Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Fig Leaf 

Lovely to see Iraqis exercising the franchise in greater-than-expected numbers. Lovely to see the people selecting the (anonymous, unknown) delegates who will hash out their new constitution. Lovely to see self-determination supplanting tyranny, etc., etc., as long as we recall that all of the above are strictly collateral benefits. We did not invade Iraq so that we could give Iraqis an election, any more than we invaded Iraq to eliminate the threat of WMD's.

The main work goes on.

Dahr Jamail of Iraq Dispatches:
The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch only mainstream media . . . .

What they also didn’t tell you was that of those who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters, were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their country.

In fact, they were voting for precisely the opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon will signal an end to the occupation.

And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in their country to come sooner rather than later.

This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis in a different light now, doesn’t it? . . . .

Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide a timetable for their removal?

What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are, by Cheney’s old company Halliburton, right now?

Antonia Juhasz, a Foreign Policy in Focus scholar, authored a piece just before the “election” that sheds light on a topic that has lost attention amidst the recent fanfare concerning the polls in Iraq . . . .

On Dec. 22, 2004 [Juhasz writes]
, Iraqi Finance Minister Abdel Mahdi told a handful of reporters and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: "So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."

In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatize Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.

According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to "downstream" and "maybe even upstream" oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground — the very thing for which many argue the U.S. went to war in the first place . . . .

Thus, one might argue that the Bush administration has made a deal with the SCIR: Iraq's oil for guaranteed political power. The Americans are able to put forward such a bargain because Bush still holds the strings in Iraq.

Regardless of what happens in the elections, for at least the next year during which the newly elected National Assembly writes a constitution and Iraqis vote for a new government, the Bush administration is going to control the largest pot of money available in Iraq (the $24 billion in U.S. taxpayer money allocated for the reconstruction), the largest military and the rules governing Iraq's economy. Both the money and the rules will, in turn, be overseen by U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector generals who sit in every Iraqi ministry with five-year terms and sweeping authority over contracts and regulations. However, the one thing which the administration has not been unable to confer upon itself is guaranteed access to Iraqi oil — that is, until now.
On a not unrelated note, Jim Shepard has an amusing reading of The Third Man in the February Believer (not, alas, online):
Okay, we [Americans] concede, we bollix up the occasional intervention, but why? Only because we were trying to help.

And what's better evidence of that, we like to point out, than our attempt to get Europe back on its feet after World War II? Weren't we right there, wallets open and hands out, ready to help Gunther and Pierre and Guido out of the rubble almost before the shooting stopped? And did we ask anything in return, besides a little cooperation and maybe some gratitude?

Well, yeah, some European movies, like Carol Reed's The Third Man, suggest. We did. Even if some of our hearts were occasionally in the right place . . . .

The movie offers us two old friends, Joseph Cotten's Holly Martins and Orson Welles's Harry Lime, both abroad in postwar Vienna. Holly and Harry, each the dark side of the other, both wreaking havoc, one obliviously, with an outraged sense of his own virtue, and the other cynically, with a blithely and sinisterly overdeveloped sense of his own self-interest. And if that sounds familiar to those of you following our current geopolitical situation, it should . . . .

Holly and Harry make not only an unsettling portrait of our current President and Vice President, abroad to help and to make a little something on the side; they also, as a pair, clarify just how much one exposes something central in the other. The Third Man turns out to be the story of a typical American's refusal to believe that good old Harry -- genial, cheerful Harry -- has an unexpectedly pitiless interior . . . .

Harry's simply acting the way governments act, he points out to Holly. "They have their five-year plans; and so have I."
Thanks to our distinguished colleagues at Left Is Right (for the Bookman link) and Public Domain Progress (for the Dahr Jamail link.)

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