What Should Maliki Tell Obama?
Iraqis, even in their wild dreams,could never have imagined that their country,after the U.S. invasion in 2003, would end up fragmented, backward, and an arena where terrorists daily slaughter innocent people at will.The invasion has transformed Iraq into a failed state. Indeed, the once held hope that Iraq might regain its health in the near future is a now only a distant possibility.
The scheduled meeting between President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, on November 1, should be an opportunity for Maliki to frankly convey to President Obama the state of the current situation in Iraq. The Iraqis expect that their Prime Minister will use this opportunity to express their feelings, aspirations, and disappointments. They are fed up with a dysfunctional governing system and the failure of the U.S. to live up to its responsibility of building a functional unified democratic country free of daily atrocities and with independent and healthy institutions.
That Maliki should assertively articulate the depth of the Iraqis’ suffering to President Obama is not only a moral responsibility but a necessity, as Americans in general are more attentive and receptive to frank talk than avoidance of serious issues. The daily atrocities in Iraq seem to be either ignored or no one is willing to hear about them. In just one terroristic incident on the same day that terrorists attacked a Kenyan mall, more Iraqis were killed thanKenyans. Nevertheless, the media extensively covered the latter and almost all governments denounced it, while the same governments remained mute about the more frightening atrocitiesin Iraq.
Maliki should provide a coherent and organized presentation that realistically conveys the seriousness of the ongoing calamities,while at the same time emphatically emphasize that the perpetrators of these tragedies are free and have never been brought to justice. In particular, he should focus on critical and primary issues, including:
1. The U.S. led economic sanctions imposed in 1990 have led to economic destruction and the death of more than a million Iraqis. More importantly, they have paralyzed Iraqi society and induced the upper and middle-classes to leave the country. This migration of the middle–class has shattered the Iraqi economy and transformed it from a thriving country to a poverty and disease-ridden society.
2. The U.S. military attacks in Iraq in 1991 destroyed whatever was left of the Iraqi infrastructure and have generated, to this date, innumerabledeaths of innocent Iraqis. Two atrocities stand out. The first, the Iraqi soldiers who were attacked while they were withdrawing from Kuwait. The deaths exceeded 130,000. According to the Observer newspaper (March 3, 1991), their killing “was unequalled since Hiroshima and the only comparisons [are] found in the animal world.” The second atrocity was reported in September 1991 by the Associate Press when the U.S. military, during the early days of the invasion in 1991, used tanks and earthmovers to bury about seven thousand Iraqisalive in trenches. Col. Lon Magart, who led the 1st Brigade,was quoted saying,“I know burying people like that sounds pretty nasty . . . .. But, it would be even nastier if we had to put our troops in the trenches and clean them out with bayonets.”
3. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 contributed to widespread chaos and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. While the occupation has officially ended, the destruction is still going on with terrorists moving freely, supported by three neighboring countries, all of whom are U.S. allies.
4. A just released study, organized bya team from both Washington University and John Hopkins University, revealed that during the years of occupation, 2008-2011, “About a half million Iraqi people died during the eight-year war in that country, and among those casualties roughly four in 10 perished due to Iraq's decimated infrastructure — from crippled health-care and power systems to interruptions in water and food supplies.”
5. Paul Bremer ordered the dissolution of the border police, thus facilitating the entrance of terrorists from several Arab countries. These terrorists with the help of neighboring Arab states have been able to establish roots in Iraq and expand their network and the scale of their operations.
6. Paul Bremer, too, issued a series of economic decrees and policies which lifted tariffs on goods and commodities entering Iraq. This, along with lack of security, has severely limited the development of the Iraqi economy.
7. Paul Bremer was successful in enacting a constitution that best perpetuates strifeand chaotic politics. Article 116 gives the right forthe regional authority to amend the application of federal law. This provision makes the regional authority virtually a state within the state. The content of articles 150 and 152 grants the regional authority in Kurdistan the right to maintain decisions and contracts made since 1992. It allows for the authority to change most federal laws if they are not in line with the laws of Kurdistan. Indeed, the constitution creates an unprecedented situation, seldom found in any country, where an ethnic minority group has entitlements without obligations to the country.
8. Neighboring countries, Iran and Turkey, since the invasion in 2003, have cruelly curtailed the flow of water of major rivers into Iraq. Actions taken by both Iran and Turkey are expected to decrease, for example, the level of fresh water in the Iraqi part of the Tigris by 70%.This has createdanagricultural disaster and threatened the livelihood of millions of Iraqi farmers.
9. American companies have been instrumental in the exploitation of oil in Northern Iraq despite the objection of the central government. This has emboldened the Kurdish regional authority in the northern part and is certain to further accelerate the fragmentation of and chaos in the country.
10. Vice President Joe Biden is known for harboring ill feelings toward Iraq. Despite several UN Security Council resolutions that affirm the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, Vice President Biden still calls for dividing Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines. His recent invitation to the Iraqi speaker of Parliamentto visit Washington in November is considered by the majority of Iraqis to be a direct interference in Iraqi domestic affairs.
11. Over the last ten years, the U.S. has left Iraq with no military capacity to defend itself against aggressive neighbors who have been challenging Iraq and spreading chaos across the country. The country has no airpower and no trained military pilotsto fight terrorism and ensure Iraqi’sterritorial integrity and national security.
12. The U.S. led economic sanctions imposed in 1990 forced about 5 millions Iraqis to leave the country. The invasion of 2003 forced an additional 2 million Iraqis to leave. This is the most massive cleansing that has taken place in recent history.
Maliki, after presenting the above points, should make it clear to President Obama that he is bringing these issues to his attention as a friend of the US who is looking for a stronger relationship with Washington, but who has to heed to the demands of a restless constituency which is uneasy with Washington’s policy toward Iraq. The Iraqi public, too, increasingly looks at the U.S. as the primary instigating force behind their ongoing tragedies and the incapacitation of their institutions.
In making his point, Nuri Al-Maliki should frankly establish that U.S. actions in Iraq have never been driven by an interest in promoting democracy or humanitarian causes. He might find it useful to quote Colin Powell and MadeleineAlbright. The first when he was asked about the Iraqi death stated, “Frankly,that number doesn’t interest me.” Albright, on the other hand, when she was confronted in 1996 with the information that half a million children had died because of the economic sanctions declared, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."
It is imperative that Maliki should demand that President Obama demonstrate to the Iraqi public that the U.S. is against all types and forms of terrorism in Iraq and is willing to live up to its obligations to support Iraqi democratic transformation and sound institutions without interference in its domestic affairs. Abbas J. Ali is Professor and director, School of International management, Eberly College of Business and IT, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.