US plans for Iraq in disarray

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Rabi' al-Thani 01, 1424 2003-06-01

Editorials

by Crescent International (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 7, Rabi' al-Thani, 1424)

Several weeks after the US’s occupation of Iraq, its rule is in chaos. Iraq was the most advanced Arab country before the US destroyed its infrastructure in 1991; even after 1991, despite UN sanctions, there was a modicum of civil infrastructure and service provision. Since the fall of Saddam’s regime (rightly welcomed by most Iraqis), virtually all services have collapsed, and the US, which as an occupying power is responsible for the civil administration, has done almost nothing to restore them. Where Iraqis have tried to organize themselves to do so, the American occupiers have often prevented them, for fear that independent Iraqi institutions might become bases for anti-US opposition. Meanwhile the Iraqi people will suffer; health agencies have warned of epidemics this summer because of lack of clean drinking water and other essentials.

Little wonder, then, that American forces are coming under attack from Iraqis. Western sources list at least 85 separate attacks on US troops in Iraq in May, after Bush’s announcement on May 1 that the war had ended. Thirty-five American soldiers have been killed and many more injured since then. Several dozen Iraqis have been killed by American troops because they were demonstrating against the US presence. The biggest incident was in the town of Fallujah, where 16 Iraqis died when troops fired on demonstrators on April 28 and 30.

The US’s political plans are also in disarray. Despite the rhetoric about democracy and freedom, what the US really wants is a reliable pro-Western regime. But even the Iraqi dissidents with whom it worked during Saddam’s rule are now reluctant to be associated with the US, because of the Americans’ unpopularity in Iraq. Ahmed Chalabi, Washington’s original choice, has no local support. The leaders with the greatest legitimacy are the ulama (Sunni and Shi’a), whom the US is desperate to keep out of power. The US’s latest idea seems to be to restore the Hashemite monarchy, which was overthrown in 1958. Sharif Ali bin Hussein, the current head of the family, who was a baby when the royal family fled the country, and has lived in London since, arrived in Baghdad on June 10 to what the BBC described as "a mixed reception". He was not initially thought to be a serious contender for political power, but the problems have evidently forced a rethink. Western commentators have cited the late king Hussein of Jordan as an example of what a pro-Western monarch can achieve in an Arab country.

The only parts of the US’s plan to be proceeding smoothly are international legitimacy for its position in Iraq, and formal control of Iraq’s oil and economy. Both were achieved by the UN security council resolution passed on May 22: the invasion was granted post facto legitimacy, and the US and its allies were granted total and indefinite control over Iraq’s political future and economy, including revenues from oil sales. The US’s timetable for establishment of an Iraqi administration has repeatedly been postponed because the US cannot find ‘suitable’ Iraqis to work with, but that has not stopped Tim Carney, officially the US ‘advisor’ to the Iraqi ministry of industry and minerals (except that there isn’t one yet), from saying on June 8 that dozens of state-owned Iraqi companies will be privatised by the end of this year because of Iraq’s urgent need for foreign investment; in other words, would be sold to Western companies, almost certainly American.

Meanwhile there is growing anger in Western countries at the deceit by which the US and its junior partners secured what little support they had for their policies. Events clearly indicate that the West had no real fear of WMDs; if there had been danger before the war of such weapons falling into terrorist hands, US troops would surely have been in greater haste to find them once the regime fell. More and more evidence is emerging that there never was any such threat, including a CIA report that there was no evidence that Iraq had such weapons. It is now widely accepted that the Bush administration decided on war long ago, and that WMDs were only a pretext. It is now clear that, like the 1991 Gulf War, based on the lie that Iraq threatened the Arabian peninsula, this war was also based on a lie: something that commentators wearing anything but blinkers had long since realised.

Just as the US’s conduct abroad shows its true imperialist nature, so the domestic politics of Western governments expose the nature of the democratic systems that produce and legitimise them.

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