[R-G] Liberation Will Come When the Americans Leave
david.mcr at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 20 12:27:57 MDT 2004
> The Guardian (UK)
> June 18, 2004
> Liberation will only come when the Americans
> Let's hope Moqtada al-Sadr stands in the elections
> By Jonathan Steele in Baghdad
> The Guardian With less than two weeks until the much-
> vaunted transfer of power from the Americans to an
> Iraqi government, a few hints of independence have
> emerged from the men Washington approved.
> Sheikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, the civil engineer and
> tribal leader who is to be the new president,
> contradicted George Bush's suggestion that the
> notorious prison of Abu Ghraib be torn down. It is not
> that the sheikh has any affection for the place, but he
> probably foresaw another fat new contract looming for
> some foreign building company. Anyway, the damage done
> to the American image in Iraq cannot be undone by
> removing the scene of the crime.
> More importantly, the sheikh came out against last
> week's American order banning the radical cleric,
> Moqtada al-Sadr, from taking part in Iraq's first
> democratic elections in January. It was an odd decision
> for a country which claims to be bringing democracy to
> Iraq. It appeared to have the support of the new prime
> minister, Ayad Allawi, who issued a statement welcoming
> the tough US line on illegal militias. The larger Shia
> parties in the government also went along with it. The
> cleric is their political rival, and to have him off
> the ballot would no doubt be in their short-term
> The sheikh, by contrast, argued that it is far better
> to get radicals to join the political process than
> leave them outside the tent, a sentiment that al-Sadr
> seems to share. His officials say he is planning to
> start a political party.
> On one key issue even Allawi, a long-time US favourite,
> has dared to defy Washington. He wants Saddam Hussein
> and all other Iraqi detainees transferred to Iraqi
> custody by June 30, a plea which George Bush is
> furiously resisting. Almost no Iraqis want to see the
> dictator back in power, but it is a matter of national
> pride that they should be the ones to hold him and run
> his trial. He is not a trophy in Bush's election
> campaign, but a man they wish to punish themselves.
> Welcome though this ministerial dissent is, most Iraqis
> treat it as minor murmuring. The prevailing view is
> that the Americans will continue to run the show after
> June 30 and that the new government will not want or be
> able to resist them on the big issue of security.
> Outsiders will also control most spending, since Iraq's
> only source of revenue - oil - will continue to be
> deposited in a development fund set up by the UN during
> the sanctions era. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia still have
> billions of dollars in compensation claims. Other
> countries demand debt repayments, and none of the
> multi-million-dollar contracts signed by the occupation
> authorities with US companies can be reviewed.
> "We can't trust anyone from the new government, or from
> the United States," Baida Muhsen, a young MA student in
> a white hijab, told me this week. "After the so-called
> liberation all Iraqis were hopeful, but I really regret
> to say that after what happened in Abu Ghraib, I would
> rather be protected by inefficient Iraqis than by the
> Working near her in Baghdad University's internet room,
> Ahmed Nuri, another MA student, was equally gloomy.
> "The Americans will force the new government to do what
> they want. They have no choice. Many of the ministers
> have western passports. How can they say no?"
> As car bombs tear away at Iraqi society, the issue of
> the new government's powers has become secondary. The
> stuff of every conversation nowadays is the daily
> carnage, and the kidnappings and assassinations that go
> with it. People are asking the "will and would"
> questions. Will violence abate in July after the
> handover of sovereignty? Would violence abate if the
> Americans pulled out altogether?
> The first question is the easier one to answer. If two
> months ago there was a vague hope that the violence
> which is motivated by nationalist resentment over
> occupation would diminish once an Iraqi government took
> over, people now are almost universally pessimistic.
> US troops will remain at a level of 140,000 at least
> until October, according to US officials, and there are
> no plans to reduce their visibility. Even if the formal
> occupation is over, Iraqis expect to see little change
> on July 1. Resistance to the Americans will continue as
> before. Those who work with the occupation will remain
> targets, just as they are today.
> Whether violence would lessen if the Americans began to
> pull out is the harder question. Bush and Blair promise
> they will not "cut and run" or leave Iraqis in the
> lurch. A poll taken at the end of April found 42% of
> Iraqis saying they would feel safer if the Americans
> left their country immediately. Only 29% said they
> would be less safe. Another poll in mid May found the
> trend increasing: 55% felt life would be more secure if
> the Americans withdrew.
> As the climate of fear increases and more Iraqis fall
> victim to violence, people's attitudes become volatile.
> A conversation that starts as a long litany of
> complaints about American mistakes and crimes,
> sometimes ends with the argument that the Americans
> should clear up their own mess before they go. Others
> are panicked by uncertainty, and want everything - the
> resurrection of the Iraqi army, the old police force
> back on the streets, and the Americans to stay in the
> background as an insurance policy just in case.
> Only real politics can begin to resolve the issue. The
> fact that Moqtada al-Sadr may decide to stand in the
> forthcoming elections is a valuable development. He is
> the only well-known politician who has dared to call
> for an early American withdrawal. By throwing the issue
> into the arena - provided the Americans are forced to
> let him take part in the polls - he will oblige other
> politicians to take a stand. It will become
> increasingly hard for senior Iraqis to avoid the issue,
> and they will have to respond to the public mood.
> An open debate over the future of the US presence will
> also put pressure on the Americans to hasten the
> reinstatement and re-equipping of Iraqi forces, and
> begin to plan for a parallel cutback in their
> deployments as Iraqis take over. The old Bush/Blair
> mantra of "not staying one day longer than necessary"
> has to be fleshed out with a serious and publicly
> announced programme of phased withdrawal.
> Dreams of keeping long-term American bases in Iraq need
> to be abandoned, and a real test of whether John Kerry
> is any different from the incumbent has to be whether
> the Democratic party candidate will give the no-bases
> Iraq is going through very dark days, and the importing
> of foreign terrorism, which was unknown to Iraqis until
> the American invasion brought it on, is spooking
> everyone. Liberation will only come when the Americans
> j.steele at guardian.co.uk Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian
> Newspapers Limited 2004
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