29 February 2004

The U.S. Is Brewing Up a Disaster for the Kurds

The plan of L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. civilian administrator, will not fly, except perhaps in Arab Iraq. The reason is that Iraq is not one nation but at least two. Some Arabs on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council are making a deal with the Coalition Provisional Authority. Nothing surprising about that, but the deal would be at the expense of the Kurds and of Iraq's other nation, the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan. It would sacrifice secular principles, women's rights and meaningful federalism, so Americans should pay close attention to what is being done in their name.

The proposed Iraqi transitional administrative law is the 'Pachachi' draft. Quotation marks are needed because its authors - a nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim, and an advisor to Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni and a member of the Governing Council - mostly transcribed, word for word, passages from Bremer's papers.

The draft is no home-grown interim constitution that can subsequently be blamed on the natives. It was composed via the White House - and betrays the promises made by President Bush to the Kurdish leaders who organized the sole indigenous military support for the liberation of Iraq.

The Pachachi draft would create a 'federation' far more centralized than what we have in the United States, reflected in its persistent use of 'central' to refer to the interim government. It would make federal law supreme in all matters the central government deems within its sphere. So much for states' rights. It would make Kurdistan a subordinate level of government - not a co-equal partner in a voluntary union. It would give the central government exclusive competence in security, military and defense matters (ignoring Kurdistan's determination to have its own national guard). The central government also would control natural resources and determine fiscal, monetary and wage policies. It would eliminate Kurdistan's judiciary and prevent separate judiciaries in the federation's units. Imagine California having no separate state judges.

I'm almost tempted to offer a prize for a political arrangement less likely to succeed. That may well be why the CPA is promoting it. We wouldn't , would we, want an effective and democratic government in Iraq. They might ask us to leave.

And, remember, that (except for Kurds and Shi'ites) no one can now doubt the word of America.

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