WHAT WE THINK
May 16, 2003 | Page 3
IRAQ IS in turmoil as competing factions maneuver to grab top positions in the occupation government. But these power-hungry rivals aren't Shiites or Kurds--or even former Iraqi exiles and would-be regional warlords. They're operatives for the Pentagon and the State Department--and they're battling over who gets to run the Iraqi outpost of the American Empire.
"With Baghdad still in a state of chaos, there was a whiff of panic about Washington's removal of the top layer of its team responsible for reconstruction," reported Britain's Guardian newspaper, as retired diplomat Paul Bremer ousted the Pentagon's man, retired Gen. Jay Garner, as colonial boss of Iraq.
But the military scored a victory, too, forcing the removal of State Department official Barbara Bodine as top civilian administrator of Baghdad. "The changes follow weeks of a growing gap between upbeat public assessments by U.S. officials on the reconstruction and the grim reality on the ground," the Wall Street Journal observed.
"Residents have seen little, if any, improvement in their lives despite U.S. promises that basic services would improve quickly. Much of Baghdad still has no electricity, running water or working traffic lights. Some families have been eating stale bread and drinking filthy water for weeks now. Looters still plunder smoldering government buildings, while gunfire and bird song mix evenly in the air."
As an anonymous U.S. official in Baghdad told the New York Times, "Unless we do something in the near future, it is likely to blow up in our face."
Washington hasn't responded to its failures by rushing in humanitarian aid or allowing Iraqis to determine their own government. Instead, the U.S. is resorting to all the old tactics of imperialist conquest--setting up a system of local collaborators, while using its military might to crush any resistance.
Unable to hand over power exclusively to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, the U.S. has cobbled together a "council" that includes the two main Kurdish parties along with the INC. Also included is a Shiite organization--the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which Washington sees as a lesser evil to the more radical Sadr Movement. But the Americans are also putting former top officials of Saddam Hussein's government back into positions of power--just a month after supposedly "liberating" the country.
Last week, the U.S. and British governments submitted a resolution to the United Nations (UN) Security Council in the hopes of gaining internationally recognized status as "the Authority" over Iraq--and, above all, Iraq's oil. The UN is likely to approve the resolution--because the leaders of Germany, France and Russia have decided that since they didn't beat the U.S. by preventing war, they may as well join it in dividing the loot. But if the UN doesn't approve, Washington and London will go ahead with their plans anyway, U.S. officials told reporters.
Meanwhile, weapons inspectors for the U.S. military admitted that they have come up empty-handed in their search for Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction."
After all the rhetoric about "peace" and "liberation," the U.S. war on Iraq stands exposed for what it was all along--an imperialist power grab. But you don't have to take Socialist Worker's word for it.
"The greatest danger is that we won't use all of our power for fear of the 'I' word--imperialism," Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in USA Today. "We're going to be called an empire whatever we do. We might as well be a successful empire." Or as a New York Times headline put it, "American Empire: Not 'If,' but 'What Kind?'"
The conquest of Iraq has shown that the American Empire, like others before it, is about a powerful state imposing its will on smaller and weaker ones--by means of barbaric force. New American faces in Baghdad--or a rearrangement of their Iraqi puppets--won't change that a bit. That's why we have to demand an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq--now.