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Published in the 16-30 Jun 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Iraq's great sovereignty hoax
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Bush's popularity ratings with the American people, who virtually gave him a blank cheque to cash in their name after 9/11, are plummeting by the day and the Americans are becoming wiser every day about the great swindle in Iraq by their 'war' President.

However, Bush is so mired in the bog of his own deception that there is no way he could give up playing pranks with his own people and with his conquered subjects in Iraq. His Iraqi mis-adventure has been one big lie and one huge hoax from the beginning to this day. But the game of attempting to hoodwink the world is still on, as far he and his loyal neocons are concerned.

The latest focus in the great con game that Bush's Iraq policy has been since day one is on transfering 'real' sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30th. Bush has been beating the drums of his own sincerity to pass on real or genuine sovereignty to the Iraqis under his scheme of democratising Iraq with a magic wand. His pitch has become louder since the unraveling of his soldiers' barbarity against the Iraqi prisoners of Abu Ghraib. He thinks he might be able to turn the tide in his favour, once again, by using the Iraqi sovereignty foil to cover up the ghastly face of America exposed at Abu Ghraib.

Incidentally, despite all the furore in the world over the gross abuses done to the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, there is still no letup in the policy of keeping innocent Iraqis incarcerated for long periods of time without any evidence that they posed any threat to American security in occupied Iraq. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) , in a confidential report in February this year-long before the Abu Ghraib scandal hit the headlines-had said that " military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimation between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."

And yet, according to a front page story in the New York Times, there were still 6500 Iraqis languishing in various Iraqi jails, 3000 of them in Abu Ghraib. The story also mentioned an unpublished report by Major-General Donald J. Ryder expressing deep concern at the constant refusal of top U.S. military commanders in Iraq to authorise the release of prisoners being held without any evidence of wrong-doing on their part. Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander is believed to be the greatest obstacle in the way of releasing these hapless and innocent thousands still being subjected to arbitrary arrest, abuse and torture.

The same cat-and-mouse game is being played on a much larger scale, and on an elaborate stage for the whole world to see, in regard to Bush's much-touted claim that real sovereignty would be transferred to the Iraqis on June 30th.
Crass duplicity and hypocrisy of a grand order came into full evidence during the process of selecting an interim Iraqi government to take over from the American occupiers on 30 June.

The task of picking up the new Iraqi team was, theoretically, assigned to Lakhdar Ibrahimi, Kofi Annan's trusted and tried trouble-shooter. Bush and his neocons went pleading before the UN to undertake the arduous business. However, as Ibrahimi settled down in Baghdad to tackle the challenge, the Bush viceroy, Paul Bremmer, started his own nefarious game to interfere aggressively in Ibrahimi's delicate task. Bremmer's brazen bamboozling of Ibrahimi reached its pinnacle in the choice of an interim Prime Minister of Iraq.
Ibrahimi's first choice for the prime minister was Dr. Hussain Shehrastani, a Toronto-based nuclear scientist. Shehrastani invited the wrath of Saddam Hussain upon himself when he refused to launch a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq. He suffered years of detention in the notorious Abu Ghraib before managing to flee the country for exile in Canada. A soft-spoken and thoroughly apolitical man, he measured up to Ibrahimi's preference to have a non-partisan and non-political interim prime minister, a qualification least suited to Bremmer's requirements.

In the end, Bremmer had his way when he, in cahoots with the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC ), foisted Iyad Allawi on the office of interim prime minister. Allawi is not only a former Baathist, who broke rank with Saddam in mid-70s and sought shelter in London, but has also been an agent of British and American intelligence ever since the Gulf War. His CIA connections are known to every Iraqi on the streets of Baghdad.

But Bremmer couldn't muscle his way into the selection of an interim President, though he did manage to create a deadlock on it for several days. Bremmer wanted the octogenarian Adnan Pachachi-who was foreign minister under Abdel Karim Qasim more than forty years ago-known for his pro-American leanings. However, the American hand-maiden IGC, for once, stuck to its guns and refused to bow down to Bremmer's blackmailing.

The naming of Shaikh Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawar as interim president could well be hailed as the first victory of Iraqis over the American occupiers in the political arena. Yawar, an engineer trained in U.S. who lived in Saudi Arabia for several years of exile, brings the prestige of his tribal roots to the highest office of Iraq. The Iraqis could also draw some comfort from the fact that he is not as beholden to the Americans as Allawi is and may well bring some respectability to his office.

However, this 'victory' of the Iraqis in one small battle pales against the great hoax that Bush and his neocons are palnning to play with a nominally 'sovereign' Iraq in the garb of "full sovereignty". This time they are anxious to involve the UN into their charade in order to make it more palatable for the world. Hand-in-glove with its side-kick, Britain, the Bush team has gone to the UN Security Council with a draft resolution seeking endorsement of its 'great game' of deception and duplicity, vis-à-vis the Iraqi people.

In the draft resolution, the Anglo-Saxons commit themselves to pull their forces out of Iraq by the last day of 2005. However, their troops, as long as they are in Iraq, will be a law unto themselves and not subjected to any Iraqi authority. They will have full freedom to act on their own and move around anywhere in Iraq at their own sweet will, thus making a mockery of the basic concept of a government having full authority over everything on every inch of its territorial space.

It is not only that the interim government will have no authority or control over the alien forces-in which U.S. alone will have 140,000 troops-but its authority over the Iraqi forces too is said to be murky at this stage. It remains to be negotiated between the interim government and U.S. whether the Iraqis will be free to refuse co-operation to the Americans in a military action or tag along as appendages whenever required by the Americans.

What to talk of armed forces, it is still being debated if the Iraqi government will have its writ enforced on scores of Americans who have been pre-positioned as 'advisers' in every Ministry of the Iraqi government. According to occupation sources, these American 'experts' said to number between 110 and 160, will be " layered" through Iraqi ministeries. They have already been given contracts by the occupation authority valid for periods far beyond June, 2004. Will the interim government have the power to revoke or cancel these contracts is, at this stage, entirely a matter of speculation.

Not only American servicemen but even civilians working for private American companies in Iraq currently enjoy the colonial privilege of 'extra-territoriality' and are outside the pale of the Iraqi criminal law.

Related to it is the future of thousands of those Iraqi prisoners still languishing in the American occupation prisons, such as Abu Ghraib. It is not clear if these prisoners, detained largely arbitrarily with hardly any evidence of criminal behaviour on their part, will be free after the occupation is over, technically, on June 30th, or would they still remain incarcerated? If so, under whose authority and command?

A more ticklish and potentially troublesome issue is that of the revenues earned from the export of Iraqi oil.
Under existing rules, enforced under U.S. occupation, the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Arab Development Bank supervise an "advisory and monitoring board" supposed to keep a watch on Iraq's oil receipts and expenditures. Even some of the members of the supine IGC have bitterly complained and protested that the board, at American behest, imposes intolerable limits on the Iraqi autonomy and freedom of action. But the Americans defend their arbitrary regime on the excuse that there are still numerous legal claims around the world against the Iraqi regime of Saddam era-most notably in Kuwait and U.S.-and the board shields the Iraqi oil proceeds against lawsuits.

An equally contentious issue is the future status of all those decrees promulgated by U.S. viceroy, Paul Bremmer, and, at his command, by the rubber-stamp IGC. Most of these laws infringe on Iraqi sovereignty and accord extraordinary privileges and favours to American corporations eager to loot and plunder Iraq's precious natural resources and markets. Any Iraqi government with a backbone would be loath to let these laws continue as they are. But the Americans, for understandable reasons, are arguing that laws of a state don't change or expire with a change of government. Fair enough, as far as they are concerned, that whatever they have promulgated should be allowed to go on.

This spurious argument is being countered by international lawyers and legal experts who argue, with the force of international law behind them, that any law enacted under a foreign occupation has no snactity of international law and is only dictation.

Woven into the body of these arbitrary laws is the Iraqi Transitional Law under which Kurds of Iraq were given extraordinary autonomy to the chagrin of the Shiia majority. Interestingly, in the draft resolution tabled before the Security Council there is no mention of this Transitional Law, which may be a concession to the Shiia backlash.

These and other factors portend an early clash of interest between the Americans and the Iraqi interim government if its members showed some grit and resolve to put an Iraqi stamp on the governance of their country under the looming shadows of a huge American army. George Bush & company have toiled hard to spread their tentacles around, as far as possible, in order to have more of the same, even after the so-called 'transfer' of sovereignty to the Iraqis after June 30th. But the thrust of their machinations has been exposed for world view.

The manner of slection of the interim government that has formally taken control from the IGC, which promptly went out of office on June 1st, has vividly given away the American game plan, or charade as some have described it. That plan is to keep the U.S. in virtually the same position of command, from behind the scene, as it was up front under the occupation.
In picking up this new government, Washington used the UN as its foil and façade; whereas in the invasion of Iraq the UN was kept at a safe distance away as a virtual pariah. All the key posts in the interim government were chosen either by the Americans or by their proxies in the IGC-which is one and the same thing. In fact, the IGC has recycled and reinvented itself in the interim government. 

Which doesn't bode well for its future and its limited capacity to deliver to the satisfaction of the Iraqi people. It would be impossible for this government to live down its image, in the eyes of a common Iraqi, of an American invention and a puppet on a string with the Americans calling all the tunes. «

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