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   Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis

Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

June 4, 2004

The White House's Iraq fib factory went into overdrive last week, trumpeting claims the new `caretaker government' the UN had supposedly just installed in Baghdad would be `fully sovereign' and `totally independent' by 30 June.

We would like to believe the White House. But this latest claim comes from the same truth-deficient people who concocted Iraq's imminent threat to destroy the USA with nuclear and germ weapons, Saddam's vans and drones of death, Saddam's tryst with bin Laden, and a cascade of other preposterous fictions that would have made Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Gobbels blush deep crimson.

The latest US-authored regime-change in Iraq was a political charade designed to soothe uneasy American voters who are increasingly alarmed by the aimlessness, mounting casualties, and $186 billion cost — as much as the Vietnam War at its height — of the Iraq misadventure.

The White House dreads the oncoming national uproar when the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq hits 1,000. It desperately needs to show some light at the end of the Iraq tunnel before November elections.

So it arm-twisted the UN's dismayingly weak Secretary General, Kofi Annan, into allowing his organization to be crudely misused to legitimize continuing US-British occupation of Iraq by supposedly selecting candidates for the new `sovereign' regime.

Throughout the entire Iraq crisis, Anan has persistently given in to or facilitated Washington's demands, refused to strongly defend his weapons inspectors, and is now undermining the world body by allowing it to become a tool of Anglo-American Mideast policy. A strong secretary, like Dag Hammarskjold, would never have allowed this to happen.

In the end, Washington chose its own men and simply ignored the UN and humiliated its Iraq legate, Lakhdar Brahimi, after the world organization had provided the required fig leaf.

The result: Iraq's new regime, installed under the guns of US tanks, makes the former Soviet Union's Eastern European satellite states look like paragons of unfettered independence.

Off-the-shelf CIA `asset,' Iyad Allawi, was made strongman-prime minister — just like Afghanistan's US-installed figurehead Hamid Karzai, another CIA old boy. Iraq's defense and interior ministries will also be run by other US `assets.'

Another unknown exile was made ceremonial head of state. Some 160 US senior American `advisors' will supervise all key ministries, notably defense, police, finance, communications and a new, CIA-trained secret police. All the US billions currently funding Iraq, and overall control of oil revenues, will be managed by a special US `advisory and monitoring board.'

France long ran its nominally independent West African colonies in a similar manner: French `advisors' telling African ministers what to do, backed by the not so subtle threat of the French intelligence service and the Foreign Legion.

By comparison, after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, they left the newly installed regime considerably more independence of action than the US is giving its Iraqi satraps.

The supreme law of the Arab World: the men with the guns make the law. Iraq's new puppet regime has no soldiers, only some useless police. Real power will of course be held by 140,000 US troops who will stay on, Washington says, to `guarantee security' and `fight terrorism.'

The Bush administration suggests Iraq can order its troops to withdraw at any time; however, the next US-engineered Iraqi regime, due to be `elected' next year, is expected to `invite' them to stay on. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is building from 6 to 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, while major US firms are being encouraged to buy up Iraqi industrial assets on the cheap.

Next year's Iraq elections, if held, will hardly reflect the nation's will. Islamic, pro-Iranian, Nasserite, and Baathist parties will be banned. Only pro-US groups need apply.

This means that today's bunch of collaborating exiles, political nobodies, and Kurds are likely to form Iraq's next `elected' regime. In short, a shadow regime whose independence and sovereignty may be limited to garbage collection and dog catching — the same bantustan-type formula Israel offered Palestinians.

The big decisions — military, internal security, oil, banking, industry, foreign relations, bases — will be decided by the real government, the US Embassy and Iraq's American `advisors.'

Some members of Iraq's new, American-engineered regime will eventually seek more independence from US control, or even demand outright sovereignty. But they will vividly recall how the last puppet rulers of British-controlled Iraq, King Faisal and strongman Nuri as-Said, were overthrown in 1958, and hanged from lampposts.

The moment members of Iraq's current US-installed regime begins showing too much independence, they will be quietly replaced, or threatened by denial of US security protection, leaving them to face their hostile, angry people. America's Iraqi satraps are entirely dependant on US troops and bodyguards.

Two acid tests will determine whether any Iraqi regime is truly sovereign and independent of US control: the ability to order all US forces out of Iraq; and reaffirmation of Iraq's active support of the Palestinian cause. Anything less means Iraq remains an American colony, all the Bush administration's fancy doubletalk notwithstanding.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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    Eric Margolis
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