Iraq returns to the family of (American-controlled) sovereign nations

In the perfect "end" to the American occupation of Iraq, the USA secretly and abruptly turned over "sovereignty" to the new Iraqi government.

As The New York Times diplomatically put it, "Although Dr. Allawi's government will have "full sovereignty," according to a United Nations Security Council resolution earlier this month, there will be limits."

The reporter only mentioned a few of these limits. Here's a more complete list:
  • The government was appointed by the United States, real power given to those willing to do US bidding.
  • The US military will remain, continuing as the most powerful force in the country while establishing a permanent foothold in the country.
  • The Iraqi budget will be provided almost completely by the Americans, giving Iraqis almost no leverage over funding decisions.
  • All American soldiers, mercenaries, and contractors will have complete immunity from Iraqi law, in a decision unilaterally imposed by the Americans — so that the puppet government wouldn't have to be embarassed by granting immunity itself.
  • The government will have no power to change any of the laws imposed by the occupation.
The transfer of "sovereignty" is a PR move. It's been done to help Bush's election prospects by deceiving Americans into thinking the occupation is over. It's been done to get the American media to focus less on Iraq now that its own government is supposedly in control. It's been done to give Americans a scapegoat as the country descends into civil war. It's been done to shift anti-imperialist Iraqi anger onto other Iraqis instead of Americans.

It has nothing to do with liberation or democracy.


Rob said...

You know, we could agree to give Iraq 1 trillion dollars, completely rebuild any damage did during the war, clone each and every civilian that was killed, resurrect Mohammad to be the new president, and buy everyone there an iPod and people would still complain that we're a bunch of imperialist bastards who just want oil ...

PLEASE tell me, if this was a perfect world and anything was possible, what would be The Ultimate Solution to what's going on there? Assume you step in with things just the way they are right now (the US military is still there, the interm government is in place, etc.). What do you do?

Jake said...

Things in Iraq are too messed up for any sort of "solution". It's been obvious from the beginning that once Hussein was gone there were only two possible outcomes: a repressive ethnicity-based state or civil war.

It was always naive to think that democracy was possible in a country with tremendous oil wealth and three large, cohesive ethnic groups. The political history of Iraq is nothing but the struggle for control of the state and the ownership that gives you over the sources of power in the country, oil and the military. The only way to fix this would be to socialize the oil (distribute the wealth equally to every individual) and abolish the military.

There's a slight chance Iraqis could have someday accomplished this; there was never any chance the Americans could. They at first tried to uproot the Sunni ruling class and dismantle the military, presumably hoping to substitute themselves as overlords. But they soon found that these steps were incompatible with their most important goals: control of the oil, permanent military installations, and control of the economy by American corporations. Re-Baathification is already well underway, and the "sovereign" puppet government will resurrect the military. We're well on the way to civil war, pitting the numerically superior Shia against the entrenched Sunni of the bureaucracy and military.

What could the Americans do if they cared more about the welfare of Iraqis than oil, bases, and corporations? They could support strict safeguards for the Kurds and other minorities, they could impose a socialized oil system, set up a system of American reparations to Iraq (covering both the 1991 and 2003 wars and the sanctions decade), and most important LEAVE. A determined UN might be able to step in and keep the peace long enough for the ethnic groups to accept the new arrangements. Maybe. But the basic American goals means this will never be a possibility.