(Article changed on April 11, 2014 at 10:07)
On Tuesday, April 8th, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's
Shiite-led Iraqi Government placed before his Parliament a bill, strongly
supported by Iraqi men, and approved by the governing coalition of Shiites and
Sunnis, which will allow men to rape girls even in forced marriages (Iraqi law already allows forced marriages),
and which will allow men to divorce any wife who is above the age of 9.
Currently, only females above the age of 18 are permitted to marry (or, it might be more accurate to say, to be married), under Iraqi law. This new law will enable even 9-year-olds to be sold off into "marriage."
Whereas, technically, women, in the post-invasion Iraq, are allowed to vote and otherwise participate in Iraqi politics, only few do, because the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein Government left the religious authorities in control of family matters; and, so, women who try to participate in politics generally become ostracized. The circumstances for women in Iraq were far better under Saddam's regime.
Back on November 1st of last year, President Barack Obama announced an increase in military aid to the Maliki Government, an increase that had been urged upon him especially by Republicans in Congress. President Obama will now have to decide whether to fulfill on that promise, or whether, instead, to suspend the aid if Iraqi men will turn into law this newly introduced bill, after the Iraqi Parliament comes back into session on April 30th. If the U.S. terminates that military aid, then the chances that Al Qaeda in Iraq (which had started there in 2003 as a result of the U.S. invasion) will take over the country and oust the current, U.S.-installed and Iran-allied Shiite-led government, will greatly increase. In other words: for Obama to demand rejection of this child-rape bill would likely mean a return to the more-active U.S. military involvement in Iraq, which Obama had only recently ended in Iraq. Alternatively, it would mean a takeover of Iraq by Al Qaeda, or at least a renewed civil war there, ending in a failed state, which then would probably be ruled ultimately by Al Qaeda.
The new bill, called the Jaafari Law, was described the following way by Hannah Strange, the Assistant Foreign Editor of Britain's Telegraph:
"The Jaafari law, doesn't mention exactly from what age children would be able to wed but it does contain provisions for divorce for girls as young as nine, so we can do the maths on that one. It also effectively endorses marital rape by forcing women to submit to the sexual demands of their husbands and ensures that any wife entering into a divorce -- whether of her own will or not - is punished with the loss of her children, by automatically granting the father custody of any offspring over the age of two." Ms. Strange goes on to say, "That this law is even being considered -- and it is most likely to go ahead, given its hearty endorsement by the Iraqi cabinet -- makes me want to rip my own skin off."
On 19 March 2010, Yanar Mohammed in Baghdad told Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now!" radio, that the U.S. had abandoned the Iraqi people after destroying her country. She said that after the Saddam Hussein-era relatively secular constitution was replaced by the U.S.-installed government, "the [new] Constitution has established a state of inequality for women. There is an article in the Constitution, Article number 41, which has cancelled, almost cancelled for good, the civil rights, the minimal civil rights which women had under Saddam, under what was called the personal status law." Of course, the proposed Jaafari Law would go further, to enable men to rape girls with impunity, which they cannot now do.
There also are problems in Iraq regarding the rights of homosexuals. On 14 December 2013, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq bannered "Campaign of Iraqi Gay Killings by Smashing Skulls with Concrete Blocks," and opened: "New barbaric attacks started against the Iraqi lgbt in many cities like Baghdad and Basra while using inhumane methods such as hitting the head and body parts of gay victims with building concrete blocks repeatedly till death or by pushing them over high building roof which took place in Basra city. The actions of killings, torture, and dismembering against those who were described as 'adulterous' by Islamic Shia militias, besides hanging lists on the walls of several sections in Al-Sadr city and in Al-Habibea region, had all terrorized the society at large and especially the Iraqi lgbt community."
If President Obama thoroughly abandons the Iraqi public (women, homosexuals, and all other Iraqi citizens), in order to wage the U.S. war against Al Qaeda, whom the U.S. invasion of Iraq brought to Iraq, then there will be an inevitable decline in the reputation of the U.S., not just inside Iraq, but everywhere. Everyone in the world knows that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, overthrew and replaced the Saddam regime, and set Iraq onto its present course (regardless of whether it's the course that George W. Bush wanted or even expected). (Imagine if a car crashes through barricades and into a crowd and kills lots of people -- any gross incompetence on the driver's part won't excuse him of liability for what happened, and the same applies to Bush and our country in Iraq.) The result of just "washing our hands" of the consequences, and blithely continuing to ignore the needs of the Iraqi people (including all of those terrified and even raped girls), could be bad for Americans, who will then have little credibility as proponents of democracy anywhere in the world. If this is American "democracy," then trust in the U.S. will be gone (at least from the publics) around the world. The U.S. poured trillions of dollars into that invasion and lengthy occupation, only to replace a tyrant there with something far worse for everybody (except the mullahs of Iran). Breaking Iraq means that the U.S. has an obligation to fix it, instead of just to say, "Oh, those people, they're not our obligation; we've left that country."
The first album of the Michael Stanley Band, in 1975, was titled, "You Break It ... You Bought It!" The Iraqi people are not just "broken," but utterly destroyed. America now owns the result, whatever that will turn out to be.
President Obama thus faces a predicament. This predicament will probably occupy much of his time between now and April 30th. The decision that he makes there could even impact the desire (or not) of Ukrainians to ally with "the West" or with Russia. It could have wide implications outside Iraq (though Iraq is, of course, chiefly where our obligation is, and long will continue to be).
Even if the U.S. stops its military involvement in Iraq, George W. Bush made our bed there, and all Americans will be sleeping on it for a very long time to come, no matter what President Obama decides to do -- or not to do.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.