Wednesday, January 21, 2004

More Iraqi turmoil, killings intimidate or silence free voices

The new face of imminent Iraqi democracy is looking a little rough around the edges. That's putting it mildly since a series of killings targeting academics speaking out on issues has intimidated intellectual freedom of speech in the new Iraq. The LAT reports that academics admit that the campaign of intimidation has been successful.

Mayah, whose friends said he was 54, was a longtime pro-democracy activist who had been jailed by Hussein after calling for elections in 1996. He had received anonymous death threats for several weeks, friends and family said, and began traveling with a bodyguard.

As he drove to work Monday, his Mitsubishi sedan was stopped by unidentified men. Mayah, the bodyguard and a colleague were ordered out of the vehicle. The gunmen opened fire only on Mayah, and he died at the scene. One local media report said he was shot 32 times...

The killings of the three other Mustansiriya professors came amid anonymous notes left on campus warning members of the outlawed Baath Party that they faced execution. In the northern city of Mosul this month, the dean of a local university's political science department was slain, an attack seen as the work of Baathists against someone they viewed as a collaborator in the U.S.-led occupation.

Other killings have taken place, this time almost openly committed by Shiites taking revenge into their own hands by eliminating previous Baathist officials. While no one is likely to weep a tear for the officers of Saddam Hussein, the precedent it sets and the fact that US military officials turned a blind eye to it are establishing a precedent of politics by murder and intimidation. Political racketeering is no more desirable than organized crime and can be a mite bit more destructive to civil society. It is hard to see how fair and free elections can be conducted in this environment.

UPDATE: The CIA is not as upbeat as Bush is about the prospects for a Peaceful Iraq.

WASHINGTON - CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said Wednesday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

To be fair, the CIA got the WMD issue in Iraq wrong but since then they have been right about several issues such as the turmoil that would result from dissolving the Iraq National Army and trying to build a new one "from scratch". The CIA's cultural and political analysis sections are apparently much better than their weapons intelligence division. Not exactly comforting as we face the prospect of having to guess how advanced North Korea's state of nuclear proliferation is, but cogent enough to ring warning bells regarding Iraq political disintegration.


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