Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Stupid, stupid, stupid

As one of his final acts in office, US viceroy Paul Bremer has excluded Moqtada Sadr and his followers from standing for elections or holding office for three years. Which means that they have absolutely no reason to lay down their guns.

Juan Cole expands nicely on that latter point:

Bremer's action in excluding the Sadrists from parliament is one final piece of stupidity to cap all the other moronic things he has done in Iraq. The whole beauty of parliamentary governance is that it can hope to draw off the energies of groups like the Sadrists. Look at how parliamentary bargaining moderated the Shiite AMAL party in Lebanon, which had a phase as a terrorist group in the 1980s but gradually outgrew it. AMAL is now a pillar of the Lebanese establishment and a big supporter of a separation of religion and state. The only hope for dealing with the Sadrists nonviolently was to entice them into civil politics, as well. Now that they have been excluded from the political process and made outlaws in the near to medium term, we may expect them to act like outlaws and to be spoilers in the new Iraq.

Hopefully the interim government will be smart enough to overturn this moronic decision. It's both a matter of standing up for the right of Iraqis to choose their own government (rather than having the Americans try to limit its scope from the beginning), and a matter of self-preservation. The Sadrists are a relatively popular and well-armed faction, and excluding their leaders from peaceful politics hands them a legitimate justification for violence.