Bremer a quick study in colony
By Pepe Escobar
are going to fight them and impose our will on them and
we will capture or ... kill them until we have imposed
law and order on this country. We dominate the scene and
we will continue to impose our will on this country."
This is US proconsul in Iraq Paul Bremer, speaking from
Baghdad last Saturday.
"I appeal to you, O
Iraqis, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens, Shi'a or Sunni,
Christians or Muslims, it is your duty to expel the
aggressor invaders from our country." This is allegedly
Saddam Hussein in his new audio-tape broadcast by
Lebanon's al-Hayat-LBC channel (only a few days after
the July 4 tape broadcast by al-Jazeera).
question is inescapable: whom are Iraqis listening to?
The "occuliberator" or the invisible former dictator?
For Pentagon masters and their faithful lieutenant
Bremer, there is no such thing as legitimate Iraqi
indigenous resistance to foreign occupation. But Asia
Times Online has reported that the resistance spirit
previously confined to the Sunni belt around Baghdad has
also "contaminated" Shi'ite religious leaders.
Whatever the spin, and whatever the cost - at
least in the short to medium term - in US casualties,
the game plan remains to occupy and control Iraq for
years. Iraqi sources inside the country and in Jordan
and Egypt have confirmed information already circulated
by the Israeli website DEBKA-Net-Weekly that the
Americans are spending US$500 million to build two giant
intelligence facilities: one north of Mosul, in Kurdish
territory, and another in Baghdad's middle-class Saadun
neighborhood on the Tigris River's east bank. This
massive military presence may be a throwback to when the
United States had a faithful regional gendarme, the Shah
of Iran. But the facilities are necessary in order to
enforce the economic agenda that really matters to
Washington: the privatization of Iraq's economy and most
of all the exploitation of its immense oil reserves.
This will mark the end of an era, and will be
the ultimate graphic demonstration by the United States
of what happens to regimes that dare to defy the
superpower - or outlast their usefulness, as was
Saddam's case. The Iraq Petroleum Co was nationalized in
June 1972. It was a progressive nationalization: first
the oilfields in the northeast, then - during the 1973
Arab-Israeli war - what was controlled by Exxon, Mobil
and Shell. Finally, in 1975, what was controlled by
British Petroleum and the Compagnie Francaise des
Petroles. From 1975 until the embargo applied in
response to the invasion of Kuwait, in 1990, Iraq
controlled 100 percent of the exploitation of its oil
Anglo-Americans have never forgiven
Iraq for this move. The British have never forgiven the
Ba'ath Party for ending their more than half a century
of influence in Mesopotamia - and making it even worse
by opening the doors of Iraq and the Persian Gulf to
France. The United States for its part has never
forgiven Iraq for setting an example to the developing
world and for taking the lead in a sort of front of Arab
export countries when the Organization of Petroleum
Export Countries (OPEC) was created in 1973.
dismantling of the Ba'ath Party and the dismantling of
the socialized economy the party put in place since the
end of the 1960s are indications that the US has already
begun to refashion Iraq to its liking - strengthening
its role as successor to Britain as the dominant Western
colonial power in the Middle East.
Bremer announced that his appointed "governing council"
of 25-30 Iraqis should be in place by mid-July. Faced
with very strong opposition from all quarters, Bremer
has somewhat agreed to grant Iraqis the power to appoint
and supervise an Iraqi council of ministers, to set oil
and economic policies, issue a new Iraqi currency and
appoint new Iraqi ambassadors. But strenuous weeks of
negotiations might have been a smokescreen: nobody at
this point can guarantee whether the new ruling council
will be directly appointed by Bremer or will emanate
auspiciously after tumultuous "consultations" among
Iraqi political leaders.
The Arab world scoffs
at the notion of trusting Pentagon people to introduce
democracy to Iraq. The inevitable example is Pentagon
pet Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National
Congress (INC). Chalabi is widely despised inside Iraq.
The US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) never trusted the slick operator. But the Pentagon
and the oil lobby love him: he has always said what
Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Co want to hear -
things like how he thought the US "liberators" would be
welcomed by the Iraqi population with roses and showers
In a joint statement issued this Monday
in Salahuddin, Kurdistan, the seven main Iraqi political
groups that form the leadership council of the former
Iraqi opposition have decided to join an interim Iraqi
government. But they have also made it clear that their
tortuous negotiations with Bremer are not over yet. For
the first time, Bremer has been forced to acknowledge
that the members of the leadership council will have a
"governing" role - although the supreme powers remain
the Americans and British.
The seven main Iraqi
political groups also claim to have support for an Iraqi
security force from General John Abizaid - who is taking
over the United States Central Command from General
Tommy Franks - and from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. This would be a paramilitary
army trained and equipped by the United States - with a
mission to fight the so-called "remnants of the
Ba'athist regime" that are waging a guerrilla-style
resistance against the Americans.
are certain that the resistance is being waged not only
by Saddam sympathizers and former Ba'ath officials but
by a coalition of popular-resistance forces. The problem
is that Iraqis don't know what is really happening in
this behind-closed-doors form of democracy because of
the newly established committee for press censorship.
The US is exercising censorship of the press in Iraq.
This means that the media can publish anything that
talks of Saddam's years of terror, but they cannot write
freely about such current events as Bremer's maneuvers,
US inertia to restore basic public services, resistance
against the occupation, dissenting views about democracy
imposed by invasion, etc.
Americans have to be
aware that the key to understanding Iraq is religion and
tribe. The emerging New Iraq will reflect how religious,
tribal, national, regional and ethnic identities are
integrated in a national political system that includes
everybody - and reflects real power balances. Religion,
ethno-nationalism and statehood should find a better
balance than the one imposed on Iraq by British
colonialism in the 1920s.
The United States may
try to import its preferred leaders - or force them down
Iraqis' throats. It may impose an alien governance
system. It may marginalize powerful indigenous Shi'ite
religious leaders or tribal elders. It may try to grant
privileges to tribal and commercial elites who enjoy
disproportionate local power. It may use locals and then
get rid of them when they are no longer useful. May the
US try any one of these things, it's possible that
former minister of information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf,
aka "Comical Ali", will be proved prophetic: "They're
coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks."
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