June 29, 2004

Sovereignty, What Sovereignty?

George Bush's Oil WarSo the glorious moment has arrived - the dictator is gone, Iraq is free and sovereignty has been established for the Iraqi people. Whereas last week the country was under the control of the occupying forces, Monday it is now an Iraqi sovereign state. Really? Of course not.

Yesterday's ceremony was a nice, if mercifully understated, PR exercise aimed at a US television audience. It has nothing to do with economic, political and military freedoms for the Iraqis. It has altered the security situation not one jot. It hasn't added a single more hospital bed, increased power output by even one watt or provided a single family with more drinking water. This is not democracy in action, this is empire.

The allies have tried this before of course. In the 1920s British rule of Iraq was 'legalised' by a League of Nations mandate. This conveniently allowed British occupation of the country. However, short of funds and facing an increasingly hostile Iraqi public and opposition by "extremists", they replaced the occupying government with a provisional Iraqi administration. Yet the British, as the Americans are now, retained control over the military and, of course, oil. Popular uprisings continued over the next two decades until the 1958 coup. Does any of this sound familiar at all?

A provisional, or lets be honest here, American appointed government, is not the answer to long term stability. Nor is continued occupation of the country by US-led troops. I simply cannot understand in what way there is Iraqi sovereignty if their country is occupied by 200,000 foreign troops and their oil (which pays for up to 97% of Iraqi government costs at the moment) controlled by Haliburton.

The Bush administration cannot have it both ways. They want stability and the appearance of Iraqi government but they do not want to hand over control to the Iraqis themselves. They want international funds and clearing of Iraqi debts, but they want all the oil contracts themselves. Of course, most of all they want to get themselves out of this nightmare and not totally screw up their chances of winning a November presidential election.

What's the answer? I'll say it again, and again, and again. Elections elections elections. I know its a scary word for Bush - especially if you've never actually won one - but its the only way forward. The sooner the better. Moreover, an international force - led by the Arab League and not the Americans - will bring a measure of security to the country. The irony is that the extremists that were never present in Iraq before the war, are virtually dictating the agenda now. No country can move forward, especially a bombed-out one, in the security nightmare that is Iraq.