Jul 5, 2004
As L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.- led Coalition Provisional Authority, handed over a couple pieces of paper to the new Iraqi prime minister, George Bush stood by in Turkey ready to issue a comment: "Iraq has regained its sovereignty," declared Bush. "It is the world's newest democracy," he added. Putting icing on the cake, he declared that the transfer marked the "end of oppression" for the Iraqi people.
"Sovereignty"? The new Iraqi government cannot amend or change the constitution written by the U.S. for Iraq. The new Iraqi government cannot even, for all practical purposes, overturn any of the 100 and some orders and regulations issued by the Coalition Provision Authority. One of those edicts, which was issued just two days earlier, gave U.S. civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while in Iraq no matter what they do – for example, torture people. The new Iraqi government has no control over the U.S. military, which continues to make its own decisions on what it will do, when, how, against who, etc. Within minutes of "power" being transferred to the Iraqis, the U.S. demonstrated what that meant: when newly sworn-in ministers of the new government tried to talk to reporters, they were prevented from doing so by ... U.S. security officers.
Yes, we are told, this new Iraqi government formally has the right to ask the U.S. military to leave Iraq. But the U.S. has already declared that it intends to stay there for at least the next three years – and as an indication, it continues to increase the number of troops in Iraq. Standing at 141,000 today – 28,000 more than there were a couple months ago, their numbers could soon increase by another 25,000, according to orders already issued by Rumsfeld.
As for Bush's reference to "democracy" – this government was not even elected. It was appointed by the previous Iraqi government, which itself had been appointed by the U.S. And even then, the previous government was overruled in several of its key choices. People it wanted in certain positions were vetoed by the U.S. Furthermore, one of the laws issued by Bremer before he left Iraq prevents people who have opposed the U.S. occupation from running for office.
Then there is Bush's famous "end of oppression" – symbolized no doubt by the continued existence of Abu Gharib prison, with its thousands of prisoners who are still held there incommunicado.
"End of oppression?" Look at whom the U.S. appointed to be the new prime minister – Iyad Allawi, who at one time was part of the Baath Party apparatus that brutally oppressed the Iraqi people during Saddam Hussein's regime. When Allawi saw which way the Gulf War was going, he quit the Baath Party and Iraq – only to join up forces with Britain's MI-6 and then the U.S. CIA, both of which put him on their payroll. At which point, he used British and U.S. money to organize groups that carried out terrorist bombings inside Iraq, some of which killed civilians. One of the buildings reduced to rubble, with people inside, was a school. Today, he is trying to pull together remnants of the old Baath party apparatus, which brutalized the people of Iraq for decades.
No, this is not the end of oppression. It's only the beginning of a new period of oppression for the people of Iraq.
Nor is this transfer of power the beginning of the end of the U.S. war in Iraq – or even the first step toward ending it. It is first of all an election ploy for George W. Bush. He must figure he's gotten away with telling so many lies about Iraq, he might as well tell a few more. More to the point, this "transfer of power" is aimed at reducing opposition to this war in this country, by making it appear that the war is winding down.
No one should be fooled. Bush's lies are nothing but the preparation for a still wider war. This war won't be over until all U.S. troops are brought out of Iraq. That's what our cry should be: get the troops home, now!