Why Canada should stay out of Iraq

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There are several good arguments why it is not worth risking even a single Canadian life to help America’s military clean up after their ill-advised assault on Iraq.

For one thing, we Canadians certainly don’t need the additional risk of subjecting our soldiers to unnecessary injury or death due to more American “friendly fire,” as happened in Afghanistan. Even if our American friends weren’t so trigger-happy, we would still have to put up with their arrogant we-know-better attitude, and play our post-war role by George W. Bush’s rules.

Yes, we did offer $100 million to help rebuild the country, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the billions it will take for years on end to bring life back to a semblance of normality for 22 million Iraqis. The true cost of this humanitarian and cultural debacle should be borne by those who created it and who stand to reap the greatest benefits. For Iraq, once a prosperous and resource-rich nation, needs more than mere hand-outs.

The matter is clear and straightforward. Iraq is an occupied country, the captured “prize” of George Bush and Tony Blair’s Anglo-American coalition. They are now responsible for its interim civilian administration and the court of international public opinion will be watching the process with a hypercritical eye.

But where will they start amid such a horrendous political, cultural, and infrastructural mess? America lost no time in securing Iraq’s oil fields and taking over the Ministry of Petroleum in Baghdad for its own economic benefit. The British embassy was also secured of course, but not the German.

Yet did anyone think to protect essential services like Iraqi hospitals, power plants and water treatment stations? And what about the numerous Iraqi schools, universities, and museums that have been ransacked and looted beyond repair?

American forces sat on the sidelines while Arabs and Kurds killed one another in the North. Then they bombed and killed supposed Kurdish “terrorists” while helping “moderate” Kurds loot the captured city of Mousel. What kind of “responsibility” or “security” is this?

Most Iraqi senior bureaucrats are members of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. So are an estimated six million teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, religious leaders, labour union leaders, journalists and professors — because it was impossible to obtain any skilled or professional work without being a party member, like it or not. Who has the knowledge and skill now to determine how many of those potential six million would be security risks in a new interim American-run civil administration? Alternatively, if the U.S. moves to bring back exiled Iraqis from abroad to help it run the country, these transplanted people with their absorbed western culture and ambitions, will not be trusted by Iraqi nationals who toughed it out under Saddam for so long.

The recent assassination of the Shi’ite Imam, Abdulmaged Al-Kho’e and his aide in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf will doubtless have far-reaching political implications, for Imam Al-Kho’e was an Iraqi-born British citizen brought from London by the Anglo-American coalition as a potential civilian leader. In theory, he should have been eagerly accepted by the country’s Shi’ia population: he was a native Iraqi, he was a prominent Imam, and he’d been a respected leader before fleeing from the brutal Saddam regime.

Tragically, it was all just a theory — an American-made theory offered up to Washington by some think-tank that callously proposed using one man’s life as a human bandage for too big a wound. And Washington was only too willing to sacrifice him..

Now Washington has to swallow a different, and increasingly bitter message. Iraqis are rejecting Iraqi-born American and British citizens who are being plugged into gaps left by the American-led occupation of their country, while existing Sunni and Shi’a opposition parties within Iraq are upset that the Americans have so far not invited them to help organize and lead an interim government.

And only hours after the assassination of Al-Kho’e, the main Iraqi Shi’ite opposition group declared it would boycott a political meeting Washington is trying to arrange in the southern city of Nassariya , because of the overwhelming U.S. military presence.

“We are not going to take part in this meeting in Nassariya. We think this is part of General Garner’s rule of Iraq and we are not going to be part of that project at all,” said Hamid al-Bayati, the London representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Bayati explained SCIRI’s objection to U.S. plans for an interim authority, saying “We could be part of an Iraqi government but we can’t be part of a military rule over the country,” he said. “So they must leave as soon as possible. I am thinking of weeks rather than months,” he added.

But it could take even longer for Anglo-American coalition administrators to sort out Iraq’s convoluted post-Saddam mess and set a devastated and ill-prepared population back on track toward independence and autonomy. Perhaps then there will be a place “on the ground” for Canadian diplomatic and infrastructural skills. Perhaps America will get tired of being the sandbox bully and let more people in who really know what they’re doing. Until then, Iraq is not a very safe place for people who want to do some longterm good for the country.

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