusion of a liberal-minded president; the new media devoted to the arts of iconography, busily minting images of corporate executives like those of the emporer heroes on the coins of ancient Rome.

An impressive beginning, in line with what the world has come to expect from the innovative Americans, but we can do better…

“Notebook: On Message”
by Lewis H. Lapham
Harper’s Magazine, October 2005

At Least Caligula’s Horse Had a Track Record

Speaking of the post-Brownie era, Bush today nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court – a woman who has never once served as a judge, though she has impeccable credentials as a Bush crony.

David Frum, former White House speechwriter for George W. Bush, posted this on his blog at The National Review on Thursday:

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.

Read the full post in David Frum’s Diary in The National Review
“Justice Miers?”
September 29, 2005

Mr. Frum briefly posted this additional insight on his blog, but then mysteriously took it down:

She rose to her present position by her absolute devotion to George Bush. I mentioned last week that she told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met. To flatter on such a scale a person must either be an unscrupulous dissembler, which Miers most certainly is not, or a natural follower. And natural followers do not belong on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Read the post in Ben Wikler’s Blog at The Al Franken Show
“Just Deleted From David Frum’s Blog”
October 3, 2005

Listen to The Al Franken Show on MP3
October 3, 2005

Harry Reid has already rolled over on this nomination [in fact, it turns out that he suggested it!], showing that he is either an unspeakable ass (he did vote for the hideous bankruptcy ‘reform’ bill this year, after all), or else has decided that Bush’s first move after Miers’s rejection as ‘unqualified’ would be to nominate a maniac like Janice Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen to the Court. But wait, both could be true — he could be working on that assumption, and be an ass, as well!

Let the Fraud Begin!

On top of reports of U.S. forces attacking large numbers of Sunni-majority towns in the last few weeks, dislocating tens, if not hundreds of thousands of residents (a group who would be more likely, on balance, to vote against the proposed constitution rather than for it), the Shi’ite majority has now effectively scuttled the Sunnis’ ability to vote down the constitution at all, using their very own Nuclear Option!

The issue at hand: “What does 2/3 mean?”

…the parliament decision Sunday was the latest instance of the Shiite-dominated government making a favorable interpretation of rules on the constitution.

Those rules state that the constitution is defeated if two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject it, even if an overall majority across the country approve.

Iraq’s Sunni Arab majority has been counting on those rules to defeat the charter at the polls. There are four provinces where Sunni Arabs could conceivably make the two-thirds majority “no” vote.

But instead, parliament, which has only 16 Sunni members, approved an interpretation stating that two-thirds of registered voters — rather than two-thirds of all those who cast ballots — must reject the constitution for the rules to apply.

The change effectively raises the bar to reach the two-thirds mark.

“The fraud has begun right from now. We reject this explanation and we will not recognize any referendum based on this explanation,” said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician who was on the body that drew up the draft constitution, but who rejected the final version.

Sunni Arab leaders fear the constitution will fragment Iraq, allowing Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north to form mini-states.

This move was expected, but it’s still reprehensible.

Read the Full Story from the Associated Press on Yahoo
“Iraq’s President Calls for PM to Step Down”
Yahya Barzanji
October 2, 2005

From the author of Riverbend (an educated middle-class Iraqi female):

In August, there was more enthusiasm about the referendum. It was taken for granted that the Kurds, and Shia affiliated with SCIRI or Da’awa, would vote in the referendum. It was surprising, however, when the Association of Muslim Scholars (influential Sunni group) started what could almost be called a campaign encouraging Sunnis (and Shia) to vote against the constitution. The reasons they gave were that federalism, at this time and under the circumstances, would contribute to the division of Iraq, and also that the constitution encouraged secular and ethnic friction.

For a few weeks, there was actual interest on the part of Sunnis, especially in rural areas, to take part in the referendum. There were arguments about whether the referendum should be boycotted like the elections or whether it was the duty of Iraqis in general to vote it down.

And then the military operations on Sunni areas like Tel Afar, Ramadi, Qaim and Samarra began once again. The feeling has been that Sunni areas are being intentionally targeted prior to the referendum to keep Sunnis from voting. When your city is under fire, and you’ve been displaced with your family to some Red Crescent tent in the middle of the desert, the last thing you worry about is a constitution…

Women’s rights aren’t a primary concern for anyone, anymore. People actually laugh when someone brings up the topic. “Let’s keep Iraq united first…” is often the response when I comment about the prospect of Iranian-style Sharia.

Read the Full Post on Riverbend
“Constitution Conversations”
October 3, 2005