Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beyond Rhetoric In Iraq

Mohammad Akef Jamal writes: Statements and counter-statements between the various political blocs are doing nothing to solve the country's myriad problems 
This commentary was published in The Gulf News on 04/06/2011 

Is it possible to get to know the condition of a certain people through statements by their key government officials? Or is it better to make field visits to get acquainted with the lifestyle and conditions of people in different towns and cities along with their income per capita, the state of educational establishments, health facilities, number of newspapers, jails and other details?

Or perhaps there are better methods to obtain more accurate information regarding a given people, subjectively and devoid of sentiments and emotions?
Statements by politicians are usually contradictory and confuse the observer, as they lack subjectivity at times and are always biased, especially when the politician highlights the merits of his political agenda vis-a-vis his opponents.

These statements are usually analysed by a few writers who have greater access to the media, and who shape public opinion.
Some of these statements reflect the people’s reality from the perspective of the politician in question.

They include details regarding the status quo but some of its context is lost in the special political agenda of the politician. At other times, his personal ambitions take precedence and statements are timed to serve the politician’s goals.
The motives behind these statements are not to uncover the truth alone. However, in developed countries with deep democratic roots and respect for human rights, the truth is an important factor in statements. In developing countries — where individuals are still beholden to tribal, religious and sectarian norms — the picture differs tremendously and there’s a disconnect between reality and the statements made by politicians.

Statements made by Iraqi politicians paint a very confusing image of the prevailing situation in the country, as politicians are far removed from the people and their hardships.
Iraqis are considered one of the most politically aware people, and Iraq’s streets have always witnessed bloody demonstrations; jails in Iraq have always been full of political detainees, and many have l being tortured to death. Iraqis have had to flee to countries in the region and indeed around the world.

After the downfall of the former totalitarian regime, the streets of Iraq filled up with people voicing their political opinions. Political parties and civil community organisations mushroomed and newspapers with differing political views sprung up. However, people do not just analyse politics, but also want to talk about the hardships they encounter on a daily basis.
There is a big gap between politicians and the people. Moreover, when discussing the miserable conditions in the country, politicians will only talk about solutions according to the vision of a particular bloc, forgetting that the country cannot tolerate further neglect.

At a time when the struggle between different political blocs in Iraq over security is escalating and living conditions are getting worse, we find pressure increasing on Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Eyad Allawi, former Iraqi premier and Chairman of the Al Iraqiya bloc. But they are not the only politicians in the county who can find a solution.
The US is exerting indirect pressure through the initiatives suggested by Masoud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, while the UN is trying to influence politicians through the Secretary-General’s representative in Iraq.

Attempts are being made to secure a direct meeting between Al Maliki and Allawi. There’s a need to move on from the method of exchanging letters between the two leaders to direct talks, attended by Barzani to revive his Erbil initiative, which encountered many setbacks from the beginning.
Iraq’s problems will not end with reconciliation between Al Maliki and Allawi, which is farfetched — the letter sent by Allawi to Al Maliki on May 7 as a reply to Al Maliki’s May 6 letter reveals the scale of the political crisis in Iraq.

Allawi did not need a lot of time to ponder over Al Maliki’s letter, as nothing in it was new.
In order to understand the true situation in Iraq, one must not believe all ‘information’ available through official and non-official sources, as none are reliable. People’s opinions are also an unreliable as a source of information as they are varied and are subject to personal interests.

Documents that are issued by international organisations which cite Iraq’s conditions in a professional manner are a better source for any researcher.
Documents issued by the Unicef, the WHO, Amnesty International and others are transparent and point to the massive problems afflicting Iraq, which cannot be solved only through a meeting between Al Maliki and Allawi.

 Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.

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