Monday, August 22, 2005

It’s Cut-and-Run Time

There’s two ways to look at the rush-to-judgment the Bush administration is forcing on Iraqis as they struggle toward a constitution. 


  • A certain truth is that without a gun at their heads, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites would be at the bargaining table for years to come. 

  • Just as certain, is the fact that the timetable argued as inviolable is a political necessity and the politics at risk are American rather than Iraqi.

George Bush has a greased rope to climb so far as Iraq and his mismanaged war is concerned and even he has to finally recognize a legacy-at-stake when he sees one. So, it’s cut-and-run time in a war where he’s consistently claimed America will ‘stay the course.’ The timekeeper for the cut before the run is American Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who’s just cut-and-run himself from duties as Ambassador to Afghanistan, his native country.


Zalmaykhalilzad_1Khalilzad is a guy who knows the ropes of this part of the world and, over a career in American politics, he’s been as successful a negotiator with terrorists as he has with matters of state. (As an aside to the issue at hand, he might have been a brilliant choice as propaganda-master to the Muslim world instead of the shaky option to give the job to Karen Hughes)  Khalilzad is the guy holding the gun as the Iraqi constitution gets steamrollered into Parliament, where it lies at this moment, like a turd in a punchbowl.


GB first decreed a war, then a victory, now a constitution, soon a plebiscite to confirm that constitution, then a national election, followed as quickly as possible by the withdrawal of American troops, followed shortly thereafter by chaos, disintegration and civil war. 


By speeding this process, perhaps necessarily but certainly unwisely, he may even have forced the dissolution of Parliament and that would be a setback far more destabilizing than an additional several weeks of debate. Because that’s the choice.  According to current law, Parliament will either receive the draft of the new charter or vote on setting a new deadline. If it doesn't agree on either, the legislature will have to dissolve.  Abdul-Khaleq Zangana, a Kurdish member of the drafting committee said there were problems with ''the role of religion and women's rights.'' He predicted ''either an extension -- and this is not good -- or parliament dissolves -- and this is difficult.''


Understatement of the week. Difficult doesn’t half say it.


Other problems touch upon the creation of Iraq as a federation, which would give much-desired autonomy to Kurd, Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq but brings with it an incentive to become independent.  Then there’s the matter of who gets how much of the national oil revenue.  And the writing of laws. The various negotiating blocs agreed that no laws would be adopted that contradict the principles of Islam.  Fair enough, but they agreed that in addition, no law shall be adopted that contradicts human rights and democratic principles.  That's a far tougher call.  Sharia, human rights and democratic principles, each countermanding the other are sure to make it impossibly complicated to write new law for this new country, a secular nation in its recent past.


So, there’s no doubt a certain amount of finger-crossing down on the ranch as this all spins its way into reality. But this president, who has been accused of many things, is determined not to be accused of allowing the schedule to fail.


The nation may fail and the original intent may fail (although it’s become murky enough over the past year to resist) and the military may be asked to rack up yet another failure.


But the schedule will prevail.
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Read more of my musings on the war in Iraq at my personal web site.