Monday, November 28, 2005

Iraq then and now -- the abuse continues

Make of this what you will. I'll just report it as is:

Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein if not worse, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has said.

"People are doing the same as (in) Saddam's time and worse," Allawi said in an interview published in Britain on Sunday.

"It is an appropriate comparison," Allawi told The Observer newspaper. "People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things."

The "same things"? Well, some of them, perhaps -- the torture of Iraqis by Iraqis, for example. But has there been anything resembling organized genocide? Have entire communities been gassed? Is this post-Saddam regime, however flawed, a regime of terror? Surely not.

Nonetheless, Allawi is surely onto something. He may overstate the case, and he may have an ax to grind, but abuse is a reality in present-day Iraq -- and I don't mean Abu Ghraib-style abuse. And what concerns me, given this ongoing abuse, is that Iraqis will soon have to govern themselves without the large-scale presence of an occupying power. Are they prepared to do so without sliding back into Saddam-style oppression?

Recently, thanks to the latest White House spin, all the focus has been on whether or not Iraqis will be ready to protect and police themselves upon a staggered U.S. withdrawal through 2006 and 2007. But what of this, according to Allawi: "We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated... A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them."

The state of Iraqi security forces notwithstanding, is this the Iraq that the U.S. will leave behind -- an Iraq that all-too-closely resembles what it was under Saddam?

If so, shouldn't President Bush himself be held to account?

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