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Liberation as Martial Law

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

Well, now we know why nearly 900 Americans and over 10,000 Iraqis died over the last 15 months, and why we Americans have forked out $200 billion in war taxes: so the long-suffering people of Iraq could have the blessings of martial law, enforced by the U.S. military.

So much for President Bush’s latest cobbled-together, retroactive excuse for the Iraq War-bringing democracy to the Middle East.

That belated justification was demolished with “Prime Minister” Ilyad Allawi’s announcement of plans to declare martial law in any parts of Iraq he deems to be overrun with what he calls “terrorists.”

Evidence of democracy and freedom are about as easy to dig up in occupied Iraq as those weapons of mass destruction, which at least British Prime Minister Tony Blair has now admitted probably don’t exist (though he still insists they used to be there).

Allawi’s decision to dispense with civil liberties in Iraq before they even got started should come as no surprise. The man, appointed through the machinations of the U.S. occupation authority under the recently departed L. Paul Bremer, is no democrat. A former member of Saddam Hussein’s brutal Baath Party, and later by his own admission an asset on the CIA payroll, he may be called a prime minister, but this is just in keeping with a long U.S. tradition of putting puppet leaders in positions of dictatorial authority, while conferring on them titles that have the ring but not the substance of democracy.

What is a prime minister, after all? In my Colliers dictionary, it is defined as the “head of a parliamentary government.” But where is the Iraq parliament?

Answer: there is none.

In fact, the first two acts of the new “prime minister” of “democratic” Iraq-acts that have been trumpeted by the U.S. government and the ever obedient media as evidence of the new Iraqi “government’s” alleged sovereignty-were the calling in of U.S. airstrikes on a house in Fallujah and the signing of a martial law order. Quite a show or independence!

You have to wonder what the next excuse for the war and subsequent bloody mess in Iraq the administration is going to dredge up. They’ve pretty much run out of the easy ones.

Protecting America from a nuclear threat? Nope. No nukes.

Getting rid of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? Nope. No WMDs.

Restoring respect for American power? Nope. We’ve proven that a 138,000 of our guys armed with everything money can buy can’t even whip a few thousand untrained amateurs armed with hand weapons.

Eliminating a breeding ground for global terror? Nope. Wasn’t happening, but is now.

Getting rid of a brutal dictator and establishing democracy in the Middle East? Nope. We’re setting up a new strongman and a martial law regime.

Maybe they’ll come up with something. They’ve still got a few things they could try, like protecting the environment, maybe, or defending the rights of women, but something tells me that whatever they pick, it’s going to blow up like a roadside bomb in their faces.

Still, fiasco that this whole Iraq adventure has been and continues to be for the Bush administration, there’s not a word of complaint coming from the Democrats. The opposition team of Kerry and Edwards, both of whom voted for the war, has not denounced Allawi’s martial law plans, and Kerry remains on record as calling for more troops to be sent into Iraq–troops whose job, it is now clear, will be to enforce the new government’s dictatorial powers.

So looking ahead, we can expect to see our troops becoming even more popular with the locals as they do the dirty work and the dying for a new ruling elite that will be instructing them where to bomb, whom to shoot, and whom to arrest and lock up in Abu Ghraib or whatever new state-of-the-art supermax prison the American government blesses Iraq with.

Kerry and Edwards better go back and read those books about the pointlessness of war and the dangers of imperial over-reach that Kerry was reading as he became disillusioned with the war in Vietnam during his two tours of duty there. They are just as relevant to Iraq today as they were to Indochina back then. Otherwise, if they are lucky enough to win the White House in November, they’ll find themselves in the same position as “peace candidate” Lyndon Johnson was in after his landslide win over Barry Goldwater back in November 1964.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of Counterpunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press.

 

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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