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Proposed U.S.-Iraq security agreements: naked colonialism

A World to Win News Service. Why is George W. Bush, in his waning days in the White House, so eager to secure agreements with the Iraqi government regarding the future legal framework for the American occupation? And how can it be that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki, which has so long sold itself to the occupier, is suddenly posing as the most ardent defender of Iraq’s sovereignty?

We need to start with a simple fact that not enough mainstream commentators care to remember: the U.S invasion was totally illegal. It’s not that the invasion would have been morally justifiable if the UN had blessed it, but the fact is that the UN refused to do so, despite American pressure on some of the countries sitting on the Security Council at that time, and all the lies Bush’s minions could muster about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”. It was only after the U.S. invaded, overthrew Saddam and seemed to be on track to successfully swallowing the country that the UN passed a resolution that is supposedly the legal basis for the crimes the U.S. is committing in Iraq today.

That authorization for the occupation expires at the end of this year. To replace it, the Bush regime has been trying since February to negotiate two new agreements with the Iraqi government. One is a so-called status of forces agreement regarding U.S. troops, and the other is billed as a “strategic framework” for the occupation’s future.

Again, a simple fact: the negotiations are about the future legal modalities of the occupation, not ending it. That, to use the Bush government’s favourite phrase, is not on the table because neither side wants it there.

The exact details of the draft agreements the U.S. wants are secret. The Iraqi government rejected the U.S.’s initial draft and according to some reports a second draft as well, and the talks are now deadlocked. According to leaks from Iraqi and American officials, the most contentious issues are:

• Long-term U.S. bases, as many as 58. The most notorious of the existing examples is the enormous Green Zone in Baghdad, formerly Saddam’s seat of government, where the U.S armed forces and the occupation government are headquartered, and where no Iraqis are allowed to enter without American permission. The American embassy under construction there will be the world’s biggest, with 1,000 “diplomats”. Then there’s Baghdad International Airport, totally in American hands, and the air base at Balad, north of the capital, a 40 square kilometre American small town (population: 40,000 troops). Major new construction is going on in several places. The U.S. is reportedly willing to compromise on less than 58 such bases in the future. But it has “only” 30 major bases now.

• The U.S. claims the right to carry out military operations without coordinating them with the Iraqi government, to arrest and kill whomever they want, and to detain prisoners with no need to answer to Iraq’s laws or legal system. The U.S. now holds about 21,000 Iraqis prisoner. Washington’s offered compromise, reportedly, is to release prisoners to the Iraqi government after “the end of combat operations”, a date nobody should hold their breath waiting for. And, for whom would it be better if the Maliki government – infamous for torturing prisoners to death with electric drills – did have custody?

• The draft agreement would give the U.S. control over Iraqi borders and airspace. Even if the U.S. didn’t use Iraq as a base to attack Iran, this would allow it to fly and refuel Iran-bound American bombers and fighters over Iraq.

• While the Americans can do whatever they want in Iraq, the opposite is true for Iraqis. The Iraqi government is not allowed to touch the 151,000 American soldiers and 50,000 U.S. military contractors and other employees and allied troops, no matter what they do. In colonial times, this was called extraterritoriality. Here are just two notorious examples of what that’s meant in Iraa

A US Marine unit rampaged through Haditha in north-western Iraq’s Anbar province on 19 November 2005, killing 24 people, including seven children, three women and several elderly men. Angry about the bombing death of a US soldier as their convoy sped through town, they first killed all five people in a stopped taxi and then broke into three houses, killing all the occupants. Five unarmed men were gunned down while they had their hands in the air. The U.S. military said it was self-defence. When an Iraqi human rights activist filmed the aftermath and international organisations made a big stink, the U.S. military was forced to begin its own legal procedures against the men who admitted doing it. So far, none have been punished for killing Iraqis.

Last September, mercenaries employed by Blackwater private security company opened fire on a Baghdad roundabout just to clear traffic out of their way, killing at least 11 people and wounding another 24. The U.S. refused requests to let them be tried by the powerless Iraqi “authorities” and nothing significant happened to these murderers.

The reported U.S. compromise is that military “contractors” would have immunity only for actions taken on official missions (which would presumably not apply to the killings committed on drunken sprees off duty). No compromise offer on U.S. soldiers has been mentioned.

The Bush administration chose to pursue its goals in the form of agreements and not treaties, which would have to be submitted to the U.S. Congress for ratification. But the agreements would simply perpetuate what the U.S. is already doing, in a war that the U.S. Congress has approved and funded at every turn, from the start through today. Further, many in Congress would probably prefer not having to be caught voting for such a treaty in front of the large antiwar electorate.

No major figure in the U.S. ruling class is willing to “lose” Iraq. Even if some or even most of the American troops were withdrawn to fight elsewhere, as the anti-Bush administration candidate Barack Obama currently advocates, they all foresee some permanent American military presence and mechanisms where massive numbers of troops could return if at any point Iraq seemed to be slipping out of the U.S.’s grip. This was, after all, how the imperialist powers “normally” ran their colonies in the past, and how the U.S. and other big powers today run their neocolonies, countries that are formally independent but economically and politically dependent and bludgeoned militarily whenever “needed”.

Instead of signing the agreements, the Maliki government has threatened to ask the UN to renew its authorisation of the occupation. If that were to happen, Washington could hold hostage the Iraqi government’s foreign currency reserves (about $50 billion) in New York. All of Iraq’s oil revenues are deposited in a U.S. government bank. The same UN sanctions against Saddam that put these funds in U.S. hands are still legally in place and can work against the government that replaced him. Doesn’t that say something about the nature of these sanctions in the first place?

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has rejected the terms offered so far, saying that “The Americans are making demands that lead to the colonisation of Iraq”– as if the country were not now a colony. He announced that the negotiations had reached “a dead end”. Bush, at his most arrogant, called this opposition just “noise” and countered that he was confident the agreement would be signed anyway. In a sense, both men are telling the truth: the agreement is a naked expression of colonialism, and not even of the new type, while Bush has good reason to believe that the Iraqi politicians who have been his front men for the past years will finally accept it.


June 19, 2008 - Posted by | articles

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