Saturday, June 19, 2004

more brutal laws

Billmon finds evidence that the hard line may be imminent.

Iraq's interim government yesterday said it was considering reviving emergency martial law powers from the Saddam Hussein era to combat a wave of violence that has killed nearly 200 people and paralyzed oil exports.

Malik Dohan al-Hassan, justice minister in the caretaker Iraqi government, said authorities may resort to "exceptional" laws imposed by the former dictator after it takes power on June 30.


Such a move would be welcome by Col. Haydar Abdul Rasool, an officer in the fledgling Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

Given the country's mounting security woes, Col. Rasool said he would recommend closing the nation's borders and giving police and soldiers a much freer hand to deal with wrongdoers on the street.

If Iraqi leaders follow through with the martial law idea, he just might get his way.

"Right now we can only open fire on people if they threaten us," the burly commander of 1,300 soldiers said in an interview. "We should have more freedom to act. We must have more brutal laws. The American laws are weak laws."


Col. Rasool, a no-nonsense military leader who was an officer during Saddam's rule, said he was looking forward to the day when he can set up checkpoints and dispatch patrols without coordinating with American troops or abiding by the Americans' rules of engagement.

It's not that there ever was a soft line. But note the word “no-nonsense”. Back during the cold war, our bad guys stood for no nonsense. They were also “impatient” Their bad guys were “brutal”. They were also “intolerant”. As Billmon notes, the new government is looking increasingly like a fairly standard issue CIA authoritarian lash up. The neocons fell at the first hurdle. They couldn’t even get a functioning government going, which cleared the way for the cynical realist tendency.

Political science question of the day: Is it necessary to end violence in Iraq in order to stage elections, or maintain a certain level of violence in order to “postpone” them, or at least drastically limit those allowed to run for office in them? Discuss.

Still, Iraqis can always vote with their feet.

Beyond the unsure political situation, I have spent the last few days helping a relative sort things out to leave abroad. It is a depressing situation. My mother's cousin is renting out his house, selling his car and heading out to Amman with his three kids where, he hopes, he will be able to find work. He is a university professor who has had enough of the current situation. He claims that he's tired of worrying about his family and the varying political and security crises every minute of the day. It's a common story these days. It feels like anyone who can, is trying to find a way out before June 30. Last summer, people who hadn't been inside of Iraq for years were clamoring to visit the dear homeland that had been 'liberated' (after which they would clamor to leave the dear homeland). This summer, it is the other way around.

The Syrian and Jordanian borders are packed. A friend who was returned at the Jordanian border said that they were only allowing 20 cars to pass per day... people were being made to wait on the borders for days at a time and risked being rejected at the border guard's whim. People are simply tired of waiting for normality and security. It was difficult enough during the year... this summer promises to be a particularly long one.