Sunday, November 27, 2005

New Iraq

Now with added Sharia

Ayad Allawi, Iraq's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam, and one time Washington favourite, has given an interview to the Observer. Mr Allawi is a secular Shi'ite. His verdict on the state of the Iraq does not match the picture portrayed by Downing Street and the Whitehouse:
People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse. It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.
He goes on to say:
We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated. A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.
I suspect you understand why I described Mr Allawi as a "one time Washington favourite". That's not what people are supposed to be told. The line is that democracy is taking hold and the situation on the ground is constantly improving. Journalists would be able to see this for themselves if they would just make the effort and actually go to one of the most dangerous countries in the world Iraq. Mr Allawi must not have received the relevant memo. Either that, or he's just not prepared to stand by and pretend that his country isn't falling apart.

Mr Allawi has already been accused of electioneering by the current leadership of Iraq. There's probably a hint of truth in that accusation in all honesty. But, if the average Iraqi genuinely felt that the situation is much better now than it was under Saddam, this sort of electioneering wouldn't be possible. In other words, if there was no foundation to Mr Allawi's claims, they would be totally self defeating. Most Iraq's would say " he's talking billhicks, it's much better now" and there'd be no votes in that. If, on the other hand, many Iraqis think "he's right, this is awful, what's changed since Saddam?", then he's got a viable strategy. As such, I believe that Mr Allawi's description of Iraq is basically accurate (if, perhaps, a little over-stated).

The fact that Iraq now has areas under Sharia law is a particularly bitter irony. The Peter Oborne documentary I mentioned in the previous post also highlighted this issue. Sharia law is being imposed by militia groups in Sadr city, Basra, and elsewhere. A US soldier described the way in which the coalition troops identify those who have been executed in this way. The hands and feet of the bodies are bound and the shoes have been removed (the victim will have had to remove his or her shoes before being taken into the the Mosque for the "trial"). Normally, the victims are killed with a single shot in the back of the head. In some cases they have been shot repeatedly. The soldier described how one woman they'd found had been shot in the groin.

Bush and Blair would prefer if we didn't know that militias are imposing Sharia law on large parts of the country. They'd prefer to pretend that Basra isn't under the control of Islamist militias and gangsters. What they'd like is for us to believe that we're still "on course" to achieve or aims in Iraq. Unfortunately, this now means they have to ignore the plight of ordinary Iraqis. That fact that these ordinary Iraqis are the very same one's who's welfare was belatedly adopted as the justification for the invasion just adds a further dash of tragedy to the whole sorry affair.

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