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A Colony By Any Other Name
A recent report in the New York Times outlines new U.S. demands being made on Iraq. The article states, in part, the following: "the Bush administration will insist that the government in Baghdad give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law." So much for Mr. Bush’s vision of a democratic Iraq.
That one phrase contains two alarming concepts that should send up red flags in the halls of Congress, the United Nations and throughout the Arab world, although it is probably only the latter that will react. A look at each concept, and the expected reaction from those potentially impacted, is somewhat frightening.
The U.S., says Mr. Bush, must have ‘broad authority to conduct combat operations.’ In 2003 Mr. Bush sought that authority and, with the willing acquiescence of a Republican-controlled Congress, easily gained it. Since then, Republicans and Democrats alike have extended his ‘authority’ to ‘conduct combat operations’ at whatever level he chooses. It appears unlikely that he will be denied this ability anytime during the final year of his reign of terror.
What is the likely reaction of the United Nations? With the U.S. having veto power, there is little that body will be able to do to stop Mr. Bush’s imperial destruction of Iraq, already well underway. Yet member nations will not quite so easily embrace these new U.S. demands on Iraq, demands that the U.S., disdaining international law and public opinion, can enforce through Congress and the military.
It seems difficult to accept the idea that a nation can run roughshod over the citizens of another nation simply because it gives itself the right and authority to do so. The world has been horrified by such actions in the past: when Germany invaded Poland, Austria, France and other nations during World War II, it, like the U.S. today, simply gave itself the authority to do so. When Russia invaded Afghanistan it was simply, like the U.S., giving itself the authority to invade a sovereign nation. Even when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it had simply granted itself the right to do so, although long-standing disputes over borders and oil were the reason for that invasion. The U.S. was less amenable to the idea of such an invasion at that time than it has been more recently.
Lastly, however naïve one might be, one cannot believe for a moment that Iran, Saudi Arabia and their neighbors will be particularly happy with the U.S. granting itself ‘broad authority to conduct combat operations’ in Iraq. With Mr. Bush ignoring the findings of the National Intelligence Institute, which reported in late 2007 that Iran had ceased its nuclear weapons program three years earlier, Iran has no reason to embrace additional and extended U.S. military presence in Iraq. Throughout the Middle East, nations have watched first-hand as U.S. imperialism has been hard at work. Unlike most U.S. citizens, the citizens of many of Iraq’s neighbors have experienced the ‘collateral damage’ of the war as Iraqi citizens by the millions have fled their own country for the relative safety of neighboring nations. The sheer number of these refugees has burdened the economies and infrastructure of their host countries, and additional U.S. violence and terror in Iraq will only increase their numbers.
The second troubling point concerns the work of civilian U.S. contractors. One wonders why a ‘liberated’ Iraq needs to provide these contractors ‘legal protections from Iraqi law.’ Why, one might reasonably ask, should the businesses of a foreign nation be allowed to violate local law?
The concept seems extraordinary, except when viewed from the distorted perspective of its author. Mr. Bush has taken it upon himself to violate the Constitution and make himself exempt from U.S. laws. For example, he feels completely justified in the following behaviors: invading sovereign nations that pose no threat to the U.S.; wiretapping the private conversations of U.S. citizens; authorizing ‘interrogation techniques’ that the Geneva Conventions and the rest of the world ban as torture; establishing torture centers in foreign countries; removing due process from persons who he deems undeserving of it; evicting from political events spectators wearing shirts with such controversial slogans as ‘support human rights’ to name just a few. That he now wants to allow U.S. businesses in Iraq, many of the largest there on ‘no bid’ contracts, to enslave local citizens by violating wage and safety rules, steal natural resources and generally behave as tinpot dictators, all the while amassing fortunes for their top leadership, and leave in their wake suffering Iraqis without any recourse, is not surprising. And since Congress has allowed him to violate U.S. law every step of the way, he has no reason to believe he will be thwarted now.
This is Mr. Bush’s brand of liberation. This is what happens when the mighty U.S. focuses its murderous attention on a nation with natural resources that will further enrich, beyond the dreams of most Americans and certainly far outside the imaginations of the Iraqis who own the oil, U.S. political leaders and their corrupt and greedy cronies. Liberation to Mr. Bush apparently means destroying the men, women and children who stand in the way of corporate profits. Democracy means capitalism, and it will be forced upon the unwilling, should they be so unfortunate as to possess some resource that the U.S. wants.
The U.S. is currently slogging through a primary season, where the Republican candidate, who at this point seems likely to be either Arizona Senator John McCain or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, seems determined to continue Mr. Bush’s murderous policies if elected president. On the Democratic side, either a President Obama or President Clinton may talk of change, but their voting history does not indicate that there will be much action behind the rhetoric.
So it seems apparent that Mr. Bush expects the people of Iraq to resign their nation to its new status as stepchild to the wealthy American empire, useful only for oil and the cheap labor needed to refine it. He seems to believe, perhaps not incorrectly, that his successor will agree.
Unfortunately for the president and whoever follows him into residence in the White House, the Iraqi people have proven themselves unwilling to settle for this second-class standing since the start of his war. But he has never been one to let facts stand in his way; now it seems only the bloodied bodies of his Iraqi victims can do anything to prevent the realization of his obscene imperial goals.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘