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Colonizing Iraq: The Obama Doctrine?
(Michael Schwartz, TomDispatch.com,09 July 2009)
Gen. Ray Odierno, the overall American commander in Iraq, has ordered that an increasing number of basic operations - transport and re-supply convoys, for example - take place at night, when fewer Iraqis are likely to see that the American withdrawal is not total." ... Acting in the dark of night, in fact, seems to catch the nature of American plans for Iraq in a particularly striking way. ... While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the U.S. military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else - something more unsettling - appears to be going on. ... And it wasn't just the president's hedging over withdrawing American "combat" troops from Iraq - which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 U.S. forces still in the country - now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as "advisors" so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren't about to give up. ... An anonymous senior State Department official described this new "dark of night" policy recently to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf this way: "One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the U.S. can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so." ... Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration's military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and - if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness - what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn't look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home. ... Most colonial regimes erect systems in which foreigners involved in occupation duties are served (and disciplined) by an institutional structure separate from the one that governs the indigenous population. In Iraq, the U.S. has been building such a structure since 2003, and the Obama administration shows every sign of extending it. ... Recently, the occupation has also been appropriating various streets and roads for its exclusive use (an idea that may have been borrowed from Israel's 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank). ... The intrusive presence of the Baghdad embassy extends to the all-important oil industry, which today provides 95% of the government's funds. When it comes to energy, the occupation has long sought to shape policy and transfer operational responsibility from Iraqi state-owned enterprises of the Saddam Hussein years to major international oil companies. In one of its most successful efforts, in 2004, the U.S. delivered an exclusive $1.2 billion contract to reconstruct Iraq's decrepit southern oil transport facilities (which handle 80% of its oil flow) to KBR, the notorious former subsidiary of Halliburton. Supervision of that famously mismanaged contract, still uncompleted five years later, was allocated to the U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. ... The Iraqi government, in fact, still exerts remarkably little control over "Iraqi" oil revenues. ... In the meantime, the campaign to transfer administration of core oil operations to the major oil companies continues. Despite the resistance of Iraqi oil workers, the administrators of the two national oil companies, a majority bloc in parliament, and public opinion, the U.S. has continued to pressure the al-Maliki administration to enact an oil law that would mandate licensing devices called production-sharing agreements (PSAs). ... If enacted, these PSAs would, without transferring permanent ownership, grant oil companies effective control over Iraq's oil fields, giving them full discretion to exploit the country's oil reserves from exploration to sales. ... After only five months in office, the Obama administration has already provided significant evidence that, like its predecessor, it remains committed to maintaining that "access to and flow of energy resources" in Iraq, even as it places its major military bet on winning the expanding war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. ... As the Obama administration comes face-to-face with the reality of trying fulfill General Odierno's ambition of making Iraq into "a long-term partner with the United States in the Middle East" while fighting a major counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, it may also encounter a familiar dilemma faced by nineteenth-century colonial powers: that without the application of overwhelming military force, the intended colony may drift away toward sovereign independence. If so, then the dreary prediction of Pulitzer Prize-winning military correspondent Thomas Ricks - that the United States is only "halfway through this war" - may prove all too accurate.
posted by Lorenzo 8:06 AM