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July 11, 2004 - Amnesty for the Bad Guys? Martial Law for the Good Guys? Whatever.

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The week started with the controversial idea floated by the new government of Iraq that perhaps it would be wise to grant amnesty to the “insurgents” fighting there right now – not all of them, but at least the small-fry.  The idea was to divide “the opposition,” so to speak.

The new Tito-lite fellow running the place, former CIA terrorist operative Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, now seems to be backing off the idea.  Jack Straw, the UK foreign minister, and Australia have no problem with it.

American popular opinion, from what I see on the talk shows and in the papers, runs the other way.  They killed our guys who were just there to free them all from Saddam Hussein.  It’s an insult.  Ungrateful bastards!  And everyone knows you kill the bad guys.  Amnesty?  What for?

Our government is silent.  It’s the Iraqis’ show now?  Sovereignty and all that.

Special Case: Would Muqtada al-Sadr get amnesty? He’s wanted for murder and Bush pledged to “get him and bring him to justice” – and to get his pesky private militias.  The words of one angry Texan, armed, big time, are not to be taken lightly.  (Bush has been working on that steely Clint Eastwood glare.)

And now Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement calling the new interim Iraqi government "illegitimate" and pledging to resist "oppression and occupation.”

Dicey stuff.


The MAN (Bush) says this bad guy is going DOWN, but the deputy sheriff (Allawi) says, well, maybe not.  We could pull him in and make him a partner.

The bad guy (al-Sadr) just laughs and calls them both fools – and plans to go on being a pain in the ass.

Of course if you check this item you will discover that al-Sadr's spokesman “clarified” his “recent militant statements.”  Mahmud al-Sudani (the spokesman) said that Muqtada is still committed to a truce and would only work against this here caretaker government “non-violently.”

Ah!  You see Muqtada al-Sadr has in the past offered to distinguish between the Allawi government and the US troops, and offered to offer to support Allawi if he would set a firm timetable for a US withdrawal.  Operating theory here?  Those big, bad threats are aimed at aimed at shoring up his base of support – the folks who really don’t want us there.  Yeah, the Allawi government had considered offering an amnesty to Sadr and his lieutenants, but postponed it Monday until it could clarify whether the fellow was still committed to violence.  He said he was.  His spokesman said he wasn’t.

Keep ‘em guessing.  Keep ‘em guessing.

And about this murder charge… Al-Sadr is wanted for the 10 April 2003 assassination of rival cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, a charge he denies. The hapless other cleric was stabbed to death in the central Shia city of Najaf, along with two other people.  See this for details.  No one says al-Sadr actually stabbed the guy, but he may have been part of conspiracy to do that, or known of a conspiracy to do that.  Or should have known of a conspiracy to do that.  Or something.  The charges we lodged by the previous Coalition Provisional Authority - the guys we so carefully picked.  Gone now.  The new government, which we only indirectly picked, may or may not be legally required to maintain the original charges.  Unclear.

So what?  Now the interim government of this Allawi guy is taking a significant step in imposing its authority by drafting an emergency law, titled The Law for Defense of National Safety.

Damn that sounds familiar.

Over at SLATE.COM you will find quick reviews of the international press.  And one sees there that according to Lebanon's Daily Star (they got a copy of the new law) the new government has hesitated to pass the legislation, "because of concerns that it grants Allawi too much power."  The prime minister will be able to declare martial law in certain parts of Iraq or nationwide, though he would need Cabinet approval for the former, and Cabinet and presidential approval for the latter.  Once martial law is declared, the emergency law would allow Allawi to: "Take command over all police, intelligence, army and other security forces in that area … Create special civilian courts for people accused of 'major crimes' …  Appoint civilian or military administrators in areas under martial rule.  Release any defendant from custody …  Monitor—and restrict—mail, telegrams and wireless communications in affected areas.  Freeze the assets of anybody accused of crimes that undermine national security, as well as those who are accused of providing shelter, funding and other assistance to suspected insurgents."

Ah, yep.

The July 7 BBC item on this has some interesting quotes.

"The lives of the Iraqi people are in danger, they are in danger from evil forces, from gangs of terrorists," said Human Rights Minister Bakhtiyar Amin.

Iraqi officials introducing the new law said people should be protected in the current climate of violence.

Mr Amin described the law as being similar to the controversial US anti-terror Patriot Act.

They are learning.  Evil forces!  They’re getting the idea now.

There is GOOD – and then there is EVIL.  George wins.

More to follow…

But Rick, the News Guy, says not be alarmed –


Have to admit it, but I'm with them on this one.

As much as we may actually be under threat by someone who might want to blow themselves up along with some average-sized U.S. city, we still don't have "insurgents" doing to us on a daily basis what they're doing to them. 


It's definitely a lose-lose, damned if you do or don't situation over there, and the only way the Iraqis who want neither a theocracy nor a return to the previous Baathocracy have a chance of overcoming this is if they do this themselves.


If I were a religious dude, I'd say my prayers are with them, but all I can say is that I wish them the very best.


Agreed, and the Patriot Act, or their version of it, is probably necessary right now.


I don’t see our Patriot Act being necessary over here, now.  Secretly tracking what we all check out from the library or rent from Blockbuster?  Calling people enemy combatants and making them disappear for years with no explanation to anyone?


Maybe such things really are necessary in Baghdad.


Well, no one has blown up Hollywood so maybe such things really are working here.  And maybe real martial law, formal suspension of habeas corpus and canceling the November elections would make things even safer over here.   We’re edging toward the first two.


I don’t like it.  But since I’m still alive, I guess I could be wrong.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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