Saturday, May 05, 2007
fighting the bigots:
Ah, for the days when the oil law was a reconciliation measure. Now, it's looking more like a prison-yard shanking. The Kurdistan Regional Government pressed the fight against the law yesterday in an unexpected manner: calling an advocate of centralization a racist.

Issam al-Chalabi was Iraq's oil minister from 1987 to 1990. He now lives in Amman as an oil-industry analyst, and he's been a critic of the law for not granting the Iraqi National Oil Company enough control. (The Kurds oppose the law for giving INOC too much control.) Recently, he sent colleagues a rather innocuous e-mail describing Kurdish objections to the draft and concluding that, accordingly, "this brings back the whole issue to square one." Someone then put the e-mail on the internet with the subject heading "Back to square one, Kaka! ... have some oil..."

"Kaka" is apparently a racial slur against the Kurds during Saddam's time. It's analogous to a white man calling a black man "boy." The Kurdish oil minister released a statement saying:
The KRG regrets that this language is still in circulation amongst some Iraqis. We understand that Mr. Al-Chalabi has a point of view on the oil law which he has a right to express, but the publication of this point of view with a racist slur is not acceptable. We call on Mr. Issam Al-Chalabi to clarify the circumstances of the publication of his email. We call on Mr. Issam Al-Chalabi and his colleagues to reconcile themselves to a new Iraq in which all ethnicities and sects have equal protection under federal and regional law and are deserving of equal respect.
A great slight of hand here. Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdish minister, isn't directly accusing Chalabi of using the slur himself, but Hawrami goes even further by associating centralization with anti-Kurdish racism. Smell the reconciliation.
--Spencer Ackerman