Tuck Tail and Run

by William Rivers Pitt

t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 29 June 2004

The American people are not comfortable dealing with words like "total failure" and "ruined credibility," but these are words that all of us are going to have to become accustomed to.

A process that began in September 2002 as a coordinated propaganda blitz to convince Americans they were on the verge of being gassed by an Osama-Saddam Axis of Doom, a process that was swathed in flags and a snarling, nationalistic patriotism, a process that has in the last 22 months delivered 855 dead American soldiers, thousands of gravely wounded American soldiers and over ten thousand dead Iraqi civilians to our collective doorstep, has now concluded with a farcical handover of 'sovereignty' in the dead of night.

One can almost imagine American proconsul Paul Bremer handing the keys to this rolling bomb over to former CIA pal and newly-minted Iraqi 'Prime Minister' Iyad Allawi with a snicker and a shrug. Thanks for the laughs, Iyad, but my helicopter is waiting on the roof.

In January 2003, less than 60 days before U.S. forces rained fire and steel upon Baghdad in the ' Shock and Awe' portion of this escapade, Mr. Bush stood before Congress and the American people to deliver his State of the Union address. In it, he solemnly informed us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons (i.e. 1,000,000 pounds) of sarin, mustard and VX gas, 30,000 munitions to deliver these agents, mobile biological weapons labs, a program to procure uranium from Niger to use in nuclear bombs, and connections to al Qaeda.

None of this - not one bit of it - was true. This didn't stop Bush' people from repeating these lies over and over again, even as all the evidence accounted against them. Pottymouth-in-Chief Dick Cheney continues to flap the Iraq-al Qaeda canard despite the fact that his best evidence to support the theory, a bin Laden insider named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, has gone off the reservation. Once, al-Libi confirmed the existence of a connection, but now he has changed his story completely.

The going theory on this flip-flop is that al-Libi endured some of the "aggressive interrogation techniques" we have become famous for, and told his interrogators what they wanted to hear. If you had electrodes strapped to your testicles while you sat in one of those dark rooms with the swinging, bald light bulb, you'd probably do something similar. Once the electrodes came off, and once al-Libi was confronted with evidence that contradicted his gonad-inspired claim, he reversed course and delivered another blow to Mr. Cheney's theory.

This is, in the end, merely an accent in the symphony. In attending to the present, here is what we call sovereignty in Iraq:

* 97 legal orders have been enacted by Bremer which are "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people, "which will last for years, and which allocate positions controlling communications, public broadcasting, securities markets, investigations into public corruption, petroleum and virtually every area of government to people loyal to the occupation force. One elections law crafted by Bremer gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

* The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, appointed by the Bush administration to run Iraq in its name, supposedly dissolved itself on June 1st. A little-noticed decree from the Council, however, guarantees Council members power to veto laws, approve Iraq's 2005 budget, and gives them seats on an array of committees that will choose the remaining members of the National Council. In short, the puppets installed by the Americans after the invasion, all of whom were roundly rejected by the Iraqi people as illegitimate, are still very much in charge.

* 160,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, but the new government will have no command over them. In fact, a recent decision by Bush and Rumsfeld grants total immunity to the soldiers and their commanders for any illegal acts they might commit. This newly sovereign Iraq will continue to be swarmed by an occupying force over which Allawi and friends will have no control whatsoever.

* Oil revenues from Iraq, the money Bush has repeatedly claimed belongs to the Iraqi people, totals more than $20 billion to date. Almost none of that money has made its way to the Iraqi people, or to the rebuilding of infrastructure, but has instead been redirected to the U.S. and British corporations which basically control the Coalition Provisional Authority. The contracts diverting these funds to these corporations are binding, and cannot be changed even if the 'sovereign' Iraqi government decides the money could better be spent elsewhere. For the time being, despite the billions of dollars coming out of Iraq' s oil industry, the diversion of funds created by these CPA contracts means that most of the money for the rebuilding of Iraqi infrastructure will come from American taxpayers by way of the U.S. Congress. According to a report by the BBC, most of the $20 billion cannot be accounted for at this time. The party is not likely to end soon; since oil production began, only 2,300 wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with about 1 million in Texas. A large part of the country remains virtually unexplored.

* The most important person in Iraq will not be Iyad Allawi or any other Iraqi. The most important person in Iraq will be John Negroponte, former American ambassador to the United Nations, who has been tapped to be ambassador to Iraq. The American embassy in Baghdad will be the largest American embassy anywhere in the world. As ambassador to Honduras during the Reagan administration, Negroponte was accused of playing a central role in the human rights violations and terror campaigns which were exposed during the Iran/Contra scandal.

* The handover of 'sovereignty' was done two days early and in the dead of night, purportedly, to forestall any attacks planned for the now-discarded June 30 handover date. Somehow, however, this handshake between pals does not seem likely to dissuade those Iraqis disposed to resisting the invasion and occupation of their country. In all probability, the dying will continue, which is why Mr. Bush made absolutely sure Iyad Allawi is prepared to declare martial law in his newly liberated country.

George W. Bush would have us believe this is a great day, a great victory for the United States. Here is what we call victory:

* 855 American soldiers dead.

* Thousands more American soldiers wounded, many gravely.

* Over ten thousand Iraqi civilians dead.

* No weapons of mass destruction, and no connections to al Qaeda.

* $151 billion of taxpayer money spent to enable this mess in this fiscal year alone, money which came out of the border patrol budget, the rail safety budget, the Port Security budget, law enforcement agency budgets, firefighter grants, the bioterrorism budget, the First Responders budget, and more. Do you feel safer?

* An Iraqi government as close to democracy as the Earth is to the Oort Cloud.

* An American government thoroughly discredited on an international stage still rife with dangers to American security. As Cliff Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center which specializes in foreign policy, said, "I don't think you can turn around three years of U.S. foreign policy with some midnight initiatives. The image of this president in the public's and the world's eyes is pretty much established."

"Total failure" and "ruined credibility" are the watchwords for the day. A process that never should have begun in the first place, a process which had nothing to do with defending the United States, has led us to a place where every 'goal' put forth by the Bush administration, no matter how stupid or simple, has turned to ash. This is the great gift Mr. Bush has delivered to us: A midnight deal, a washing of hands, and a quick exit out the back door. Honor and integrity indeed.

William Rivers Pitt william.pitt@mail.truthout.org is the senior editor and lead writer for t r u t h o u t. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books:

'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know'

and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

Informant: Laurel


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