[News] Robert Fisk: The Handover: Restoration of Iraqi sovereignty - or Alice in Wonderland?
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 29 09:01:18 EDT 2004
The Handover: Restoration of Iraqi sovereignty - or Alice in Wonderland?
By Robert Fisk
29 June 2004
So in the end, America's enemies set the date. The handover of "full
sovereignty" was secretly brought forward so that the ex-CIA intelligence
officer who is now "Prime Minister" of Iraq could avoid another bloody
offensive by America's enemies. What is supposed to be the most important
date in Iraq's modern history was changed like a birthday party because
it might rain on Wednesday.
Pitiful is the word that comes to mind. Here we were, handing "full
sovereignty" to the people of Iraq "full", of course, providing we forget
the 160,000 foreign soldiers whom the Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, has
apparently asked to stay in Iraq, "full" providing we forget the 3,000 US
diplomats in Baghdad who will constitute the largest US embassy in the
world without even telling the Iraqi people that we had changed the date.
Few, save of course for the Iraqis, understood the cruellest paradox of the
event. For it was the new Iraqi Foreign Minister should we not put his
title, too, into quotation marks? who chose to leak the "bringing
forward" of sovereignty in Iraq at the Nato summit in Turkey. Thus was this
new and unprecedented date in modern Iraqi history announced not in Baghdad
but in the capital of the former Ottoman empire which once ruled Iraq.
Alice in Wonderland could not have improved on this. The looking-glass
reflects all the way from Baghdad to Washington. In its savage irony Ibsen
might have done justice to the occasion. After all, what could have been
more familiar than Allawi's appeal to Iraqis to fight "the enemies of the
Power was ritually handed over in legal documents. The new government was
sworn in on the Koran. The US proconsul, Paul Bremer, formally shook hands
with Mr Allawi and boarded his C130 to fly home, guarded by special forces
men in shades.
It was difficult to remember that Mr Bremer was touted for his job more
than a year ago because he was a "counter-terrorism" expert this
definitely should be in inverted commas and that what he referred to as
"dead-enders" [Baathist diehards] managed to turn almost an entire Iraqi
population against the United States and Britain in just a few months.
According to Mr Allawi yesterday, the "dead-enders" and the "remnants"
belonged to Saddam Hussein. Those of them who had not committed crimes
could even join the new authorities, he announced. But it had already been
made clear that Mr Allawi was pondering martial law, the sine qua non of
every Arab dictatorship this time to be imposed on an Arab state, heaven
spare us, by a Western army led by an avowedly Christian government. Who
was the last man to impose martial law on Iraqis? Wasn't it Saddam Hussein?
No, Mr Allawi and his chums along with the convicted fraudster Ahmed
Chalabi, now dug up from his political grave are not little Saddams.
Indeed, it is Mr Allawi's claim to fame that he was a Saddam loyalist until
he upped sticks and fled to London. He almost got assassinated by Saddam
before this by his own admission he took the King's shilling (MI6) and
the CIA's dollar and (again by his own admission) that of 12 other
Yesterday, Mr Allawi was talking of a "historical day". As far as the new
Prime Minister is concerned, Iraqis were about to enjoy "full sovereignty".
Those of us who put quotation marks around "liberation" in 2003 should now
put quotation marks around "sovereignty". Doing this has become part of the
reporting of the Middle East.
Perhaps most remarkable of all was Mr Allawi's demand that "mercenaries who
come to Iraq from foreign countries" should leave Iraq. There are, of
course, 80,000 Western "mercenaries" in Iraq, most of them wearing Western
clothes. But of course, Mr Allawi was not speaking of these men. And herein
lies a problem. There must come a time when we have to give up clichés,
when we have to give up on the American nightmares. Al-Qa'ida does not have
an original branch in Iraq. And the Iraqis didn't plan September 11, 2001.
But not to worry. The new Iraqi Prime Minister will soon introduce martial
law journalists who think they can escape criticism should reflect again
and thus we can all wait for a request for more American troops "at the
formal request of the provincial government". Wait, then, for the first
expulsion of journalists. Democratic elections will be held in Iraq, "it is
hoped", within five months. Well, we shall see.
True, Mr Allawi promises a future Iraq with "a society of all Iraqis,
irrespective of ethnicity, colour or religion." But the Iraqis who Mr
Allawi promises to protect do not apparently include the 5,000 prisoners
held in America's dubious camps across Iraq. At least 3,000 will remain
captive, largely of the Americans.
There were many promises yesterday of a trial for Saddam Hussein and his
colleagues although, not surprisingly, Iraqi lawyers felt there were other,
more pressing issues to pursue. Paul Bremer abolished the death penalty in
Iraq but Mr Allawi seems to want to bring it back. Asked whether Saddam
might be executed, he remarked that "this is again something which is being
debated in the judicial system in Iraq". He said, however, that he was in
favour of capital punishment.
According to American sources, the United States has been putting pressure
on Mr Allawi for at least two weeks in the hope that his ministries could
in theory, at least function without US support. American advisers had
already been withdrawn from many Iraqi institutions. Yet when he appeared
yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke with words that might have come from
George Bush. He warned "the forces of terror" that "we will not forget who
stood with us and against us in this crisis". As the new "Cabinet" stepped
forward to place their hands on the Koran, a large number of Iraqi flags
lined the podium behind them though not the strange blue and white banner
which the former Interim Council had concocted two months ago.
The real problem for Mr Allawi is that he has to be an independent leader
while relying upon an alien, Western and Christian force to support his
rule. He cannot produce security without the assistance of an alien force.
But he has no control over that force. He cannot order the Americans to
leave. But here is the real question.
If Mr Allawi really intends to lead Iraq, the most powerful demonstration
he could show would be to demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign
forces. Within hours, he would be a hero in Iraq. The Americans would be
finished. But does Mr Allawi have the wit to realise that this ultimate
step might save him? Who can tell, at this critical and bloody hour?
America's satraps have been known to turn traitor before. Yet the whole
painful equation in Baghdad now is that Mr Allawi is relying on the one
army whose evacuation he needs to prove his own credibility.
The Western occupying powers have left behind a raft of dubious
legislation. Much of it allows Western companies to suck up the profits of
reconstruction an issue over which the Iraqis had no choice and many
people in the country have no interest in continuing Mr Bremer's occupation
laws. No one, for example, is likely to spend a month in jail for driving
without a licence. But why should US and other Western businesses have
legal immunity from Iraqi law? When a British or American mercenary shoots
dead an Iraqi, he cannot be taken to an Iraqi court.
But Mr Allawi relies upon these same mercenaries. Which is why, sadly and
inevitably, he and his government will fail. The insurgency now has a life
of its own and a plan. If it can continue to maintain an independence
struggle for nationalists within the Sunni Muslim areas north and west of
Baghdad, then the Sunnis may also claim that they have the right to form
Iraq's first independent, post-American government.
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