Iraq, the 51st state

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Posted by andreas from ( on Thursday, March 20, 2003 at 11:17AM :

The Guardian (UK)

Iraq, the 51st state

Engel in America

Matthew Engel
Wednesday March 19, 2003
The Guardian

Now that war is finally upon us, we must all hope or (if we share our
leaders' piety) pray that, within a matter of days, the thing is done with,
the Iraqi people will be free of their oppressor and able to enjoy the
benefits of American-style democracy. Here is a brief reprise of some of
the changes they can expect if the US decides to give Iraq a facsimile of
its own highly regarded system.

1. At present, according to the official website of the Iraqi National
Assembly ("a major organ for the expression of democracy") the 250 members
are elected by blocs of 50,000 voters throughout the country. This suggests
the outline principle is the same as in the US. However, the American
constitution demands that the 600,000 inhabitants of its own capital city
should not be allowed to take part in this process. The reasons are so
obvious that no one can remember what they are, but most of those affected
are poor and black, anyway. To ensure true devotion to US principles, the
same will have to apply in Iraq; doubtless the Americans will break the
news to the people of Baghdad tactfully.

2. In Iraq's last presidential election, Saddam Hussein received 100% of
the votes, a fact we know because officials said so. Instead, the Iraqis
can expect a choice between two different American electoral models, either
(a) the one employed in Florida in 2000, designed to ensure that the
candidate with the most support loses, or (b) the modern version, as
applied in more advanced states, where people vote on touch-screen
computers. No one has yet got 100% of the votes by this method but
Republican senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska did get 83%. We know this
because the company that built the machines - which he part-owns - said so.

3. Under various decrees of the revolutionary command council, capital
punishment can be handed out cruelly and whimsically in Iraq for a wide
variety of offences. Guilt or innocence is irrelevant. This is reported
only by a few outside human rights bodies. This would cease under an
American-installed system. Instead, executions would be largely confined to
black murderers, most of whom will probably be guilty, accused of murdering
whites and too poor to afford a decent lawyer. This will be reported only
by a few outside human-rights bodies.

4. Under decree 59 of 1994, Iraqis can lose their right hand for theft of
more than 5,000 dinars and their left foot for a second offence. This will
presumably be replaced by the three-strikes law, ratified this month by the
supreme court, under which Leandro Andrade has been jailed for 50 years for
stealing nine videos and Gary Ewing got 25 years to life for the theft of
three golf clubs.

5. Any Iraqi journalist thought likely to ask Saddam Hussein a difficult
question is now subject to the dictates of paragraph 3. The American way
(as seen during the presidential press conference two weeks ago) provides
for such people to be stuck at the back of the room and simply not called.

6. Saddam has been universally seen firing his gun indiscriminately and
menacingly. Under the second amendment, this right would be extended to

7. Saddam has conducted unnecessary and aggressive foreign wars to distract
his benighted people from domestic economic collapse. Such behaviour would
be unthinkable under American democracy.

8. Under Saddam, prisoners are held secretly and without trial, and
tortured to extract information. Ditto.

9. The Iraqi system is largely dynastic and a leader like Saddam can pave
the way for his son to attain wealth and power without regard to merit.
Same again.

10. Saddam "electronically bugged" UN weapons inspectors, President Bush
said in his speech on Monday night. The US has not yet tried to refute the
Observer story that it bugged private meetings of other security council
members. It's probably too busy to dignify it with an answer.

11. Saddam has also threatened his neighbours. A well-placed source in
Chile reports that Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, informed
the Chilean foreign minister that, if they didn't do as they were told in
the security council, their free trade treaty would not be ratified and
loans would mysteriously cease. One small example.

12. The National Assembly's system of passing legislation has proved
inadequate. Things are different here. When a Georgia congress man slipped
in an exemption to organic food labelling rules into a recent bill to
protect a firm that gave him a $4,000 campaign donation, it was noticed and
criticised. True, the bill was already law before this happened, because no
one in Congress had bothered to read it. But the US will ensure that the
new legislature cannot be bought secretly for long. At least not that

13. There will be no setting fire to oil wells. We need that stuff, dammit.

14. It would be impossible for a war to be conducted solely because one
domineering leader forced a cowed and compliant parliament into agreement.

The new Iraq will be nothing like that. It could only happen in Britain.

-- andreas
-- signature .

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