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Why are American soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq? Extrapolating from President George W. Bush’s radio address broadcast last Saturday, the cause for which they are giving that last full measure of devotion is not government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is an irrevocable transfer of sovereignty June 30 to an undemocratically appointed interim Iraqi government, probably chosen by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The envoy is likely to anoint either the existing discredited 25-member Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) or crown an expanded version of that political ink blot.
The interim government will inherit a Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) secretly cobbled together by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the IGC that enshrines the universal tenets of Islam as the supreme law of the land, a worrisome aping of Iran’s theocracy and subjugation of women.
Moreover, the TAL fractures Iraq between Kurds and non-Kurds, Muslims and non-Muslims, and Arabs and non-Arabs. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has disparaged the document as shortchanging Shi’ites in the power equation and has instructed his followers to reject its legitimacy. The prospect of summoning into being either a democratic Iraq or a shadow of the same on or after June 30 is thus slim to none. To paraphrase from Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics, what is the good of the post-Saddam war of the U.S. in Iraq? Absolutely nothing.
A two-front conflict has erupted. The United States is battling a 10,000 strong insurgent Shi’ite militia in southern cities lead by cleric Sheik Moktada al-Sadr, who is implicated in the murder of a fellow religious figure and incitements to violence. In the vicinity of Baghdad, the United States confronts an entrenched Sunni foe. Fallujah is emblematic. In recent days, approximately 50 American soldiers have died in clashes with Shi’ites and Sunnis.
The United States is on a war footing. President Bush’s radio address elaborated: “This week in Iraq, our coalition forces have faced challenges and taken the fight to the enemy. … And our offensive will continue in the weeks ahead.”
The military clashes, however, seem pointless to the Iraqis for whom we purportedly are fighting. As reported in The Washington Post on Sunday, a battalion of the new Iraq army balked at assisting U.S. Marines battling for control of Fallujah. Best estimates place the defection or desertion rate at 20 percent to 25 percent for the Iraqi army, civil defense, police, and other security forces.
Karl von Clausewitz recognized and experience confirms war without a clear political objective is folly. President Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and CPA Administrator Paul Bremer have insisted a unified and democratic Iraq is the goal of fighting until the June 30 sovereignty transfer. But circumstantial evidence wars with that insistence.
The United States is pledged to support an undemocratic interim Iraqi government ruling under an undemocratic constitutional dispensation. The majority of Iraqis would not vote in favor of the June 30 regime in a free and fair plebiscite. They will neither fight nor risk their lives in its defense.
The Kurds in the north have demanded de facto independence. The United States will not fight them to coerce a unified Iraq, notwithstanding a generally undemocratic Kurdish politics. And a 50,000-strong Pesh Merga would easily outfight any Sunni or Shi’ite militias in a civil war over unity or partition.
With the dissolution of the CPA and transfer of sovereignty on June 30, the United States influence over Iraq’s political evolution under the TAL will wither, and democratic hopes will die. Free and fair popular elections, freedom of speech, religion and association, the rule of law, and protection of minority rights have been foreign to Iraq and the geography it occupies for more than 4,000 years.
The artificial nation born in 1920 sports no political thinkers like James Madison, John Locke, or John Stuart Mill. A statesmanlike leader is nowhere to be found. Nor is the concept of a loyal political opposition or a peaceful transfer of power in accord with electoral results.
It speaks volumes, moreover, that President Bush declined to enumerate democratic benchmarks that must be satisfied in the selection and operation of the interim Iraqi government as conditions for a continued United States military presence and defense. He is committed to persisting in the sacrifice of American soldiers no matter how reviled, squalid, corrupt, or undemocratic the June 30 Iraqi power structure. He is no more fighting for an initial birth of freedom in Iraq than President Lyndon B. Johnson was fighting for democracy in Vietnam.
Mr. Bush is fighting until and perhaps after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty in hopes of avoiding political embarrassment before the November presidential balloting. All other objectives seem subordinate. Haven’t the hundreds of brave men and women killed since Saddam’s ouster or capture died in vain?
Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant at Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.
By Tom Fitton
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