Monday, July 19, 2004

Take My Sovereignty. Please 

Via our esteemed colleagues at Approximately Perfect, a Toronto Star article that explains why "transfer of sovereignty" is just a euphemism for "cut and run":
Leaning in close, the mid-level American administrator speaks more in a hiss than a whisper. His tone is confessional, drenched in frustration.

"We didn't hand over power to the Iraqis. We threw it at them," he confides, casting a guilty glance toward the many eyes filling the chandelier-lit room. Nobody else heard him. Good. This kind of talk could cost him his job.

"There was no orderly transition. Nothing gradual. Just, `Here you go. Here's Iraq. Take it'."

"None of us had any idea sovereignty was going to switch two days early," he continues, speaking on the promise of anonymity. "So we didn't even get the last contracts finished. It was chaos. More than a billion dollars in plans never went through. Huge appropriations were just left on the table, undone" . . . .

The soft-spoken fear among those letting go is that the new Baghdad may well emerge as every bit the omnipotent, power-wielding monolith it was before the war. However clumsy the effort, the U.S.-led coalition clearly had hoped all these months of idea-farming might gently nudge Iraq toward an almost Canadian model of decentralized democracy.

But the new government's first instinct, clearly, has been to revert to the tried-and-true formula of the larger Arab world — aggressively corralling power toward a strong (and strong-armed) central government, with the powers of Baghdad second to none . . . .

The centrepiece of the emerging regime's muscle-flexing was the July 7 announcement of an Order for Safeguarding National Security, in which Allawi and his closest deputies claimed the right to impose a sweeping range of emergency powers.

The right to random searches, seizures, closures, eavesdropping, curfews — all tools of the modern police state — are now in the hands of the small and unelected Baghdad leadership; and in the fine print, the establishment of a half-dozen new security agencies, each with a name, acronym and marching orders reminiscent of the decidedly undemocratic Mideast norm.

With near-unanimity, Iraqis welcomed the crackdown. Whatever doubts they may have about who really is in charge, the sight of Iraqi leaders standing up and announcing Iraqi solutions to more than 15 chaotic months of lawless behaviour won instant favour on the streets of Baghdad.
Buried deep in the article is one little shocker we haven't seen reported elsewhere -- a claim that selected members of Saddam's regime got the Saudi treatment:
Iraqi government insiders are also wary of internal discord over the thorny issue of who among the former Baathists and army officials should be considered for official jobs. Many hold neighbouring Arab regimes in utter contempt for allegedly harbouring senior exiled former Baathists, who, in turn, are helping to finance the insurgency.

"When it comes to the former regime, the biggest question nobody is asking is why so many of them got away?" one highly placed source with the Iraqi National Congress told the Star in an interview, on condition he not be named. "In some cases, the Americans allowed private jets to be flown into Baghdad right after the war so that senior people with the regime and their families could fly to safety."
And by the way: for those of you who are still keeping count, the death rate for American troops has surged since the transfer of sovereignty:
Since the June 28 handover . . . the 160,000 coalition forces have averaged more than two deaths a day, among the highest rate of losses since the war began 15 months ago. By Saturday, 36 US soldiers had died this month, compared with 42 last month, according to a Globe analysis of official statistics.

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