Labor Advocate Online

Another Big Lie: The U.S. has NOT Transferred Sovereignty to the Iraqis
by Jerry Gordon

Over the past couple of days, the Bush administration and the occupation authorities have been trumpeting the claim that full sovereignty has been transferred to Iraq. We say today that is a hoax and a sham. The people of Iraq are still being subjected to a brutal, repressive and colonial occupation. Nothing has happened since Monday to change that. Just look at what is happening in Iraq today.

First, 160,000 foreign troops, nearly 140,000 of them U.S., are still in Iraq and they are there against the will of the Iraqi people. According to a poll conducted last month by the occupation authorities themselves, only two percent of the Iraqi people consider those who invaded their country to be “liberators.” Other polls show the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want foreign troops to leave their country immediately. Yet the troops are still there. A country that is occupied can never be free or independent or sovereign.

Second, Iraq’s government was handpicked behind closed doors by foreign occupiers. The Iraqi people had no part in the process. That is hardly the hallmark of a sovereign state.

As you know, the U.S.’s choice for prime minister, CIA agent Allawi, won out. No surprise there. And immediately after his selection, right on cue, Allawi told the world how grateful Iraqis are for the U.S. invasion, and how they want U.S. occupation forces to remain in the country indefinitely. Also, on cue, Bush proclaimed triumphantly that the Iraqi government has now spoken and that it welcomes the continued presence of U.S. military forces in Iraq. And the media reports this ridiculous charade with a straight face, as if the Allawi government had all the legitimacy and credibility in the world. A puppet government installed by the occupiers does not constitute sovereignty.

Third, although Iraq supposedly became a sovereign nation a couple days ago, U.S. military forces remain free to conduct “operations” against the insurgents. As Col. Abrams aid, “The Iraqis are not going to cramp my style.” So we ask: How many more military operations will be ordered? How many more Iraqis will be killed and wounded? How many more U.S. troops will be sent to their deaths or left severely crippled? How much longer is this occupation going to last? The U.S. is currently building 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, so the intentions of the Bush administration have been made unmistakably clear. Today we also make our intentions unmistakably clear: to continue building a powerful antiwar movement to get U.S. troops out of Iraq so that the people there can decide their own future.

Fourth, while Iraqis are permitted to be the front men in the oil ministry, U.S. officials are running things. Sizable numbers of U.S. auditors, inspectors, monitors, and other agents are on the scene to make sure that Washington’s policies get implemented.

Anyone who doubts that the U.S. intends to retain control of Iraq’s oil should be reminded of why the U.S. invaded Iraq in the first place. It was a war of conquest for oil. After spending well over $100 billion toward that end and making clear that it is prepared to spend hundreds of billions more, if necessary, the Bush administration and its supporters have no intention of voluntarily relinquishing the U.S. hold on Iraq’s oil riches. They will give up control only if forced to by the Iraqi people and the worldwide antiwar movement.

Fifth, Bremer decreed immunity for any crimes committed by U.S. nationals, the British, and even the private contractors. That means that no Iraqi government – puppet or otherwise – will be allowed to touch them. Let’s never forget that in those dreadful and depraved prisons, Iraqis were not only tortured, abused, and humiliated -- some were murdered. What kind of penalties will be meted out to those responsible for the atrocities? The U.S. will decide. The Iraqis have no say in the matter. General Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last Friday that the interim government that took power Monday could not repeal Bremer’s immunity order, one of 100 decrees he left behind. So where is the sovereignty?

Sixth, some 5,000 Iraqi detainees will remain under U.S. control indefinitely. Many of them were indiscriminately rounded up and have never been charged with any offense. What right do the occupiers have to hold them a single day after sovereignty was supposedly granted?

Seventh, the occupation authorities continue to exercise power over all the other ministries in the new Iraqi government. Before he left the country, Bremer appointed commissioners to serve five-year terms and effectively take away the powers presumably turned over to the newly selected Iraqi ministers. These appointments by Bremer make a mockery of the claim of transfer of sovereignty.

Eighth, real power within Iraq is being transferred, not from the U.S. to the Iraqis, but from Bremer to Negroponte, who will head up the U.S. embassy there of 3,300 -- the most heavily staffed U.S. embassy in the world. This is the same Negroponte who ran the Honduras embassy during the Reagan years. That embassy was the nerve center for the CIA-coordinated terror campaigns to overthrow Nicaragua’s elected government and prop up the El Salvador and Guatemala death squad regimes. Now Negroponte will be running things in Iraq. The June 13 New York Times predicted that his embassy will become Iraq’s “shadow government,” a far cry from a genuine transference of sovereignty.

Ninth, the $18 billion appropriated by Congress for the reconstruction of Iraq will be dispensed by Negroponte. This means more contracts for the likes of Halliburton. Much of Iraq lies in ruins today as a result of the terrible destruction from the bombings and the occupation. The decisions regarding rebuilding should be made by the Iraqi people and nobody else.

Tenth, the UN and the occupying authorities have decided that elections in Iraq will be held in January and they are busy working out all the details, including who will be allowed to run for office. A touchstone of a sovereign nation is that it determines for itself how its government will be selected. But not here. Others will decide that matter.

Eleventh, the U.S. and UN have forbidden Iraq’s interim government to pass laws, so how can anyone take seriously the assertion that Iraq now has sovereignty? One law that needs to be passed would recognize the right of workers to form unions, bargain collectively and strike. Saddam Hussein previously issued a decree barring unions from even existing in state-owned enterprises. That decree was left on the books and enforced by the occupation after Saddam was overthrown. A truly sovereign government, as opposed to the current puppet one, could rescind all anti-union laws and guarantee workers their basic rights. This would be a big step forward on the road to a democratic Iraq but it’s not happening now.

Twelfth, prior to the invasion and occupation, two-thirds of Iraq’s enterprises were state- owned. Under Bremer, privatization proceeded at breakneck speed. Iraq’s resources are still being looted by foreign investors. But Iraq’s wealth belongs to its people, and they should be the ones deciding all questions regarding its disposition. However, they have no real say in the matter.

So what conclusion should we draw from all this? That the repression, suppression, and oppression of Iraq continues, and that the fight must continue to bring all U.S. and other foreign troops home so that Iraq, at last, can become a truly free and independent nation. Iraq for the Iraqis!

To the Bush administration and those in and out of Congress who support its policies of pre-emptive and unjust wars and occupations, let us today send a message loud and clear:

Stop the killings!
End the occupation!
Bring the troops home now!!

[Talk given by Jerry Gordon, long time union and antiwar leader, at rally sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) at the Federal Building in Cleveland, Ohio on June 30, 2004. About 150 people attended the rally.]