We declared it today, and we are going to implement it whenever and wherever it is necessary. This will send a very powerful message that we are serious.
Actually, it sends an even more powerful message that we’re desperate.
President Bush declared the major fighting in Iraq over on May 1, 2003, beginning a U.S. occupation that sort of ended June 28 of this year with a ceremonial handoff of power to Allawi’s interim government. Four months later, that government — in a somewhat iffy lead-up to free, democratic elections planned for January — decides to use its “broad” powers to, as The New York Times says today, “impose curfews, order house-to-house searches and detain suspected criminals and insurgents.”
It’s obvious that the ongoing attack on the insurgent stronghold Fallujah, combined with the state of emergency, is a last-ditch effort to get the country under control. It’s also obvious that this is hopeless. The occupation forces just went through this in Samarra last month, and that city is already back in the hands of the insurgents (meaning, in an unfortunate and impossible to ignore irony, the Iraqi people).
Allawi and the United States are desperate because it’s already acknowledged that the January elections will be held only in some of Iraq, not in parts Allawi’s government and the United States can’t control. But you can’t establish a legitimate government from only the pacified part of a country. That makes it, to those elsewhere, an illegitimate government. Hell, many in the United States considered George Bush an illegitimate president, and we really did vote in the 2004 election.
What is now a battle between two countries will become a civil war over a government that much of the country didn’t elect. To keep that from happening, the interim government’s best solution is: martial law.