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 Monday, October 30, 2006

George W. Bush's War in Iraq: Mission Accomplished !

  This article is excerpted from The Progressives' Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now Volume 2, and first appeared on

October 11, 2006

Mission Accomplished in Iraq?

News that U.S. Congressional Republicans had set aside $20 million for a party commemorating “success” in Iraq was met with disbelief last week, given the simultaneous all-time high of car bombs in Iraq, and the demobilization of an entire Iraqi police brigade because of alleged complicity with death squads.

What exactly is there to celebrate?

The U.S. has declared victory in Iraq before, most famously in May 2003, when Bush made his flyboy appearance on the USS Abraham Lincoln, announcing "Mission Accomplished."

It’s worth looking at what happened after that.

The US promptly set up the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to govern the military occupation of Iraq, and Paul Bremer, the former CEO of a risk and insurance services company, was put at the helm.

Chaos and corruption characterized Bremer's year in Baghdad, and the subsequent "handover of sovereignty" from the CPA to the puppet Iraqi Interim Government in June 2004 was a farce on multiple levels.

For one, the United States didn’t have sovereignty over Iraq in the first place. Even the US Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956) clearly states that "belligerent occupation ... of enemy territory" does not transfer sovereignty. Period.

Besides, with over 100,000 U.S. troops still on the ground in Iraq, not to mention tens of thousands of contractors under U.S. control, and billions invested in U.S. bases and resources, it’s clear that the Pentagon has dug in for the long haul.

But the continuing occupation isn’t only militaristic -- it also involves the CPA’s illegal restructuring of Iraq’s economic system.

One of Paul Bremer’s top priorities as head of the CPA, from May 2003 to June 2004, was to open up Iraq to foreign business.

Without adequate input or permission from the Iraqi people, he annulled the rules and regulations which had governed Iraq’s almost self-sustaining economy, turning it into a freewheeling market economy more suitable to business interests abroad.

Mind you, it’s illegal to change a nation’s basic law during a belligerent occupation.

The 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare clearly ban it.

Yet that’s precisely what Bremer did in Iraq.

  • He laid off 500,000 people, causing both unemployment and desperation to skyrocket.

  • He cut tariffs, changed laws governing everything from banking to taxes, and allowed the privatization of Iraq’s 192 government-owned industries (except for oil).

  • He bypassed requests to give Iraqis preference in reconstruction projects, awarding over $50 billion in contracts to 150 US companies instead (including a full $11 billion for Halliburton).
In other words, he made a lousy situation much, much worse.

By the time Bremer left Iraq, he had pushed through 100 "Orders" fundamentally changing Iraq’s legal system.

For example, Order #39 not only allows Iraq’s state-owned businesses to be privatized, but also permits 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, 40-year ownership licenses and unrestricted remittance of profits.

For good measure, Order #49 slashes the corporate tax rate and Order #12 "suspends all tariffs, customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees and similar surcharges for goods entering or leaving Iraq."

Order #40 makes it possible for foreigners to own 50 percent of Iraq’s banks, while Order #17 gives foreign contractors immunity from Iraq’s laws. Scandalous.

Order 81 is arguably the most vicious of all: It prohibits Iraqi farmers from saving "new" plant variety seeds, requiring them instead to purchase seeds from authorized foreign distributors.

Great for Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Dreadful for Iraqi farmers, and even worse for the country’s food security.

It’s not only Iraq’s agricultural system that has been plundered as a result of the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation.

The country’s rich cultural heritage has also been laid to waste, with an estimated one million books, 10 million documents and 14,000 archaeological artifacts lost in what Venezuelan writer Fernando Baez calls "the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258."

Similar pillaging has occurred around Iraq’s financial resources.

  • In October 2003, the British charity Christian Aid reported that a full $4 billion of Iraq's funds were unaccounted for, and in June 2004 the group accused Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority of losing an unbelievable $20 billion of Iraq's own money meant to have been used in rebuilding the country.

  • In late 2004, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction dropped yet another bombshell about Bremer’s disgraceful performance: the CPA hadn't kept track of an incredible $8.8 billion it had transferred to Iraqi ministries from early 2003 until June 2004.

When asked about the missing funds during a Q&A with U.S. students in 2005, Bremer is reported to have replied, "I suggest you not worry, as that $9 billion was Iraqi money, not US money."

So, after years of bloody occupation, after tens of thousands of lives lost and after hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, what exactly is Bush's legacy in Iraq?

Hussein was indeed a tyrant, and the Iraqi people deserve the utmost of respect for braving bullets and bombs to cast their ballots in 2005.

But their country is edging towards a fundamentalist theocracy, is engulfed in bloodshed, and has become a training ground for terrorists.

Iraq’s ancient culture lies ravaged and its economy devastated, as foreign companies line up to take over its valuable resources.

Mission accomplished.

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