Iraqi will

Whatever their anxieties about ceding authority over Iraq’s affairs to Iraqis, officials of the Bush administration must do exactly that in coming months.

US occupation authorites in Iraq did well the past few days to stand back patiently and let Iraqi politicians thrash out last-minute quarrels about an interim constitution.

But a looming clash of interests appeared over the weekend with the dispatch of a vanguard of some 50 US investigators, prosecutors, and lawyers to Baghdad to staff the Regime Crimes Adviser’s office within the US occupation authority. Their task will be to find

evidence to indict Saddam in an Iraqi court for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity.

It is entirely proper to make American legal specialists available to the Iraqi court. Similarly, judges and lawyers from other countries can offer their Iraqi counterparts valuable assistance. But the foreigners must refrain from imposing their self-interested preferences.

One source of conflict concerns the calendar. Iraqis have already objected to the administration’s idea of having such a tribunal commence well before the first Tuesday in November. Iraqis are justified in wanting to take their time preparing the case against a dictator responsible for killing more than a million people. So Iraqis have to be allowed to do things their way. — The Boston Globe