الواجهـة العربيـة
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Let People Determine Their Own Future

By Yasser Alaskary
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Published: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For decades the Iraqi people have paid the price of international politics. In the three decades of Saddam Hussein's brutal rule, the international community has at various times either befriended or contained Saddam's regime, but never sought to oust it.

Last week, for the first time that any Iraqi can remember, the interest of the United States converged with that of the Iraqi people -- namely, to topple Saddam. Since he came to power, the Iraqi people have been engaged in a silent and hidden -- but nevertheless bloody -- war with the regime. More than half a million Iraqis have heroically tried to overthrow the regime and have paid with their lives. By sheer brutality, Saddam has massacred any suggestion of opposition or any sign of an uprising.

In only one week in March 1991, when the Iraqi people rose up once more to overthrow the regime, Saddam slaughtered 250,000 Iraqi men, women and children. Women were tied to tanks as the vehicles entered liberated cities to prevent the tanks from being fired at. The fact that the regime is still in power is certainly not due to any shortcomings of the Iraqi people.

And this is one of the major faults of the antiwar movement. On many occasions they have suggested that it should be left to the Iraqi people to overthrow the regime. Not only is this purely ignorant, but it is also painfully insulting to Iraqis.

Furthermore, the antiwar movement has not even made the effort to find out what Iraqis actually want. As an Iraqi with family in Baghdad and many contacts with other Iraqis inside, I know that ordinary Iraqis have been praying for months for military action to remove Saddam. These people have gone through the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War -- they are in a much better position to know what war involves, yet they want military action against their own country to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime.

With the majority of my family in Baghdad -- in the eye of the storm -- I am obviously very worried about them, as I am about all my countrymen. But I have always been worried about them because this is not a new war; they have been in a war against Saddam for three decades. The only difference is that now they, and I, have a glimmer of hope -- an Iraq free of Saddam. This may not seem like much to outsiders, but it has been an unthinkable dream for millions of Iraqis.

The next battle is crucial to my country's future -- the battle for democracy. This is the major concern Iraqis have, and this is where they need help. Iraq has been brutalized by decades of dictatorship and obviously cannot transform into a democracy overnight. It will need a transition phase of probably no more than two years, so that a democratic system can be established. This transition phase will determine the final outcome, so it has to be done right.

The transitional government: The United States has made it clear that the initial phase of the transition period will be ruled by the military. This is understandable but only if the military rule is very short and involves the Iraqi people. A country wishing to become a democracy cannot do so under military rule. The transition to Iraqi civilian rule must be rapid and complete.

Since Iraq's creation in the early 20th century it has been ruled by a minority -- a legacy created by the British. This has to end. The transitional government must be proportionally representative of the population of Iraq.

Those in the United States who want another dictator or puppet government will look to install people who are independent of any of the major Iraqi political parties because these people -- no matter how well-intentioned -- will not have a large following in the population and will therefore be dependent on those who put them in their positions. That's how you create a puppet government. The transition government should be made of political groups and parties who have real support in Iraq.

Early local elections: To give the people of Iraq a sense that they really are on the road to democracy, there should be local elections, even if only symbolic, as early as possible. The regime of Saddam Hussein appointed people to be in charge of local government based solely on their rank and loyalty to the Ba'athist regime. Often, "local" officials were from a different part of the country. Early local involvement will give people the feeling that they are in control of their future.

Constitution: What are key to the success and stability of any country on the path to democracy are the worth and importance the people attach to the constitution of the country. There is talk by some in the U.S. administration that the constitution will be written by an appointed council. This is a recipe for disaster. The people of Iraq have to feel they are integrally involved in the making of a democratic Iraq and must be involved in the writing of its constitution.

There must be vigorous public debate -- and a free media to provide a platform for such debate. And above all else, the council must be an elected body. This can, for example, be built on the local elections that take place. It is essential that the council is, like the transitional government, proportionally representative of the population. And once the council has completed the draft constitution, the document should be put to a referendum so the people of Iraq can freely choose to accept or reject it.

By involving the nation in the key elements that will shape Iraq's future, a truly democratic, proportionally representative system can be established. If democracy is anything, it is people determining their own fate and destiny.


© 2007 Iraqi Prospect Organisation