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Year 2005 No. 122, October 21, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

The Act of Being of the Iraqi People Is an Inalienable Right

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Referendum on So-called Iraqi Constitution
The Act of Being of the Iraqi People Is an Inalienable Right

The Iraqi Constitution: A Referendum for Disaster

The "Iraq" Business

British Commanders Dismiss Allegations of Iranian Interference in Iraq

Letter to the Editor:
Determining the Path to Democratic Renewal

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Referendum on So-called Iraqi Constitution

The Act of Being of the Iraqi People Is an Inalienable Right

TML Daily, October 18, 2005

When citizens pool their rights in the form of a constitution, laying down the fundamental law of the land, the inherent demand is that they must be recognised as a people entitled to write their own constitution. In the case of Iraq, the Iraqi people are not the authors of the constitution and therefore not recognised as a people. Hence, their individual rights are also not recognised in the document called the Iraqi Constitution that was voted on in a referendum on October 15.

These issues are acknowledged by those addressing the chaos in Iraq resulting from the US-led invasion and occupation. Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist and columnist of The Guardian, wrote: "[P]erhaps we need to remember that this constitution is being written in a war zone, in a country on the verge of a civil war. This process is designed not to represent the Iraqi people's need for a constitution but to comply with an imposed timetable aimed at legitimising the occupation. The drafting process has increasingly proved a dividing, rather than a unifying, process. Under Saddam Hussein, we had a constitution described as 'progressive and secular'. It did not stop him violating human rights, women's included.

"The same is happening now. The militias of the parties heading the interim government are involved in daily violations of Iraqi's human rights, women's in particular, with the US-led occupation's blessing. Will the new constitution put an end to this violence?"

Salim Lone, who served as director of communications for the UN mission in Iraq directly after the 2003 invasion, wrote: "Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, partition had been seen by US hardliners as the surest way of weakening the most powerful Arab state not in the American camp. The constitution cedes almost complete territorial control and authority to the regions of the three principal communities. This includes oil revenues, which would put Arab Sunnis at a big disadvantage since almost all the oil is produced in Shia and Kurdish regions. The constitution also prevents former members of the Ba'ath party, to which most Sunnis belonged, from holding public office. The document will alienate yet more Sunnis, and be another impediment to Iraqis working together again." In the absence of the Iraqi people drafting their own constitution free from foreign aims and interference, not only the polity remains confused but a hierarchy of rights appear.

Constitutions worthy of the name are written by an insurgent people who then constitute a nation-state whose fundamental law codifies the arrangements for which they fought. In the case of Iraq, it is not the people who fought for regime change, but foreign invaders. It is the puppet state of these invaders that is being constituted. No number of statements by US, British, Canadian and other such governments cheering the so-called Iraqi Constitution will rescue the situation for them in Iraq as the resistance to the occupation continues and support for the demand to "Bring the Troops Home Now" increases in the imperialist heartlands.

End the Occupation Now!
No to the Use of Force to Settle Economic and Political Problems!

Article Index



The Iraqi Constitution: A Referendum for Disaster

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, October 13, 2005

• The constitutional process culminating in Saturday's referendum is not a sign of Iraqi sovereignty and democracy taking hold, but rather a consolidation of US influence and control. Whether Iraq's draft constitution is approved or rejected, the decision is likely to make the current situation worse.

• The ratification process reflects US, not Iraqi urgency, and is resulting in a vote in which most Iraqis have not even seen the draft, and amendments are being reopened and negotiated by political parties and elites in Baghdad as late as four days before the planned referendum.

• The proposed constitution would strip Iraqis of future control over their nation's oil wealth by opening all new oil exploration and production to foreign oil companies.

• The imposition of federalism as defined in the draft constitution undermines Iraqi national consciousness and sets the stage for a potential division of Iraq largely along ethnic and religious lines, with financial, military, and political power devolving from the central government to the regional authorities. All groups risk sectoral as well as national interests.

• Human rights, including women's rights, individual political and civil rights, economic and social rights, religious rights, minority rights, all remain at risk.

• Instead of balancing the interests of Iraq's diverse population by referencing its long-dominant secular approaches, the draft constitution reflects, privileges and makes permanent the current occupation-fuelled turn towards Islamic identity.

The Bottom Line

Constitutions can play a crucial role in founding and unifying new or renewing states; Iraq is no exception, and in the future drafting a constitution could play a key part in reunifying and strengthening national consciousness of the country. But this process has been imposed from outside, it is not an indigenous Iraqi process, and the draft constitution being debated is not a legitimate Iraqi product. Iraqis are still suffering under conditions of severe deprivation, violence, lack of basic necessities including clean water, electricity, jobs – crafting a new constitution does not appear high on their agenda.

The existing process of ratifying the new constitution is far more important to the Bush administration than it is to the majority of people of Iraq. Whether the proposed constitution is approved or rejected on Saturday, it is a process and a text largely crafted and imposed by US occupation authorities and their Iraqi dependents, and thus lacking in legal or political legitimacy. The most important reality is that the draft does not even mention the US occupation, and neither ratification nor rejection of it will result in moving towards an end to occupation. None of the broad human rights asserted in the draft include any call to abrogate the existing laws first imposed by Paul Bremer, the US pro-consul, and still in effect.

Whether it is accepted or rejected, it is likely to worsen the insecurity and violence facing Iraqis living under the US occupation, and to increase the likelihood of a serious division of the country. If it passes, over significant Sunni (and other) opposition, the constitution will be viewed as an attack on Sunni and secular interests and will institutionalise powerful regional economic and military control at the expense of a weakened central government. Its extreme federalism could transform the current violent political conflict into full-blown civil war between ethnic and religious communities. If it fails, because Sunnis backed by significant secular forces, are able to mobilise enough "no" votes, the result could be a collapse of the current assembly's already weak legitimacy and capacity, and cancellation of the planned December elections. In either event, it is likely that resistance attacks will increase, not decrease. And certainly the greater violence of the US military occupation will continue.

From the vantage point of the Bush administration, a "yes" vote, however slim the margin and however dubious the legitimacy, validates the claim that the occupation is setting the stage for "democratisation" in Iraq; this explains the huge investment of money, political clout, and the personal involvement/interference of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the drafting process. If the White House was looking for a fig leaf to cover troop withdrawals, this would be it. But there is no indication there is any such interest in beginning to bring the troops home, particularly since the referendum is unlikely to lead to any diminution of violence.

From the vantage point of the peace movement, the key issue, like that during the elections, remains that of Iraq's sovereignty and self-determination. Whatever we may think of this draft constitution, it has been essentially imposed on the Iraqi people by US occupation authorities, and as such it is not legitimate. We may like parts of this draft, we may disagree with some future Iraqi-led constitutional process – but our obligation must be to call for Iraqis to control their own country and their own destiny. Once the US occupation is over, and Iraqis reclaim their own nation, we will continue to build the kind of internationalist ties with women's, labour and other civil society organisations fighting for human rights in Iraq, as we have with partners in so many other countries. But while the US occupation is in control, our first obligation is to work to end it.

The Referendum on the Draft Constitution

Saturday's referendum marks a key stage in the process of implementing the US-designed, US-imposed political process designed to give a "sovereign" gloss the continuing US occupation. The process was set in place and pushed to completion by each successive US-backed occupation authority in Iraq. Initial US reluctance to hold early elections was overcome by pressure from Shia leader Ayatollah al-Sistani; while his support insured widespread Shia backing for the political process, it also guaranteed even greater opposition from Sunni and some secular forces.

The Bush administration has invested a huge amount of political capital in insuring the "success" of the constitution process, sacrificing for the actual content of the draft document to insure that something, almost anything, that could be called a constitution will be endorsed by a majority of Iraqis. The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has played an active and coercive role in pushing Iraqi political forces to participate and make concessions, and in the actual drafting of the document. The US goal is to justify the claim that Iraq is "moving towards democracy" and that the post-invasion, occupied reality of Iraq in 2005 is somehow equivalent to the experience of the United States at the time of the drafting of the US constitution. While numerous politicians, pundits and mainstream journalists routinely refer to the constitution's approval as the "necessary step towards ending the US occupation once and for all," it actually does nothing of the sort. Despite asserting the rhetorical claim of "sovereignty" and "independence" for Iraq, the constitution as drafted makes no mention of the US occupation. Even the "transition" section, while insuring the continuation of the "de-Baathification" process, support for former political prisoners and victims of terrorist attacks, and other contemporary concerns, there is no mention of the presence of the 150,000 or so US and coalition troops occupying the country, and certainly no call for them to go home. The US-controlled political process violates the Geneva Convention's prohibitions on an occupying power imposing political or economic changes on the occupied country. At the end of the day, the constitution leaves the US occupation intact and unchallenged.

The Voting Process

There has been large-scale opposition to the draft constitution, particular from key elements of the Sunni population. In a US-prodded effort to "get the Sunnis on board," changes were negotiated between one Sunni party and the constitutional committee. Just three days before the vote, on October 12, they agreed to two changes – allowing the constitution to be amended by the new parliament scheduled to be elected in December, and limiting the "deBaathification" process to those former members of the Baath party accused of committing crimes. The announcement may persuade some additional Sunnis to vote, rather than boycott, or even to support rather than reject the constitution. But the Iraq Islamic Party is only one, and by far not the most influential, of the many Sunni-dominated political forces in Iraq, and it is unclear how influential they are or how significant the changes will be.

Likely Results

If the voting resembles something close to an accurate referendum ("free" and "fair" are not even possibilities, given the dominance of US control of the drafting and conducting a vote under military occupation) the current draft constitution is likely, though not certain, to be approved by a small majority of Iraqi voters. It remains unclear, even with the new changes, whether the majority of the Sunni population will participate and likely vote "no" on the draft, or will boycott the referendum altogether. It also is uncertain how many secular Iraqis of all religions and ethnicities may reject the constitution. There are clear indications that most Iraqis believe the constitution has been drafted in a process from which they are largely excluded; international news outlets report that most had still not seen the text only days before the referendum.

Control of Iraqi Oil

The major debates between Iraq's ethnic and religious communities, as well as between secular and Islamic approaches, sidelined any debate over crucial economic, especially oil, policy decisions in the constitution. The draft asserts that "Oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces," and that the federal government will administer the oil and gas from "current fields" with the revenues to be "distributed fairly in a matter compatible with the demographic distribution all over the country." But that guarantee refers only to oil fields already in use, leaving future exploitation of almost 2/3 of Iraq's known reserves (17 of 80 known fields, 40 billion of its 115 billion barrels of known reserves), for foreign companies – because the next section of the constitution demands "the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment." Further, Article 11 states explicitly that "All that is not written in the exclusive powers of the federal authorities is in the authority of the regions." That means that future exploration and exploitation of Iraq's oil wealth will remain under the control of the regional authorities where the oil lies – the Kurdish-controlled North and the Shia-dominated South, insuring a future of impoverishment for the Sunni, secular and inter-mixed populations of Baghdad and Iraq's centre, and sets the stage for a future of ethnic and religious strife.

While the specifics of oil privatisation are not written into the text of the draft constitution, they are consistent with the proposed Iraqi laws announced in August 2004 by the US-appointed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He called for private companies, including foreign oil corporations, to have exclusive rights to develop new oil fields, rather than the Iraqi National Oil Company, as well as at least partial privatisation of the INOC itself, thus essentially selling off Iraq's national treasure to the highest foreign corporate bidder.

Federalism

The division of Iraq into three major ethnically- or religiously-defined regions or cantons remains a long-standing fear of many Iraqis and many people and governments across the region and around the world, and the most important basis for opposition to the draft constitution. In historically secular Iraq, the shift in primary identity from "Iraqi" to "Sunni" or "Shia" (although Iraqi Kurdish identity was always stronger) happened largely in response to the US invasion and occupation; it does not reflect historical cultural realities. The draft constitution promotes not just federalism as a national governing structure, but an extreme version of federalism in which all power not specifically assigned to the central government devolves automatically to the regional authorities – setting the stage for a potential division of Iraq largely along ethnic and religious lines. The draft anticipates a weak national government, with financial, military, and political power all concentrated within regional authorities. The proposed constitution states directly that all powers – military, economic, political or anything else – "except in what is listed as exclusive powers of the federal authorities" are automatically reserved for the regional or provincial governments. In all those areas of regional power, the provincial governments are authorised to "amend the implementation of the federal law in the region" meaning they can ignore or override any constitutional guarantee other than foreign affairs or defence of the borders.

Besides the economic/oil conflict, this means that regional (read: religious and/or ethnic) militias accountable to political parties and/or religious leaders will be given the imprimatur of national forces. The process has already undermined Iraqi national consciousness, and sets in place risks for both national and, ironically, sectoral interests affecting each of the groups – even the most powerful.

Shia – Iraq's Shia majority (about 60%) are the dominant force in the existing government and security agencies, and in alliance with the Kurds, dominate the constitutional drafting process. The constitution is widely understood to favour their interests, and by instituting a semblance of majority rule and according to some sources by privileging religious power within the government and court systems, it does so. But despite recent turns towards religion, many Shia remain very secular, and not all Shia want to institutionalise religious control in either regional or national governments. The federalism provisions, including the potential to establish a Shia-dominated "super-region" in the nine oil-rich provinces of the south, is also a favourite among many Shia. However, the extreme federalism has the parallel effect of largely constraining Shia control to the southern areas (however oil-rich) where they form the largest majority population, thus limiting Shia influence in the country overall. Many Shia live in Baghdad (actually the largest Shia city in Iraq) and other mixed areas outside the southern Shia-majority region. The revered Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has spoken strongly against dividing Iraq, but the constitution sets the groundwork for exactly that.

Sunni – Iraq's Sunni population is dominant in small areas in central Iraq including Baghdad and its environs. With the constitution's strong focus on building regional economic, political and military power, the Sunnis as a community stand to lose the most. With major economic power – read: control of oil income – resting with the regional governments, the Sunnis will suffer because the area they dominate in central Iraq is devoid of oil resources. (See "Control of Iraqi Oil" above.) Following the large-scale Sunni boycott of the June 2005 election, they are underrepresented in the national assembly, and have faced the largest proportion of exclusion from jobs, the military, and the government under the "deBaathification" process. Last-minute changes to the draft constitution, including limits on deBaathification may pacify some Sunni anger, but is unlikely to result in full-scale proportional involvement and empowerment in the post-referendum political processes.

Kurds – Iraq's Kurdish population, about 20%, is largely (though not entirely) concentrated in the northern provinces. They have the longest history of a separate ethnic/religious identity of any of Iraq's major groups, and their search for independence or autonomy has long roots, strengthened by years of oppression by various central governments in Baghdad. Iraq's Kurdish leaders are the closest allies of the US in Iraq, having provided support to the invasion and occupation even before the US military attacks began. Because of US protection during the 12 post-Desert Storm sanctions years, the Kurdish region also had access to more money (through an intentional distortion of the oil-for-food distribution of Iraq's oil funds), international ties through open borders to Turkey and beyond, and the development of US- and other western-backed civil society institutions than any other sector of Iraq. They are by far the best prepared and the most eager for control of regional oil income (their zone includes rich northern oil fields, especially if they end up incorporating the once-Kurdish but now overwhelmingly mixed area around Kirkuk) and a weakened central government. Their regional militia, the pesh merga, are also by far the most powerful of any Iraqi military force. Some Kurdish forces, however, are already critical of the draft constitution because their oil-rich three-province region would be dwarfed by the even more oil-rich Shia-dominated nine-province region in the south.

Secular forces – Along with Palestine, Iraq was historically the most secular of all Arab countries. The draft constitution, while vague in many details, certainly lays the groundwork for a far greater role for religious authorities in governmental and judicial institutions. Many secular Iraqis, as well as Christians, are dismayed by the privileging of Muslim clerics within the constitutional court, for example, as well as the regional empowerment that allows local/regional governments to choose sharia, or Islamic law, as the basis for some or all of its court jurisdiction rather than secular laws.

Religion and Human Rights

Officially the draft constitution includes far-reaching protections of human rights, including a wide range of political and civil rights, and explicitly women's rights, saying that says Iraq will "respect the rule of law, reject the policy of aggression, pay attention to women and their rights, the elderly and their cares, the children and their affairs, spread the culture of diversity and defuse terrorism." Economic, social and cultural rights are explicitly protected in language far stronger than that of the US constitution and Bill of Rights, or that of most other countries. But there is contradictory language as well. The draft states that "(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam. (b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy. (c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution."

Whether basic freedoms will trump Islam or vice versa, and crucially, who will decide, seems a dangerous risk. Ultimately, instead of balancing the interests of Iraq's diverse Muslim majority with its once-dominant secular, the draft constitution reflects, privileges and makes permanent Iraq's current occupation-fuelled turn towards Islamic identity.

Article Index



The "Iraq" Business

Abu Khaleel*, September 20, 2005

Is Iraq an Artificial Construction?

Time and again I come across statements that Iraq was a state "artificially" constructed at the end of World War I by the occupying French and British out of the three separate Ottoman regions of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. These statements are frequently made by "experts" on Iraq! I have come across such assertions only too often... I would like to elaborate on this, at least to have something to refer people to in the future!

In a Nutshell

Iraq's habitation goes back at least to the end of the last ice age. As a single country, it has been in existence for about 4,400 years. In addition to the long history, the country has been defined by geography: The two rivers of Mesopotamia clearly define a geographically unified region surrounded by mountains on the east and desert on the west in which people have been freely mixing for several thousand years!

The Two Rivers in Ancient Iraqi Mythology

To the ancient Iraqis... it started, not with Creation, but with putting order into Creation. The following passages are from Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Myth of Creation:

Long before the time of the new gods, and long before our human world... there was nothing in existence but chaos. This chaos was ruled by the old gods Apsu (fresh water) and Tiamat (the sea). So a new or younger generation of gods were created for the purpose of bringing order to chaos.

One of the young gods, Ea, the god of wisdom, slayed the old god Apsu. This made the goddess Tiamat angry at Ea and all of the other youthful gods. Tiamat, who was a dragon like goddess, successfully waged war against all of the younger generation Babylonian gods until finally, in the nick of time, Marduk was born. Marduk, son of Ea, was to be the strongest and wisest of all the gods. As such, he was chosen to deal with Tiamat once and for all.

Summoning all of the other young gods, Marduk went to war against Tiamat. Finally, in a one on one battle, Tiamat was no match for the great Marduk, Lord of the Four Quarters. Cornering Tiamat with the four winds at his command, Marduk caught Tiamat up in his net. When Tiamat opened her mouth to breath fire at him, Marduk let loose the Imhulla, "evil wind" or hurricane. The many winds of Marduk filled her up. The winds churning her up from within, rendered her defenceless. Then Marduk speared her with a lightning bolt.

Splitting Tiamat (the sea) in two, Marduk then raised half of her body to create the sky and with the other half created the earth. In the process of this splitting apart, Tiamat's eyes then became the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

In the realm above (heaven) Marduk set Anu, the sky god, and in the realm below (earth) Marduk set Ea, the earth god. Between the two, Marduk set the air god, Enlil. Other gods were then given their places in the heavens and then the stars were formed in their likeness.

The Sun, the Moon, and stars were at that time given special courses to run, and the constellations were to mark the passage of time. Through the measuring of time by the revolutions of the planets, order was established for ancient humanity.

It is perhaps comforting to know that the present-day god Murdock is attempting a similarly mammoth task of putting order in this world through Fox News and other "winds" at his command!

The Tigris and the Euphrates, it was those twin rivers that gave us Mesopotamia. Geography defined Iraq, even before history, and created that region... not the French and the British.

The Earliest Days – Dawn of Civilisation

It started with city-states, more than 7,000 years ago. For a few thousand years Iraq was the birthplace of quite a number of them. They reached a level of sophistication by the standards of the time, unequalled except by Egypt.

Those city-states were then a new experiment in mankind's history that produced sophisticated government, writing and record-keeping, the first written laws and work management that allowed people be freed from food gathering and production for personal consumption and allowed many to specialise in crafts. This was the spark that ignited technological and other developments. The very concept of organised society (the first step towards civilisation) was started in Iraq through the creation of those early city-states. It seems that these were triggered by two major factors: abundance of produce in the fertile plains of southern Iraq (which allowed farmers to produce food more than their families needed) and the collective effort needed by the nature of irrigation in that region.

Those city-states came and went, flourished and dwindled, expanded and decayed for a few thousand years in different parts of Iraq. Most of the time they were in competition and combat with neighbouring cities. One of them was called "Uruk" – a splendid civilisation that flourished around 3000 BC – which I believe gave its name to the country.

Unification into One Country

Then Sargon came along... Sargon, king of one of those city-states called Akkad, was the man who unified Iraq for the first time around 2400 BC and then went on to create the first known empire in the history of mankind.

Incidentally, the story of Sargon's early childhood bears a disturbing resemblance to that of Moses.

1. Sargon, the mighty king, king of Akkadê am I,
2. My mother was lowly; my father I did not know;
3. The brother of my father dwelt in the mountain.
4. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the bank of the Purattu [Euphrates],
5. My lowly mother conceived me, in secret she brought me forth.
6. She placed me in a basket of reeds, she closed my entrance with bitumen,
7. She cast me upon the rivers which did not overflow me.
8. The river carried me, it brought me to Akki, the irrigator.
9. Akki, the irrigator, in the goodness of his heart lifted me out,
10. Akki, the irrigator, as his own son brought me up;
11. Akki, the irrigator, as his gardener appointed me.
12. When I was a gardener the goddess Ishtar loved me,
13. And for four years I ruled the kingdom.
14. The black-headed peoples I ruled, I governed;
15. Mighty mountains with axes of bronze I destroyed (?).
16. I ascended the upper mountains;
17. I burst through the lower mountains.
18. The country of the sea I besieged three times;
19. Dilmun I captured. [Dilmun is believed to be present-day Bahrain]
20. Unto the great Dur-ilu I went up, I .........
21. ........

The Last 4,000 Years

Iraq then went on from unification to disintegration so many times! Civilisation after civilisation rose, produced magnificent achievements and then crumbled and succumbed to local or foreign invasions and then rose again.

Anybody who mattered in the old, and the not-so-old, world came here. They were all either repelled or ultimately dissolved in this 7,000 year old melting pot.

The Greeks were also here, represented by the outstanding Alexander the Great, who died in Iraq. They certainly viewed it as a single country: Mesopotamia – the land between the two rivers. People in the west still use their corruption of the names of those two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, Dijla and Furat [Furattu].

Before, during and after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century, the word "Iraq" was used to refer to this country. It was known as a single country throughout. It was certainly referred to as such in numerous official documents and much poetry. The Arabic alternative description of Iraq: Bilad al Rafidain (country of the two rivers) is still in common use to this day in Iraq and throughout the Arab world.

Later, Baghdad became the capital of an enormous and a glamorous empire under the Abbasids. Iraq was still a single region throughout their reign.

When Baghdad crumbled to the attack of the Mongols in 1258, it did not rise again. Invader after invader came from the east and north.

For several centuries, Iraq was the favourite battleground between the Ottoman Turks and the Persian Iranians. The Turks prevailed.

The Turks divided Iraq into three regions for purely administrative purposes. They were the zones around the three major cities of Iraq: Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. There was nothing ethnic and sectarian about that division. All three were mixed Arab/Kurd and Sunni/Shiite. Yes, the southern region was also mixed. It was only during the 19th century that the southern basin of Tigris converted en masse to Shiism.

Then, the "Experts" Came...

That was the state of Iraq when adventurers, company and empire representatives and tools and probes of the European conflicting interests "discovered" it to the West. This is why they were not lying when they wrote that Iraq was three-state contraption. They did not lie, but they did not even know part of the whole story either. They were ignorant of all that long history. Thus was the myth of an "artificial" country created.

Look at the map of Iraq: Only the borders on the west and south-west are straight lines; lines drawn in the sand.

The rest were lines defined by a very long history of long bloody conflicts. The northern and eastern borders were dictated by a history that was too long to ignore. But the French and British were at liberty to draw the western and the southern lines of the map of Iraq in the vast areas of sand. Little did they know that those areas of empty desert were riddled with a history of their own. Except for the early Sumerians, most of the other people who produced all those wonderful civilisations came across those deserts. There were no borders there until the end of WWI. But that is a different story.

This is how the map of modern Iraq was drawn. And this is why many "experts" honestly believe that modern Iraq was so constructed... "artificially" from the three Ottoman provinces at the end of World War I.

They were only in error of ignoring about 7,000 years of history.

* Posted on the blog site: "A Glimpse of Iraq" (glimpseofiraq.blogspot.com).

Article Index



British Commanders Dismiss Allegations of Iranian Interference in Iraq

IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency), October 15, 2005

All British commanders in Basra, Iraq, are dismissive of accusations of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi insurgency, according to a British journalist who has just returned from southern Iraq.

"There is no firm evidence that the Iranian government is involved" in supplying weaponry, a defence ministry source told Ammar al-Jundi, diplomatic correspondent of the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Jundi spent four days this week travelling in Basra and southern Iraq with other journalists, who were accompanied by Chief-of-Staff General Sir Michael Jackson, Britain's most senior army officer.

During his visit, several British newspapers, led by the Sun, Mirror and Independent, stepped up direct accusations against Iran, including sensational allegations that Revolutionary Guards were training insurgents.

"British officers were sceptical about the reports" that quoted defence sources in Basra, the diplomatic editor told IRNA. There was suspicion about the untraceable sources and even suggestions that the allegations may have been half-fabricated.

One senior commander referred to local Iraqi authorities not listening to the central government but to other elements. When questioned by Jundi to clarify this, he said these were not external influences but were "listening to people in Iraq".

British officials in London have also expressed private reservations about some of the language used by political leaders in endorsing some of the allegations against Iran, despite Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasising that there was no firm evidence.

Particular concern has been raised about Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells' telling parliament on Tuesday that "there is no question that there has been at least Revolutionary Guard involvement" in southern Iraq.

Blair's attempts to politicise the accusations and link them with the dispute over Iran's nuclear program was also said to be "unhelpful".

Analysts further believed that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made a blunder in not ruling out military action but suggesting British troops could be ordered into Iran by commanders on the ground in Iraq.

The opposition Conservatives have demanded that Blair intervene over the "profound implications" of Straw's comments, with the prime minister's spokesman insisting that "people should wait for a considered reply".

Article Index



Letter to the Editor

Determining the Path to Democratic Renewal

The article in yesterday’s WDIE (October 20, 2005), "Tony Blair Redefines Renewal and Progress: Consolidating Reaction in the Name of Renewal and Progress", exposes lucidly and articulately the reality of today's New Labour government.

Had you said that you were reviewing some Faustian drama where the evil protagonist in the form of the diabolic Tony Blair twisted words, phrases and universally understood principles to capture the soul and mind of a hapless Faust, the quotes you give would not have seemed out of place. But you're not quoting fiction. Tony Blair actually said these things! It rings alarm bells not dissimilar to warnings sounded from the pen of Herr Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Tony Blair's self articulated project for Britain and for the British working class, not to mention his terrible and imperialist designs, alongside the US, to rule the world, is made so apparent and is so clearly intended to crush and smash the working class and people and all that they have struggled so hard to establish. Also clear is that any attempt to conciliate with him and the position he is putting is a delusion and that this whole twisted logic must be opposed.

Your article affirms just why we all should hold our principles dear and why we must fight for the right to hold our principles. The astounding thing is that Tony Blair's speech of October 15 was targeted at those who maintain that a programme should be based on principles, or in his own words, those that "fall for some modern version of the old left delusion: that the problem with a progressive government is that it isn’t left enough and if only its leadership rediscovered its true principles, all would be well". In other words, to speak of "principles" is to fall into an "old left delusion". Excuse me, did he just say that?! So here we have it. If you want to join Tony Blair's so-called "modernising project" then you must abandon principle, and you must use the words "progressive" and "modern" interchangeably eventually dropping both in favour of the word "new", until, principle is reduced to "policy" and finally, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, "Policy is just a means to an end. It’s the end that is important." So, principle has no place in Tony Blair's world view. The issue for him is simply how to stay in power.

Having thus dealt with the main plank of what makes New Labour "new", your article gives a devastating quote from Tony Blair on being in government; that the real meaning of being in government is that of "decisions weighed not in argument and counter-argument, but in pounds, shillings and pence in people’s pockets". Drop any pretence of principle and its all just about economic management.

But the exposé doesn't stop there. Your discussion of Tony Blair's speech exposes his real aim "to promote a politics and ideology of subordination to authority" where the arrangements are put in place to block all paths to progress. A Britain where the people are ruled, depoliticised and taken out of all processes of government; where the decision-making is kept in the hands of the few; where government gives up any pretence of being representative and functions only to "manage" the country as well as to give the illusion that discussion takes place. Again, it is almost shocking to hear Tony Blair actually say these things. Just as the old colonial regimes and the modern imperialist powers have always put in place the arrangements they needed to maintain by force their own power and hegemony with total disregard for the millions they rule or trample under foot, Tony Blair's speech to the annual Progress conference is no less than a manifesto for the continued rule of the ruling class in Britain today.

And this at a time when our society and our political system is most in need of renewal! We should remember that, back in 2003 before Britain invaded Iraq, Tony Blair declared that he recognised that the majority of people in Britain were opposed to our invading Iraq but that as Prime Minister he was elected to follow the dictate of his conscience. Well no, Mr Blair, you were elected, or rather we thought you were elected, to carry out the will of the people and to "represent" the decision of the majority. Presumably Tony Blair would say this was just one of those "difficult decisions" a New Labour style "modern" government has had to make. But it epitomises just how Tony Blair and New Labour have sought to redefine all our understandings of what is real and how they are attempting to turn back the clock. Tony Blair uses words we thought we understood but somehow when it comes out his mouth "renewal" means "retrogression" and "progress" means "reaction".

What it all points to is the urgent need to reclaim the "real". People like Tony Blair and the governments they head do not "represent" us; they mis-represent us and they "rule" us. What we need is to start having confidence in our own ability, to do our own thinking, to demand, as your article says, our rights as decision-makers, to determine the path towards democratic renewal ourselves, and to articulate a  vision for a new society based on truly modern definitions.

There is an alternative! We will create it!

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