Leon Hadar: The Next Pseudo-Event


The Point Will Be Tipping All Over Again
Prediction: On August 14, just a few hours to go before Iraq’s permanent constitution is to be completed, as the international community holds its collective breath, the Iraqi negotiators would announce that after overcoming monumental obstacles, including the deep divisions between the country’s ethnic and religious communities, they succeeded in their task and completed the drawing up of a constitution for the new Iraqi state. The images broadcasted out from Baghdad just on time for the evening news in New York would feature the new American Ambassador Zalmy Khalilzad joined by the leaders of the New Iraq celebrating another “turning point” in the march of Iraq towards democracy. When President George W. Bush would show up in the White House press room a few minutes later for a short press conference, he would compare the framers of the Iraqi constitution to the framers of the American constitution and describe the adoption of new Iraqi constitution as another “milestone” in the road towards freedom and peace in the Broader Middle East. Who would have believed? After all the threats and the killings by the insurgents and the skepticism and the cynicism of those know-it-all Middle East “experts” and the Arabists and the so-called realists in Washington and elsewhere. What a historic day. Eat your hearts out, Juan Cole and all you other members of the Reality Based Community. Didn’t we tell you that it’s all about Freedom, stupid!
Spin: Well, let’s just say that by August 16th you’ll probably be fed up with the Founding-Fathers historical analogy: Jaffari=Washington, Chalabi=Jefferson (or is it the other way around?). But by then the Bushies would have succeeded in producing another “pseudo-event,” the term coined by the late historian and the 12th Librarian of US Congress Daniel Boorstin in his book The Image to describe a “happening” that is designed to be covered by the news. It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted or incited it. It is planted for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous. And it is usually intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The drawing up of the Iraqi constitution would be spun as the “next turning point,” following all the previous “turning points” — the toppling of Saddam’s statue, the intrusive examination of the unkempt former dictator’s mouth and beard, the handing of documents of sovereignty from coalition leader L Paul Bremer to Iraqi leader Iyad Allawi, the voters happily waving their purple fingers — and would be transformed by the Bushies into a “tipping point” that marks the defeat of the anti-American insurgency and the triumph of “democracy” in Iraq. And the “pseudo-event” would then be integrated into a neoconservative Freedom in the Broader-Middle-East Narrative — the Babes of Beirut, the “local elections” in Saudi Arabia, the “democracy movement” in Egypt, “peace” in Israel/Palestine.
Deconstruction: This is a preemptive counter-spinning strike: Should we care about the Iraqi constitution? The British and the French helped their former colonies and dependencies — including Iraq, Burma and Uganda — to compose grand and progressive constitutions; some of them sounded like a copy of the American constitution. So what? Been recently in Burma, Uganda or for that matter, Iraq? The American constitution reflected the spirit of the European Enlightenment and British political tradition, and you cannot impose all of that — and by force — on a “nation” — actually, a mishmash of tribal, ethnic and sectarian groups — whose entire history and values are antithetical to our own. And by the way, did you know that while the post-1945 constitutions of most governments in Sub-Sahara Africa permitted women to vote, Switzerland granted women the right to vote in federal elections only in 1971? (What can I say? I would have preferred to reside in Geneva than in Khartoum in 1969). Or that in Israel today, a Jew cannot get married to a Christian, since only religious marriages are accepted under the law since all citizens of Israel are subject to the authority of the religious establishment in matters of marriage and divorce, a situation that contradicts the liberal model and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is Washington pressing Israel to adopt a constitution that will permit the separation of religion and state?
Bottom Line: Do we as Americans have the right or the obligation or the moral authority, for that matter, to force on the Iraqis a quota for the number of women in their Parliament or to tell them whether or not to enshrine Islamic law in the constitution or not? My guess is that the majority of Shiites, including most women, want an Islamic state. Let them have it. If the Kurds don’t like that, let them secede from Iraq and have their own Kurdish state. And let those two communities deal with the Sunni insurgency on their own. Yes, it will not fit into the Freedom Narrative. But that’s what we’ve done in Mesopotamia. We helped break-up a unitary nation-state and make it safe for the self determination of Iraq’s communities and sects, including the Shiites who are now establishing an Islamic state led by Ayatollahs (Sistani) religious warlords (Jaffari) and crooks (Chalabi) who are allied with Iran while the Kurds are becoming our new “Israel” in Mesopotamia in the sense that we’ll have to protect and finance them until death do us apart.

Leon Hadar (author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).)