Iraqi Opposition Leaders Pay Heavy Price for Friendship with U.S.

Presidential hopeful Al Gore met with nine Iraqi National Congress leaders at the State Department on June 26. The meeting, which included Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization which embodies several Iraqi opposition groups, was called to explore ways "to see Saddam go".

The organization has allied itself with Washington in the hopes of gaining more support, mainly financial. At a three-day conference last October at a New York Hilton Hotel, the group was awarded a substantial aid package from the U.S. government with the promise of more to come. But the INC's friendship with the U.S. has not come without cost. Eleven Iraqi opposition groups boycotted the New York conference because of the continued sanctions and bombings orchestrated by the U.S. government. And the Iraqi National Accord (INA), one of the coalitions' largest participants recently decided to pull out. The reason for the INA's abandonment of the INC, was also because of the INC's close relationship with the United States.

The exiting of the INA from the Iraqi opposition's losing battle is certainly a wise decision on all levels. But the most important message to be sent through such a decision was that serious change in Iraq can never be achieved through the actions of those in the White House.

And if Vice President Al Gore wins the election and takes over where Clinton left off, it's doubtful that there will be any change in the U.S. policy toward Iraq.

While Gore continues to bash his political opponent George Bush on foreign policy issues, his own policy, especially concerning Iraq, is no different than that of any recent U.S. administration.

This was made painfully apparent at a campaign rally in Chicago late last month. A member of Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign established to end the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq, asked Gore, "...why should anyone vote for an administration that kills five thousand innocent children a month through sanctions in Iraq?" Gore reportedly stopped speaking and laughed, saying that he would "discuss this later in the day."

And at a meeting with Arab-Americans in Detroit last year, Gore said he had "deep sympathy" for the people of Iraq, but said he would not put an end to sanctions and bombings until there was a change in government.

It seems that the issue of toppling the Iraqi government and President Saddam Hussein is little more than a question of interests, money and politics, while the welfare of the Iraqi people is hardly even a concern to the U.S. government. The recent high profile meetings between leaders of the Iraqi opposition and Vice President Al Gore represented a continuation of the self-centered legacy led by the American government.

Yet, the deepening fragmentation of the participating exiled Iraqi groups, and their seemingly disoriented strategy is a sign of a disastrous outcome.

Nevertheless, the United States' generous aid packages to the Iraqi opposition are likely to continue, even if the INC no longer retains legitimacy or possesses a real chance of making "Saddam go." The INC's mission from the perspective of the U.S. Administration is to provide a defense argument against those who doubt the government's ability in leading solid long term foreign policy in Iraq.

After nine years of orchestrating the Iraqi National Congress, the INC symbolizes the U.S.'s narrow-minded approach and its willingness to resort to lawless methods when dealing with an issue of great human consequence. At the same time, a clear lesson should not be denied; meaningful and healthy change for Iraq must begin with the end of the sanctions and the American bombings. As for the U.S government, it is needless to say, those who deliver death can never grant life.

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