Monday, June 28, 2004

Transfer of Power Moved Up Two Days; Terrorist Assaults Still Scheduled for 7/1 

As our esteemed colleague Michael of Musing's Musings wonders in the comments below, would it be wrong to hope that the Bush administration might follow Mr. Bremer's example by vacating office a few months early? Perhaps if they knew a good old-fashioned tarring-and-feathering awaited them on the other side of the election? Oh, sorry; forget I mentioned it; I'll go fuck myself now.

From Juan Cole of Informed Comment:
Paul Bremer suddenly left Iraq on Monday, having "transferred sovereignty" to the caretaker Iraqi government two days early.

It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony.

The surprise move will throw off all the major news organizations, which were planning intensive coverage of the ceremonies originally planned for Wednesday.

This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That's what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let's see if they fall for it . . . .

Since Bremer was a congenital screw-up, just getting him and his CPA out of the country and out of control may be a good step forward. Allawi won't care about Polish style shock therapy for the economy. Allawi does not have any investment in keeping Iraq weak or preventing it from having a proper army. But how the Iraqi military, if brought back, can operate in a security environment where there are 160,000 foreign troops under US command is unclear.
UPDATE: And by the way, may we please have the money back?
Billions of dollars belonging to Iraq is not accounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was given responsibility by the United Nations for the country's finances, British lawmakers and aid activists said today.
There are glaring gaps in the handling of $20 billion generated by Iraq's oil and other sources since the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein ended last year, according to reports from the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third-largest political party, and Christian Aid.

The Christian Aid report also said the majority of Iraq's reconstruction projects have been awarded to U.S. companies, which charge up to 10 times more than Iraqi firms . . . .

"For the entire year that the CPA has been in power in Iraq, it has been impossible to tell with any accuracy what the CPA has been doing with Iraq's money," said Helen Collison from Christian Aid.
UPDATE II: Krugman!
Defenders of the administration will no doubt say that Christian Aid and other critics have no proof that the unaccounted-for billions were ill spent. But think of it this way: given the Arab world's suspicion that we came to steal Iraq's oil, the occupation authorities had every incentive to expedite an independent audit that would clear Halliburton and other U.S. corporations of charges that they were profiteering at Iraq's expense. Unless, that is, the charges are true.

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