Iraq: What Are We Fighting For?

Why are we in Iraq? According to George W. Bush and the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, we’re battling for “freedom,” we’re fighting for the love of liberty that supposedly burns in every heart – right?

A look at the Iraqi constitution, which is now in its draft form, makes it very clear that the only proper answer to that contention is an emphatic – no way, José!

Let’s start with Article 1, which defines who is eligible to become a citizen of Iraq:

“Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality after a period of residency inside the borders of Iraq of not less than ten years for an Arab or twenty years for any other nationality.

“An Iraqi may have more than one nationality as long as the nationality is not Israeli.”

Ah yes, Iraq the “model” – but what is it a model of? Nazism? Speaking of which, here’s an ominous phrase from Article 5:

“The Iraqi people are one people, unified by belief and the unity of the homeland and culture. Anything that exposes this unity to danger is forbidden.”

Uh oh. Does any of that sound familiar? Here’s a hint for all you history buffs out there: “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer!

Article 5 is awash in bromides about “equality” and “human dignity,” but when it gets right down to brass tacks, the State is All:

“The state shall take responsibility for combating moral and behavioral depravity and encourage people and agencies to spread virtue, providing it help and support. The state shall ensure harmony between the duties of woman toward her family and her work in the society and equality with men in the fields of political, social, and economic life without conflicting with or disturbing the provisions of the Islamic shari’a.”

Here we all thought the Bushies just wanted to spread “democracy,” loosely defined, but now we’ve got U.S. guns behind an effort to “spread virtue.” No wonder Jerry Falwell and the Christian fundamentalists are standing foursquare behind the war effort – but what’s this guy doing on the pro-war bandwagon?

We aren’t just fighting terrorism in Iraq, no sir-ree! On account of our efforts – and on our dime – the government of “liberated” Iraq is taking on “moral and behavioral depravity” – although why this campaign seems to extend to Baghdad, but not, say, Manhattan’s Soho district, or even Washington, D.C., is one of those mysteries we may never solve.

There is nothing mysterious, however, about the politics of the authors of this constitution: national socialism with an Islamic veneer is the guiding principle animating the founders of the new Iraqi state. The socialist element infuses Article 5:

“The state shall guarantee the realization of the social guarantee necessary for citizens in case of old age, disease, inability to work, or if they are homeless, orphans, widowed, or unemployed. It shall provide them social insurance services and health care and protect them from the talons of ignorance, fear, and want, providing them with housing, and special programs to train them and care for them. A law shall be issued regarding this.”

A pretty cushy deal, eh? Oh, but it gets better in Article 7:

“Iraqi citizens have the right to enjoy security and free health care. The Iraqi federal government and regional governments must provide it and expand the fields of prevention, treatment, and medication by the construction of various hospitals and health institutions”.

I guess the Iraqi Founders can afford to be generous. After all, you’re paying for it – yeah, that’s right, you, the American taxpayer. You may be unemployed, widowed, orphaned, and eventually driven into homelessness by confiscatory taxation or just the sheer cruelty of having to keep pace with the rat race, but please rest assured that none of these terrible fates will be suffered by the Iraqis. You may be without healthcare, but no Iraqi will go without. That’s what it means to be “liberated,” these days – if you don’t wind up as “collateral damage,” you get to spend other people’s money, and the sky’s the limit.


Another key tenet of national socialismgovernment control of the media – is institutionalized in Article 6. Buried amid a plethora of “democratic”-sounding buzz-words – “freedom of culture,” “freedom of opinion,” and “freedom of publishing” – is the money quote:

“There is no censorship on newspapers, printing, publishing, advertising, or media except by law.”

Translation: They’re already putting the nameplates on the doors to the Office of the Chief Censor.

To read this document is to wander through a mental landscape of such utter strangeness, a sensibility so alien that the Western mind can hardly conceive its meaning, let alone imagine life under its strictures. This is a “constitution” straight out of Bizarro World, where every familiar principle of individual rights and legal protections is stood on its head.

The right to travel, both within and out of the country, supposedly granted in Article 9, is circumscribed by the same sort of exculpatory phrase that paves the way for censorship: it is “guaranteed … except in cases defined by law.” All citizens are entitled to “the right of protection against intellectual, political, sectarian, religious, and national coercion,” according to Article 10, but only “so long as [this protection] is by law.” In other words: only up until we feel like cracking down, whereupon we shall do so ruthlessly. Article 11 guarantees “the right of political asylum … to all oppressed.” We are sternly informed that “it is forbidden to surrender a political refugee” – unless, of course, it is “someone accused of international crimes.” You needn’t be guilty – an accusation is sufficient. Off to Guantanamo with you!

Not even slavery is out of bounds. Article 12 states:

“Compulsory service (the corvee), slavery, the slave trade, forced labor, or any work that is imposed on the Iraq citizen not in accordance with the provisions of the constitution or the law are forbidden.”

What if a slave is treated in accordance with the provisions of the Iraqi constitution – what if he or she is provided with cradle-to-grave healthcare, is given the “right” (nay, the duty) “to work” (another “social right” enshrined therein), and treated in accordance with Islamic law, which is the self-proclaimed basis of this document? In the absence of any specific law explicitly forbidding slavery, it is apparently quite legal to own slaves in “liberated” Iraq. Aside from that, the Iraqi government sets aside the possibility of compulsory service to the state. There are many variations of slavery, and all of them are allowed under the terms of this constitution, unless otherwise specified by the enactment of some future law.

Article 13 proclaims “citizens are equal in assuming public position” – but only “in accordance with the conditions established by law.” This enables the Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi government to attach any number of political, sectarian, or ideological conditions to the rules of eligibility for holding public office.

The apotheosis of this Islamofascist legal-political doctrine has got to be Article 13, my own personal favorite, which solemnly states:

“1. Public and private freedoms are protected provided they do not conflict with moral values and public decency.”

In Basra, in the south of Iraq, the religious police are already patrolling the streets, brutally repressing all signs of un-Islamic behavior: alcohol, bright clothing, modern haircuts, men who shave their faces, unveiled women, and other such abominations. This provision legalizes these fanatic vigilante gangs and paves the way for their institutionalization as legal arms of the “Islamic Republic of Iraq.” Oh, but Article 13 gets better (or worse, that is, if you’re not a citizen of Iraq’s Bizarro Worlddemocracy“):

“2. Citizens’ private lives are protected. Citizens may enjoy it in compliance with moral values and decency. No citizen has the right to deviancy in the use of his right or to exercise any of his rights….

Yes, your life in “liberated” Iraq is “protected,” and you are even allowed to “enjoy it” – but only if you’re not a “deviant” as defined by some mullah. In which case, we’ll skin you alive: “No citizen has the right to deviancy.” Did they take that straight out of the Republican Party platform? Here’s one provision, however, they most certainly didn’t borrow from the GOP:

“Citizens may not own, bear, buy, or sell weapons, except by a permit issued in accordance with law.”

Does the National Rifle Association know about this? Perhaps the NRA ought to get busy setting up an affiliate in Iraq: I have a hunch they’d be wildly popular.

On a recent trip by Prime Minster Ibrahim al-Jaafari to Tehran, where he spoke of establishing a mutual Iraq-Iran defense pact, the newly elected Iraqi leader paid a visit to the tomb of the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom he hailed as the fountainhead of Islamic orthodoxy. The old madman’s strict brand of Shi’ite fundamentalism is embraced by Jaafari’s Da’wa party, which found refuge (and aid) in Iran during the years of Saddam’s reign.

As Professor Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, observed recently in Salon, “The Iraq war is over – and the winner is Iran.” While this anomalous result may seem a bit odd, regular readers of this space will not be at all surprised: they read all about it here, first, years before Jafaari’s pilgrimage to Tehran.

One by one, the bogus rationales for this futile and increasingly costly war are abandoned. Weapons of mass destructionnada. Saddam’s alleged links to al-Qaedazilch. “Freedom” and “democracy“? Forget it: the new constitution ensures that neither will emerge.

Which raises the question we started out asking: Why are we in Iraq?

Why did 1,700-plus American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have to die, with many more than that grievously wounded, physically and psychologically? Did all this suffering and death come about due to the moral imperative of setting up an Iranian-style “Islamic Republic of Iraq,” as the country will be known henceforth? While some Americans are not-so-subtly encouraged to join the military as a way out of a generations-long cycle of poverty, we’re pouring billions down the ratholes of Iraq’s emerging state bureaucracy, handing out cash by the barrel to finance the rule of Iraqi mullahs. We’re training their police, whose job it will be to enforce the strictures of sharia law: rounding up unveiled women in the streets and beating the heck out of them as they do in Tehran, while clapping more heinous examples of “deviancy” in jail, perhaps amputating a few limbs, or at least a few fingers here and there – and executing those deemed the worst offenders in an act of ritualized barbarism.

Behold the good works of our brave soldiers. They’re building schools that will indoctrinate future students in the aphorisms of past spiritual and political leaders – especially the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the object of the Iraqi prime minister’s adulation. They’re building roads that will one day link up the Shi’ite party militias in Iraq with their brethren across the border, the Iranian military and “Revolutionary Guards.” They’re guarding the very building where the Founding Fathers of Iraq are gathered in solemn conclave, putting the finishing touches on a document that is the perfect offspring of neoconservative delusion and Straussian deception. Without the Americans to guard the fort, the Iraqi government, we are told, would collapse tomorrow, and Iraq, they wail, would descend into “chaos.”

Yet there are many conditions far worse than chaos, and one of them is tyranny. The Iraqi constitution gives an ersatz “legal” and political form to the worst sort of theocratic authoritarianism, one potentially far more stringent than the sort that dominates Iran. The overwhelming electoral victory of the SCIRI-Da’wa-Sadrist ticket, in spite of the best U.S. covert effort to inflate the vote for ex-Ba’athist Iyad Allawi, guarantees pro-Iranian forces control of the governmental apparatus, including the security forces. The revolutionary fervor of Khomeinism, which has just about run its course in Tehran, is finding renewed vigor in the victory of the “Islamic revolution” in Iraq.

We always find it necessary to build up our enemies – to even create them out of nothing – before we take them on. Osama bin Laden was an American creature before he was anything, and the same goes for our future enemies in “liberated” Iraq. By the time we get around to declaring Iran the new enemy, however, the American public will be too well trained – or shell-shocked – to remember back that far.

That is where comes in: it’s our job to continually remind people of such inconvenient history, even as our leaders repeat the same patterns and policies that led us to the current disaster. We’re the institutional memory – i.e., the conscience – of a movement to put an end to this folly, which is our policy of perpetual war, and bring our troops home.

Good God, just reading the Iraqi constitution was one of the most painful experiences I’ve had to endure since… well, since this [Thursday] morning, when I was forced to sit at my desk listening to Tony Blair drone on in that tone of singsong smugness and self-righteous moral superiority – while, right outside my door, cops searched the premises of the school across the street for a possible bomb. (It turned out the suspicious package left on the school doorstep was a bag of rags probably belonging to some street bum: still, I was stuck inside for 45 minutes while they made sure Osama bin Laden hadn’t targeted my neighborhood for his next terrorist strike.)

Not only do we have to pay for the farce that is the “Islamic Republic of Iraq,” but we have to live in constant fear, so that every bundle of old clothes discarded by the many vagrants of San Francisco will be the occasion for a street closing and a chance for the bomb squad to do its stuff, sirens wailing. It isn’t enough that our suicidal policies in the Middle East are leading to fresh wars in the region – now our leaders have brought their wars home. That is the meaning of the London attacks, and it is only a matter of time before a similar meaning is impressed upon us here in America.

Soon, they will be asking: Who lost Iraq? As well they might. Yet I fear another question far more: Who lost America? We all live in dread of the answer.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].