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Iraq: A Constitution Without Freedom
Published on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 by
Iraq: A Constitution Without Freedom
by Aaron Glantz
When Iraq’s elected leaders approve their country’s new Constitution next week, will it make any difference in the lives of the Iraqi people?

I doubt it -- The Bush Administration rarely pays attention to what the Iraqi people want and has little respect for Iraq’s elected leadership.

Take, for example, the Iraqi Interim Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Since much of Iraq’s current political leadership had been imprisoned without charge under Saddam’s regime, the drafters of Iraq’s temporary constitution made sure to include universal human rights in their document.

For example, the interim constitution guarantees all Iraqis the right to a “public hearing” and a “fair and open trial.” The interim document also specifically forbids military tribunals: “Civilians may not be tried before a military tribunal,” the document reads. “Special courts may not be established.”

And yet, more than two years after the initial invasion, more than 10,000 Iraqi’s are held prisoner by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. These so-called “security detainees” get no lawyer and never face any formal charges. All they get is a twice annual secret U.S. military review, which is designed to find out whether prisoners will be a threat when they’re released. All this in contravention of Iraqi law.

No respect, I tell you.

This lack of respect extends even to the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq where relations between the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities have generally been good. But the moment something out of the ordinary happens, the lack of respect is palpable.

On July 14th, two corporate contractors based outside the Kurdish capital, Arbil, opened fire on Ayez Ismail, a member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, and his brother Ari, simply because their car was traveling nearby a convoy escorted by a private security detail.

When Kurdish authorities demanded the Bush Administration turn over the contractors for Iraqi prosecution, the Embassy refused.

"This isn't the first time such an incident happened," Arbil’s police chief Farhad Salim complained.

“Around a month ago, Americans opened fired a Volkswagen car on the 100 meters road of Arbil,” Kurdish journalist Mohammed Amin Abdulqadir wrote me. “Sometimes they open fire at people randomly without knowing who they are targeting.”

In January, the U.S. military sent helicopter gun-ships at a student dormitory in Arbil. First they fired bullets at the dormitory, and then they launched four rockets. One of the rockets hit the electricity generator on top of the dorm, which exploded in a giant fireball.

The U.S. military apologized for the attack admitting the only people in the dorm were students studying for their exams, but the attack left an open wound between the American military and Kurdish authorities over the issue of respect.

"You should ask them why they came here," Director-General of the Ministry of the Interior in the Kurdistan Regional Government, Tariq Gardi told me at the time. "Because when they came here they found nothing. If there is any terror network in Arbil, we would be the first to know about it, not the Americans. If they share information with us we will cooperate with them. We will help them and we will get their target, but they didn't cooperate with us and they came with three helicopters and they didn't achieve anything."

The issue here is respect. Until the Bush Administration learns to respect the will of the Iraqi people, it won’t matter what they write in their Constitution. What matters is respect on the ground.

Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the new book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). More information at


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