In 1965 anti-imperialist theorist and Pan-African leader Kwame Nkrumah wrote about what he called neo-colonialism. According to Nkrumah, this state of affairs “is based upon the principle of breaking up former large united colonial territories into a number of small non-viable States which are incapable of independent development and must rely upon the former imperial power for defense and even internal security. Their economic and financial systems are linked, as in colonial days, with those of the former colonial ruler.” Nowadays, this dependent situation is assisted by international agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As it has in many other places, the IMF has insisted that the government put austerity measures in place, including reducing food and fuel subsidies and trimming public services even further. Elections are just another part of the charade.
Amidst the bombings, calls for a recount and an apparent narrow victory of Ayad Allawi’s party in the recent Iraqi elections, the government in Baghdad remains an occupation government. It depends on the presence of US forces–military, CIA, and mercenary–for its survival. The current Prime Minister al-Maliki is there because of Washington, while the apparent winner Ayad Allawi has been a tool of Washington since the 1990s. Indeed, he was one of the Iraqi exiles that fed a willing war cabinet in DC false intelligence about WMD, yellow cake uranium, and the lie that Saddam Hussein was connected to Al-Queda. After the invasion of Iraq, Allawi was appointed to the Occupations Governing Council and continued to serve in a number of ways. Allawi was eventually appointed to be Iraq’s interim Prime Minister in 2004 and served until Ibrahim al-Jaafari was selected to the post in 2005. Both al-Maliki and Allawi and the factions they represent are lukewarm in their desire to see all of the aforementioned US forces leave their country. Both of these men understand that one of the reasons they continue to be politically (if not literally) alive is because of the support they receive from Washington and its troops. Of the major political blocs in the country, al-Sadr’s bloc (INA) is the only one firmly committed to the end of the occupation. However, the other party in the coalition that al-Sadr’s party is in–Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI or SIIC) (previously known as Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)–is tenuous at best. In the past, al-Sadr and the SCIRI group stood on opposite sides of the ring when it came to supporting the US occupation.
Although many Americans and even a few Iraqis will tell you that the fact of the elections proves Iraq’s independence from Washington, most of the other facts will tell you something quite different. Perhaps the most obvious of these are the consistent reports in the US media that elements in the Pentagon want the already slow withdrawal of US forces from Iraq to become even slower in order to insure stability in the country. As is usually the case, stability is defined according to the occupying power, not the people whose land is occupied. As is also usually the case, this stability has something to do not only with the ability of the national government to govern in terms acceptable to the outside power, but with the ability of that government to insure continued “cooperation” with the outside power’s economic plans for the nation. Once this latter is achieved, the presence of occupying troops in containing local insurgencies diminishes. In Iraq, this means that security elements with Iraqi uniforms take over the police and military work and the US military becomes a force whose mission is to contain Iran and maintain a belligerent reminder of who is really running the show.
The United States currently has around 100,000 troops in Iraq, with perhaps another 200,000-250,000 mercenaries. In addition, untold numbers of CIA and other intelligence operators work there. The Embassy in Iraq remains the largest ever constructed by the United States and is ten times larger than any embassy ever constructed for the United States. It is heavily fortified and is a base of operations not only against those opposed to Washington’s plans for Iraq, but also against those opposed to Washington’s plans for the region. Remarking on the nature of the building for the journal Foreign Affairs back in 2007, architectural historian Jane Loeffler wrote “Although the U.S. Government regularly proclaims confidence in Iraq’s democratic future, the U.S. has designed an embassy that conveys no confidence in Iraqis and little hope for their future. Instead, the U.S. has built a fortress capable of sustaining a massive, long-term presence in the face of continued violence.” The compound is an appropriate and accurate metaphor for the current state of Iraq’s nationhood.
The neo-colonial nature of Iraq’s government is apparent in its contracts with the oil companies and the corporations supposedly rebuilding its infrastructure. It is most obvious however in its relationship to the Pentagon. Succinctly put, the size and nature of the US military presence in Iraq id not determined by the Iraqis. it is determined solely by Washington. Iraqis may (and according to most polls, do) want the US military to leave. In fact, there was an agreement signed between the Bush regime and the Iraqi government in 2008 that stated the terms of such a withdrawal. However, as recent utterances from various US generals has made clear, that agreement is subject to change dependent on Washington’s desires.
Just because very few US troops are dying in Iraq does not mean that it is okay for them to be there. Iraqis understand this, yet are unable to effect their desire to end the US presence. Most Americans don’t seem to care, even though the presence of those troops (along with their fellows in Afghanistan) is bankrupting their country both morally and economically while filling the coffers of a select bunch of corporate war profiteers and giving the generals an easy road to their next star. Even if the elections do result in a new government being formed–a questionable prospect at best given the almost equal three-way division of the vote–it will most likely remain Washington’s vote that counts the most.