2005-11-25 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

Our Lackeys In Iraq
by Stuart W. Mirsky


Maureen Dowd, bless her heart, is back on duty at the New York Times and going after Bush just like old times (pardon the pun).

Her big complaint in her August 13th column was that the Bush administration was standing by while the Iraqis wrote a constitution that, she opined, will set women’s rights back by centuries through incorporation of Islamic religious law (Shariah).

There’s nothing like a little contradiction on the left when Bush is the prey.

Writing in Le Monde Diplomatique, a French periodical, academic historian Howard Zinn, another fervent anti-Bush, anti-war critic who yields nothing to Ms. Dowd in the vehemence of his opposition to Bush, offered his own slant on the administration’s role in the writing of the Iraqi constitution. The U.S., Zinn complained, was actually orchestrating the writing of a constitution in Iraq without regard to the interests, values, and needs of the Iraqis themselves.

Thus, he suggested, the U.S. is engaged in creating a puppet state while denying the Iraqis the freedom to genuinely govern themselves.

Likening our efforts in Iraq to past U.S. efforts in Cuba after the Spanish-American War, when we ousted Spain from that island, Zinn claimed that: “The US framed and imposed, with support from local accomplices, the constitution that would govern Cuba, just as it has drawn up, with help from local political groups, a constitution for Iraq. Not a liberation,” he added. “An occupation.”

Of course, incorporating the Moslem’s Shariah law into the Iraqi constitution, which was formally ratified by a substantial majority of eligible voters last month in Iraq, is, as Dowd points out, to create the exact opposite of the kind of constitution we have in our own country, where religion is relegated to the individual sphere and not to the state.

By no stretch of the imagination can it be suggested that this is the kind of clause that manyAmericans would like to see in the new Iraqi constitution.

Indeed, the administration has been roundly criticized for not intervening to prevent incorporation of the Shariah clause because its presence smacks of the kind of mullah-run theocracy they boast of over in neighboring Iran, a form of governance that would be anathema to our policy makers if implemented in Iraq.

Dowd, for her part, is certainly right to note that this is highly problematic for America since no open-minded American (not even those dastardly Republicans) could favor establishing Shariah law as the law of the land in Iraq, particularly since it so clearly sets back the rights of Iraqi women in terms of the standards we believe in.

Nevertheless, it IS their country and, as Zinn, implies, they ought to be free to draft their own constitution without interference from outsiders, right?

There’s no evidence Dowd embraces Zinn’s claim that the U.S. is orchestrating a false and somehow un-Iraqi constitution behind the scenes through the agency of what he calls “local accomplices” (though Dowd has, in the past, alleged that the U.S. was engaged in creating a “puppet” state in Iraq.)

Nor is their evidence Zinn is aware of, or prepared to embrace, Dowd’s current complaint, that the writers of the new Iraqi constitution are in charge of a runaway train intent on imposing religious law on a previously secular society. But both Dowd and Zinn are equally critical of the Bush administration in this particular, if for opposite reasons.

So what does this say about the coherence of the Left’s critique of administration policies in Iraq?

The Bush administration is criticized by one member of the American political Left, Howard Zinn, for allegedly manipulating Iraqis so they will produce a constitution that suits us, not them.

But, at the same time, it’s accused by another relentless Bush critic, Maureen Dowd, of not keeping the Iraqis from writing a constitution that suits them, not us.

Well, which is it? If they’re incorporating Shariah law as Dowd maintains, a bad thing, certainly, from the perspective of Western civil liberties, then they’re surely operating against our interests.

If, on the other hand, they’re under our influence as Zinn asserts in his piece, then it’s inconceivable that we’d allow them to incorporate Shariah law. So are they or aren’t they our lackeys?

It comes down to the same old thing, doesn’t it?

The Left’s criticism of the U.S. and the Bush administration is not based on facts but on an overwhelming need to criticize the president and his administration.

They’ll blame the Bush government for whatever happens (or is expected to happen) even if the claims on offer are inherently self-contradictory.

And now with the resurgence of a concentrated effort on the part of the Democratic Party to revive the old discredited charges of administration lies about the reasons for war again, with the mainstream media once more re-circulating the tale of Joe Wilson’s excellent adventure in Niger, the president’s approval numbers in recent polls have virtually collapsed.

The relentlessly negative, highly partisan campaign to change how Americans view this president seems to have struck a chord at last.

But, with the end game in sight and a national election barely a year away, Americans have to watch the cards on the table more closely than ever as they flit about in a cloudy blur of unreason and dissimulation under the fast fingers of the pundits, academics and politicians in Washington who have taken it upon themselves to re-shuffle the deck.

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