Regime Change

Iraq After Saddam

Monday 3 March 2003, by Daphnée DION-VIENS

PHOTO: ©Josée Lambert

There is a building global consensus that the Iraqi people have suffered long enough under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and that his regime needs to be dismantled. It’s the one place where the hawks and the doves agree. The question is not whether the regime will survive, but how the transition will come about and who will be leading it.

The American administration is going through the paces of putting together a coalition to disarm Iraq and to get rid of Saddam’s iron grip. Tony Blair and some allies of the United States are defending a war on moral grounds.

However, according to Phyllis Bennis, researcher with the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies, there are so many problems with this point of view that American policy is verging on incoherence. "We claim that we are a nation based on laws, but all too often we are ready to let our obligations to the UN Charter and international law fall by the wayside, while we demand that other nations respect the same laws." Bennis also underlines the fact that the American government has regularly supported dictatorial regimes, including those that have invaded neighbouring countries and practiced colonization (Turkey in Cyprus, Indonesia in East Timor, Israel in Palestine, are just some examples). Morally, American policy has no legitimacy according to Bennis.

The American administration does not even agree about what should happen after Saddam is gone. There is a debate between the "realists," like the Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, who maintain that the only realistic objective is to bring down Saddam and to preserve American oil interests - an option that could lead to the installation of yet another military dictatorship in Iraq, that cares little for the Iraqi people. On the other side are the "rebuilders" who would like to remodel the Middle East, starting with Iraq, by rebuilding all nations - similar to what the Allies did in Germany and Japan after the Second World War.

This explains why one part of the military and political establishment in the U.S. is against the war. Some are worried that in the absence of a strategic vision, the entire affair will lead to an unmanageable situation. Richard Lugar, the new president of the Senate committee on foreign relations, has seriously criticized the Pentagon and the State Department for not thinking about what will happen after an intervention. These criticisms are similar to those made by ex-security advisor to the first President Bush, Brent Scowcroft, in August 2002. "The war in Iraq risks leading to even worse consequences than the ones they are supposed to fix."

This is the prevalent argument in Europe, where 80% of the population is opposed to a war in Iraq (according to an EOS Gallup Europe poll from the end of January). Some European countries, notably France and Germany, have grave doubts about a Bush plan that looks like an attempt to beef up his image at home while enriching and reinforcing his principal corporate allies in the oil and defence industries.

The Opposition’s Contradictions

"In the present situation, the opposition to Saddam’s regime is seen as something that is being built by the Americans," says Raid Fahmi, a dissident from Saddam’s regime and the editor in chief of the Iraqi magazine Al Thakafa Al Jadida. The U.S. tends to prefer the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition group influenced by Washington. But the INC has no precise plans for change in Iraq and is evasive when it comes to democracy. A party within Saddam’s own entourage, that is also part of the military hierarchy, has rallied to the cause of the INC adding to its disrepute and exposing its lack of transparency.

"When we talk about the Iraqi position, one can only see the Iraqi National Congress," says Fahmi. "The Americans and the media have marginalized important parts of the opposition that are opposed to war. But at the same time, politics is demanding a change." He underlines the fact that Iraqi and Kurdish political parties do exist - most notably, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Democratic Kurdish Party (DKP) and the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) - who are trying to expand the anti-Saddam front while devising a more credible post-Saddam democratic Iraq than what the Americans are proposing.
For Fahmi, "change needs to happen with the Iraqis and via a non-military UN intervention so that the human rights violations are brought to an end and to create a democratic process." There are clauses that can be used to the betterment of the Iraqi people, like UN Resolution 688 that deals with human rights. "Pressure needs to be kept up and augmented. And this pressure cannot only pertain to military issues."

Worst Case Scenarios

"The worst scenario for Iraq would probably be if the United States attacks Iraq without UN approval. Their objective would be to put in power military and political people who pledge allegiance to the U.S. Not only would these people perpetuate Saddam’s dictatorship, but they would also transform Iraq into military and political support base for other American ’adventures’ in the region," says Pierre Beaudet, executive director of the international development NGO Alternatives. He specifies that the Bush and Rumsfeld entourage is already envisioning ways to intervene in Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia, which is considered too recalcitrant vis-à-vis the short-term objectives of the American administration.
Within this context, the efforts of France, Germany, and Russia to block military intervention remain an alternative to war. Their proposition to control and disarm Saddam while avoiding the use of force could very well be supported by most countries. This would mean that an armed conflict in Iraq would be avoided and the Iraqi people would have more time to put forward their democratic proposals.

"To really help the Iraqi people, one needs to give them the means to choose the future, and the political system, they want. It’s up to them - and not the Americans - to make this choice" says Fahmi. Beaudet argues that "the people of Iraq will only be able to control their future when "the rest of the world, starting with the United States, agrees to place human rights, even in the Middle East, at centre-stage."

Daphnée Dion-Viens, editorial assistant, Alternatives Newspaper

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: According to United Nations reports, the embargo has so far, among other things, caused 1.5 million fatalities, including 650 000 children under the age of five. Furthermore, 50% of the population drinks contaminated water, permetting the rapid spread of infectious and often fatal diseases to skyrocket.

À propos de Daphnée DION-VIENS

Assistante à la rédaction, Journal Alternatives

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