The Iraqi project, led by Britain and the US, is increasingly coming under fire from all directions.

While it is not a surprise to see outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speak about the devastating shortcomings of Iraq, it is somewhat unexpected to see a Donald Rumsfeld memo stating that US tactics in Iraq are “not working well enough” and that a shift in policy must ensue.

The revelation of the memo comes after both Human Rights Watch and a panel of UN experts criticized the Dujail trial of Saddam Hussein as being flawed and unfair. The UN panel even called the Hussein’s detention illegal. While the Dujail trial was not a direct consequence of US or British tactics — the former Iraqi leader was tried by the new Iraqi government — it does raise serious questions about an Iraqi democracy.

Ultimately, the Iraqi project’s goal was to bring democracy to the Middle East with Iraq as a starting point. And Iraq did get an electoral democracy with real elections and a real voter turnout. But democracy is more; it is fundamental for any democracy to have a judiciary that is independent and, in the end, fair. If Human Rights Watch is right in that Saddam Hussein did not receive a “fair trial” — and their report is quite compelling — then there’s a lot more work to be done in Iraq, in addition to ending the ongoing civil war in the country. It is imperative to address the problems with the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT), which has been scrutinized for its poor handling of the Dujail trial. If these current standards remain, then Iraq will not get past an electoral democracy and can easily slip back into totalitarianism.

A democracy is also about the ability of different factions to work in concert, despite differences. In that sense, Kofi Annan’s characterization of the ongoing conflict within Iraq as “much worse” than a civil war is quite alarming: the Iraqi project has actually destabilized the country, if one compares it to pre-occupation Iraq with violence rampant and not declining. Part of this could be US forces “not working well enough” as Rumsfeld’s memo states, but it’s also a question of choosing the right model of democracy. After all, Lebanon lived through years of civil war, until it came to a model that accommodated its Druze, Christian and Muslim parties. This does not mean that the current model in Iraq does not work; it just means that necessary adjustments must be made, and that elected officials like PM Maliki must be ready to work with opponents in order for the government (and democracy) to truly flourish.

Britain and the US will likely exit from Iraq within the next year and this may actually increase the likeliness of the success of an Iraqi democracy. Whether Britain or the US intend to or not, they are influencing the direction of Iraq’s democracy. And the democracy in Iraq is more likely to succeed if it is chosen and embraced by Iraqis themselves. With a British-US exit, on the surface, nothing may change, except a sense of ownership and a stake in the democracy, which is something hard to experience when your country is under occupation.

The biggest dilemma for the US right now is the civil war and what role the US will play in it, because by participating, the US will have to pick sides, and, once again, influence the direction of the democracy.

Dmitri Marine blogs onBlogue North.

Be Sociable, Share!