Special Reports
Maliki�s Iraq: The Khan ithan
By Abbas J. Ali
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 17, 2008, 00:19

Though their country is occupied and they are experiencing a frightening calamity, Iraqis have not lost their sense of humor or sanity. Burdened by the occupation and targeted by merciless enemies, the Iraqis, in their tacit way, tell their executioners, �You are able to kill us but you can never take away our dignity.� This is succinctly captured by their saying: �Are we Khan ithan?

This singular Iraqi saying reflects the reality of today�s Iraq. It also conveys a powerful political message. In Arabic, Khan denotes a stable and ithan means camels. Unlike horse stables, a camel�s Khan is characterized by chaos and an unusual level of noises and bickering. In particular, large, well fed camels randomly assault those that are weak and docile. The khan-keeper�s primary duties are to clean the mess at the end of the day while faithfully serving the new �sheriff� in town.

Though normalcy has become the exception in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, it is since the removal of Ibrahim al-Jafari as prime minister by the occupation authority and his replacement with Nouri Maliki that the Iraqis� fortunes have experienced a sharp downfall and patriotism has been completely prohibited. Currently, any expression of patriotism is treated with suspicion and is forcefully suppressed.

Indeed, since the invasion, the occupation-installed governments, without exception, have not missed any opportunities to show their gratitude to Washington, to the detriment of the welfare of Iraqis and the future of Iraq. Successive governments, in showing their indebtedness, have subcontracted the country�s security to Washington and appear to have completely abandoned their first obligation to protect their own people from continuous terroristic threats, foreign military bombardments to cities and communities, and the continuous violation of the Iraqi people�s basic rights across the country.

A couple of months ago, the Iraqi parliament approved a provincial election law which, according to many experts, will, if carried out without fraud this coming October, give grassroots organizations rather than the occupation-supported organizations a reasonable say in how the country should be run. This development, however, has alarmed the foreign-backed religious and tribal-based organizations; especially those which cannot survive without Washington�s support.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki understands that he is in race with time as presidential elections in the U.S. in November might bring to the White House a Democrat. Fearing that his group and allies are destined to lose power, he has determined to arrange the political scene in Iraq in a way that ensures the victory of the Washington-supported organizations and eventually pass the oil and partitioning laws, along with the secretly negotiated military agreement to colonize Iraq, while President Bush is still in office.

A major grassroots bloc in the parliament, the Sadrist, along with other patriotic organizations, have demanded transparency and openness and vehemently rejected any attempts to mortgage Iraq to any foreign power and foreign corporations. In mid March, in response to public frustration and disappointment with the inept government, these organizations called for demonstrations of civil disobedience to protest government killings, kidnappings, and intimidation of Iraqis who object to the colonization of Iraq.

This development has angered Maliki and his allies who answer only to Washington and who appear to think that the Iraqi public must be kept in the dark and ultimately suppressed. The Washington Post (March 25) reported that, in recent weeks, Iraqi forces supported by foreign troops have conducted large raids and arrests of Sadrists in cities across southern and central Iraq. This took place despite the fact that Iraqi resources need to be focused on eradicating terrorism and corruption and ending military occupation, instead of suppressing and eliminating popular voices and those whose loyalties are bound solely to their country.

Major media outlets and Iraqi television have provided pictures of the extent of the damage done in Basra and major Iraqi cities, including Baghdad and Kut. Thousands of people have lost their lives and are the victims of the occupiers� Hellfire missiles and bombs. The Los Angles Times (April 10) showed 2- to 6-year-old children, who were the target of Hellfire missiles and bombardments, hurried to hospitals in Baghdad. The New York Times (April 9) reported that bombardments of eastern Baghdad neighborhoods have �left many funeral tents around the district� while the Los Angeles Times (April 8) described people who �carried coffins and loaded them in trucks� for burial services.

The transformation of Iraq into a Khan Ithan is well reflected in the careless attitude and the apparent satisfaction of the Baghdad government to the slaughter of innocent Iraqis. In an interview with CNN (April 7), Maliki described the widespread destruction of lives and properties in Basra as a �lesson worth being taught in military academies.� Furthermore, Maliki argued that the assaults on inner cities and the destruction of houses are merely targeting �gangs . . . who receive funding from beyond the borders.� Children, women and elderly who have been slaughtered are projected as a necessary price to keep the occupation.

Maliki has insisted, too, that the Sadrist should not be allowed to participate in the elections without disbanding their militia. Other militias belonging to organizations that have an interest in maintaining the occupation (e.g., Badr, Pesh mergha, Dawa Party, Aakening, and the Islamic Party, etc.) are introduced as pillars for stability despite their engagement in corruption, fraud, and accusations made against them that they are responsible for widespread assassinations of Iraqis. The Beirut-based newspaper, alhayat, reported (April 8) that, since 2003, corruption has cost Iraq $250 billion and the main sources of corruption are the General Secretary Bureau of the Prime Minister and militias allied with the government.

These militias are treated as regulated units since their members receive salaries from their respective political parties and/or are recognized and financed by the occupation authority. In contrast, militias belonging to the Sadrist Movement are informal, have volunteer enlistment, are drawn from the poor segments of society who contribute whatever money they earn to the Movement, and are proud of their independence and commitment to a free, united, democratic Iraq.

Ironically, Maliki has utilized terminology often used by Saddam in rationalizing the killing of Iraqis (e.g., gangs, outlaws) and remarkably he has labeled his current operation against his own people as �Saulat al-Fursan� -- onslaughts of brave fighters. This medieval term was employed, too, by Saddam in his fight against those whom he considered a threat to his regime. Though there are similarities between these present and the past actions, Saddam assaulted Iraqis using his own forces to stay in power while Maliki is using forces with direct involvement of foreign troops to shed Iraqi blood in order to maintain the occupation.

In today�s Iraq�s Khan Ithan, patriots are chased and assassinated and decent Iraqis live as refugees in their own country, while thieves and intruders are honored. The source of legitimacy is no longer the consent of the people but the approval of the occupiers, and access to wealth and power depends on one�s willingness to subordinate Iraqi interests to foreign entities. In this Khan, liberty is denied, dignity is assaulted, and barbarism is rewarded.

Abbas J. Ali, Ph.D., is a professor and director in the School of International Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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