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Iraqi Trials & Tribulations!
Over the past couple of weeks, three cases in point brought home to me yet again the deteriorating situation in Iraq, and how this once-resourceful country is being buffeted by all the winds seeking to sap further its viability and morale.

17 April   |   2006   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

The first case, revealed by the New York Times newspaper last week, consisted of an internal staff report entitled Provincial Stability Assessment . Dated 31 st January and put together by the US embassy and the military command in Baghdad, the report provided a baseline assessment of the conditions that new reconstruction teams would face upon deployment to the eighteen provinces of Iraq. It focused on a province-by-province analysis of the security and economic situations in the country today, and warned of sectarian and ethnic frictions in many regions, including in those provinces deemed non-violent. In a colour-coded map, the province of Anbar, a wide swathe of western desert that is at the heart of the Sunni insurgency, was given a red or critical depiction, whilst six other provinces - including Basra, Baghdad and Diyala - were orange or serious. Eight provinces were deemed yellow or moderate, and the three Kurdish provinces were green or stable. The report also identified the growing power of religious Shi'ite parties in the nine southern provinces, and further pointed out to the Arab-Kurdish fault line in the north where two ethnicities vie for power in Mosul as well as in Kirkuk - whose oilfields are critical for the economy of the whole country.

The second case was the trial of Saddam Hussein, billed by the media as the trial of the century, in which the former dictator is being prosecuted for the execution of 148 men and boys from the Shi'ite village of Dujail as punishment for an assassination attempt against him in 1982. This trial has been far too flawed to stand as Saddam's ultimate reckoning with the law, not only because of the sobering enormity of his other heinous crimes but also - as his legal counsel underlined - because the mass executions meted out against the perpetrators of the unsuccessful assassination were in conformity with the then Iraqi constitution in relation to any attempt against the person of the president of the republic.

But a particular instance for which Saddam, a man who hid in a spider hole, must be made to answer for is the gruesome military campaign he waged against Iraqi Kurdish civilians in 1988 during the Al-Anfal (The Spoils) campaign. 50,000 civilians were killed, and 2,000 villages destroyed, as a result of his eight successive military offensives.

Those attacks, which included the use of deadly poison gas against thousands of unarmed women and children, stand as a crime against humanity. They drew verbal protests from many countries, including the USA, but there was no effective international response due to the strategy of building up Iraq as a bulwark against Iran. However, Human Rights Watch and Middle East Watch qualified them as genocidal and gendercidal (gender-selective mass killing, by Dr John Adams) in that their principal purpose was to exterminate all adult males of military service age in rural Iraqi Kurdistan. It therefore behoves well for justice to witness the accountability of those responsible for such atrocities.

The third case was an item on BBC Newsnight featuring the Baghdad blogger Salam Pax who has been documenting the Iraqi war from his personal perspective. After three years of relative optimism, the blogger admitted last week that Iraq had become too deeply divided, with an erosion of any national unity. In Losing our country, he added that the stated aims of the coalition for providing democracy and freedom stood on the brink of complete failure.

This Iraqi blogger segued that the quality of life in Iraq had fallen so sharply in the past three years that many people are improvising in order to get around a lack of basic facilities. Fuel, power supplies, women's rights and employment are all on a steady decline, and everyday life for most citizens is one of constant fear and dwindling hope.

Where do those three cases leave me?

A report that paints a sombre picture of life in Iraqi provinces, a prosecution that has not yet 'struck the legal gavel' and a blogger who has almost given up hope for his country, are not food for much optimism or hope. Yet, those trials and tribulations that have collectively afflicted many ordinary Iraqis are proof that something has gone seriously awry. It is therefore no wonder that some people are even hankering for the days of a regime that was brutal and undemocratic albeit stable. Could this perhaps be the wake-up call for Iraqi politicians of all shades and colours to come out of their self-willed slumbers and acknowledge their collective responsibility toward salvaging the country? Indeed, everyone - Iraqis from all confessions and backgrounds, to the international community whose mendacities and arrogance have backfired and contributed to the current sectarian conflicts, to well-meaning organisations and individuals who are trying to assist the ordinary Iraqis - is challenged by this final opportunity to put things right before the future tumbles down and leaves the region spinning with an even bigger headache than the one we witness today.

Could Iraq be pulled out of its morass? Will everyone set aside personal interests for the larger good, and is it possible to reprieve this fertile country from an unfolding nightmare? I might have some answers, but I do not have the tools.

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2006   |   17 April


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