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
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
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
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
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