Monday, August 09, 2004

Will the EU ask for an American occupation of Iraq?

As we know, the European Union is virulently against the death penalty. In fact, one of its many objections to the United States is that many of the states have either retained or revived capital punishment as part of their legal system.

This does raise the question of why it is that the individual states of the United States can make decisions like that for themselves while member states of the European Union cannot.

However, we have run into a difficulty in Iraq. A speedy hand-over to an Iraqi government was in different ways either forcefully suggested or demanded by various European countries. The EU, as represented by Romano Prodi and Javier Solana, not to mention Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder, huffed and puffed about the need for Iraq to be run by Iraqis (in the case of some of these great politicians, any Iraqi would have done, preferably one they could do business with).

Power was handed over to an Iraqi government, with Ayad Allawi as Prime Minister, several days early in a piece of breathtaking insolence on the part of the Americans. I mean, what could the EU and the UN complain about?

Yesterday, the Iraqi government has announced an amnesty for minor crimes committed since the overthrow of the Saddam regime. The EU was very pleased. It likes amnesties in other countries, as long as no friend of theirs, such as the Chinese government, is involved.

Then the Iraqi government has announced that it was bringing back capital punishment for military insurrection, murder and other serious crimes. Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi said that this was not "an open door to execute anyone and everyone, or people whom the government dislikes". The law was limited and will be applied, according to Janabi and Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin, in a juridically organized fashion. They regretted the necessity and when the position is stabilized the law will be abolished.

The point is that under direct American occupation the law had been suspended. There was no capital punishment in Iraq, possibly the first time in its history. What is the EU going to say now? On the one hand, as I said above, it opposes capital punishment, particularly in democratic and semi-democratic countries. On the other hand, it has a regrettable track-record of chumminess with rather nasty dictators, who do execute "people the government dislikes". Perhaps, the simplest solution will be for Solana to call for the restoration of American rule in Iraq.

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