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.

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