May 01, 2004

The only question now is: Who will follow the Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to jump?

The Emperor has no uniform...The Coalition of the
Witless is deteriorating rapidly. The Mega-Mogadishu
that the LNS predicted is upon us...How long will it
take for the Power Elite in this country to accept the
facts on the ground and move against the Bush cabal
politically on both sides of the aisle and editorially
in the "US mainstream news media"?

Naomi Klein, The Nation: The only question now is: Who will follow the Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to jump? More and more are,
thankfully, choosing the second option. The last month
of inflammatory US aggression in Iraq has inspired
what can only be described as a mutiny: Waves of
soldiers, workers and politicians under the command of
the US occupation authority are suddenly refusing to
follow orders and abandoning their posts. First Spain
announced it would withdraw its troops, then Honduras,
Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Kazakhstan. South
Korean and Bulgarian troops were pulled back to their
bases, while New Zealand is withdrawing its engineers.
El Salvador, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand will
likely be next.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and Iraq War Lies, Show Up
for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

This article can be found on the web at

Lookout by Naomi Klein

Mutiny in Iraq
[from the May 17, 2004 issue]

Can we please stop calling it a quagmire? The United
States isn't mired in a bog or a marsh in Iraq
(quagmire's literal meaning); it is free-falling off a
cliff. The only question now is: Who will follow the
Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to

More and more are, thankfully, choosing the second
option. The last month of inflammatory US aggression
in Iraq has inspired what can only be described as a
mutiny: Waves of soldiers, workers and politicians
under the command of the US occupation authority are
suddenly refusing to follow orders and abandoning
their posts. First Spain announced it would withdraw
its troops, then Honduras, Dominican Republic,
Nicaragua and Kazakhstan. South Korean and Bulgarian
troops were pulled back to their bases, while New
Zealand is withdrawing its engineers. El Salvador,
Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand will likely be

And then there are the mutinous members of the
US-controlled Iraqi army. Since the latest wave of
fighting began, they've been donating their weapons to
resistance fighters in the South and refusing to fight
in Falluja, saying that they didn't join the army to
kill other Iraqis. By late April, Maj. Gen. Martin
Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, was
reporting that "about 40 percent [of Iraqi security
officers] walked off the job because of intimidation.
And about 10 percent actually worked against us."

And it's not just Iraq's soldiers who have been
deserting the occupation. Four ministers of the Iraqi
Governing Council have resigned their posts in
protest. Half the Iraqis with jobs in the secured
"green zone"--as translators, drivers, cleaners--are
not showing up for work. And that's better than a
couple of weeks ago, when 75 percent of Iraqis
employed by the US occupation authority stayed home
(that staggering figure comes from Adm. David Nash,
who oversees the awarding of reconstruction

Minor mutinous signs are emerging even within the
ranks of the US military: Privates Jeremy Hinzman and
Brandon Hughey have applied for refugee status in
Canada as conscientious objectors and Staff Sgt.
Camilo Mejia is facing court martial after he refused
to return to Iraq on the grounds that he no longer
knew what the war was about [see Christian Parenti, "A
Deserter Speaks," at].

Rebelling against the US authority in Iraq is not
treachery, nor is it giving "false comfort to
terrorists," as George W. Bush recently cautioned
Spain's new prime minister. It is an entirely rational
and principled response to policies that have put
everyone living and working under US command in grave
and unacceptable danger. This is a view shared by
fifty-two former British diplomats, who recently sent
a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that
although they endorsed his attempts to influence US
Middle East policy, "there is no case for supporting
policies which are doomed to failure."

And one year in, the US occupation of Iraq does appear
doomed on all fronts: political, economic and
military. On the political front, the idea that the
United States could bring genuine democracy to Iraq is
now irredeemably discredited: Too many relatives of
Iraqi Governing Council members have landed plum jobs
and rigged contracts, too many groups demanding direct
elections have been suppressed, too many newspapers
have been closed down and too many Arab journalists
have been murdered while trying to do their job. The
most recent casualties were two employees of Al
Iraqiya television, shot dead by US soldiers while
filming a checkpoint in Samarra. Ironically, Al
Iraqiya is the US-controlled propaganda network that
was supposed to weaken the power of Al Jazeera and Al
Arabiya, both of which have also lost reporters to US
guns and rockets over the past year.

White House plans to turn Iraq into a model
free-market economy are in equally rough shape,
plagued by corruption scandals and the rage of Iraqis
who have seen few benefits--either in services or
jobs--from the reconstruction. Corporate trade shows
have been canceled across Iraq, investors are
relocating to Amman and Iraq's housing minister
estimates that more than 1,500 foreign contractors
have fled the country. Bechtel, meanwhile, admits that
it can no longer operate "in the hot spots" (there are
precious few cold ones), truck drivers are afraid to
travel the roads with valuable goods and General
Electric has suspended work on key power stations. The
timing couldn't be worse: Summer heat is coming and
demand for electricity is about to soar.

As this predictable (and predicted) disaster unfolds,
many are turning to the United Nations for help: Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the UN to support
his demand for direct elections back in January. More
recently, he has called on the UN to refuse to ratify
the despised interim constitution, which most Iraqis
see as a US attempt to continue to control Iraq's
future long after the June 30 "handover" by, among
other measures, giving sweeping veto powers to the
Kurds--the only remaining US ally. Spanish Prime
Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, before pulling
out his troops, asked the UN to take over the mission
from the United States. Even Muqtada al-Sadr, the
"outlaw" Shiite cleric, is calling on the UN to
prevent a bloodbath in Najaf. On April 18, Sadr's
spokesman, Qais al-Khazaali, told Bulgarian television
it is "in the interest of the whole world to send
peacekeeping forces under the UN flag."

And what has been the UN's response? Worse than
silence, it has sided with Washington on all of these
critical questions, dashing hopes that it could
provide a genuine alternative to the lawlessness and
brutality of the US occupation. First it refused to
back the call for direct elections, citing security
concerns. In retrospect, supporting the call back then
might have avoided much of the violence now engulfing
the country. After all, the UN's response weakened the
more moderate Sistani and strengthened Muqtada
al-Sadr, whose supporters continued demanding direct
elections and launched a vocal campaign against the US
transition plan and the interim constitution. This is
what prompted US chief envoy Paul Bremer to decide to
take Sadr out, the provocation that sparked the Shiite

The UN has proved equally deaf to calls to replace the
US military occupation with a peacekeeping operation.
On the contrary, it has made it clear that it will
only re-enter Iraq if it is the United States that
guarantees the safety of its staff--seemingly
oblivious to the fact that being surrounded by
American bodyguards is the best way to make sure that
the UN will be targeted. "We have an obligation since
[the attack on UN headquarters] last summer to insist
on clarity and on what is being asked of us," Edward
Mortimer, a senior aide to Secretary General Kofi
Annan, told the New York Times. "What are the risks?
What kind of guarantees can you give us that we are
not going to be blown up? And is the job important
enough to justify the risk?"

Even in light of that horrific bombing, this is a
stunning series of questions coming from a UN
official. Do Iraqis have guarantees that they won't be
blown up when they go to the market in Sadr City, when
their children get on the school bus in Basra, when
they send their injured to a hospital in Falluja? Is
there a more important job for the future of global
security than peacemaking in Iraq?

The UN's greatest betrayal of all comes in the way it
is re-entering Iraq: not as an independent broker but
as a glorified US subcontractor, the political arm of
the continued US occupation. The post-June 30
caretaker government being set up by UN envoy Lakhdar
Brahimi will be subject to all the restraints on Iraqi
sovereignty that sparked the current uprising in the
first place. The United States will maintain full
control over "security" in Iraq, including over Iraq's
army. It will keep control over the reconstruction
funds. And, worst of all, the caretaker government
will be subject to the laws laid out in the interim
constitution, including the clause that states that it
must enforce the orders written by the US occupiers.
The UN should be defending Iraq against this illegal
attempt to undermine its independence. Instead it is
disgracefully helping Washington to convince the world
that a country under continued military occupation by
a foreign power is actually sovereign.

Iraq badly needs the UN as a clear, independent voice
in the region. The people are calling out for it,
begging the international body to live up to its
mandate as peacemaker and truth teller. And yet just
when it is needed most, the UN is at its most
compromised and cowardly.

There is a way that the UN can redeem itself in Iraq.
It could choose to join the mutiny, further isolating
the United States. This would help force Washington to
hand over real power--ultimately to Iraqis but first
to a multilateral coalition that did not participate
in the invasion and occupation and would have the
credibility to oversee direct elections. This could
work, but only through a process that fiercely
protects Iraq's sovereignty. That means:

Ditch the Interim Constitution. The interim
constitution is so widely hated in Iraq that any
governing body bound by its rules will immediately be
seen as illegitimate. Some argue that Iraq needs the
interim constitution to prevent open elections from
delivering the country to religious extremists. Yet
according to a February 2004 poll by Oxford Research
International, Iraqis have no desire to see their
country turned into another Iran. Asked to rate their
favored political system and actors, 48.5 percent of
Iraqis ranked a "democracy" as most important, while
an "Islamic state" received 20.5 percent support.
Asked what type of politician they favored, 55.3
percent chose "democrats," while only 13.7 percent
chose religious politicians. If Iraqis are given the
chance to vote their will, there is every reason to
expect that the results will reflect a balance between
their faith and their secular aspirations.

There are also ways to protect women and minority
rights without forcing Iraq to accept a sweeping
constitution written under foreign occupation. The
simplest solution would be to revive passages in
Iraq's 1970 Provisional Constitution, which, according
to Human Rights Watch, "formally guaranteed equal
rights to women and...specifically ensured their right
to vote, attend school, run for political office, and
own property." Elsewhere, the constitution enshrined
religious freedom, civil liberties and the right to
form unions. These clauses can easily be salvaged,
while striking the parts of the document designed to
entrench Baathist rule.

Put the Money in Trust. A crucial plank of managing
Iraq's transition to sovereignty is safeguarding its
national assets: its oil revenue and the remaining
oil-for-food program money (currently administered by
the United States with no oversight), as well as
what's left of the $18.4 billion in reconstruction
funds. Right now the United States is planning to keep
control of this money long after June 30; the UN
should insist that it be put in trust, to be spent by
an elected Iraqi government.

De-Chalabify Iraq. The United States has so far been
unable to install Ahmad Chalabi as the next leader of
Iraq--his history of corruption and lack of a
political base have seen to that. Yet members of the
Chalabi family have quietly been given control in
every area of political, economic and judicial life.
It was a two-stage process. First, as head of the
De-Baathification Commission, Chalabi purged his
rivals from power. Then, as director of the Governing
Council's Economic and Finance Committee, he installed
his friends and allies in the key posts of Oil
Minister, Finance Minister, Trade Minister, Governor
of the Central Bank and so on. Now Chalabi's nephew,
Salem Chalabi, has been appointed by the United States
to head the court trying Saddam Hussein. And a company
with close ties to Chalabi landed the contract to
guard Iraq's oil infrastructure--essentially a license
to build a private army.

It's not enough to keep Chalabi out of the interim
government. The UN must dismantle Chalabi's shadow
state by launching a de-Chalabification process on a
par with the now abandoned de-Baathification process.

Demand the Withdrawal of US Troops. In asking the
United States to serve as its bodyguard as a condition
of re-entering Iraq, the UN has it exactly backwards:
It should only go in if the United States pulls out.
Troops who participated in the invasion and occupation
should be replaced with peacekeepers--preferably from
neighboring Arab states--working under the extremely
limited mandate of securing the country for general
elections. With the United States out, there is a
solid chance that countries that opposed the war would
step forward for the job.

On April 25 the New York Times editorial board called
for the opposite approach, arguing that only a major
infusion of American troops and "a real long-term
increase in the force in Iraq" could bring security.
But these troops, if they arrive, will provide
security to no one--not to the Iraqis, not to their
fellow soldiers, not to the UN. American soldiers have
become a direct provocation to more violence, not only
because of the brutality of the occupation in Iraq but
also because of US support for Israel's deadly
occupation of Palestinian territory. In the minds of
many Iraqis, the two occupations have blended into a
single anti-Arab outrage, with Israeli and US soldiers
viewed as interchangeable and Iraqis openly
identifying with Palestinians.

Without US troops, the major incitement to violence
would be removed, allowing the country to be
stabilized with far fewer soldiers and far less force.
Iraq would still face security challenges--there would
still be extremists willing to die to impose Islamic
law as well as attempts by Saddam loyalists to regain
power. On the other hand, with Sunnis and Shiites now
so united against the occupation, it's the best
possible moment for an honest broker to negotiate an
equitable power-sharing agreement.

Some will argue that the United States is too strong
to be forced out of Iraq. But from the start Bush
needed multilateral cover for this war--that's why he
formed the "coalition of the willing," and it's why he
is going to the UN now. Imagine what could happen if
countries keep pulling out of the coalition, if France
and Germany refuse to recognize an occupied Iraq as a
sovereign nation. Imagine if the UN decided not to
ride to Washington's rescue. It would become an
occupation of one.

The invasion of Iraq began with a call to mutiny--a
call made by the United States. In the weeks leading
up to last year's invasion, US Central Command
bombarded Iraqi military and political officials with
phone calls and e-mails urging them to defect from
Saddam's ranks. Fighter planes dropped 8 million
leaflets urging Iraqi soldiers to abandon their posts
and assuring that no harm would come to them.

Of course, these soldiers were promptly fired when
Paul Bremer took over and are now being frantically
rehired as part of the reversal of the
de-Baathification policy. It's just one more example
of lethal incompetence that should lead all remaining
supporters of US policy in Iraq to one inescapable
conclusion: It's time for a mutiny.

Posted by richard at May 1, 2004 10:40 AM