Our hopes betrayed
How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis.
By: Kanan Makiya
Sunday February 16, 2003 The Observer

The United States is on the verge of committing itself to a post-Saddam plan for a military government in Baghdad with Americans appointed to head Iraqi ministries, and American soldiers to patrol the streets of Iraqi cities. The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government. The plan reverses a decade-long moral and financial commitment by the US to the Iraqi opposition, and is guaranteed to turn that opposition from the close ally it has always been during the 1990s into an opponent of the United States on the streets of Baghdad the day after liberation.

The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity.

The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991.

ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army. Hence its point of departure is, and has got to be, use of direct military rule to deny Iraqis their legitimate right to self-determine their future. In particular it is a plan designed to humiliate the Kurdish people of Iraq and their experiment of self-rule in northern Iraq of the last 10 years, an experiment made possible by the protection granted to the Kurds by the United States itself. That protection is about to be lifted with the entry into northern Iraq of much-feared Turkish troops (apparently not under American command), infamous throughout the region for their decades-long hostility to Kurdish aspirations.

All of this is very likely to turn into an unmitigated disaster for a healthy long-term and necessarily special relationship between the United States and post-Saddam Iraq, something that virtually every Iraqi not complicit in the existing Baathist order wants.

I write as someone personally committed to that relationship. Every word that I have committed to paper in the last quarter of a century is, in one way or another, an application of the universal values that I have absorbed from many years of living and working in the West to the very particular conditions of Iraq. The government of the United States is about to betray, as it has done so many times in the past, those core human values of self-determination and individual liberty.

We Iraqis hoped and said to our Arab and Middle Eastern brethren, over and over again, that American mistakes of the past did not have to be repeated in the future. Were we wrong? Are the enemies of a democratic Iraq, the 'anti-imperialists' and 'anti-Zionists' of the Arab world, the supporters of 'armed struggle', and the upholders of the politics of blaming everything on the US who are dictating the agenda of the anti-war movement in Europe and the US, are all of these people to be proved right?

Is the President who so graciously invited me to his Oval Office only a few weeks ago to discuss democracy, about to have his wishes subverted by advisers who owe their careers to those mistakes?

We, the democratic Iraqi opposition, are the natural friends and allies of the United States. We share its values and long-term goals of peace, stability, freedom and democracy for Iraq. We are here in Iraqi Kurdistan 40 miles from Saddam's troops and a few days away from a conference to plan our next move, a conference that some key administration officials have done everything in their power to postpone.

None the less, after weeks of effort in Tehran and northern Iraq, we have prevailed. The meeting will take place. It will discuss a detailed plan for the creation of an Iraqi leadership, one that is in a position to assume power at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. We will be opposed no doubt by an American delegation if it chooses to attend. Whether or not they do join us in the coming few days in northern Iraq, we will fight their attempts to marginalise and shunt aside the men and women who have invested whole lifetimes, and suffered greatly, fighting Saddam Hussein.

To the President who so clearly wants to see a democratic Iraq, and to the American public that put its trust in him, I say: support us.

**Kanan Makiya is professor of Middle East studies at Brandeis University, Massachusett.