Vol. 11, No. 2,553 - The American Reporter - January 5, 2005

On Native Ground

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- So, now the Iraqis have sovereignty.*

You have to put an asterisk next to the word because the Bush administration's version of sovereignty for Iraq comes with the following caveats:

  • The "government" to which the U.S. is transferring power - led by the U.S. choice for "prime minister," Iyad Allawi - is a small group of U.S.-picked and approved Iraqi officials;
  • This new "government" will not have the power to overturn any of the 97 privatization or security laws imposed by outgoing U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer, nor will it have the power to draft or enforce any new laws;
  • 160,000 U.S. troops will continue to be in Iraq to provide "security" for the interim government and this force will be under U.S. command and control;
  • The largest U.S. embassy in the world will be established, led by former UN ambassador John Negroponte, the man who made his reputation overseeing human rights violations and terrorism as ambassador to Honduras during the Reagan administration;
  • The U.S. will maintain control over the millions of dollars set aside for reconstruction of Iraq, as well as control over the country's central bank and its news media.

Other than these things, Iraqi now have control over their destiny.

It's no wonder that all this happened in secret behind the fortified walls of the U.S. "Green Zone" in central Baghdad, two days ahead of schedule. The reality is that the sovereignty being bestowed upon Iraq by its "liberators" is a sham, a symbolic act concocted by the Bush administration for political purposes that has little practical value to the average Iraqi.

The security situation in Iraq is getting worse, which is why the U.S. troops are sticking around. Can Allawi's government have any credibility with a foreign occupying army in place?

Then there's Saddam Hussein. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Saddam's detention by U.S. forces legally ends now that there is a new Iraqi government.

While the U.S. will hand over legal custody of Saddam to Allawi's government, it will not hand over Saddam to Iraqi jailers because there's no stability or security to speak of in Iraq. The conundrum gets worse when you consider the reason there's no stability or security is because there still is a U.S. occupation force in Iraq that is resented and opposed by virtually every Iraqi.

As we've seen over the past few months, any Iraqi who has any association at all with the occupation force is a dead man walking. Any bets on how long Allawi will stay alive?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has gotten the most attention as the top Islamic fundamentalist terrorist in Iraq. A few gruesome beheadings of hostages will do that for you. Before he and his minions lopped off the head of Nick Berg, Zarqawi promised that "you will see nothing from us except corpse after corpse and casket after casket of those slaughtered in this fashion."

But he isn't the only one who is targeting Americans and their allies in Iraq. Some of the generals who used to lead Saddam Hussein's army are now in charge of the armed resistance to the occupation.

According to the Sunday Herald of Scotland, two of those generals recently spoke to the Center for Global Research. The generals said that they knew the Iraqi army had no chance against the U.S. and British forces when the invasion began in March 2003. So, they tried a different strategy - stashing away weapons and ammunition in secret locations around the country to be used in a war of resistance against the occupiers. The generals say they have at least three-quarters of the population on their side. The predictions of a civil war between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds hasn't happened yet, because all sides are in agreement, for now, to focus on the main mission of defeating the occupation.

As British journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote recently in The Independent: "The rebels are nationalist and religious. The U.S. always appears to underestimate the strength of Iraqi nationalism."

In other words, one can't write off the resistance in Iraq as being made up of "former Baathists," "foreign terrorists," or "religious fanatics." The resistance is made up of people who want their country back, people who want meaning attached to the words "sovereignty" and "independence."

While there is no coherent vision for what happens after the U.S. occupation ends, the feeling among most Iraqis is that they will deal with that later. First, they want to see a real government, not a bunch of American puppets, and they want a chance to decide their own political and economic destiny instead of having American corporations plunder their economy.

I don't think the Bush administration has figured this out yet. If it insists on treating the resistance as the work of foreign terrorists, the U.S. may be setting itself up for a long and bloody insurgency.

It's time to give up the neo-conservative dream of turning Iraq into an oil-rich, pseudo-democracy under U.S. influence that serves as the forward base for U.S. forces fighting the Jihadis. The Iraqis want their country back and the only legitimate government they will accept is the government they create themselves.

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.