Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Alice-In-Wonderland Iraq

The Iraqi parliament has given its Constitution Commission another week to draft the document.


Via CommonDreams.org, Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk assails the US/UK mindset that cannot discern the everyday realities of Iraq from their Green Zone fantasies as the main barrier to progress in Iraq.
In the Alice-in-Wonderland Iraq of Messrs Bush and Blair - inhabited, too, by the elected government of Iraq and its constitutional drafters and quite a few Western journalists - there are no such problems to cope with. The air-conditioners hiss away - there are generators to provide 24-hour power - and almost all senior officials have palatial homes in the heavily protected "Green Zone" which was once Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace compound. No power cuts for them, no petrol queues, no kidnaps and murders.

As an Iraqi academic just returned from Paris and Brussels told me yesterday: "Europeans understand politics through the Green Zone level. They have no idea that the rest of Iraq - save for Kurdistan - is a place of anarchy and death. One asked me: ’Do you think federalism is really a danger to the Sunni?’ I answered him: ’Do you think the fear of constant death is not a danger to Sunnis, Shia and Kurds?’ His eyes glazed over. It was not what he wanted to talk about. But it is what we talk about."
Continuing, Fisk asserts that, counter to the U.S./U.K. coalition and the transitional Iraqi government, ordinary Iraqis have so much more to worry about than the drafting of Iraq's constitution, which the Green Zoners fail to address.
The problem is that all these issues [federalism and the allocation of oil-rich lands such as Kirkuk] are played out not in Iraq but in the Alice-in-Wonderland world already described. This is a unique place in which Saddam’s trial is always being predicted to start in two months’ time - on at least four occasions this has happened - in which Iraqi reconstruction is always about to restart and in which insurgent strength is always weakening. In fact, Iraqi guerrillas are now striking at the Americans 70 times a day and so fearful are senior American officers of an increase in attacks that this has become their principle reason for trying to prevent the release of 87 further photographs and videotapes of the Abu Ghraib prison torture and abuses.

In Real Iraq, it makes no difference. For the "street", Saddam is history, there is no reconstruction and the filth of Abu Ghraib causes no great surprise - because most Iraqis knew all about it months before the West opened its horrified eyes to the pictures.

As for the constitution, I asked an old Iraqi friend what he thought yesterday. "Sure, it’s important," he said. "But my family lives in fear of kidnapping, I’m too afraid to tell my father I work for journalists, and we only have one hour in six of electricity and we can’t even keep our food from going bad in the fridge. Federalism? You can’t eat federalism and you can’t use it to fuel your car and it doesn’t make my fridge work."
Conservatives like to play up Iraqi progress, but if the left-wing Fisk is correct, everything outside the Green Zone is falling into a vortex of blood and chaos, constitution or not.