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[casi] From Riverbend

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Iraqi Governing Council...

I have to post this fast. The electrical situation has
been hellish today. There's no schedule… in our area
the electricity is on 30 minutes for every two hours
of no electricity. People suspect it's a sort of
punishment for what happened in Nassiryah this morning
and the bombings in Baghdad this last week. There were
also some huge explosions today- the troops got hit by
mortars, I think, and retaliated by bombing something.

Also, Mohammed Bahr Ul Iloom was shot at today. Bahr
Ul Iloom is one of the Shia clerics (a 'rotating
president') and the father of the Minister of Oil. He
was unharmed, it seems, but his driver is wounded.
While I'm sure Bahr Ul Iloom would love to blame it on
loyalists, Ba'athists and Al-Qaeda, the shots actually
came from American troops- it was a 'mistake'. Oops.

Bremer is currently in Washington, explaining why the
Governing Council are completely useless. The
Washington Post article on the diminishing popularity
of the Governing Council came as no surprise:

"The United States is deeply frustrated with its
hand-picked council members because they have spent
more time on their own political or economic interests
than in planning for Iraq's political future,
especially selecting a committee to write a new
constitution, the officials added."

I think it's safe to say that when you put a bunch of
power-hungry people together on a single council (some
who have been at war with each other), they're going
to try to promote their own interests. They are going
to push forward their party members, militias and
relatives in an attempt to root themselves in Iraq's

"Bremer noted that at least half the council is out of
the country at any given time and that at some
meetings, only four or five members showed up."

Of course they're outside of the country- many of them
don't have ties in it. They have to visit their
families and businesses in Europe and North America.
For some of them, it sometimes seems like the
"Governing Council" is something of an interesting
hobby- a nice little diversion in the monthly routine:
golf on Saturdays, a movie with the family in London
on Fridays, a massage at the spa on Tuesdays, and, oh
yes- nation-building for 5 minutes with Bremer on the
Xth of each month.

People here never see them. Most live in guarded
compounds and one never knows what country they are
currently in. For example, Chalabi is presently
missing. I haven't seen him on the news for… I don't
know how long. If anyone has seen him, please send an
email- I'm dying to know what he's up to.

I can imagine Bremer preparing for a meeting with the
pioneers of Iraqi democracy, the pillars of liberty…
the Iraqi Puppet Council. He strides in with his chic
suit, flowing hair and polished shoes (the yellow
nation-building boots are only for press conferences
and photo shoots in Iraqi provinces). He is all
anticipation and eagerness: today will be the day.
*This* meeting will be the productive meeting which
will make headlines.

He strides into the lavish room, Italian heels
clicking on the marble floor- there will be 25 faces
today. Twenty-five pairs of adoring eyes will follow
him around the room. Twenty-five pairs of eager ears
will strain to hear his words of wisdom. Twenty-five
faces will light up with… but where are the 25? He
stops in the middle of the room, heart sinking, ire
rising in leaps and bounds. Why are there only 5
unsure faces? Did he have the schedule wrong? Was this
the wrong conference room?!

And Bremer roars and rages- where are the Puppets?
Where are the marionettes?! How dare they miss yet
another meeting! But they all have their reasons,
Mr.Bremer: Talbani is suffering from indigestion after
an ample meal last night; Iyad Allawi is scheduled for
a pedicure in Switzerland this afternoon; Al-Hakim is
jetting around making covert threats to the Gulf
countries, and Chalabi says he's not attending
meetings anymore, he's left the country and will be
back when it's time for the elections…

People have been expecting this for some time now.
There's a complete and total lack of communication
between the Council members and the people- they are
as inaccessible as Bremer or Bush. Their speeches are
often in English and hardly ever to the Iraqi public.
We hear about new decisions and political and
economical maneuverings through the voice-overs of
translators while the Council members are simpering at
some meeting thousands of miles away.

We need *real* Iraqis- and while many may argue that
the Council members are actually real Iraqis, it is
important to keep in mind that fine, old adage: not
everyone born in a stable is a horse. We need people
who aren't just tied to Iraq by some hazy, political
ambition. We need people who have histories inside of
the country that the population can relate to. People
who don't have to be hidden behind cement barriers,
barbed wire and an army.

Their failure has nothing to do with attacks on troops
or terrorism. It has to do with the fact that many of
them are only recommendable because they were
apparently very good at running away from a difficult
situation- and running into the right arms. Another
problem is the fact that decent, intelligent people
with political ambition refuse to be a part of this
fiasco because everyone senses that the Governing
Council cannot do anything on its own. Bremer is the
head and he's only the tip of the iceberg- he
represents Washington.

A national conference is a good idea, but it will fail
as miserably as the Puppet Council, unless… there's a
timetable. The occupation forces need to set a
definite date saying, "We're going to begin pulling
out on *this* month, next year- let's get organized
before that." A timetable is vital to any progress, if
any is going to be made. Only then, will things begin
to move forward.

Prominent, popular politicians and public figures
don't want to be tied to American apron strings- this
includes lawyers, political scientists, writers, and
other well-known people. Not because they are American
apron-strings per se, but because this is an
occupation (by American admission, no less). No matter
how much CNN and the rest try to dress it up as a
liberation, the tanks, the troops, the raids, the
shootings (accidental or otherwise), and the Puppet
Council all scream occupation. If it were French, it'd
get the same resistance… just as if it were a Saudi,
Egyptian or Iranian occupation.

It is also vital that all interested political parties
be allowed to be a part of the national conference.
Any political conferences in the past have been
limited to American-approved political and religious
parties which have left a large number of political
groups outside of the circle- groups that have more
popular support. Furthermore, the conference can't be
run and organized by occupation forces (troops and the
CPA). If there's one thing Iraqis are good at- it's
organizing conferences. Why should vital political
decisions critical to Iraq's independence be made
under the watchful eyeball of an American Lieutenant
or General? Everyone wants a democratic Iraq, but that
just isn't going to happen if people constantly
associate the government with occupation.

Why should any Iraqi government have to be christened
and blessed by Bremer? He wasn't Iraqi, last time I

Juan Cole ( and Joshua
Marshall ( both have
some interesting things to say on the subject (they
both give some good links too).

- posted by river @ 2:35 AM

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