|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
The Iraq incubus haunting Bush and Blair
IT WAS A symbolic event. Two days early (28 June), the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority formally handed over to the ‘sovereign’ interim government headed by prime minister Iyad Allawi. "The Iraqi people have their own country back", proclaimed Bush (in Istanbul for the NATO summit). But the brief handover ceremony took place within the ‘green zone’, the US security bunker. There were no celebrations on the streets. On the contrary, attacks on the occupying forces and their Iraqi auxiliaries intensified. The ‘sovereign’ authority of Allawi’s government rests entirely on the 145,000 US and other imperialist forces. These forces will remain under the exclusive control of the US and its allies. According to general Myers, US chief-of-staff, they will be there for at least another five years.
Bremer, the US proconsul, made a symbolic departure. But exit Bremer, enter Negroponte, US ambassador, the new proconsul, who will have a staff of 3,000 – the real government of ‘sovereign’ Iraq. Negroponte was previously ambassador to Honduras, from where he directed the covert ‘contra’ operations against the left Sandanista government in Nicaragua. The regulations issued by Bremer will remain in force, allowing US and other western corporations to take control of large sections of the economy.
Saddam Hussein was also formally ‘handed over’ to the interim government – but physically he will remain in US custody. Allawi’s government is obviously planning a show trial, which they hope will boost their prestige. But this is likely to be seen by most Iraqis as ‘victor’s justice’. Saddam is undoubtedly guilty of horrendous crimes. But to receive a fair trial he would have to be tried alongside those who supported his regime when they well aware of his barbarous methods of repression and warfare – including Henry Kissinger, Bush senior and US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Also in the dock should be those who imposed deadly sanctions on the Iraqi people and launched another war on the basis of lies – including Clinton, Blair, and Bush junior.
The handover was an exercise in camouflage, an attempt to provide Iraqi cover for the US and British occupation. The move was determined more by US domestic politics than realities on the ground in Iraq. Bush is desperate to give the impression of progress towards US withdrawal in advance of the November elections. ‘Iraqi-isation’, however, will not produce a stable, pro-US regime nor allow imperialism to effect a painless withdrawal from the quagmire they have created.
Allawi – the CIA’s friend
THE US SELECTION of Allawi as prime minister shows the character of the interim government. From a wealthy Shiite family, Allawi began his political career as a Baathist party activist. While studying medicine in Britain, he spied for Saddam on fellow Iraqi students and exiles, according to many who opposed the regime at the time. He broke with Saddam in 1975 and spent 30 years in exile, operating as a wealthy businessman.
After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Allawi formed the Iraqi National Accord (INA) and began to receive increasing amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and western intelligence agencies. This is when he formed close links with British intelligence (MI6) and the CIA, which supported the Accord in preference to the Iraqi National Congress of Chalabi, favoured by the Pentagon hawks. Among other things, Allawi directed car-bomb attacks against Saddam’s regime, and played a key part in orchestrating the unsuccessful 1996 coup attempt against him.
The Iraqi National Accord was responsible for supplying ‘intelligence’ to the CIA and MI6 which was used to justify the invasion. Ironically, it is Allawi’s rival Chalabi – now out of favour with the Bush regime – who is now taking all the blame for the false information which ‘misled’ CIA/MI6. It was Allawi, however, who supplied some of the most notorious misinformation. ‘Evidence’ of links between Saddam and al-Qaeda and even of Saddam’s direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks came via Allawi. He also conveyed the ‘WMDs-in-45-minutes’ claim. An INA spokesman admitted in January that the claim was a ‘crock of shit’.
Allawi was appointed by Bremer to the Iraqi Governing Council, where he was responsible for building up new military, police and intelligence services. The US evidently came to regard Allawi as more reliable than Chalabi and his coterie. From the beginning, Allawi opposed the US policy of ‘de-Baathisation’, the complete destruction of Saddam’s state and military apparatus. The US has now come round to his position, attempting to recruit former bureaucrats, police and military leaders to the occupation authority. After 30 years of exile, Allawi has no political base in the country, and he will no doubt attempt, with the help of US-funded patronage, to build himself a base in the new state apparatus.
Allawi is a creature of US imperialism, a stooge leader to head a puppet government. At the same time, it is already apparent that he is ambitious and seeks to take some real power into his own hands. Political puppets are rarely content merely to dangle on their master’s strings, and it is not at all unlikely that tensions will develop between this emergent Bonaparte and his US paymasters.
BUSH AND BLAIR have claimed that the invasion of Iraq is the first step towards the democratisation of the Middle East. Strangely, the first step towards a new, democratic Iraq is a new dictatorship resembling the region’s many repressive regimes. Allawi’s first act was to introduce a National Safety Law enabling his interim government to declare martial law, impose curfews, ban demonstrations, set up check-points, and stop, search and detain subjects. The ‘checks and balances’ in the fine print will be a legal fiction. "Let’s not beat about the bush", commented one of his political friends, "we’re going to need some muscular law enforcement. And this comes naturally to him". One of Allawi’s first statements, moreover, was that it could be necessary to postpone next January’s promised elections for a provisional government.
Allawi’s assigned task is to build up indigenous military-police forces to reinforce and eventually take over internal policing from the forces of imperialism. He may be able to recruit a layer of former Baathists. But it is too late to reassemble Saddam’s former state apparatus. The neo-con hawks’ tactic was to smash Saddam’s machine, and (like Humpty-Dumpty after his great fall) all the US forces cannot put it together again. Many former Baathists have joined the resistance against US occupation.
Allawi will not be able to consolidate a stable Iraqi regime because his government rests on the occupying forces – and imperialist occupation is the main impulse to the ever-strengthening resistance movement.
In recent weeks, even senior US military officers have been forced to abandon previous claims that the resistance is led by ‘foreign fighters’. "Most of the violence in this country is carried out by people who were born and raised in this country", said a senior US military official, speaking to the Washington Post (7 July) on condition of anonymity. Moreover, ‘Iraqi sources’ pointed to "a radicalisation of young Iraqis caught up in the battle".
US IMPERIALISM FACES a catastrophe in Iraq. It will be no more successful in transforming Allawi’s government (or any similar successor) into a stable indigenous regime than it was in South Vietnam with puppet dictators like the notorious Nguyen Van Thieu. US imperialism and its Blairite tail will either withdraw from Iraq, with a massive loss of power and prestige, or they will eventually be forced out (as in Vietnam), with an even greater loss of power and prestige.
A stream of revelations from US Congressional committees and the serious news media have already shattered the credibility of the US internationally. The Senate committee’s report (9 July) of "a global intelligence failure" destroys every last shred of the fraudulent Bush/Blair case for war. Tenant and the CIA have taken most of the blame, but they clearly served up the ‘intelligence’ desired by their political masters. This follows the revelations of the systematic torture of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush’s lawyers, moreover, advised the president that, as commander-in-chief, he could order the use of physical pressure in interrogations without breaking US federal and international laws banning the use of torture. The memos of White House lawyers, writes one commentator, "read like the advice of a mob lawyer to a mafia don on how to skirt the law and stay out of prison". (Anthony Lewis, ‘Making torture legal’, New York Review of Books, 15 July 2004)
Iraq weighs like an incubus – a nightmarish demon – on Bush, Blair and other Western leaders who support the US occupation. Iraq is a major factor in the rising tide of unpopularity now shaking Blair and New Labour, resulting in massive Labour losses in the 10 June elections (see p4). In the US, opinion polls show that a majority currently oppose the occupation and its disastrous consequences. Bush now faces the possibility of defeat in the November elections (see p25) and joining his father as a defeated, one-term president.