Macron Reinforces Message That Iraqi Lives Don’t Matter
The President’s refusal to have French ISIS members tried at home is a lose-lose situation for all. Particularly, for notions of justice still peddled by the so-called Enlightened continent, writes Miranda Husain
No one can accuse Emmanuel Macron of being a cheese-eating surrender monkey. Not when he has refused to allow French ISIS fighters back into the country. This is a policy that even the Americans haven’t quite dared pursue vis-a-vis their own nationals; Trump’s pre-election bluster notwithstanding. Yet the President de La République believes that prosecuting those linked to the terror outfit is a matter for the sovereign Iraqi government alone. A sort of retrospective endorsement of the gun-point democracy orchestrated by a coalition of the willing that had in its sights, right from the get-go, lucrative reconstruction contracts. After all, the business of war is still a rich man’s world. Though one in which a side-serving of freedom fries is never amiss.
Baghdad, for its part, is ready to play ball; having already sentenced 11 French citizens to death. This has proved too much for Paris; wounding patriotic notions of liberty, equality and fraternity. Yet in a bid to demonstrate to everyone and their cat that the Enlightened continent deserves this politically-incorrect moniker of yesteryear — there’s now talk of possibly establishing a European tribunal to try these and other foreign jihadists. Thereby distancing the EU from the US which, in the immediate post-Saddam era, made much ado about suspending capital punishment in the country. Only to have the gallows re-open a little over a year later on the watch of the Washington-backed interim government. Just in time to set the stage for the hanging of the Butcher of Baghdad; some might say.
But this time around, Iraq may well be banking on having the last laugh. Quite literally. For the latter is reportedly willing to forego the hangman’s noose provided the price is right. According to regional and international media news outlets this translates into: two million euros per foreign fighter whose sentence is commuted to life imprisonment; up from the one million euros for each militant awaiting execution. Then there is the not un-small matter of persuading France to leave behind military equipment whenever the American-led international coalition finally exits the country for good.
Predictably, both sides have denied all of the above. That being said, Iraq deserves cash-in-hand for doing Paris’ dirty work. To be sure, detractors will accuse the former of succumbing to mercenary tactics. Which is fair enough given how it learned the tricks of dirty wars from the best. Yet, more importantly, such a cold hard cash exchange would remind (wo)man and cat alike that the world powers are experts when it comes to fudging war narratives to justify prolonged military occupations. From the elusive WMD programme to flushing out Al Qaeda and defeating ISIS; both of which sprung up as a direct blowback of the illegitimate intervention back in 2003. Indeed, a similar story continues to play out in Afghanistan. With these two theatres of unnecessary war having destabilised broader regions; respectively.
Macron’s decision is likely fuelled by domestic pressure. For it has become a somewhat universal truth that political leaders are wont to talk tough on terror as a means of deflecting from economic troubles at home. Thus the initial optimism that accompanied his victory to the Elysée two years ago — buoyed in part by the electoral defeat of the National Front (FN) with its xenophobic and anti-EU mandate complete with visions of exiting the euro — has given way to focus on socio-economic inequality. Indeed, six months ago Yellow Vest protests threatened to end in all-out resurrection. It may, therefore, be no coincidence that reports of abandoning citizens to the Iraqi justice system came just weeks before announcing the latest rounds of presidential reforms; including increasing the retirement age to fund the welfare state.
All of which smacks of opportunism. For conventional wisdom dictates that a head of state who denies links between a militarised foreign policy under the bombs-and-bullets banner of the NATO war machine and the home-grown terror threat is less likely to be lambasted for simply being a “President for the Rich”. At least, that appears to be the hope. Particularly when still etched in the public consciousness is the blood curdling attack on the staff of the weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
Naturally, this would be a gross misstep. The state, after all, has a duty to enforce the rule of law at home. As an added bonus, this would highlight the hypocrisy of those seeking to overthrow western governments and replace them with a global caliphate and who now want to be put before the French judicial system; as opposed to that of Islamic Iraq. Moreover, stubbornness on this front will not keep the country safe. Just as Britain’s revoking of Shamima Begum’s citizenship is no guarantee of the same.
The only surefire way to do this is to start at the beginning. By holding to account the original sinners of this choreographed yet mismanaged chaos: one son of a Bush and Toxic Blair. This is the path to real and tangible justice. To do otherwise, is to pretend that the apple remains unbitten in the palm. Of course, Paris may not have been part of this war-mongering cabal — but it has kowtowed to the doctrine of the pre-emptive strike elsewhere; from Libya to Syria.
In short, the message is clear. After 16 long years, Iraqi lives still don’t matter. How can they, when prosecuting war crimes remains dependent upon the identity of those committing such atrocities? As things currently stand, the fate of French ISIS members benefits no one. With, perhaps the exception of a Brexit-plagued Blighty that has been offered temporary reprieve from the harsh glare of the European spotlight. And that is no win at all.
Miranda Husain is a senior journalist and has worked as Deputy Managing Editor at Daily Times, Features Editor at The Friday Times (TFT) and Deputy Editor at Newsweek Pakistan. She writes on local and international politics; race and identity; and cats! She can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @humeiwei