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Iraq: What does success mean?

Trapped in its own propaganda, the US currently faces a serious problem in Iraq. The US people are more and more reluctant to the deployment of troops in Iraq, while neo-cons are already dreaming of new invasions. For the Bush administration, the officially-proclaimed objectives of the invasion make it too difficult for a victorious withdrawal, though. Washington’s elite discusses the conditions for the retreat and tries to define what could be interpreted as a success.

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Trapped in its own propaganda, the US currently faces a problem concerning Iraq.
The US people become more and more reluctant to the deployment of troops in Iraq while neo-cons are already dreaming of new invasions. However, the objectives officially proclaimed about the invasion make it too hard for the Bush administration to be able to retreat from Iraq victoriously.
To persuade the international opinion to back the invasion as fair, the Bush administration and its allies concealed their energy and geo-strategic goals and insisted on the need for a preventive action against the proliferation of mass destruction weapons. After that pretext was gone, Washington wielded the democratization of Iraq as the main purpose of this colonial adventure. The very short-term memory of the mass media allowed the Bush administration to undertake this act of argumentative juggling, which was then temporarily protected from any criticisms but that now poses an obstacle to Washington. How to declare oneself winner of a war by proclaiming popular objectives that were never reached, and which were not the true objectives? What the US seeks is to divide Iraq into three protectorates, take control of the country’s energy resources and keep permanent military bases in the world’s most important oil region. Consequently, it turns out really difficult to pretend the construction of a democracy in a unified Iraq.

The gap between the announced and the actual policy is a crucial factor in L. Paul Bremer’s action. He did not administer Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people, not even in the name of the Coalition, but as a representative of a private right society craftily named “Provisional Authority of the Coalition” [1]. Following the advice of Old Russian friends who were involved in the share-out of the USSR, he privatized Iraq’s economy, oil first, and then sold everything he could to the highest bidder. He personally gave permits for public interest tasks without summoning the societies that could have been interested, only on the basis of the elements submitted to him by the company of John Albaugh – former campaign treasurer of the Bushes, who charged obligatory payment commissions. Finally, during the transfer of power, the new government promised not to abrogate L. Paul Bremer’s decrees which mortgage the future of the country for 50 years. Wrapped up in the hard task of hiding this unhealthy plundering, governor Bremer failed to ensure the stability of the country.
Bremer is trying to recover his image in a book he’s promoting in the New York Times pages. He’s trying to defend the strongly criticized balance of his administration by admitting his mistakes and affirming to have drawn the appropriate conclusions. He also claims the “achievements” of the occupation. Today, according to Bremen, there is an elected assembly and a strong economic growth in Iraq. Taking again the White House version, he states that that country is the “front of the global war on terror”, and he insists that the troops stay there. In short, everything is all right and bad news constitutes but necessary sacrifices to ensure the security of the nation.

This argument does not seem to convince the US public opinion, which has stopped trusting the Pentagon and White House statements, the credibility of which was badly damaged again after the disclosure of the financing of the Iraqi dailies in charge of giving a good image of the occupation.
In the Washington Post, former CIA analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht tries to authenticate such practices in order to put an end to the scandal. He says that paying intellectuals and journalists in favour of the occupation forces in Iraq is a completely natural practice. That’s not corruption but a way to support individuals who share the US democratic model. Gerecht notes that similar actions took place in Europe during the cold war period, and nobody thought it was wrong. He also says that the magazine Encounter and French intellectual Raymond Aron were paid by the CIA, and that helped the US and therefore “democracy” [2]. That’s what must be done in Iraq.

With regard to Iraq, the current problem of Washington’s leading elite lies in agreeing on a definition of “victory” which allows them to withdraw from Iraq a large part of their troops with a high morale.
After a ten-day recess, the Washington Post gave the floor to two former national security advisers who gave their respective points of view on the issue.
For former Jimmy Carter’s adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Iraq’s democratization is a wish too hard to get. He asks that a revision be made of the victory appraisal criteria, that troops be quickly withdrawn and the country put in the hands of a Shiite-Kurd coalition loyal to the US. This Washington Post’s forum also appeared, exceptionally, in the International Herald Tribune – property of its competitor the New York Times.
Former adviser to George Bush Sr. Brent Scowcroft, on the contrary, prefers to take delight in the US progress in Iraq and crows about the victory to justify the retreat of the troops. He applauds the most recent elections in Iraq and the growing responsibility of the Iraqi army to keep order. According to Scowcroft, one may think that “success” is not far, that is, the establishment of an Iraqi government and an army at its command. However, the US presence is hindering the fulfilment of this goal. From now on, planning the retreat of the troops from Iraq should become a must. In order to do this, Scowcroft suggests replacing US soldiers with UN or NATO troops.

In the Los Angeles Times, security adviser to former democrat vice-president Al Gore, Leon Fuerth, calls the US leading circles to meet over a common policy on Iraq and the acceptable conditions of a “victory”. In this regard, he proposes the White House a pact: a six-month truce during which democrats will support the Bush administration’s action regarding the war in Iraq in exchange for a higher participation in the decision-making process about the direction of this war. He also demands more information for the Congress.
This is not the first proposal designed to “depoliticize” the Iraqi problem we find in the US media. Amidst the 2004 US presidential campaign, former CIA director James R. Schlesinger and former Bill Clinton’s under secretary of State, Thomas R. Pickering, had already urged to keep the Iraqi issue out of the electoral political debate. A few days ago, the White House could also show certain unity in Washington’s leading circles over keeping the troops by gathering all former secretaries of state around this project. Leon Fuerth is asking now a “truce”, that is, a six-month joint action. Strange democracy, isn’t it!, in which the opposition is willing to provide carte blanche to power in order to obtain more information for parliamentarians – more information that they should get without begging for it!

The burning debate on the military retreat from Iraq is not exclusive of the US, as it is not the two-party nature of the decisions over the conflict.
So we see that Neil James – executive director of the Australia Defence Association of Canberra – states in The Australian that, despite the oratory duels, the Australian Labour Party and the conservatives in power follow the same policy as to Iraq. Both sides expect Iraq’s forces to get strong enough before leaving the country.

Even less are those who analyze the situation in Iraq on the basis of the real goals of the invasion. Although they are not completely excluded from the international media domain, they cannot access the debate taking place among the US elite.
Pakistani-British essayist Tariq Ali recalls in The Guardian that the war on Iraq is a pillage war, the goal of which is exploiting the oil resources by dividing the country. This requires keeping foreign troops there. As a result, the US current debate has nothing to do with the retreat of the troops but with the way of keeping control of the energy resources without risking them. Ali deplores the attitude of the Shiites who sympathize with Teheran and collaborate with the occupation forces at the same time. According to the essayist, this is a dangerous game that could turn against its own designers.
US anti-imperialist intellectual Noam Chomsky also recalls that his country wants to control Iraq’s oil first of all. He then denounces the farce of Iraq’s “democratization” in the Khaleej Times, in the Counterpunch site and in the Catalan daily El Periódico. For this writer, the recent elections were organized only to meet the demands of Ali Sistani – a figure whose importance is impossible to avoid in Iraq – but the whole process was predetermined. Washington tries hard to prevent the Shiites from controlling the country. According to Chomsky, what the US fears most is an alliance among Iran, a Shiite-controlled Iraq, the Saudi Shiites and China. That would be, however, a tendency towards a sovereign Iraq – something that the US cannot accept.

[1] “Qui gouverne l’Irak?”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, May 13, 2004.

[2] “Quand la CIA finançait les intellectuels européens” and“Raymond Aron, avocat de l’atlantisme” by Denis Boneau, Voltaire, November 27, 2003 and October 21, 2004.

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