Mar 1, 2004
Bush's propaganda balloon floating over Iraq has suffered another puncture: the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi government has refused to give its official approval to the U.S. military occupation. This doesn't mean the Iraqi Governing Council, as the current puppet government is called, is demanding that U.S. troops leave. It simply wants a new, "caretaker" government, scheduled to take office by June 30, to take the flack for this obviously unpopular move.
This means that, one after the other, all of the elements of Bush's "transition plan" for supposedly handing over power to Iraqis on June 30 have fallen by the wayside.
First, the Governing Council has failed to meet Bush's February 28 deadline for drafting a constitution. Even if it patches up a constitution soon, the second step of the "transition plan," the selection of caucuses which in turn would elect a national assembly, is already out the window. Instead, the "plan" now is to have a "caretaker" government put in place by June 30, selected by who knows what means, to prepare for elections which are to be promised – for 6 months later.
Bush's Iraqi allies are uneasy about openly appearing as his puppets, and they also have fundamental disagreements amongst themselves.
Shiite leaders from the south basically want Islamic law, the Sharia, to be the law of the country. Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani's recent statements in favor of the "transition plan" may indicate that he has reached some kind of agreement on this. But U.S. allies that belong to the other two groups are not necessarily happy with this kind of an arrangement. The leaders of the Sunni faction, that is, Saddam Hussein's old base, want the elections to be postponed because they are not as organized as the Shiites and Kurds are. The Kurdish leaders from the north want more autonomy and official status for their militias. The Shiite leaders also want to keep their militias intact. All this raises the threat of armed conflicts in the future between these rival groups in Iraq.
Will all this prevent Bush from pretending that he is handing power to Iraqis "as planned" on June 30? Not at all. He will keep his "deadline" of June 30, by hook or crook. And he may even get away with making the war seem to disappear. For the most part, his Democratic rivals have stopped talking about it.
But the fact that the war has already mostly disappeared from the headlines of the mainstream news in the U.S. doesn't mean that the war in Iraq has gone away or is even waning in any way.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed by the U.S. and the British since the war began, and they continue to die on a daily basis. Aside from the violence of the ongoing war, daily life continues to be unbearable for most Iraqis. With an unemployment rate of at least 70%, most Iraqis are without jobs or any income. Many basic services such as electricity and running water are still not fully restored. Crime is rampant throughout the country, with people being reluctant to leave their homes for fear of being robbed, kidnapped or raped.
The U.S. troops also continue to suffer the consequences of Bush's war. In January, for example, Iraqi rebels killed 51 coalition troops. That's the second-highest monthly toll since Bush announced the war over 10 months ago. Of course, this figure doesn't include the soldiers who are wounded (whose number the U.S. military refuses to announce), nor those who suffer other types of war-related problems, such as mental disorder, after they complete their tour of duty.
In any event, the death figures suggest that the rate of attacks against the occupation is rising sharply, despite the fact that U.S. troops venture out of their bases much less often now than they did a few months ago. In a military bulletin on February 6, the U.S. military acknowledged 73 attacks in one day on coalition targets, including on Iraqi aides. The bulletin said that the insurgents had "become more sophisticated and may be co-ordinating their anti-coalition efforts, posing an even more significant threat."
Despite Bush's pretensions and lies, the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to be catastrophic for U.S. troops as well as the Iraqi population.