Allawi and martial law

There has been increasing talk of Allawi declaring martial law in parts of Iraq. In the following Christian Science Monitor article it states that: “the Iraqi government has repeatedly postponed its unveiling, because of US concerns that it grants Mr. Allawi too much power.”

On the contrary, It seems rather obvious that the US would have liked to have declared martial law itself and only refrained from doing so to prevent any negative consequences with regards to its already battered image as Iraq’s occupier. The hand-wringing over giving Allawi too much power is disingenuous. The US simply did not want to impose martial law themselves.

But other Iraqis reject the idea of martial law, seeing it as an extension of the US-led occupation and a reprise of Saddam Hussein’s regime. “If there is martial law, there will be arbitrary searches and arrests,” says Abu Ghayeb al-Kubaisi, a chicken farmer. “They will use the excuse of fighting terrorism or national security. If someone has an enemy, he will use that as a pretext for getting this person arrested.”

Mr. Kubaisi had just spent three hours at a checkpoint on Baghdad’s outskirts. A resident of Ramadi – a prime candidate for martial law – he described baking in the 120-degree sun while Iraqi troops held him at the checkpoint. “I think they took them to Egypt and Israel to teach them Israeli methods,” he says with disgust. (Egypt has been under emergency law since 1981).

Indeed, in many Arab countries, emergency laws, once declared, have dragged on for years or decades. “Emergency rule is often the Achilles heel of Arab constitutional systems,” says Nathan Brown, an expert on Arab legal systems at George Washington University in Washington. “In many countries, emergency rule becomes a permanent state that allows rulers to bypass the constitutional order completely.”

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