Paul Bremer: A man living in a cloud-cuckoo-land
Wext: Sunday, 02.May. @ 00:00:00 CEST
By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli
1. 05. 2004 - Mr Bush should sack Ambassador Paul Bremer immediately and appoint in his place Ambassador Peter Galbraith if he wants to save American lives and reputation and ensure a realistic successful future for “Iraq”.
On 23 April 2004 Mr Paul Bremer made a speech to the Iraqi people explaining his understanding of the current situation and his vision of the future of Iraq.
With all respect, any Iraqi listening or reading his speech, he will be as impressed as he will be with a speech made by a low-ranking Ba’athist official!
Paul Bremer shows that he did not know anything about Iraq before he came and after a year he is not a wiser man.
It is not just because he muddles through difficulties and disasters he had a great role in making in the first place because of a combination of ignorance and arrogance.
The most depressing and disheartening thing about his speech is that his starting points are wrong and naturally his conclusions are hollow and vain. They bode disaster rather than offer hope.
Paul Bremer starts and ends his speech as a converted Iraqi (say Arab) nationalist! One can sense throughout the speech Mr Bremer’s naļve appeals to Iraqi nationalism, to one Iraq, with one history, and one happy future!
He envisages and operates his historical mission as ensuring the realisation of this Iraqiness without Saddams, Hajajs, Sadrs or any present or potential dictators.
But in the same speech he makes a big U-turn. He rehabilitates the Ba’athists and welcomes them back without letting courts and civil legal procedures deal with this vital historical issue.
And worst of all, he promises to dismantle the only tangible achievement of his reign: the Iraqi temporary constitution by saying that it is only for guidance and thus can be ignored by a future elected assembly!
“Under the Transitional Administrative Law, you will have free, fair and national elections for a National Assembly in January. That assembly will have responsibility for choosing a government. The same Assembly will also write Iraq’s new, permanent Constitution. In writing your new, permanent constitution the National Assembly will be guided but not bound by the Transitional Administrative Law. This will be your constitution. Your elected representatives will write it and you will approve it and it will determine how you are governed.”
This is enough to make his speech a muddle riddled with contradictions and ironies. In addition he has no concrete answers to any problems especially the primary issues of security, stability and political authority. There is no commitment to any plan of action; there is no plan at all apart from waiting for 30 June and hoping for miracles to happen between now and then to ensure his safe exit and his top job at the State Department.
However I will restrict my comment to Mr Bremer’s basic premise on which he has been stubbornly insisting: the idea of Iraqiness and one unified Iraqi Iraq which will miraculously become stable, democratic and prosperous within the next 80 days thanks to Mr Bremer’s year long obsession with and struggle for one centralised Iraq.
Bremer’s path and Muqtada Sadr’s path
Thus Mr Bremer spoke to the “Iraqis”!:
"You could take the path which leads to a new Iraq, a peaceful, democratic Iraq, an Iraq of political freedom and economic opportunity, an Iraq where the majority is not Sunni, Shia, Arab, Kurd or Turcoman, but Iraqi. This is the path to a bright and hopeful future.
Or you could take the path which leads to the dark Iraq of the past where violence and fear rule, where power comes from a gun, and where only the powerful and ruthless are secure.
Thousands of conversations with you over the past year have made me certain that the vast majority of Iraqis reject the brutality and darkness of the old days. You have told me you want a new Iraq that honors the best of your past, but provides freedom, equality and opportunity for all.
The Coalition shares your vision of Iraq’s future, a future of hope. Working together we can create the future you want.
Much is going to happen in the 10 weeks before Iraqi sovereignty.
In the days and months ahead the Coalition will work with you to provide security, justice and prosperity for all Iraqis.
Such an Iraq will honor Iraq’s history, a proud and ancient history stretching back to the beginnings of civilization.
Such an Iraq will honor the generations who came before you.
Such an Iraq will serve the generations who will come after you.
Such an Iraq will place Iraqis securely on the path to a future of hope for all.
Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.
This is a sermon not a political speech. Who are this “you”, these Iraqis, that Bremer is addressing? Perhaps Mr Bremer was thinking of all Iraq as one cosy family sitting around a radio or TV and attentively listening to his sweet-sounding sermon!
But can Mr Bremer compete in his sole solitary sermon with hundreds of more eloquent fiery sermons delivered daily and in Friday prayers from the tribune of hundreds of mosques by not just a Muqtada Sadr but hundreds of Muqtada Sadrs many of whom were known trumpeters of Saddam’s wars, genocides and anfals?
Can he compete with poisonous propaganda poured by Arab media and TV channels?
Does Mr Bremer realise that none of these firebrand preachers ever talk about democracy, freedom, women’s rights although they do like him talk about one Iraq!
And use this idea of Iraqiness and of course Muslimness to justify their fascist discourse! This is the common ground between Bremer and his co-sermonisers. And by imposing this illusion of Iraqiness Mr Bremer, just like Moqtada Sadr, confuses issues, hides facts and harbours personal aims and ambitions!!
Few months ago Muqtada al-Sadr said he would send a delegation to Iraqis in North of Iraq. He refused to mention the name Kurds let alone Kurdish people, Kurdish nation or Kurdistan. Mr Bremer’s record regarding the Kurds is not much better. He insulted every Kurd on the very anniversary of Halabja this year and in Halbaj itself, where Saddam killed 5000 people with chemical gasses and injuries 20,000 more, by describing the Kurds as “Saddam’s own people”!! and refusing to utter the word Kurdistan while he was welcomed many times as a hero in Kurdistan!
But it is not just courtesy which Mr Bremer lacks especially towards those who consider him a liberator and friend and thus are not killing Americans, but it is his lack of basic understanding of Iraq’s historical, national and sectarian formation which makes his policies so wrong-headed and his speeches sound so hollow.
The lesson of history
I am sure that Mr Bremer thinks he does not need any lessons in history. From his position and point of view he is right. History is shaped by power and he is the man who holds greatest power for the moment in the shaping of Iraq’s future as he so passionately asserts in his speech. Nevertheless, due to history’s propensity to repeat itself, I have no choice but to give Mr Bremer a short historical reminder.
It was just like this moment after the collapse of Ottoman rule in Iraq. Britain was adamant to assemble one unified Iraq at whatever expense because its long-term strategic interests lay in this coercive nation-building. In spite of many problems that encountered this complex project, what Britain wanted was to create an artificial entity, call it Iraq, write a constitution for it and give nominal “sovereignty” to an Iraqi government. Stephen Hensley Longrigg describes the context and the tasks facing Britain in the following way:
“In Great Britain the problem of ’ Iraq’s future occupied a remarkable share of official and parliamentary time. The territory’s status as an ex-Ottoman province must involve peace with Turkey as a preliminary to its own disposal; war-time commitments to the French (the Sykes-Picot agreement), promises to the Arab ruler of the Hٍijaz, the pressure of President Wilson for popular self-determination, British middle-eastern strategic interests, and responsibility in ’ Iraq for order and progress among a public with whom close personal bonds by now existed: all these were elements to be reconciled. Since mere old-fashioned annexation was advocated by no responsible voice and evacuation by few, the problem resolved itself into one of formulating the constitution and status of the future ’ Iraq State; and upon this conflicting views were held both in Baghdad and in Whitehall. If the British Government, all powerful, amply informed, and far from illiberal, had made its decisions with more resolution and more speed: if a plan for ’Iraqi self-government could have been produced and progressively implemented early in 1919: if committee procedures had been shortened, the protests and arguments of A. T. Wilson overruled, and Cox, perhaps, retained in Baghdad: then many troubles, losses, and legacies of bitterness could have been avoided.
Meanwhile, the War was over; and the occupation of Kirkuk, Arbil, and Mosul, and the terms of the Armistice as these were interpreted, involved the Army through its Civil Administration .
While this assemblage may have appeared economically sound to the state-builders in Whitehall, its territory included populations with significant ethnic and religious differences: the majority of those living in mandated Iraq were Shi’i Arab, the ruling elites (including an Hejazi king and an entourage that contained Syrians and Palestinians) were Sunni Arabs, and the north Kurdisatn/Mosul Province was inhabited by Kurds who were demanding self-rule and fiercely resisted their incorporation into Iraq.“
The difficulty almost impossibility of assembling various diverse elements into a coherent whole was described by King Faisal I of Iraq:
"In Iraq there is still--and I say this with a heart full of sorrow--no Iraqi people but unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatever. Out of these masses we want to fashion a people which we would train, educated, and refine." [As quoted in Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, 25.]
And now with the benefit of 80 years of history of failure, bloodshed and internal and regional wars caused by this abnormal state, and with the benefit of over 350 mass graves containing at least 300,000 wrongly murdered human beings, and with the benefit of daily experiences of fanaticism, conflict, and murder including the murder of many noble American servicemen, Mr Bremer is no wiser. He is appealing to Iraqi sense of nationalism!!! He is trying to achieve what King Faisal, Nuri Saed , Qassem and Saddam could not achieve. But given his aim of one strong centralised Iraq, it is obvious that his hero now must be Saddam Hussain and his Ba’ath party. If a report in Asharq al-Awsat yesterday is true, Mr Bremer has already freed 2500 criminal Baathist generals and officials. This is a historical crime in both moral and political terms.
Sack Bremer and bring in Galbraith
For the sake of American lives, US’s reputation and interests in the world and for the sake of Iraq, Kurdistan and Middle East and peace in the world, President Bush should sack Bremer immediately, stop current procedures for the transfer of power by 30 June and appoint Ambassador Peter Galbraith for the job. He has experience of similar situations in Bosnia and East Timor and more importantly he has specialist knowledge of Iraqi affairs in which he has been closely involved for the last 14 years. He will be able to sort out the current problems and devise a practicable solution acceptable to everyone.
The American people should realise the fact that the only way to ensure any resemblance of stability in Iraq can be done by correcting the criminal scheme implemented by British imperialists over 80 years ago and allow Kurdistan to be free and sovereign. Why allow Cypriots with only 800,000 people, to have a say in their future but not 5 million Kurdistani people. We do not want to be put back inside an Arab dominated Iraq. This will only create another flashpoint of instability and mayhem. We want to free, to join NATO and European Union and to have permanent American military bases to protect us. All moral values and international laws support our right of self-determination. Let fascist Arabs go to hell.
If Mr Bremer had had time and power he would have dismantled Kurdish forces by now and turned Kurdistan too to a magnet for Islamic terrorists and scenes of bloodshed and destruction. This man can only deconstruct. He cannot reconstruct. Both the man and his policies need to be changed as urgently as possible.
Note: Reports are published based on respect for freedom of opinion's expression, they do not necessarily reflect views of Kurdistan Democratic Party.