Anyone interested in Iraq’s new Constitution would be
advised to check out the film “Return to the Land of
Wonders,” which focuses on the crafting of Iraq’s
interim Constitution in the Spring of 2004. The
documentary was shot by Maysoon Pachachi, the daughter
of 82-year-old secular businessman Adnan Pachachi, a
former Foreign Minister of Iraq who had spent more
than 30 years in exile before the US military ousted
Over the opening credits filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi
explains her father returned to Iraq thinking “his
experience as a diplomat and one-time Foreign Minister
might be useful.”
He “had been against the invasion and occupation Iraq,
but they had happened,” she says. “This was now the
reality he had to deal with. He agreed to be a member
of the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council.”
Once in Baghdad, the Pachachis set up shop in a large
house guarded by members of their tribe. As a member
of the Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi heads up the
drafting committee for the interim Constitution. But
he’s hamstrung by the American authorities who have
final say on what goes into the document.
“There were often heated exchanges between U.S.
representatives and members of the (Iraqi) drafting
committee,” the filmmaker observers. “The committee
would try to get the best deal for Iraqis in a
situation where they had no real power.”
Pachachi’s main concern is that Iraq’s Constitution
contain a comprehensive bill of rights, but this is
not popular with his American overlords. The US
government demands that American soldiers in Iraq be
exempt from Iraqi law and its bill of rights.
“We can’t agree that a foreign power will not be bound
by our laws rights here in Baghdad,” argues Pachachi’s
lawyer Faisal Istrabadi in one marathon session,
concerned that the US military will carry out warrant
less searches with indefinite arrests without charge
and no right to a speedy trial – all under the nose of
Iraqi authorities whose Constitution specifically
forbids such acts.
Istrabadi becomes exasperated. “Who are we trying to
fool?!,” he rants. “Why say we are a sovereign
government?! Just say we’re an occupation country. Let
them rule us from Washington.”
Outside the Pachachi compound, arrests are taking
place that underscore Istrabadi’s concerns. Maysoon
Pachachi braves a sandstorm to visit a veterinary
doctor named Abu Ahmed. Under Saddam’s regime, he the film-maker says, he was arrested and tortured. This had repeated under American occupation.
On May 15, 2003, the veterinarian says, he and his son
were traveling through Baghdad when they saw 20 or 30
American soldiers holding two men face down on the
ground hand-cuffed. They stopped to talk to the
soldiers. When the Americans found a pistol in his
car, they detained him, promising to release him the
next day. Instead he was taken, without being charged,
to Abu Ghraib.
The situation at Abu Ghraib was so bad that Abu Ahmed
went on hunger strike. “There was a bigger issue at
stake,” he says.“Our freedom.”
When the detention dragged on, Abu Ahmed says, the
prisoners began chanting “We want our freedom, we want
our human rights.” In response to the chanting, he
says, US soldiers fired live ammunition from five
directions simultaneously. A small child standing next
to him was killed. No American soldiers were punished.
Abu Ahmed’s story seems even more poignant as the Constitutional drafting process continues. A few weeks later the interim Constitution is finished with a bill of rights inside. But the U.S. military continues to ignore the Governing Council and the interim Constitution launching a massive assault on the city of Fallujah that killing so many Iraqi civilians that the municipal football stadium had to be turned into a graveyard for the dead.
Pachachi decries the attack “It is not right to punish
all the people of Fallujah” to stop a few terrorists,
he says: “We consider these operations by the
Americans unacceptable and illegal.”
But Pachachi’s condemnation and those of his
colleagues on the Governing Council do nothing to stop
the American assault. By the time the film ends
Pachachi has left Iraq entirely. The final scene is an interview in London’s Hyde Park. In it, Pachachi says he was offered the Presidency of Iraq, but turned it down because he wouldn’t have had the power to stop American assaults like the bombing of Fallujah.
“I believe I would not have lasted,” he says. “There
are many people who have a tremendous hunger for
power. They will do anything to disrupt the process to
keep whatever power they have. We have to work against
Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author
of the new book "How America Lost Iraq"
(Tarcher/Penguin). More information at