Iraqis will be the Deciders

As Congress debates whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, George Bush is trying to buy time. He and Dick Cheney have no intention of ever pulling out of Iraq.

Cheney commissioned a 2000 report by the neoconservative Project for a New American Century, which said “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” A document for Cheney’s secret energy task force included a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a “Foreign Suitors for Iraq Oil Contracts.” It was dated March 2001, six months before 9/11.

On April 19, 2003, shortly after U.S. troops invaded Baghdad, the New York Times quoted senior Bush officials as saying the United States was “planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region.” They discussed “maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future.”

Indeed, Bush is building mega-bases In Iraq. Camp Anaconda, which sits on 15 square miles of Iraqi soil, has a pool, gym, theater, beauty salon, school and six apartment buildings. To avoid the negative connotation of “permanent,” Bush officials call their bases “enduring camps.” Our $600 million American embassy in the Green Zone will open in September. The largest embassy in the world, it is a self-contained city with no need for Iraqi electricity, food or water.

The motive for a permanent presence in Iraq has been obvious from day one. It’s the oil. The oft-mentioned benchmark for Iraqi progress, touted by Bush and Congress alike, is the so-called Iraqi oil law. The new law would turn over control of most oil production and royalties to foreign oil companies. The Iraqi people are opposed to the oil law.

The biggest impediment to the privatization of Iraq’s oil is the unions. Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, told U.S. photojournalist David Bacon, “It will undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and our people If the law is ratified, there will be no reconstruction. The U.S. will keep its hegemony over Iraq.”

In early June, the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions shut down the oil pipelines. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki capitulated to the union’s demand that implementation of the oil law be postponed until October so the union could propose alternatives.

Arab labor leader Hacene Djemam said, “War makes privatization easy: First you destroy society; then you let the corporations rebuild it.” After Halliburton entered Iraq in 2003 and tried to control the wells and rigs by withholding reconstruction aid, the union went on strike for three days. Exports stopped and government revenue was cut off. Halliburton shut down its operations.

Iraqis overwhelmingly oppose a permanent U.S. presence in their country. A group of Iraqi nationalists, including Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, have formed a pan-Iraqi coalition to topple al-Maliki. They represent a vast majority of rank-and-file Iraqis outside of Parliament. Their primary basis of unity is opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq; they also strongly oppose Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian influence in Iraq.

“All the problems come from the occupation,” Umara observed. ” The occupation fosters the enormous corruption … As long as we have an occupation, we’ll have more sabotage and killing. But when people from the local tribes control the security, they have expelled the al-Qaeda forces and those others who are terrorizing people. This means we can protect ourselves and bring security to our nation, with no need of the U.S. forces. To those who believe that if the U.S. troops leave there will be chaos, I say, let them go, and if we fight each other afterwards, let us do that. We are being killed by the thousands already.”

The Iraqi unions want the occupation to end. Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, president of the Electrical Workers Union of Iraq, told Bacon, “If it was up to Bush, he’d occupy the world. But that’s not what the nations of the world want. Would they accept occupation, as we have had to do? Our nation does not want to be occupied, and we’ll do our best to end it.”

Nationalists in the Iraqi Parliament recently passed a bill calling for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, and another demanding the Iraqi government present any plan to extend the occupation past 2007 to Parliament. They will not accept a proposal that includes permanent U.S. bases on Iraqi soil. Our national discourse must include a discussion of U.S. intentions for Iraq after a troop withdrawal. But ultimately, as in Vietnam, it will be the Iraqi people who are the deciders.

MARJORIE COHN is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law.


More articles by:

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She writes, speaks and does media about human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter at @marjoriecohn.

Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work