Sunday, July 28, 2002

Nick Cohen, "The Last Thing the US Wants is Democracy in Iraq"

Nick Cohen
Sunday July 28, 2002
The Observer

Although everyone is lining up for or against a war on Iraq, few are asking what the war would be for. We know it would be against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. But what will the Americans and their British sidekicks be fighting to replace the tyrant with? <>It's impossible to say with certainty, but most reports from Washington suggest that Bush wants another tyrant and Blair will concur. The alternative is the Iraqi National Congress, a loose and fractious coalition, but one which, for all its faults, is committed to democracy. The CIA and State Department hate it and the bad example a liberated Iraq would give to the repressed people of Saudi Arabia.

The hostility has relented a little - the State Department has agreed to meet the INC on 9 August. We'll have to see what happens, but Iraqi exiles believe the CIA has a list of 15 approved generals from which a new leader will be picked.

The prime candidate was General Nizar al-Khazraji, the army chief of staff when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the highest-ranking military defector. He lives in exile in Copenhagen and had nothing to fear except Hussein's assassins until a Kurdish refugee saw him in the street.

In a scene straight out of Marathon Man, the refugee cried that this was the man who had levelled his village. The Danish Justice Ministry is now investigating charges that al-Khazraji was up to his neck in the 'Anfal' campaign of 1988 (named after the cheery chapter in the Koran on the spoils of war).

Uncounted numbers of Kurds were driven from their homes and tens of thousands died in prison camps. Al-Khazraji denies the charges, and many Kurdish leaders are working on the 'my enemy's enemy principle' and don't give a damn what he did.

If the US goes for a military hardman, it is likely to find a general against whom plausible allegations of war crimes can be made. The alternative is a democratic, federal Iraq, which gives rights to the Kurds and Shias currently suffering under the apartheid rule of the Sunni minority, and places the military under civilian control.

The INC says neither Downing Street nor the Foreign Office has raised a voice in support of its democratic dream. If anything, the Brits are more fanatical supporters of infinite injustice in the Gulf than the Yanks.