Daily Archives: June 28, 2004

Bush Sovereignty, Vol 2

Just before Viceroy Bremer escaped bolted fled ran away from left Iraq, he signed a number of orders specifically limiting the power of the new Iraqi ‘govt’.

BAGHDAD, June 26 — U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq’s legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq’s interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country’s democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi’s choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.

So who’s running Iraq again? Oh yeah, we are.

Bulletin: Bremer Gone

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is reporting that Viceroy Bremer has left Iraq, effectively transferring the Bush version of ‘sovereignty’ two days early.

Bremer began discussing the possibility of an early transfer 10 days ago with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. But the two agreed Sunday to go ahead with the sovereignty transfer earlier than planned, said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity.Several officials said the deception was meant to undercut the ability of Iraqi insurgents to spoil the handover with a hail of car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

In other words, the terrorists are in charge and we have to sneak our govt in under their radar? Boy, I’m sure glad things are going well in Iraq; I’d hate to think what would happen if it wasn’t.

The handover ceremony took place inside the Green Zone, in an office in the building once used by the former Iraqi Governing Council. About a dozen officials were present, seated in gilded chairs in a formal room with Louis XIV decor.Bremer sat on the couch with Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer. In the middle of the room was a table, in the center of which was a bowl of flowers with a small Iraqi flag in it.

At 10:26 a.m. everyone stood. The two leaders exchanged documents, overseen by Iraq’s chief justice Midhat al-Mahmood. In that moment, U.S. sovereignty over Iraq was transferred to an Iraqi government.

Well, some of it was. Sort of. Juan Cole is unimpressed.

It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony.

This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That’s what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let’s see if they fall for it.

Yes, let’s. I’m taking bets. You won’t like the odds.

So the question naturally arises: ‘Now that it’s actually happened, what’s really changed?’ Cole sees only one real difference.

What has changed? The big change is that Allawi now controls the Iraqi government’s $20 billion a year in income. About $10 bn. of that is oil revenues, and those may be hurt this year by extensive sabotage. To tell you the truth, I can’t imagine where the other $10 bn. comes from. The government can’t collect much in taxes. Some of it may be foreign aid, but not much of that has come in. The problem is that the Iraqi government probably needs $30 billion to run the government properly, and with only 2/3s of that or less, the government will be weak and somewhat ineffective.Since Bremer was a congenital screw-up, just getting him and his CPA out of the country and out of control may be a good step forward. Allawi won’t care about Polish style shock therapy for the economy. Allawi does not have any investment in keeping Iraq weak or preventing it from having a proper army. But how the Iraqi military, if brought back, can operate in a security environment where there are 160,000 foreign troops under US command is unclear.

He’s being kind. The appropriate word is ‘impossible’.

Well, at least the ‘ending’ fits (very important in Hollywood movies and Imperial occupations): we started this with a lie and we’re ending it with a deception. You have to admit, there’s a certain symmetry to it.

Like Father Like Son:Selling Out the Kurds

As pressure for Kurdish independence builds, Junior is in Turkey making nice with PM Erdogan.

A senior American official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said, “These meetings today made clear that whatever the differences U.S. and Turkish governments had over Iraq, from this point forward — and both the Turkish president and the Turkish prime minister in their meetings made this clear — from this moment forward, Turkey sees its interests and the American interests in Iraq as parallel and consistent.”

The article concentrates on the old news of the Turkish Parliament’s refusal to allow US planes to bomb Iraq from Turkish soil or US troops to use Turkey as a staging area for the invasion (that oh so diplomatic fellow, Paul Wolfowitz, demanded that the PM apologize for Parliament’s decision; Erdogan declined the invitation), but the only current interest Turkey has in Iraq is the Kurdish resistance which they see as a threat to their claims on the region.

It is possible, of course (this is, after all, Junior, not a competent international diplomatist), that Erdogan and Bush never discussed the Kurds. It is also possible that I am in a position to assure you of a seat on the next flight to San Bernadino via my personal jet-pack transport plane, the Fruitless Shrub. Anything is possible.

Aligning US and Turkish interests at this ticklish point could mean only one thing, realistically: Junior is following in Daddy’s footsteps and selling Kurdish independence out in order to strengthen US oil interests just like Poppy did. This is going to make the handover really…interesting.

F9/11 Breaks All Records

The right-wing attempt to stop theaters from showing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 has run into a snag: $22Mil at the box office its opening weekend, making it the highest-grossing opening for a documentary ever. The Associated Press, with its typical “objectivity” claims without evidence of any kind that F9/11‘s success was the fault of  “left-wing groups, which mobilized members to see it during the opening weekend.” Sure, that must be it. Phaedrus, with his usual keen eye for patently absurd right-wing memes, takes heart from this one.

If this blockbuster debut is a result of left wing groups mobilizing their members to see it, then the left in this country is a lot bigger than Americans have been led to believe. Notice the subtle bias in the article, though. “Left-wing groups” vs. “conservative groups.” If they’re really conservatives, and not right wing authoritarians, why did they try to keep people from seeing the movie?

This is a question that answers itself. Phaedrus was actually one of those weekend warriors, and you can read his review here.

I felt so sorry for Lila Lipscomb. She went to D.C. to aim her anger and hatred at the White House. Another woman told her to blame Al Qaeda. She walked away, and said to Moore something like, “People are so ignorant. They don’t know. I didn’t know.” And she dissolves into tears. In that moment I felt sorry even for the right wingers. People don’t know what they don’t know.

The promise of this movie–and the opening week shows it has one–is that it has the capacity to cut through the Murdock/Malone/Mighty Wutlitzer-induced national ignorance-quotient. They’ll see here what they haven’t read in their papers or seen on TV or heard on the radio, and it’s going to have an effect. Phaedrus gets the last word (at least until I finagle a way to see it).

I have seen the movie and you must see it. Like most Moore films it is absolutely hilarious at times. However, I spent much of the movie with tears rolling down my cheeks. Honey Punkin’, who’s as tough as raw brisket, said she turned her head to wipe her cheek because she was crying, and she saw that the guy next to her was wiping his cheeks as well.

Now that’s the power of truth.

Update: Rue the Day Dept–The LA Times reports a curious stat. Remember how Disney violated its contract to distribute F9/11 because it was afraid Jeb would use the govt to get back at them for handling a movie critical of his bro? Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, who cut the deal with Disney, found another distributor in less than a week (Britain’s Lion’s Gate Films) because the buzz was that this doc was going to make a ton of money. Well, it seems that feeling was right.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” had a better opening than any of the nine feature films Disney has released this year.

In fact, almost better than three of the nine put together. Another bad business decision, Mr Eisner. They’re starting to mount up, aren’t they? And the AP slur gets a little reality-check, too:

Informal surveys of theaters and rival studios also indicated that the film was attracting crowds wherever it played in the GOP-leaning “red states” as well as the Democrat blue. Much of the audience was predictably left of center, but in addition to places like the liberal enclave of Santa Monica it was doing well even in several cities in the president’s home state of Texas.

I love it when right-wing fantasy slams into hard-core reality.