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Who You Callin’ Sovereign?

George Bush’s “return of sovereignty” to Iraq’s U.S.-appointed puppet government this week is no such thing. The rest of the world knows this. But Americans continue to receive their “news” through the much-fractured, but still rose-colored, lenses of the same corporate media that served as willing cheerleaders to get us into this war in the first place. What’s to come may be far worse than the senseless carnage we have seen so far, as the Great Deception of the Iraq War goes on.

For starters, perhaps some of the media moguls who parrot the Bush administration’s spin ought to check out the dictionary, where “sovereignty” is defined to mean “freedom from external control.” No one, not even Fox News, can believe that having 140,000 American troops in Iraq, the highest levels of the war so far, could possibly equate to the Iraqis having “freedom from external control.” America’s media should be calling the administration on this misnomer instead of rolling over like lapdogs again, but they are not.

What we are seeing is nothing even close to handing Iraq back to the Iraqis. For one thing, you can’t hand something back when you never took it in the first place. Yes, we have had heavily armed troops occupying their country for more than a year, and massive air power controlling the “no fly zone” over their country for more than 10 years. But we did not, do not, and will never actually hold Iraq.

Despite more than $100 billion dollars, nearly a thousand combat deaths for U.S. troops, 10 times that many for Iraqis, and other massive, uncounted losses, American occupation forces have been sniped at, bombed and booby-trapped since the initial overthrow of Saddam Hussein—and will continue to be killed by the Iraqi resistance who hate their very presence.

Now, however, Bush is erecting the façade of “Iraqi sovereignty” so he can roll out that old “Mission Accomplished” sign and wave it until the election rolls around. Maybe he’ll even do the flight-suit strut for us again, just to help us put all those negative images of prisoners on dog leashes out of our collective electoral minds.

Unfortunately, reality remains as far distant from this administration’s version of events as ever. The reality of the situation in Iraq actually looks more like the way the rest of the world sees it.

We are building, and will occupy, at least 15 large, permanent, military bases throughout the country. We are building, and will occupy, America’s newest, largest and most heavily fortified embassy in the entire world. That it just happens to be in Saddam’s former palace is a detail unappreciated by most Americans, but definitely noticed by those whose country we continue to occupy by force of arms.

Iraq will not control its own airspace—we will. Nor will the new Iraqi government be allowed to adopt or implement any “long term” laws, or overturn any of the legal dictates or policies left behind by the Coalition Provisional Authority formerly headed by L. Paul Bremer—who, by the way, caught a C-130 out of Baghdad within hours after the “handover,” while the “boots on the ground” are getting their tours extended.

What lies ahead for the troops Bremer leaves behind is not particularly a rosy picture, either. The Supreme Council, composed of people who were never elected by Iraqis, says it may be instituting some form of martial law soon to address the security issues resulting from the U.S. occupation. What form of martial law remains to be seen, but generally such iron-fisted controls by a sitting government include warrantless searches and seizures, bans on demonstrations, and armed conflict with those who don’t follow the rules.

Not surprisingly, the enforcement muscle will probably come from America’s beleaguered troops . . . except for one thing: Iraq’s new government also doesn’t get to control the 140,000 heavily armed American troops in their country. But let’s face it, if Iraq’s multiple warring factions go ballistic, it is Americans who will be tossed into the fray.

Those warring factions aren’t losing any time ramping up, either. The Kurds in northern Iraq are really angry about not having any seats on the Supreme Council. Since they are a minority, hated by the Turks on the northern border and the Arabs to the south, the Kurds are going to be in for a very tough ride.

The Shiites and the Sunnis only “united” to fight the Americans. Under Saddam’s government, the minority Sunnis were favored while the majority Shiites got the short end of the stick. As they say in the movies, “It’s payback time,” and reports are already coming out of Baghdad that there are three times more murders, rapes, and robberies now than during Saddam’s rule, with many of the crimes directly attributed to those taking revenge for past wrongs.

And then, of course, there are the neighbors, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Kuwait. War with Iraq is not a new idea to these people. It is not out of the question that some might see the solution to Iraq’s border- rattling internal strife as simply moving in and taking advantage of the regional instability to conquer as much as they think they can hold, especially the oil.

According to L. Paul Bremer’s declaration, “the occupation will end” and the Iraqi government will exercise “full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people.” President Bush, meanwhile, lauds their new “freedom.”

When it comes to promises from the U.S. government on sovereignty, perhaps the Iraqis would benefit from a peek into how we have “handed over sovereignty” to America’s Indian tribes.

The treaties promised the tribes the right to elect their own governments and hold sovereign control over their own lands, resources and affairs.

More than a century later, however, Indian tribes all across this nation are still fighting to see the promise of sovereignty fulfilled—and still waiting for “freedom from external control.”

—George Ochenski


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