Iraq’s fig leaf constitution

WHO LOST IRAQ? Someday, as a fragmented Iraq spirals further into religious madness, terrorism and civil war, there will be a bipartisan inquiry into this blundering intrusion into another people’s history. The crucial question will be why a “preemptive” American invasion -- which has led to the deaths of nearly 2,000 Americans, roughly 10 times as many Iraqis, the expenditure of about $200 billion and incalculable damage to the United States’ global reputation -- has had exactly the opposite effect predicted by its neoconservative sponsors. No amount of crowing over a fig leaf Iraqi constitution by President Bush can hide the fact that the hand of the region’s autocrats, theocrats and terrorists is stronger than ever.

“The U.S. now has to recognize that [it] overthrew Saddam Hussein to replace him with a pro-Iranian state,” said regional expert Peter W. Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and an advisor to the Iraqi Kurds. And, he could have added, a pro-Iranian state that will be repressive and unstable.

Think this is an exaggeration? Consider that arguably the most powerful Shiite political party and militia in today’s Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its affiliated paramilitary force, the Badr Brigade, was not only based in Iran but was set up by Washington’s old arch-foe, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It also fought on the side of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war and was recognized by Tehran as the government in exile of Iraq.

Or that former exile Ahmad Chalabi is now one of Iraq’s deputy prime ministers. The consummate political operator managed to maintain ties to Iran while gaining the devoted support of Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, charming and manipulating Beltway policymakers and leading U.S. journalists into believing that Iraq was armed with weapons of mass destruction.


Chalabi is thrilled with the draft constitution, which, if passed, will probably exponentially increase tension and violence between Sunnis and Shiites. “It is an excellent document,” said Chalabi, who has been accused by U.S. intelligence of being a spy for Iran, where he keeps a vacation home.

What an absurd outcome for a war designed to create a compliant, unified and stable client state that would be pro-American, laissez-faire capitalist and unallied with the hated Iran. Of course, Bush tells us again, this is “progress” and “an inspiration.” Yet his relentless spinning of manure into silk has worn thin on the American public and sent his approval ratings tumbling.

Even supporters of the war are starting to realize that rather than strengthening the United States’ position in the world, the invasion and occupation have led to abject humiliation: from the Abu Ghraib scandal, to the guerrilla insurgency exposing the limits of military power, to an election in which “our guy” -- Iyad Allawi -- was defeated by radicals and religious extremists.

In a new low, the U.S. president felt obliged to call and plead with the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, Abdelaziz Hakim, to make concessions to gain Sunni support. Even worse, he was summarily rebuffed. Nevertheless, Bush had no choice but to eat crow and like it.

“This is a document of which the Iraqis, and the rest of the world, can be proud,” he said Sunday, through what must have been gritted teeth. After all, this document includes such democratic gems as “Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation,” and “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam,” as well as socialist-style pronouncements that work and a decent standard of living are a right guaranteed by the state. But the fact is, it could establish Khomeini’s ghost as the patron saint of Iraq and Bush would have little choice but to endorse it.

Even many in his own party are rebelling. “I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur,” said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel last week, one of a growing number of Republicans who get that “we should start figuring out how we get out of there.”

Not that our “what-me-worry?” president is the least bit troubled by all this adverse blowback from the huge, unnecessary gamble he took in invading the heart of the Arab and Muslim worlds. “What is important is that the Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion, not at the barrel of a gun,” Bush said.

Wrong again, George. It was the barrel of your gun that midwifed the new Iraq, which threatens to combine the instability of Lebanon with the religious fanaticism of Iran.