U.S. military intelligence reported last week that a man sentenced to death for bombing the French and U.S. embassies in Kuwait in 1983 now sits in the Iraqi Parliament. Jamal Jafaar Mohammed is immune from prosecution because of his seat in parliament. The U.S. military is also saying that he supports Shiite insurgents and acts as an Iranian agent in Iraq.
When I read all of this, I was quite shocked. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How did he go from being sentenced to death to being a member of the Iraqi parliament more than 20 years later?’
Here is how: According to CNN.com, a Kuwaiti court sentenced Mohammed to death in 1984 for the car bombings of the U.S. and French embassies in December 1983. Five people died in the attacks and 86 were wounded. Mohammed fled the country before the trial. Western intelligence agencies also accuse Mohammed of involvement in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner in 1984 and the attempted assassination of a Kuwaiti prince.
Mohammed won a seat in Iraq’s Council of Representatives in the U.S.-backed elections of December 2005. He represents the Babil province, south of Baghdad.
A U.S. embassy spokesman said that officials are actively pursuing Mohammed’s case with Iraqi officials. Prime Minister Al-Maliki has urged American intelligence officials to share the information with Iraqi lawmakers, who could strip Mohammed of his parliamentary immunity.
But don’t you think it’s just a bit ironic that our own coalition fighters and Iraqi civilians are being killed when all along, someone with such a dangerous person is sitting right in parliament, immune from prosecution? Even more ironic is that Al-Maliki’s political party, Dawa, claimed responsibility for the Kuwait bombings at the time but now disavows them.
The Prime Minister says the situation is embarrassing, not only to his government but to the U.S. administration that holds up Iraq’s government as a democratic model for the region. I completely agree. Here we are, sending our brothers and sisters into a country that doesn’t want us there and isn’t afraid to express that.
I don’t know whether the Iraqi government is inadequate. But if the Iraqi citizens don’t even know the background of the people they can now democratically elect into office, I don’t see how we can expect progress. And really, it’s not even their fault.
What kind of effect does President George W. Bush think our troops can have in a country struggling with such issues in its own government? Billions of dollars are not going to help the Iraqi citizens learn about who is in their government and apparently backed by a large democracy, the United States.
Last week Al-Maliki also told CNN that the United States and Iran should stop using his country as a proxy battleground, accusing Iran of targeting U.S. troops in Iraq but saying he doesn’t want U.S. forces to use Iraq as a base to attack surrounding neighbors. In some respects, Iran is a more sensitive issue to Americans than the Iraq war is. But the prime minister is right. Yes, Mohammed is a terrorist who should be brought to justice. But including emotional details like the fact that he supports insurgents and may be a spy for Iran is just adding fuel to a fire we’re sacrificing lives to put out. If there is some sort of fight we are trying to pick with Iran, Iraq is the worst possible place in which to start it. Haven’t we screwed up that country enough?
Priya Arora is a first-year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at email@example.com.