by Firas Al-Atraqchi, Freelance Columnist / IslamOnline –
CANADA (November 11, 2003) — The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) announced this week that it was appointing an Iraqi-American woman, Rend Rahim Francke, as its ambassador to the United States. At first glance, Iraq experts may applaud the ‘courageous’ move to appoint a woman as an Iraqi ambassador.
Some, who are illiterate in the finer aspects of Iraqi society, may invoke how Afghan women have been liberated and that President Bush’s war on terrorism has given down-trodden women in Islamic countries the courage and room to express themselves.
Bantha fodder, really.
First off, Iraqi women were the most liberated, most educated, and most industrious in the Arab World. This covered the period from 1960 to 2003. Unknown to most, and perhaps for ulterior motives, the Baath Party (which has been criminalized by an ignorant few) put women at the forefront. Pan-Arabism, the vision of true Baathism (not the latter-day form inspired by Assad and Saddam) could not be realized without the full integration of women into the work force. That’s why one of Iraq’s leading microbiologists is a woman. That’s why most educated Iraqi women have doctorates in the most varied of fields.
Incidentally, Afghan women have chosen to retain the chador and burka and veil and whatever else you choose to call it. Freedom is not measured by a dress code defined in the West.
Ms. Rend Rahim Franke Is a US Citizen
However, the appointment of Ms. Francke is worrisome to the point of it becoming dangerous and fracturing. On the one hand, Ms. Francke is an American citizen, not an Iraqi. By what right does she believe herself capable of representing Iraqi interests in Washington? And as an American citizen, how could she possibly take such a high post, on Iraq’s behalf in America’s capital? Does no one see this as highly suspicious? Do the words ‘conflict of interest’ not come into the scope?
Having lived most of her adult life in the US, does she know the Iraqi people, or does she tour Baghdad behind the security of US military protecting her and other IGC members? Does the average Iraqi know of this woman?
Consider the scenario: An American-appointed council, which has no legitimacy with the Iraqi people, appoints an American in the disguise of an Iraqi to represent Iraq in America. A few too many references to “America” in that sentence; so the objective is clear. Create an American stooge who can pass off as a spy. Classic. But who the hell are these people trying to fool? This is just going to infuriate those professional diplomats who are still left in the foreign ministry and further increase the Iraqi public’s hatred of the IGC.
Last year, Ms. Francke, who incidentally is the Executive Director of the Iraq Foundation, a DC-based, non-profit organization working for human rights and democracy in Iraq, once wrote that liberating Iraq would send a message to other Arab rulers. “A free Iraq would unleash new voices and new visions for the people of the Middle-East, opening perspectives of freedom that have long been squashed by their autocratic rulers.” Smacks of Agenda
Racism at its Ugliest’
This statement would have been welcomed had it not been put into motion by other, unseen elements in Washington. This domino effect that Ms. Francke alludes to has been the very reason for going to war cited by Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer and Richard Perle, all advocates of ousting Saddam, all supporters of Greater Israel, all anti-Arafat, anti-Syria, anti-Saudi Monarchy, anti-Arab League. This is the principle ethos of transferring democracy to other parts of the world. History teaches us, ladies and gentlemen, that democracy must come from within, entirely from within, and cannot be influenced, nor injected from without.
However, and to her credit, Ms. Francke has stressed that the US not act as an occupying force in Iraq. She told a Foreign Relations Committee in August 2002 that the US should build partnerships with local Iraqis, especially local opposition figures, and work with Iraq’s police forces. But she blasts that meager positivism by stating “that the US will have a decisive role, unprecedented since World War II, to influence the outcome in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.” This is racism at its ugliest, saying that the US must influence the outcome in Iraq.
Sorry, Ms. Francke, perhaps you have lived too long outside Iraq to realize that it is only the Iraqi people that can decide their own outcome, by their own designs, without the intervention of your bosses, or anyone else for that matter.
Ms. Francke would have done well to speak to some veterans of the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s. The Brits, too, tried to “influence the outcome in Iraq.” They lost 500 of their troops before dropping chemical weapons on rebelling Shiite tribes. Is that what is in store for Iraq? The British experiment ended with the bloody 1958 revolution and Saddam’s eventual rise. Why does no one pay attention to history? Arrogance, perhaps?
Francke’s Appointment Is an Insult to Democracy
Imagine if the New Americans, the forefathers of the Constitution, had declared that they would allow France (who had helped liberate them from the British) decide their outcome. Or if Queen Elizabeth I was told by Russia not to take on the Spanish Armada.
Imagine (oh, the horror!) if a Canadian became US Ambassador to Peru, or China, or Tanzania. Would the US congress sit still for it even if this Canadian spoke American English and ate at Burger King? No way, Jose!
If Ms. Francke is so big on democracy and democratic change, surely she must realize that her appointment is an insult to that very institution which she holds in such high regard. In the democratic US, an ambassador must be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after which ambassadorial nominations are sent to the full Senate. Where is such a representative body in Iraq? Oh, forgive me; that body exists in the non-Iraqi citizens of the IGC.
My qualm about Ms. Francke is not that her visions of change in Iraq may indeed be genuine or passionate, but that she is not Iraqi. Most of the IGC carry ‘other’ passports; Ahmed Chalabi, the most charismatic of the lot, has a British passport. Ms. Francke is an American citizen. Has she renounced her American citizenship to take up such a national, Iraqi post? Don’t count on it. And you can bet your bottom petro-dollar on this; when the going gets tough, Ms. Francke and her fellow “representatives of the Iraqi people” will be out of Iraq aboard a specially-provided US transport plane.
Ms. Francke had earlier on seemed to be voicing what many professional Iraqis were finding displeasing with the US presence in Iraq: “Many Iraqis have said to me, what you need on this is Iraqi voices, Iraqi faces, that the message has to be really targeted at what Iraqis need, and instead of Western pop music, have readings of the Koran,” she told the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of the leading advocates of the Iraq war.
One wonders if Ms. Francke has somehow been silenced with this offering of an Ambassadorial position.
I have nothing personal against the woman, but I would advise her, for Iraq’s sake, to put her appointment up to a representative body that vets her appropriately or to decline it altogether. Anything short of that is just another chess move in the larger imperial board.
Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Iraqi heritage. Holding an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.