Interview with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki
“Bush has never been weaker. The USA must make a more serious commitment”
"Rice is helping the terrorists with these kinds of statements.”
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, once again, in the last few hours, President Bush has repeated that the way in which the execution of Saddam Hussein was conducted was a sectarian vendetta. And in Italy and elsewhere, calls to abolish the death penalty have increased. Wouldn’t it have been better to have spared the life of Saddam Hussein?
The world forgets that we were victims of the pitiless regime of Saddam Hussein for decades. Tens of thousands of innocents were sent to their death after unmentionable torture. The elderly, women, and children died from chemical weapons. The world has forgotten the terror and brutality of the Ba’athist dictatorship. More than 160 members of my clan lost their lives, not to mention thousands in my political party (Da'wa). All were innocent.and killed for their political ideas. But regardless, I want to repeat that the trial of Saddam and his accomplices was conducted correctly. The law was observed to the letter. It had nothing to do with sectarian vendetta. Following the execution I personally ordered the washing of the remains according to Muslim ritual and had them placed in a dignified wooden coffin. No victim of Saddam ever received such treatment. Of course, I am well ware that errors were committed during the hanging of Saddam and I've ordered the arrest and prosecution of the officer who shouted abuse and slogans.
But George Bush is criticizing you and Romano Prodi has asked the United Nations to launch a campaign against the death penalty.
It seems to me that Bush is caving in to internal pressures and is overwhelmed by the media and politicians. Perhaps he has lost control of the situation. And I’m sorry to see that because, in general, George Bush has a strong character. As to Prodi, I need only to remind you who Italy treated Mussolini. Before being executed, there was no trial. His executioners told him only to state his name and admit to his identity. I’m saying that the world should respect our laws, our history and our culture. The death penalty is allowed by our Constitution. Moreover, the Koran permits the death sentence and there’s a verse that says that with death one creates life. Islamic religious law affirms that putting criminals to death protects human society.
Recently the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, stated publicly that your government is moribund. She suggested that you will not finish serving your term. Are you going to resign?
There is a media campaign deployed against me. And I certainly understand that the current US Administration is in great difficulty after its defeat at the polls a few weeks ago. And I’ve mentioned the weakness of George Bush. It seems to me it is the people in Washington who are moribund, not here in Baghdad. Our government functions better than many others. And I would advise Condoleezza Rich to avoid statements that only help the terrorists. These statements only encourage them. I would like to add that the terrorists may have delivered a defeat to America, but our government has not.
What is your opinion of the new US plan of intervention? And when to you think that Washington can begin to withdraw its troops from Iraq?
I will always be grateful to the Americans for having liberated Iraq from tyranny. It is thanks to the United States that we live in a climate of freedom and democracy, even if it is a work in progress. And our relationship will continue over the long term on economic, political and military issues. Having said this, I believe that the situation would have been far better had the United States immediately given our law enforcement authorities the weapons and equipment they need. If they had done this sooner, we would have had far fewer civilian and US troop casualties. We’ll have to wait and see. I would not exclude a drastically improved situation that, within three to six months, would permit most US troops to leave.
You’ve promised a crackdown on the militias over the next few days. But you are suspected of connivance with Iran and of being a staunch ally of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army.
We will reign in all the militias. We will display no discrimination or preference. All armed groups will be reigned in, whether Sunni, Shi’ite or Kurdish. We will hit them everywhere, every base and every group. The law will be equally applied to all. The State must have a monopoly on force and this is the sole possible premise on which a functioning state can be built. We wish to have normal and good relations with our neighbors. Our foreign policy is independent from that of the United States. I personally met with Moqtada al-Sadr twice in the last four years. And in the last few days, the police have rounded up more than 400 members of the Mahdi Army. I think that is sufficient proof to show that I don’t have a special relationship with any militia or political faction.
Do you agree that the violence in Iraq has degenerated into ethnic cleansing?
There are violent elements within the former Iraqi intelligence apparatus and groups that are led by ignorant people that are pursuing ethnic cleansing. This has taking place among Shi’ites as well as Sunnis. But I don’t believe that we will lapse into civil war. Peaceful coexistence triumphed in the past and I am confident that we will defeat the extremists. This is our plan: to wage war against terrorism. Forever –no matter how long it takes and without exception. If we fail the first time then we will try again.
January 18th, 2007