Hit & Run

Republic of Forgetfulness


In the Washington Post today, Lawrence Kaplan has a useful piece on the fate of Iraqi academic Kanan Makiya, whose book Republic of Fear almost single-handedly defined the evils of Saddam Hussein?s regime when it was published in the early 1990s. Makiya returned to Baghdad after the war and set up the Memory Foundation to catalogue the former regime?s crimes. As he put it: ?Acknowledgment is something we owe the victims, otherwise we will see an attempt to erase the past.?

The only problem is that a man who had been an insider, has suddenly found himself on the margins of the U.S. effort in Iraq:

Last year the administration requested $1 million from Congress to fund the Memory Foundation. Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer, however, never passed the funds on to the foundation. Instead he signed an order establishing his own National Commission for Remembrance, whose mission duplicates that of the Memory Foundation ? and which he funded to the tune of $10 million …

On the eve of his departure from Baghdad last month, Bremer phoned Makiya to tell him the $1 million would be released. A Memory Foundation staffer filled out the necessary wire transfer forms, only to be told later by the CPA that it had no record of his doing so. Finally, on the day of the handover, the foundation received an e-mail message from the CPA. Now that sovereignty had been transferred, it said, the United States no longer had the authority to release the $1 million. It suggested Makiya take up the issue with the Iraqi government.

Makiya?s friends ?argue that [he] has become caught in the all-consuming turf wars between the Pentagon and the State Department, where the long memory of America?s diplomatic corps has yet to absolve Makiya of his complaints about its commitment to Iraqi democracy.? As for Makiya himself, ?He sees the experience as simply another metaphor for America?s retreat from its avowed aim of a liberal Iraq.?