Meet the new boss...

The "official" the end of the Iraq war was announced by George "I'll willing to let other people die for my country" Bush weeks back. Someone should tell the Iraqis. Almost every day, the US body count increases and Iraqi resentment and hatred of their "liberators" grows. Pretty much as would be expected, given the real reasons for US intervention.

Now with it becoming increasingly unlikely that WMD will be found, Bush and Blair are back peddling like no one's business. And not very successfully. Bush is now talking about a "weapons program" rather than the weapons a few months ago he was so sure existed in vast, and known, qualities. Now, Bush says, looters may have got their hands on them. Sure. And given that US troops are under constant attack, he seems a bit blasé about this possibility. But as in Vietnam, it's not his skin which is in danger (although impeachment should make him sweat).

The pro-"blowing up civilians" crowd seem to have discovered their argument of final defence. The WMD line is, understandably, being downplayed in favour of the "freedom for the Iraqi people" position. The real reason for the war, it is claimed now, was our deepest concern for the Iraqi people, a concern strangely missing when Saddam was our favourite and when we preferred him in power to a popular uprising in 1991 (this repression being the source of many of the mass graves now hypocritically being used to retroactively justify the invasion).

We should remember that this argument is a lie, given that no one, including Bush and Blair, asked the American or British people to liberate the Iraqis. In fact, Blair and Bush both explicitly said they would leave the Iraqis to Saddam's tender mercies if he disarmed. No, Saddam was to be attacked because of the immediate threat he posed to the US and the UK. The "humanitarian" excuse was cynically tacked on when it became clear no one was buying the WMD excuse.

No, we must forget these little inconvenient facts and concentrate on Iraqi "freedom." The pro-war crowd say that the Iraqi people are "free." What does that entail?

Well, apparently they are free to be shot by US troops if they protest against the decisions of the occupying power. They are free to read the press censored by US officials. They are free to speak, as long as they do not say anything the US dislikes. They are free to protest, as long as its not about something the occupiers object to (such as the occupation). They have been freed to have their homes raided and, if arrested, bound and a hood placed over their head. And free to experience indefinite detention without trial, prisoners are also free to be subject to the psychological torture the US occupying forces have cheerfully admitted to using. Moreover, Amnesty International reports, they are, if prisoners, free to be subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international law" by US troops. Amnesty, incidentally, was speaking up for the human rights of actual Iraqis back when Rumsfeld was shaking Saddam's hand and helping him out with weapons.

The Iraqis have also been freed of the terrible job of running their own country or even electing those who do. The US has placed an Iraqi government on indefinite hold, while the US appointed ruler, Bremer, unilaterally cancelled local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders. Bremer opined that "elections that are held too early can be destructive." While he magnanimously stated that he was "not opposed to" self-rule by Iraqis, he wanted "to do it a way that takes care of our concerns." These "concerns" revolve around who would win the elections: "In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win." So, Iraqis will be allowed to vote once they pick the right people.

Ostensibly, Bremer is concerned that "former Baathists" and "Islamists" may win any elections held now. Yet his concern over Baathists being in power seems selective, given that ten weeks into the occupation the cities and towns outside of Baghdad are largely administered by former Iraqi military and police officers and people who had close ties to the Baath Party.

So, in summary, the Iraqi people are "free" while being subject to an occupying power which bans protests, uses censorship, mass arrests, indefinite detention without trail and shots protestors as well as cancels elections and appoints former regime officials to positions of responsibility. All from the palaces and prisons used by the old regime to terrorise and torture its subjects. What a coincidence...

Should we be surprised? After all, in announcing that it would not count Iraqi dead during the war, the US military showed that, both literally and figuratively, dead Iraqis only counted if Saddam killed them. The same with Iraqi freedoms. For the pro-war crowd, freedoms only seem to matter if Saddam was destroying them. If the US does it, then it is not an issue. Of course US tyranny is nowhere near as extreme (so far) as their old pal's Saddam's, but surely we are entitled to demand a slightly better definition of "freedom" than that?

And given the pro-war camp's concern for "democracy", it sees strange that these new found friends of Iraqi freedom are pushers of the "WMD do not matter" position. After all, they are upholding a deeply undemocratic position, namely that "our" government can lie to us with impunity, and it is no big deal. They are arguing that we are too stupid to make informed decisions about our lives and we need to be lied to by the elite in order to acquiesce to the "right" decision. This is a deeply frightening viewpoint, but as Chomsky has discussed in great depth on many occasions, the common perspective on democracy in elite circles.

And it should remind us exactly what kind of "democracy" Bush and Blair are planning for the Iraqis.

But there is cause for celebration. The "liberation" of the Iraqi economy from the Iraqi people is forging ahead. American officials are mapping out a plan to sell off the state-owned companies to private investors as soon as possible. That is, without waiting for the establishment of an Iraqi government. Thus Iraq is being carved up and sold off to US corporations, with this instant privatization ensuring that any government nominally elected by the Iraqis can do little about it.

Sadly, the "Iraqi Freedom" excuse for war is being exposed as being a baseless as all the rest. What a surprise. The anti-war camp has been vindicated yet again. Iraq is occupied, not free. This was an imperialist war, nothing else.

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