by Josh Frank
April 25, 2003
Since the first week after the initial bombs blasted Baghdad, the anti-war voices have been virtually tongue-tied. Finding solid ground in the muddy swamps of patriotism has not been easy. But as the dust from the smart bombs settle - the movement will be pulling on new boots - calling for an end to the military occupation Iraq’s invaders believe will spread democracy.
While disorder in Iraq ensues, an interim government is being rapidly deployed. Meetings have taken place for several days now, and team Bush has been foaming at the mouth. Vice President Cheney’s old company Halliburton has already secured a $7 billion no-bid contract to clean up the oil reserves in Iraq. While Bechtel, a California based construction company, with close ties to Bush, was also offered a no-bid deal - worth up to $680 million. Bechtel will be paid to rebuild almost everything destroyed under the US led bombardment. Including schools, hospitals, roads, electricity and water supplies.
Recently White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said of these makeshift government meetings that they will, “pave the way preliminarily for what will eventually become the Iraqi interim authority.” He went on to say that these, “meeting(s) will be done with the help of United States officials.”
What Fleisher forgot to mention was -- that the US variant of democracy in Iraq will require a hefty dose of military pressure to ensure corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel can go about their business dealings. But Fleisher could be wrong. Democracy in Iraq may be a futile effort.
Ex-US ambassador to Iraq during the first Gulf War, Joseph Wilson IV, has been an outspoken disputer of Bush’s assertion that democracy will prevail following war. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Wilson proclaimed that, “it's hard for me to imagine that a democratic system will emerge out of the ashes of Iraq in the near term. And when and if it does, it's hard for me to believe that it will be more pro-American and more pro-Israeli than what you've got now.”
Aspirations of a US friendly Iraq regime may be more of a mirage than a foregone conclusion. Bush knows anti-American sentiment in Iraq is reaching colossal levels. He’s said he is willing to occupy the country as long as needed. Rest assured he means, “as long at it takes to instill a government friendly to American interests.”
This is where the anti-war movement will come in - nullifying their old attempts of halting the Iraq invasion - and adhering to the new anti-occupation manifesto.
This shouldn't mean that all United States envoys should exit the Gulf entirely. Under international law the United States is obligated to maintain order in the region, and provide everything from humanitarian aid to children’s reading books. This will prove to be a largest hurdle the anti-occupation protesters may encounter - how to exit US forces while continuing to bandage the wounds of war’s afflictions.
For true democracy to prevail, America’s presence in Iraq must be limited to humanitarian aid, not military might. But with corporations reaping the avails of the smoldering battlefield, it is unlikely Bush will pull out his military operatives. The movement must be clear in deeming the Bush administration responsible, while also pressuring for the exit of the occupation units.
Freedom and democracy in Iraq may be false ambitions, but this does not bind us to complacency. We must follow international law, providing for the needs of those who have suffered - but we cannot endorse a military occupation of any kind. The United Nations weapons teams must re-enter Iraq to search for those elusive WMD's.
The people of post-war Iraq are calling on activists throughout the world to compel the Bush administration to end their combative stances. This means we must denounce any profits made by war-profiteers and to admonish the tough rhetoric Bush has been spewing at Syria and Iran.
It will be a fine line between occupation and rebuilding. But it will be a line the anti-war movement must toe if it is to once again regain a stronghold among war critics. Now that war is dwindling - freedom must prevail. It must not be the democracy Bush craves - one of resource control and power. Instead it must become the democracy Iraqis deserve - freedom without occupation.