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Pepe Escobar: Shocked and awed

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    Shocked and awed into freedom Pepe Escobar www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GC22Ak06.html March 22,2005 - Two years after being shocked and awed into
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2005
      Shocked and awed into 'freedom'
      Pepe Escobar

      March 22,2005 - Two years after being shocked and awed
      into "freedom", freedom on the ground is a meaningless concept for
      large swathes of the Iraqi population. Sunnis and Shi'ites alike
      tell Asia Times Online of a brutalization of every-day life.

      Highways in and out of Baghdad are suicidal: the Americans can't
      control any of them. Anyone is a potential kidnapping target, either
      for the Sunni guerrilla or criminal gangs. Officials at the Oil and
      Electricity Ministries tell of at least one attack a day. Oil
      pipelines are attacked and distribution interrupted virtually every
      week. There's a prison camp syndrome: almost 10,000 Iraqis
      incarcerated at any one time, in three large jails, including the
      infamous Abu Ghraib. There's also an Abu Ghraib syndrome: all-round
      denunciation of torture, electroshocks and beatings. The Americans
      and the Iraqi police proceed with the same "round up the usual
      suspects" tactic: but even if the "suspects" are not part of the
      resistance, their families are always well taken care of, so they
      inevitably join the resistance actively when they leave jail.

      The Sunni guerrillas register an average of scores of attacks a day,
      all over the country. Roadside and car bombs are still exploding in
      leveled Fallujah. The Baghdad regional police commander was
      assassinated on Saturday. The resistance has infiltrated virtually
      all government and police networks. American counterinsurgency
      methods are going nowhere, because as the Sunni guerrillas keep
      killing masses of Iraqi security forces, these forces are
      retaliating in kind - abuses detailed, among others, by Human Rights
      Watch. The majority of the Sunni population, complaining about
      official brutality, has withdrawn support for the American-trained
      Iraqi security forces. So the culture of brutalization has merged
      with the emergence of sectarianism.

      In contrast, life inside the Green Zone bubble is totally virtual.
      There's no government yet - the elections were on January 30 - so
      the Sunni guerrillas keep up the pressure, while popular
      disillusionment with the political process is on the rise. Prime-
      minister-in-waiting Ibrahim Jaafari of the Da'wa Party recently said
      he would favor direct elections for prime minister and parliament -
      not the American-imposed indirect method: it was not good enough to
      placate popular impatience.

      The Kurds for their part block any move toward a new government as
      long as they don't get written assurances establishing their control
      over Kirkuk - their Jerusalem. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the
      Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), is
      basically worried about reimplementing de-Ba'athification: the SCIRI
      in the next few days and weeks will virtually take over the Interior

      And all of this soaked in corruption

      In its Global Corruption Report 2005, Berlin-based Transparency
      International (TI) blasted the widespread corruption in Iraq, which
      has benefited US contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. TI
      stressed that the new Iraqi government, the American occupying power
      and international donors, such as the World Bank and the
      International Monetary Fund, must urgently insist on decentralizing
      governance, loans and aid projects; otherwise "Iraq will become the
      biggest corruption scandal in history".

      Many businessmen in Baghdad say that's already the case. According
      to the TI report, the defunct L Paul Bremer-controlled Coalition
      Provisional Authority (CPA), alongside the Pentagon, initially had
      only 80 people supervising the largest reconstruction agenda in
      history; both eventually outsourced the oversight to private
      companies, and corruption spiraled out of control. No one knows what
      happened to the US$ 8.8 billion of Iraqi money which disappeared
      into a CPA-controlled black void.

      Meanwhile, there's no government because of the Kirkuk tinderbox.
      The Kurds want it all: total control over Kirkuk, its oil, and their
      100,000-strong peshmerga (paramilitary) fighters detached from the
      future Iraqi national army, in addition to army funding by the Iraqi
      national budget. This means that a Kurdistan government, with Kirkuk
      as its capital, would be able to block the Baghdad-controlled Iraqi
      armed forces from entering Kurdistan. Kirkuk's Arabs and Turkomen
      are predictably furious. Inevitable consequence: sectarianism on the

      From a strategic Washington viewpoint, these questions are all minor.

      Iraq is a crucial pawn in the US oil strategy - which includes the
      former Yugoslavia (now with a permanent US military base in Kosovo,
      right in the pipeline route from Russia and the Caspian to Europe);
      the Caspian and Venezuela (major oil reserves); Afghanistan (now
      also with a permanent US military base); Ukraine (a crucial pipeline
      route to Europe); Moldova (oil reserves); Iran (oil reserves); and
      Syria (on the route of a pipeline through which Israel wants to get
      Iraq's oil).

      Bremer's CPA imposed myriad laws over Iyad Allawi's transitional
      government. Washington controls almost every excruciating detail of
      Iraq's economy: that's how the "new" Iraqi administration was
      conceived by the neo-conservatives. The Ministry of Energy is in
      effect American-controlled. American-paid officials control all the
      key administrative positions in each relevant Iraqi ministry. Their
      mandate lasts for five years. Gung-ho privatization has not even
      started in full - and it will make a mockery of all the warnings
      included in the TI report.

      Hakim says that the Iraqi population wants a full American troop
      pullout, and no American "permanent military bases". He may be
      right, but it won't happen. A Sunni Baghdad businessman was savvy
      enough to note, "We all know the Americans are building 14 military
      bases all over the country. And we all know they won't leave them.
      Does that sound like freedom to you?"

      Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.



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