Let People Determine Their Own Future
Sunday, March 23, 2003
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.