The media fanfare pronouncing that ‘sovereignty’ was transferred back to the Iraqis at the end of June showed how it bows down to power. That they could, in the main, report with a straight face that the Americans giving limited powers to a group of US-appointed Iraqi politicians shows a willingness to genuflect that knows few bounds.
Of course, reality crept in sometimes. The transfer being brought forward two days early and concluded in a tiny, highly secret ceremony says far more about the situation in Iraq than the US intended. Undoubtedly it was a wise move but one whose symbolic message is clear. There were no public festivals celebrating the ‘transfer’, suggesting that most Iraqis see it for what it is.
After all, the ‘sovereignty’ transferred is less than you would expect. There is the continuing direct (and indefinite) military occupation. Over 160,000 foreign troops, none of which are under the new government’s control, are, thanks to a late edict of Paul Bremer, completely immune from Iraqi law and courts. But as these troops are the only thing saving the appointed government from a quick exit, it is unsurprising that the US has no fears that it will be asked to leave.
And the appointed Iraq government is restricted in other ways. The US has installed officials at the highest levels of the state bureaucracy. It has introduced numerous policies that will ensure that the new ‘sovereign’ government will do what it is told. Take Iraq’s oil revenues. While these nominally pass to the new government, in reality it inherits all outstanding contractual obligations made by the occupying powers. This includes all those passed shortly before the official transfer. Bremer also passed a whole series of edicts at the last minute to ensure US control.
He also acted to ensure the outcome of any future elections, outlawing from the ballot any groups with unapproved militias. He also appointed an electoral commission which can ban any party from the elections. Finally, he hand-picked and gave five-year terms to the national security adviser, national intelligence chief and the inspector-generals who will look over all 26 government ministries.
But it is not only ‘sovereignty’ which is being redefined. Bush likes to blame ‘terrorists’ for the attacks on US forces in Iraq. Strangely, both the CIA and the State Department do not agree. In their yearly tally of the number of terrorist attacks worldwide, both excluded all attacks on US forces in Iraq. Why? Because they do not meet their definition of terrorism as they are directed against combatants.
Perhaps this is understandable. If these attacks were included, Bush would not be able to suggest America’s imperialist wars had reduced terrorism. As it was, the US already had to admit to overlooking numerous terrorist attacks last year when it reported that terrorism had been reduced. With the missing incidents, they had to conclude that such attacks had increased. If they had to add Bush’s ‘terrorist’ attacks in Iraq, the figures would go through the roof. So, Bush’s claims that any attack on US troops amounts to ‘terrorism’ has been rejected to make the statistics look better.