Rene -- Fisk -- So Much for Democracy - Iraqis Plan for Introduction of Martial Law -- 07.13.04
So Much for Democracy - Iraqis Plan for Introduction of Martial Law
by Robert Fisk
Thursday, July 8, 2004
The Star (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Iraq has introduced legislation allowing the Iraqi authorities to
impose martial law; curfews; a ban on demonstrations; the restriction
of movement; phone-tapping; the opening of mail; and the freezing of
These laws were announced yesterday by Iyad Allawi, Iraq's United
States-approved prime minister - 17 months after the Anglo-American
invasion in which President Bush promised to bring democracy to the
And, what's more, military leaders might be appointed to rule parts of
the nation, while a temporary reinstatement of Saddam's death penalty
is also now probable.
Already, therefore, Iraq has begun to look just like any other Arab
But the insurgency, which the laws are supposedly intended to break,
exploded in gunfire in the very centre of Baghdad just as the new
legislation was announced.
Incredibly, the fighting broke out in Haifa Street, one of the busiest
thoroughfares next to the Tigris River, as gunmen attacked Iraqi
US helicopter gunships, at roof-top level, could be seen firing
rockets at a building in the street, which burst into flames.
Bullets hissed across the Tigris and at least three soldiers - all
believed to be Iraqis - were killed close to the river bank.
Yesterday's violence in the capital was impossible to avoid. It began
with a series of mortar attacks on the walled-off area where
government officials live under American protection, with one of the
mortars falling close to Allawi's home - another exploding beside a
medical clinic close to his party headquarters.
The explosions echoed over the city. A bomb in a van, packed with
shrapnel and artillery shells, was defused close to the government
headquarters during the morning.
Many Iraqis might initially welcome the new laws. Security - or rather
the lack of it - has been their greatest fear since the American
military allowed thousands of looters to ransack Baghdad after last
They have, anyway, lived under harsh "security" laws for more than two
decades under Saddam. But the new legislation might be too late to
save Allawi's "new" Iraq.
For large areas of the country - including at least four major cities
- are now in the hands of insurgents.
Hundreds of gunmen are now believed to control Samara north of
Fallujah and Ramadi - where four more US marines were killed on
Tuesday - are now virtually autonomous republics.
Bakhityar Amin, Iraq's new "minister of justice and human rights" - a
combination of roles unheard of anywhere else in the world - was
chosen to announce the martial law legislation.
"The lives of the Iraqi people are in danger - in danger from evil
forces, from gangs and from terrorists," he said. "We realize this law
might restrict some liberties, but there are a number of
guarantees. We have tried to guarantee justice and human rights."
But there, of course, is the rub. Martial law is being introduced by
an unelected government in the interests of "democracy".
And if, as many Iraqis believe, the continued presence of a vast
American army lies behind the violence, then US military support for
the harsh new laws will only fuel the insurgency.