Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Mistake 10 – Iraq Governing Council
Instead of putting forward plans to establish democracy in Iraq as soon as possible, the administration began to put forward excuses for the postponement of the democratic process: danger of violence and intimidation, lack of electoral data, and the problem of representing Iraqis in exile, etc.
Starting with a group of five people, later expanded to seven, that included a convicted embezzler (much hated by most Iraqis from all walks of life), clerics funded by Iran and war-lords with Iraqi blood on their hands, the nucleus of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) was born.
In consultations between this small group and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the number was increased. To the original group, some decent people and a handful of unknown political non-entities were hand-picked and the final number reached 25. These people were presented to the Iraqi people as their representatives! The main argument was that these people had tags of (Shiite / Sunni, Arab /Kurd/ Turkman, Islamist / Secular/ Communist, Muslim / Christian etc.!!! Many were known to be openly on the pay-roll of foreign countries! Many still are! The funding of one of them has only been terminated a few weeks ago.
Is that how nations are built? Is that how democracy is established?
What country and what people allow their Representatives and Government Officials to receive payments from foreign powers (even friendly powers)?
Within weeks of its conception, the IGC was rejected by ordinary people.
Addendum – IGC Errors
People who go together through stressful events forge some bonds between them. If these traumatic periods last for decades, as in the case of Iraq, these invisible bonds even acquire some vocabulary of their own!
• Many of the members of the new Iraq Governing Council had lived abroad for long periods; some of them had spent more than 40 years in exile. Their talk, the issues they considered urgent, their vocabulary and their mannerisms all seemed so foreign!
• On its first day, this council passed a hurriedly drafted resolution pronouncing April 9th a national day (of liberation). Technically speaking, this was true. However, if these people had some feel for the pulse of the people, they wouldn’t have done that! For most Iraqis (who are even more fiercely patriotic than the average American) that day marked the fall of Baghdad to yet another invading army! The gesture touched on a raw nerve of patriotism! To many, the council was a hated body from day one!
• The very composition of the council and the constant talk of fair representation of various ethnic and sectarian groups fuelled fears of segmentation of the country.
The ethnic and sectarian polarization of the Iraqi people was far less than the Americans and the returning Iraqis had expected. People, ordinary people, were far more tolerant than all the experts and the academics had expected! People constantly playing those notes were viewed with extreme suspicion!
The IGC went beyond its jurisdiction and began to pass laws that further alienated them from the people:
• A civil law (the infamous law 137) was passed to establish sectarian religious courts thereby entrenching the sectarian divisions further (from a body that was supposed to unify the country!). This law was even worse than any of Saddam’s laws in this field! Ambassador Paul Bremer, the CPA administrator, had to veto it!
• They discussed and drafted (behind closed doors and in secrecy, very much like Saddam’s familiar norms!) a Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) for the sovereign government of the interim period towards democracy!
That law does not say how representation or elections are to be conducted (this was left to a later stage!). However, it was evidently designed to entrench the people who wrote it in power and how they could share important positions between them! [Events of this week of appointing the prime minister and the government, confirm this]. It also institutionalizes the segmentation of the country along the hated sectarian and ethnic lines. It even imposes constraints on what the democratically elected assembly could and couldn’t do!
• They selected government ministers and senior officials in blatant nepotism! Everybody was somebody’s son, brother, brother-in-law, etc.
The new government, which was to run things temporarily, leading to “The New Iraq”, was largely corrupt! The stink of bribes, commissions and kick-backs was sky-high! A number of those excesses have been documented.
Favoritism was beginning to be also institutionalized. People who wanted to apply to civil service posts in a given ministry had to join the party to which that ministry belonged!
What a “New Iraq”!
All this was taking place under the supervision of the American administration!