Monday was one of those rare illuminating days. A juxtaposition of events starkly exposed Western double standards and made the Iraqi government’s claims of sovereignty even more nonsensical than it already was.
Anyone who tuned into the BBC’s HARDtalk program during the day would have been subjected to Iraq’s corpulent marionette of a president Jalal Talibani, fresh from groveling around the nether regions of George W.
There he was sporting his omnipresent grin worming his way around Stephen Sackur’s questions over Iraq’s so-called democracy, the inclusiveness of the draft constitution and his own shilly-shallying over signing Saddam’s death warrant.
When the Kurdish politician–whose demeanor is more suited to a shisha-puffing carpet trader than a leader–was faced with a query over his government’s legitimacy at a time foreign soldiers were still stomping all over his land, he nostalgically looked back to June 2004 when the invaders handed back sovereignty to Iraqis. He thought it was a great day.
Talabani must be one of the few who took the handover seriously, as anyone with an IQ over 80 quickly realized it was yet another Pentagon production on the lines of the rigged toppling of Saddam’s statue, the Jessica Lynch fiasco, and ‘Mission Accomplished’.
But wait! I’m being too tough on the old warhorse. His pal Hazem al-Shaalan, who was Iyad Allawi’s defense minister, obviously believed Iraq was sovereign, too, when he allegedly siphoned off US$1 billion from his procurement budget, which translated means every cent. A patriot, indeed, especially when one remembers how a whopping US$9 billion went walkabout under the watch of Paul L. Bremer.
So let’s explore the unlikelihood that HARDtalk viewers were dim enough to swallow Talabani’s sales pitch. Let’s imagine they bought the purple finger garbage or the new holy grail of a constitution. And, let’s suppose they could even dig deep into their hearts to excuse Talabani from his desire to witness Saddam with his neck snapped and his eyes parted from their sockets as long as he wasn’t the one signing the order. I’ll be absent on that day, he said, with a grin, admitting that task would be left to some subordinate unfortunate.
So let’s suppose that after that program we were left with starry eyes and a wellspring of gratitude towards America’s compassionate conservative leader for freeing the poor, oppressed, long suffering Iraqis, who thanks to him, have a glorious future in store (those who haven’t already been carried off by men in white coats, that is)
The remainder, who had switched off their sets and gone fishing, or used their newspapers for shelf-lining, might still be infused with that rosy Talabani glow. But for newshounds, that glow would swiftly fade into a pallor. Just a few hours after Talabani’s schmaltz there came dramatic breaking news.
According to the BBC, two British servicemen dressed like local Shiites drove up to an Iraqi-manned checkpoint near Basra. They were apparently driving a scruffy civilian car and when challenged they opened fire resulting in the deaths of an Iraqi policeman. A confused-looking BBC anchor struggling to make sense of the incident described it as ‘murky’.
Naturally, the sleazy Laurence-emulating pair was carted off to the slammer–along with their eclectic arsenal of weaponry and communication devices–where a rioting crowd soon gathered, furious over the killing.
The Basra police told the British army that the soldiers were due to appear before an Iraqi court, which sounds reasonable to me. Isn’t this exactly what would happen in any so-called civilized country where the rule of law applies?
But this wasn’t good enough for Iraq’s Ramboesque British guests, ostensibly there to set this ‘sovereign’ country on the road to security even when, after heavy diplomatic arm twisting, Iraq’s defense minister ordered their guys’ release.
"Last night, British forces used up to 10 tanks supported by helicopters to smash through the walls of the jail and free the two British servicemen," reported the Independent, adding, "around 150 prisoners were said to have escaped during the assault, which was condemned as ‘barbaric, savage and irresponsible’ by Mohammed Al-Waili, the provincial governor.
Then after this Hollywood-style blockbuster–thought to have terminally eroded whatever trust there was between the occupation forces in the south and the Iraqi police–the Brits discovered their men had been moved to a private house; the home of a militia-man.
Thank the Lord that the Brits are home and dry and even though a British tank was fired with petrol bombs its occupants have got away with minor injuries. Never mind that three Iraqis lost their lives during those incidents or that 15 were wounded in their own ‘sovereign’ democracy appears to be the attitude of most media outlets.
The British army in Iraq should be ashamed of itself. Its members have behaved like a gang of thugs who wouldn’t look out of place rescuing banditos in a banana republic. But in a way, it’s done us all a favor.
We are surely forced to cast off our rose-colored specs mine are terminally grey and face reality. Iraq is still occupied. And its government is made up of employees of the Bush administration, its ‘jump to it’ allies, and its crony companies. Talabani and crew have clearly sold-out, else they would order yes order–the occupier to sling its hook without delay.
Instead, Talabani told the BBC that the allies are welcome to stay as long as they like. And they will. Don’t worry about that!
After all, there are reconstruction contracts, still to be doled out. There is the privatization of Iraq’s resources to complete. There are four permanent military bases to build and we mustn’t forget that foreign carpet baggers and mercenaries have starving babes of one kind or another to feed back home in London and Los Angeles.
When the Kurdish leader dared ask Mr. Bush how long that might be during his recent visit to the White House he was apparently told "as long as it takes to do the job". Pity he didn’t enquire to which job the US President was referring. Could it be the paint job which would allow George W. to stick up two fingers instead of the usual one perchance?
I know all about the arguments which defend the presence of allied armies, warning darkly of a full-blown civil war were they to exit. And it is true that there will be bloodshed, but, on the other hand, the cities and streets are running with the red stuff now. And, unfortunately, the sight of Brits trying to pass themselves off as Arabs and taking part in shoot-outs simply feeds into insurgents’ claims that the allies are working on a ‘divide and rule’ ethic.
There is more and more of a consensus that our armies are no longer part of the solution but are the problem. Studies have shown that ordinary Iraqis unable to stomach the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the leveling of Fallujah and the brutal ‘pacification’ of Tal Afar are joining the insurgency.
Others, mostly Sunnis, are outraged over the draft constitution, which they view as either a prelude to an Islamist state or the break-up of Iraq into three segments. Just about all are just sick and tired of the lack of electricity, jobs and opportunity and the abundance of backed-up sewage.
Sure, allied fingers point at foreign fighters as being the insurgency’s fountainhead but the US military has admitted that these make-up only six per cent of insurgents. But this isn’t something they like to dwell upon; not when a low-hanging fruit like Syria is being slowly ripened by accusations that it supports the insurgents by facilitating their entry through its borders.
Put simply, the double standards we impose are nauseating. What if Iraqis had stormed Abu Ghraib to free the prisoners there from sexual abuse, torture, beatings and assaults on their religious beliefs? If they had succeeded bashing down the wall of that jail and plucking their friends from their cells, would that cavalry have been termed "rescuers" or "terrorists"? We already know the answer to that one don’t we?
Get with the rule: The allies are honor-soaked heroes when they drop bombs, fire depleted uranium tank shells, send missiles into heavily-populated areas, use cluster-bombs or napalm and force people into rivers when they cannot swim. But any Iraqi who would dare retaliate is ‘a terrorist’ even if that Iraqi happens to be a policeman at a checkpoint guilty of arresting two trigger-happy drag artist foreign spooks.
LINDA S. HEARD is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs based in Egypt. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled "A Saudiless Arabia" by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the "Article"), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the "Website").
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005