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IRAQ: Phony Sovereignty


The supposed "Transfer of Sovereignty in Iraq" that took place June 28th, when power shifted from U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer to ambassador John Negroponte, constitutes neither a transfer nor a pull-out. since approximately 175,000 U.S. troops and some 14 permanent bases stand to remain under U.S. command. Changing the name from provisional authority to interim government has not changed the reality of occupation. Once again Iraqi casualties are numbering the hundreds, as the town of Najaf turns into a major battlefield reminiscent of that of Falluja this past April. Not only the Sunni triangle of the north, but the entire country including the Shiite south is now unstable, revealing the strength and scope of the resistance.

President Bush promised that the U.S. would allow Iraq to govern itself, but the much-publicized transfer changes little on the ground since the occupation continues -- military, fiscally and administratively, as does the insurgency, the rise of casualties and incidences of human rights abuses by coalition forces. U.S. companies monopolize reconstruction contracts, and the so-called Iraqi Interim government is prohibited from changing laws already passed by the United States. Iraq's new Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, President, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer, and Iraqi Defense Ministry staff, are supposedly officially governing Iraq while power resides in a U.S. embassy of some 3000 staff. The U.S. military still controls the Iraqi army, and a new secret police force, according the Pentagon and CIA, will allow America to maintain control over the direction of the country. (Sunday Telegraph, June 4) Any Iraqi paper veto over U.S. military strategy is practically unenforceable.

If the Transitional National Assembly fails to draft a permanent constitution by August, 2005 elections could be pushed back as far as 2006, and, as the Interim Constitution stands, the U.S. coalition has given the Kurdish minority veto rights. The Development Fund for Iraq, consisting of ten foreigners and one Iraqi, will manage oil revenues for five more years, the $20 billion approved by congress last fall will ensure a U.S. advantage in decision-making, and U.S. administrators (appointed by Paul Bremer) will continue to influence every Iraqi institution. All this makes a mockery of sovereignty and democracy. Sociologist, Lee Clarke views the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis as being in the realm of what he aptly describes in his book as "fantasy documents," that is,. plans that look good on paper but are practically useless.

The CPA's (Coalition Provisional Authority) own polls also show that 55% of Iraqis want U.S. troops to leave immediately. If troops left, the U.N. Transitional Authority under a U.N. envoy, could meanwhile support the provisional government in the process of constructing a constitution and holding national elections for an Iraqi government, while NATO forces and U.N. peacekeeping forces could replace the U.S. /U.K. troops and support the Iraqi forces. As it stands the current U.S. rhetoric for handing over sovereignty does not even fit into Iraqi political theory, for by definition sovereignty implies legitimacy - the very thing they lack while under the imposition of a foreign power.

Though Iraqis are glad to be rid of Saddam's barbaric regime, they do not welcome the humiliation of foreign occupying forces. Iraqis of all sectors are strongly nationalistic and will evidently willingly die for their country. If the U.S. underestimates the nationalistic forces of Iraq, as it did those in Vietnam in the 1970s, it will do so at its own peril. The uprising this spring, ironically, served to unite the very two groups, Sunnis and Shi'a, that the U.S. feared would generate a civil war. In the long run though, factional conflict between warring tribes and Islamic groups will increase, if not checked by a unified security force. Occupation, if necessary at all, should bring order, not chaos. However, lack of international collaboration, planning, and foresight, have created a country that is being destabilized by criminals, psychopaths, Ba'athists, nationalists, religious radicals and disgruntled civilians who are simply tired of the current conditions in Iraq and weary of burying their family and friends. To complicate matters, after the fall of Baghdad, it is reported that Iraqi criminals were released and 100 criminally insane were freed adding to the current mayhem on the streets.

The attacks this past year on the United Nations (U.N.) compound, the Red Cross, the Baghdad hotel and the Italian military police compound, combined with multiple ambushes and suicide bombings, culminating in the latest atrocities committed against coalition forces, and subsequent heavy retaliation, have further strengthened the belief that the U.S. is unable to stabilize the country. Complications have also arisen on the ground since U.S. forces do not understand Middle Eastern culture, have not been trained accordingly and have not been briefed adequately for guerilla warfare. They fail to understand the cultural mores of modesty in Islam and the extent to which men are protective of their women, which further antagonizes Iraqis when their homes are unscrupulously raided. As some British forces have noted, there is no organized chain of command for American soldiers and no proper accounting for their use of force. This was brought home by the release of the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib prison. Insecurity continues to grow among Iraqi civilians, many of whom still lack basic resources, such as reliable power, clean water, medical supplies, and employment since the invasion. Even Saddam's regime had at least supplied health care and education, leaving many Iraqis feeling that they are now worse off than before. An Iraqi daily reports, "The levels of electricity power in Iraq achieved a remarkable increase after reaching 4,250 megawatts, surpassing the level of production prior to the war. However, the rate of power outage was still high at 12 hours a day in Baghdad," making life intolerable in the 120 degrees heat.

Saddam partisans, local guerillas and regional terrorists continue to wreak havoc on Iraq's already inadequate infrastructure, which suffered under a decade of economic sanctions. Violent resistance continues to increase undeterred; oil pipelines, power supplies and water mains are being sabotaged, civilians continue to live in fear for their lives, American soldiers continue to die, 38 in July, and according to Iraqbodycount.net, Iraqi casualties now number over 10,000 killed. Recently, the insurgents have resorted to kidnappings, 40 were reported in the month of April alone. U.S. troops are suffering from exhaustion and psychological stress, and suicide is on the rise as they are called on to continue this occupation far beyond their capacity. American media does not begin to portray the reality of conditions on the ground where civilians have lost hope and soldiers no longer expect to come out alive.

At the cost of $3.9 billion a month to America, raids, ambushes and bombings continue to shake the country and hamper reconstruction while the Bush administration lauds progress and success. While the war cost U.S. taxpayers $65 billion, according to The Economist, rebuilding Iraq is projected to cost $600 billion dollars. The administration approved another $87 billion to re-build the country they tore down, and more has been requested. As reporter Ken Dilanian points out, "Hoped-for foreign investment in Iraq's economy hasn't materialized - what company is going to risk seeing its employees beheaded on television?"

Despite the recent transfer, with the lack of post war strategy or the financial resources for post war development, the vacuum that was created through the fall of Iraq ruling powers will take years to fill. While some undesirable Ba'athists remain on the one hand, systematic de-Ba'athification on the other resulted in the firing of some 50,000 Ba'ath party members, almost an entire essential middle class working in areas like health, education and security. 400,000 Iraqi soldiers have also been demilitarized, which means that some 2,700,000 Iraqis have been left without income. U.S. officials fail to see that millions of Iraqis belonged to the Ba'ath party because they had no choice but to join the party in order to work. This does not mean however that they were loyal to the party. The Ba'ath party consists of 13 levels in its hierarchy and now the top four have vanished and been replaced with inexperienced and ineffective staff, or worse still, loyal Ba'athists. The result has been the creation of over two million more working class unemployed enemies on the ground in Iraq, and to add insult to injury the United States is hiring outsiders to reconstruct Iraq.

It is not only Sunni radicals who have been carrying out these latest attacks. The Shi'a fractionalized minority holds perhaps the greatest motive to struggle for power, and though they have cooperated with the United States, they are losing patience. Prominent Iraqi figures, such as the popular Shiite cleric the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who insists on direct elections for a transitional national assembly, have the increasing support of moderates too, both in Iraq and surrounding nations. Other clerics like Moktada al-Sadr have followers numbering in the thousands, taking to the streets in protest marches in ever-greater numbers, vowing to continue the violent opposition, and given conditions on the ground, their recruiting base is also expanding. These Iraqis celebrate the demise of Saddam but do not want to live under any type of foreign occupation including military. This deadly brew of radicalism, nationalism and social disaster creates more psychological desperation, humiliation and determined resistance. The violent resistance is escalating and the chants of participating Iraqis tell the story -- 'Death to America! Death to Occupation'!

The first national survey conducted in Iraq, published by the independent British research consultancy Oxford Research International (ORI), sampled the views of 3,244 Iraqis in October 2003 and found that the U.S. led coalition was the least trusted of the organizations currently operating in Iraq. Of the respondents 79 percent had no faith in the U.S. /U.K. forces and 73 percent expressed no confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority, and while support for the idea of democracy in Iraq has gained ground, 95 percent said that 'democracy is a western way of doing things and it will not work here'. 71 percent agree that Iraq needs a single strong Iraqi leader. While this is an undesirable outcome that could lead to another authoritarian ruler, the U.S. administration needs to be realistic about the idea of imposing democracy. In order to win the trust of Iraqis it needs to remove its troops as soon as practical. The U.S. remains oblivious to the difficulties of implementing democracy in a region of such ethnic and tribal diversity, as if democracy were the universal norm. It has resorted to the old method of 'might is right,' trying to win over the nation by force, instead of appealing to Iraqis through the subtle but more effective road of diplomacy and public relations.

The White House wants the appearance of a hand-over in order to give the impression that it does not have ulterior motives, and that Iraq is under control before the elections, but the continued presence of U.S. troops will ensure the opposite. Of course Iraq is a strategic location, but as long as there is any U.S. presence in Iraq, the insurgency will continue to spread. Even the Iraqi government will not gain the respect of Iraqis, who suspect they are merely American puppets, until U.S. troops leave. America is increasingly seen as the cause of their problems and their hatred is growing. "Arrogance and insensitivity gradually alienated people, and now under the pressure of so many deaths almost everyone supports the resistance, the Mojahedin." (Guardian, 12 April)

The huge pool of U.S. money allocated to Iraq should primarily go towards building the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police force quickly and effectively. This ought to be America's first priority. As soon as Iraqi forces are able to maintain control, U.S. forces should leave, which will reassure Iraqi nationalists that they are no longer occupied, while exposing their own troublemakers, who by then will stand-alone against the Iraqi police force and face the international community. Continued U.S. financial support and resources and the oversight of the U.N. Security Council and NATO would allow the U.S. troops to exit while the institutions of Iraq truly govern themselves under a new constitution according to their own traditional, religious and cultural mores.

The invasion was an unnecessary mistake, and without the involvement of the international community the U.S. cannot stabilize the country. U.S. relations overseas have already unraveled, but if the U.S. can regain international support this would be the best scenario. Even a U.N. mandate for the U.S. coalition forces, with a symbolic mixture of Arab troops in the meantime, could provide temporary assistance. The Arabs can also help with vital intelligence especially, as well as in relations with the local community until the U.S. forces pull out.

Once the Iraqi security forces are capable of handling its increasing number of dissidents, a complete U.S. withdrawal is the only self-respecting and practical solution for the U.S. government if it is to avoid a long, expensive and self-defeating occupation.

Copyright @ Brita May Rose, August, 2004

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000290.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Brita Mae Rose @ 09:15 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 8 comments

May I have information about the author of this article, Brita Mae Rose--other articles she has written, professional information, etc.? Thank you.

Posted by a. stephens @ 08/16/2004 05:03 AM CST

May I also have information about the author of this article, Brita Mae Rose--other articles she has written, professional information, etc.? Thank you

Posted by Dean @ 08/17/2004 09:37 AM CST

Its sad that the best scenario for peace and security for the ordinary Iraqi in 3 decades being offered and given freely by the Americans and other nations is being spat on and besmirched because of a ideology based on a long ago fantasy of some guy named mohammed and some guy named jesus...

Posted by don m. @ 08/24/2004 04:46 AM CST

What does this mean. The proposed solutions are conflicted and racist. This is nothing more than a political speech with a few personal views stated as fact thrown in. Just say what you mean America is bad and stupid. I don't agree but at least it will not take so long to read.

Posted by Joeg @ 09/04/2004 03:50 PM CST

The middle east is a place that God has apparently forgotten about or is quite ashamed of. I have been in Iraq for a year and a half, none of us want to be here, but we are. It is increasingly apparent that Arabs cannot handle any affairs in a civilized manner, thus resorting to violence. It is the way of life here, the war in Iraq is very costly to the US and it would be quite beneficial to America if the Iraqi people could handle their own government and set its course on a peaceful path. Without the assistance of the US and its allies, Iraq will not see peace or prosperity. I pray to God for Armageddon, in my opinion that is the only way to a better planet, by starting over. Sad, yes but we all know this to be true.

Posted by US Soldier in Iraq @ 09/06/2004 05:23 AM CST

Its no wonder that the Iraqis are incapable of forming a legitimate and stable government--they haven't been able to maintain sovereignty without external interference. They are unable to trust any "allies" because they always end up with the short end of the stick. What Iraq and the rest of the Middle East needs is responsible leadership and not myopic puppet-leaders beholden to others (see Saddam 20 years ago when the U.S. was supporting him). The U.S. should say what it means, and mean what it says when it talks about fostering democracy in the region. Short term support of dictators gets us nowhere in the long term.

Posted by A concerned and skeptical American @ 09/13/2004 04:08 AM CST

What I myself find to be sad about this article is the lack of information that creates any positives from the decision of invading Iraq! In a perfect world, Im sure that ideally we could have invaded, taken out the bad guys and left Iraq to envelop a new government and live happily ever after! Are you kidding me? Its rediculous how we must look to other countries when we cant even get the support of our own people for the decisions that have nothing to do with the brave men and women who are doing nothing but their jobs to try and better the lives of other people! Let me tell you, that as a citizen of a free country, I may not always agree with the decisions of our leaders but I certainly will not criticize as you so eagerly do! Why dont you put yourself in a decision making position for our country and see if you can do better! If we as a group living in a free country like the united States cant work together and support each other how can we expect to creat a democracy in a country like Iraq! Its articles such as this that make me sick! If you are gonna state facts, make sure you include both sides of the truth!

Posted by Kelly Adami @ 09/20/2004 09:45 PM CST

This article is not hateful of the United States - I don't know where some of the responders are getting that from. Perhaps they think it is hateful because it is critical, and they are too insecure in American foreign policy to accept any criticism of it?

When I read this article, I read what has been obvious to me for a very long time. George Bush thinks that democracy is a panacea that will instantly cure everything that is wrong with people. What he ignores is that democracy only works if the conditions are right, and they are not so in the Middle East. The conditions which have induced democracy in other nations are not present in Iraq - there is too much disunity, too much inequality, too little trust, no economic security, no deliberative political desire amongst these people... democracy isn't just going to magically make this situation work. You read in this article, 95% of Iraqis polled by an international organization said they don't think democracy is going to work well there. The people on the ground know that it is dangerous to unleash democracy like George Bush is doing. When elections come in January, someone like radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr is going to be elected, and he is not going to be a nice guy there! He will follow radical Islamic interpretations of law and he will not play well with the USA. And you know what the worst thing about it will be? He will have been democratically elected and there will be NOTHING we can do about it. We will have taken power from a man (Hussein) who we were watching on a short leash and with great restrictions, and given it to a man who is even worse for the people of Iraq.

The people of Iraq are not ready, politically or economically, for democracy. Most of the middle east is still stuck in the 14th century - we have to bring them up to speed with the rest of civilization before they will be ready.

Posted by jackson @ 10/13/2004 02:51 AM CST

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