The script was Brussels does Baghdad this Wednesday at an international conference of foreign ministers – co-sponsored by the US and the European Union – high on rhetoric and low on practical decisions, designed to support nation (re)building in Iraq as a “pluralist democracy”. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Iraqis should “take heart from this strong message of support”.
Unscripted response in the streets of Baghdad: four car bombs, 32 dead, more than 50 wounded.
Behind all the diplomatic gloss, observers in Brussels say that nobody was really paying attention to the usual routine by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accusing Syria of destabilizing Iraq (Syria has 7,000 troops patrolling the border) or insisting that Iraq was “on its way to democracy”.
What really counts is where the money is coming from – the crucial issue at a donor conference in Amman, Jordan, next month. For starters, one wonders whether any “donor” will dare ask the Americans what happened to US$8.8 billion of Iraqi money that “disappeared” under former proconsul L Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority. For their part, wealthy Iraqi neighbors such as Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia will only pledge substantial financial help if Sunnis are represented en masse in the political process.
It’s virtually impossible for US President George W Bush’s Iraq to be “on its way to democracy” when real unemployment reaches a staggering 50% (a scarier prospect for most people than car bombs or snipers), 25% of children under five years old are malnourished, 78% of the households in the country (and 92% in Baghdad) have electricity only a few hours a day, only 37% of urban households (and a mere 4% in the countryside) have sewage-disposal systems, only 61% have access to drinking water, 5% of households have been destroyed by bombing or search-and-destroy missions, only one in 10 households in rural areas can be reached by a paved road, and more youngsters than in any previous generation are illiterate. This is the appalling legacy of the occupation – and the US and UN-imposed regime of sanctions in the 1990s.
Now, to complete the picture, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has just “discovered” in a classified report leaked to the New York Times that Iraq – rather, Bush’s Iraq – is breeding the new, lethal generation of jihadis, just like former president Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters” were bred in the 1980s in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad. Anyone familiar with the invasion and occupation of Iraq knew this for a fact as far back as two years ago – at a time when Pentagon supremo Donald Rumsfeld was, on the record, very happy with the idea of Iraq as the new jihad Mecca. The CIA report cannot but conclude that the new jihadis – who are now taking their higher education in urban warfare in the Sunni triangle – will be even deadlier than the famous Arab-Afghans. There was blowback in Afghanistan – after the US financed a jihad. There is now blowback in Iraq – after the US invented a jihad out of the blue.
The lies that lead to the killers
The Downing Street memo – or memos – whose authenticity both Washington and London didn’t even try to deny, have once again proved that “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush administration’s] policy”, in the immortal words of Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British M16. The memos once again proved that Bush knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction as well as no connection whatsoever with the attacks of September 11, 2001. The memos also prove, more lethally, that the British government viewed the invasion of Iraq as a war crime.
Whatever the spin, a majority of Americans are now finally starting to wake up to the fact that the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and corporate media simply lied about the whole Iraqi imperial adventure. George W Bush’s response, on a June 18 radio address: we invaded Iraq because we were attacked – once again the non-existent connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam. Bush also said the war on Iraq would be won, despite “cold-blooded killers” trying to derail the US.
The “cold-blooded killers”, as the CIA’s Porter Goss would tell his friend Bush in an improbable, frank exchange, now exist because Bush’s Iraq made them happen. And that’s just part of the problem. American “intelligence officials” in Baghdad now are also “discovering” that Iraq’s new security services, or the new Mukhabarat, largely responding to former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi (“Saddam without a moustache”, in Baghdad parlance), are totally infiltrated by the resistance. These “intelligence officials” must have spent the past two years sipping martinis by the pool inside the Green Zone.
Iraq is the new Afghanistan in more ways than breeding a new generation of jihadis. The US has alienated Sunni Arabs in Iraq, just as it has alienated the Pashtun in Afghanistan. Sunni Arabs control the heart of Iraq’s industrial economy, just as the Pashtun control the heart of Afghanistan’s rural economy – based on opium-trading. The Pashtun will fight to the death against the remake of Afghanistan as a docile pupil of International Monetary Fund/World Bank dictates, just as Sunni Arabs – and many Shi’ites as well – will fight to the death the remake of Iraq as a US-controlled neo-liberal paradise.