Pepe Escobar: Shocked and awed
- Shocked and awed into 'freedom'
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official brutality, has withdrawn support for the American-trained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
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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