Political Liberty in Iraq

|

Demonstrating for Saddam is right out, as this Iraqi teenager profiled in Slate learned. He and some school buddies were dragged out of school by nearly a hundred soldiers and taken into custody for allegedly attending a pro-Saddam rally back shortly after his regime fell. An excerpt:

"They [the American soldiers] are civil in a way," Ibrahim said. "They are afraid of the situation here, and that's why they behave badly." But he is not intimidated by them. His family has seen plenty of American injustice. His father (something to do with the former government, though exactly what Ibrahim wouldn't say) has been detained three times, his uncle twice. His cousin was shot in the leg at an American checkpoint when he didn't understand what the soldier was shouting. His grandmother had three and a half kilos of gold and an heirloom diamond necklace taken during a nighttime raid on her house. All run-of-the-mill, unverifiable stories of the kind I have heard many times.

The Americans questioned Ibrahim and the others and determined that they were just schoolboys protesting; there had been no particular resistance involvement.

"I would have preferred not to have done it," said Lt. Col. Quintas, while acknowledging that the operation at the school had been undertaken on his initiative, "But they need to understand that they are not allowed to do this and that there are consequences."

And yes, I saw the part where the kid seems to admire Hitler.

NEXT: Get the 'Nac

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t see this as a “political liberty in Iraq story” – more of a “another teenager who needs his ass kicked” story. (sorry for the fascist sense of humor)

    Speaking of liberty (or lack of), think of the trouble he’d be in if he made his pro-Hitler comments in Germany…

  2. Doesn’t seem like winning hearts and minds — if we treat them no better than black school children in south carolina how are they going to be won over?

  3. You still aren’t allowed to demonstrate in favor of Hitler in Germany.

    So what’s your point?

  4. In France they’re thinking of banning headscarves in school. Muslim girls are stocking up on headscarves and standing up to the government.

    In Iran women are required to wear headscarves, and they’re angry as all hell.

    What better way to stoke the Batthist remnants than to ban teenagers from going to pro-Saddam rallies?

    If George Bush wore a Che Guevara t-shirt then rebellious US teens would burn the Che t-shirts.

    The point of these ramblings? Arresting teenagers for anything other than theft, violence, or vandalism simply encourages more of them to do whatever you arrested them for.

  5. It is hard to see this as a big deal. Iraq IS under martial law– a curious sort of martial law, that permits nearly unlimited freedom of press, expression and association, unprecedented anywhere else in the Arab world. Iraqis already enjoy a degree of liberty yet to be achieved in any other Arab society.

    I would guess that a logical place to look for insurgents would be among attendees at a pro-Saddam rally. It won’t be that easy, but it would be a curious policy not to check, don’t you think?

  6. What better way to stoke the Batthist remnants than to ban teenagers from going to pro-Saddam rallies?

    The “if you ban it you only make it seem cooler” thing works for rock music and drugs. I’m disinclined to think it works for fascist dictatorship.

    Anyway, these aren’t random kids experimenting with a radical ideology to shock and annoy their parents. These are the children of Hussein’s secret police. They’re cheering for Saddam because Saddam was their sugar daddy.

    These aren’t “black school children in south carolina”, as SMA said. They’re the kids of the Bull Connors and George Wallaces, bitching about “Martin Luther Coon” and his outside agitators.

  7. Andrew,

    You’ve obviously never been to the UAE or Bahrain.

  8. teenager who earned rebel status

    A 16-year old has the werewithal to make an assessment of the situation in Iraq? He wasn’t even a toddler during the Halabja massacre. He was about 4 years old when Hussein invaded Kuwait. All of the sudden we’re supposed to take this kid as some kind of rebel hero? Please. He’s a silly, indoctrinated child.

    “Is this American democracy?”

    In our own country, kids get lined up at gunpoint against hallway walls over drugs. So yes, Mr. Hamzi, this is American democracy.

    These people are not pissed over losing their sovereignty. They’re pissed at not being the party in power.

  9. Hmmm… doesn’t go to school regularly, doesn’t care to study, child of privilege in the former regime. In Saddam’s day, this would be a perfect recruit to beat, rape, torture, and kill. Now he’s going to end up considerably lower on the societal food chain.

    My heart bleeds… NOT!

    What they were doing was the equivalent of demonstrating for Lee Harvey Oswald a week after the assassination of JFK. It was disgusting and evil and inexcusable.

    On the other hand, I think that it was not handled very well by the US commander. He could have used some advice from a juvie officer from Detroit or NYC. These kids are the iraqi equivalent of Beverly Hills delinquents.

  10. I don’t think denying the children of Jim Crow their freedom of speech was ever considered. Had that been done it would have set the civil rights movement back years.

    The reason it was never considered is that post-Civil-War South wasn’t even remotely as bad as Hussein’s regime. Has Bull Connor’s approach to civil rights protesters been to gather them all up, shoot them, and throw them into mass graves,
    violating the rights of the mass murderers in question would have been both productive and desirable.

    We banned the Nazi party in post-WW2 Germany, and various nationalistic groups in post-WW2 Japan. It didn’t set us back years; available evidence suggests that it (a) sped up the process and (b) helped substantially purge the society of negative tendencies.

    Was it a violation of those people’s rights to deny them freedom of speech and freedom of assembly? Sure. But, hm… how to phrase this… I don’t care?

    The right of fascists to “peacefully” assemble is one I’ll get around to defending after more important rights are secure. Like my own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 🙂

  11. rst-

    You’re right, he is a silly indoctrinated child. And I want him to be seen as such. But when American soldiers show up at his high school because he went to a rally, now he looks like somebody who is defying authority, or at least he’ll look that way in the eyes of a lot of teenagers.

    How much you want to bet that after his arrest, in Baghdad some teenagers were saying to each other “Yeah, he’s a total prick, but just because he went to a rally doesn’t mean they should arrest him. That’s not cool. It’s not like he did anything.”

    Judging from the article, he sounds even more arrogant now that the Americans arrested him and then released him. He probably showed up at school the next day bragging about how he defied them, and he probably used the story to impress some cute freshman girls. All in all, not the desired result.

  12. Rick, they should not demote that soldier. They should have him do a soldier’s job, not a high school headmaster’s.

    Good thing Shrub eliminated the military’s peacekeeping school, huh? Wouldn’t want people who know how to do the job available when it needs to be done.

  13. “It’s subversive,” added his public affairs officer.”

    What Lt. Col. Quintas ordered was subversive to teaching those kids about liberty. He should be forced to apologize to those students and then demoted. Bring the troops home now before any more get killed.

  14. not the desired result.

    Well, I hope the boy got laid for his 15 minutes. The world is too big for anybody outside of his own high school to take him seriously, and even then he’s a novelty. Maybe if he got his arms blown off or something, but as is the story will capture popular imagination outside of his Sunni-vale ‘hood for about as long as it takes us to stop posting about it.

  15. Dan:
    “They’re the kids of the Bull Connors and George Wallaces, bitching about “Martin Luther Coon” and his outside agitators.”

    I don’t think denying the children of Jim Crow their freedom of speech was ever considered. Had that been done it would have set the civil rights movement back years.

  16. Rick, you’re assuming that Iraqi schoolchildren have the same approach to authority that American teenagers do. I have no idea what role teenagers fill in Iraqi culture, but I doubt they have a ‘youth’ culture anything like our own. We’re an anomoly in that regard.

    The country is still working through the aftermath of a war – some rules are temporarily suspended in a situation like this. Why? Because the goal is to get the society to a workable status quo, where it is no longer treason to support the previous leader. Think: the kid was marching in support of a man who had brutally murdered thousands of his fellow countrymen and tortured and raped thousands more. It is possible to some extent that the soldiers’ actions here have saved the kid’s life. Because if the U.S. Army investigates and decides the kid is not a threat, then that could be considered reason enough for suspicious people to leave the kid alone and go after more dangerous targets.

  17. Dan wrote: “The ‘if you ban it you only make it seem cooler’ thing works for rock music and drugs. I’m disinclined to think it works for fascist dictatorship.”

    If that’s your “disinclination”, I’d highly recommend the book _Fuhrer-Ex_ by Ingo Hasselbach, a former Neo-Nazi leader in Germany. He outlines his journey from being a rebellious punk into being a full-fledged Neo-Nazi (desecrating Jewish cemetaries, trashing synagogues, etc.), which was driven in large part by the feeling that if the “establishment squares” wanted to suppress interest in Nazism, then it must be cool stuff.

  18. Jean Bart

    As a matter of fact I haven’t. You can enlighten me, perhaps. In Iraq there are political parties across the imaginable political spectrum (the larger ones openly sport militias), more than a hundred newspapers– both partisan and independent–, and independent trade unions. Demonstrations against the Coalition and the Interim Authority are frequent and raucus. The most open anti-regime expressions are tolerated rather blithely. Considering this is occuring in the context of an insurgency…

    Which emirate comes to mind? I don’t doubt that there is some political debate in the UAE, and that there isn’t the kind of systematic and brutal repression you could expect in Cairo or Damascus, but I suspect that a sort of “gentleman’s agreement” pertains.

    Anyway, you can tell me different.

    Otherwise notable, there has been an effort to introduce electoral government in Kuwait, there used to be a democracy of sorts in Lebanon, and Arabs in Israel have enjoyed (somewhat shaky, but still meaningful) political rights.

  19. Rebecca:
    “Rick, you’re assuming that Iraqi schoolchildren have the same approach to authority that American teenagers do.”

    There’s a quote that goes something like:

    The youth of today are ill mannered, head strong and display a pronounced lack of respect for their elders.

    Turns out it’s from either ancient Greece or Rome.

    But you may be right. Still, I think they deserve at least the liberty that American teenagers enjoy. I say “at least” because American teenagers are saddled with those hideous, curfew laws.

  20. Oh no, some priveleged kid from a suburb with which Hussein found favor is having a hard time with Hussein not being in power. My heart bleeds for the little shit, really.

  21. I don’t give a damn about the little shit. What I give a damn about is that under martial law he goes from being the kid that everybody hated but couldn’t do anything to because his daddy was powerful, to being the teenager who earned rebel status when some guys with guns came to scare him for protesting.

    Nice move, guys. While we’re at it, let’s ban headscarves and see how long it takes for Iraqi women to demand headscarves (while their sisters in Iran demand the right to not wear headscarves).

    It isn’t about the rights of Saddam loyalists, it’s about making sure that the Saddam loyalists don’t get to claim victim and/or teen rebel status. While the “victim status” would obviously be bogus crocodile tears, it would still impede what we’re trying to accomplish.

    And Andrew, you seem to have no qualms about the fact that Iraq is under martial law. I thought our goal was to end martial law, not continue it.

  22. Rick – I stand corrected – youth have always been rebellious.

    But I disagree that Bull Connors was prevented from slaughtering Southern blacks because of Constitutional guarantees. They had a Constitutional right to vote, too, and that didn’t stop him. The reason he didn’t round up blacks and slaughter them is because his supporters would not have supported that. If pro-segregationalists were willing to do “all things necessary” to protect “the white race”, then slaughtering blacks would have been acceptable. In Middle Eastern countries it is quite common for what we consider basic human rights to be ignored and trampled on. Women are stoned to death for being a victim of rape, while the men get away with a slap on the wrist. Political expression is tightly monitered, and religious heterodoxy is actively worked against.

    Bull Connors was a disgusting example of depraved human feeling, but he nowhere near Saddam or Hitler. The situations do not compare. Social conditions did not exist for it. Southerners did not want the blacks exterminated – they wanted cheap labor. Thus the methods would be different.

    And what does Israel have to do with this specific situation in Iraq? Geez, you’re sounding like a broken record…!

  23. There’s a quote that goes something like:

    The youth of today are ill mannered, head strong and display a pronounced lack of respect for their elders.

    Turns out it’s from either ancient Greece or Rome.

    Yes, that’s from Socrates during the fifth century BC, as Greece was becoming a more wealthy and liberal society, similar to the fortune of the West in the late 20th century. It is these conditions that promote teenage rebelliousness.

    In most of the world, including Iraq, that is not happening, so our society is the exception rather than the rule in that case.

    BTW, the Greek civilization Socrates was speaking of totally collapsed within a generation after he spoke those words.

  24. There’s a quote that goes something like:

    The youth of today are ill mannered, head strong and display a pronounced lack of respect for their elders.

    Turns out it’s from either ancient Greece or Rome.

    Yes, that’s from Socrates during the fifth century BC, as Greece was becoming a more wealthy and liberal society, similar to the fortune of the West in the late 20th century. It is these conditions that promote teenage rebelliousness.

    In most of the world, including Iraq, that is not happening, so our society is the exception rather than the rule in that case.

    BTW, the Greek civilization Socrates was speaking of totally collapsed within a generation after he spoke those words.

  25. Rebecca,
    If the hard core segregationists tried mass murder (they did do it on a smaller scale) it would have been a violation of the rights of the victims and therefore a mass-crime. The kind of thing, that only governments that ignore individual rights can carry out.

    My point on our government’s support of the Israeli government’s occupation is that it compromises us in the eyes of the Iraqi people.

    crimethink,
    I seem to remember references to rebellious youth in a Shakespeare play or two, but your hypothesis seems worth exploring.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  26. “If the hard core segregationists tried mass murder (they did do it on a smaller scale) it would have been a violation of the rights of the victims and therefore a mass-crime. The kind of thing, that only governments that ignore individual rights can carry out.”

    1. Mass murder by your definition can only be carried out by the central government. However, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot could not have executed such crimes without the acquiescence, consent, or complicity of the people of the country, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Cambodians. Not all of them needed to kill their neighbors; but enough of them had to stand back and not complain for the deaths to reach the staggering proportions they did.

    2. There were many different degrees of segregationalists, just as there are many different degrees of thieves. There were some who despised blacks so much, they wanted them all dead. They were a small minority. Most segregationists would not want them all dead, because then who would do the hard, unpleasant jobs: maid, nanny, fieldhand, shoeshine ‘boy’, janitor. Segregation depended on the blacks living because the bulk of the unskilled or semiskilled working class was black. The economy would have shrunk drastically or even collapsed if the blacks were all murdered. People would have a lynching every so often, as an ‘example’ to the rest of the race, to ‘keep them in there place’; mass murder was not a realistic or even a far-fetched solution to the race problem.

    3. I can’t grasp the point you are trying to make, where you’ve mentioned mass-crime, indifference to individual rights, and murder violating the rights of the victim. Segregationalists did not care for the individual rights of the blacks; many in the nation did not care for the individual rights of the blacks; segregationalists did not refrain from murdering blacks because they had a Constitutional right to live. They refrained from mass murder because it would have been ‘barbaric’, and they had an image of themselves as civilized, as refined, as above the hoi-polloi. They tolerated lynchings (which were many but not innumerable) because they maintained the status quo. They would not tolerate mass murder because it was ‘not civilized’.

    For mass murder to occur, it must have support among the rank and file. If the social conditions are not there, it will not happen. If the social conditions are there, no amount of laws or ennumerated rights will save the victims. Outside intervention is needful.

    Now, it is possible that social conditions did not develop to that point in the South because the Federal government got involved with troops and executive pressure; but from what I have studied, it appears to be far more related to economic realities and white social consciousness.

  27. If the little rich brat wants to be pro-Saddam, I say we give him a rifle and let him have at it.

    In less than 10 minutes, he will either see the errors of his ways and run home to his mommy crying or he will be removed from the gene pool.

  28. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 212.253.2.205
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/20/2004 01:55:02
    It is only the most intelligent and the most stupid who are not susceptible to change.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.