COMPARE AND CONTRAST….So how are things going in Iraq? First up, let’s hear from Ayad Allawi, formerly prime minister in the interim government:

In a damning and wide-ranging indictment of Iraq’s escalating human rights catastrophe, Allawi accused fellow Shias in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam’s secret police, he said.

….’We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated,’ he added. ‘A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.’

He said that immediate action was needed to dismantle militias that continue to operate with impunity. If nothing is done, ‘the disease infecting [the Ministry of the Interior] will become contagious and spread to all ministries and structures of Iraq’s government’, he said.

Next up is Abdul Aziz Hakim, one of the “fellow Shias” Allawi was warning about. Hakim, who heads the Shiite Muslim religious party that leads the current government, oversees the party’s widely feared Badr Brigade, ground zero for “death squads and secret torture centres.” However, not only does Hakim flatly deny Allawi’s allegations, he suggests the real problem is exactly the opposite:

The leader of Iraq’s most powerful political party has called on the United States to let Iraqi fighters take a more aggressive role against insurgents, saying his country will only be able to defeat the insurgency when the United States lets Iraqis get tough.

….Hakim gave few details of what getting tough would entail, other than making clear it would require more weapons, with more firepower, than the United States is currently supplying.

….In Iraq, “there are plans to confront terrorists, approved by security agencies, but the Americans reject that,” Hakim said. “Because of that mistaken policy, we have lost a lot. One of the victims was my brother Mohammad Bakir, because of American policies.”

“For instance, the ministries of Interior and Defense want to carry out some operations to clean out some areas” in Baghdad and around the country, including volatile Anbar province, in the west, he said.

There is domestic politics involved in all this, of course, but the bottom line is that Ayad Allawi, who is no shrinking violet, is already horrified by the activities of the current Iraqi government. The most powerful unofficial member of the current government, however, says you ain’t seen nothing yet.

This does not sound good.