Earlier in January, Iraq's Shia Muslim majority dropped another political bombshell when grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called Bush's bluff and demanded democracy be guaranteed by direct elections rather than through US-appointed caucuses. The Bush gang were planning a carefully choreographed transition, much like they did in Afghanistan, to make it appear as though Iraq is on its way to full sovereignty just in time for the US election season's peak this summer.
The June 30 deadline for "transfer of power" has been widely peddled as the end of the occupation. But like with much else that comes out of Washington these days, this is sheer deception. The US intends to be in Iraq for years to come, and the caucus scheme was designed to legitimize the Pentagon's hijacking of the country.
According to the transfer agreement between the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) both appointed by the United States! the new, albeit temporary, government would decide on two critical matters: it would write a new constitution and grant permission for an extended US military presence in Iraq (again well before any elections are held).
The architects of Iraq's conquest had hoped that a new constitution in the right hands would allow them to privatize and dominate the economy, which in turn would be guaranteed by continued military presence. The CPA has issued a series of orders that in effect turn Iraq into a free-market wonderland for American multinationals.
Already four US military bases are under construction in Iraq at Baghdad International Airport, Tallil airbase near Nasariyah, Bashur airfield in the north, and one near the Syrian border. With this much investment, it is clear that "transfer of power" is intended to do nothing more than ratify America's imperial designs, while handing the bloody business of security over to the Iraqis.
Then there's the matter of the ongoing resistance, which the Pentagon generals in Iraq are insisting has been crushed since the capture of Saddam Hussein in December. The problem is that the US body count continues to climb while Iraqis deemed to be working with the occupation by the resistance are dying in even larger numbers. The irony is that while the generals assert that the resistance is nearly finished, their excuse for not having direct elections is the lack of security due to the continuing violence.
And this is not the whole story. It remains unclear how the US plans to keep Iraq whole. Its most powerful allies in Iraq, the Kurds who largely live in the north, are increasingly demanding autonomy, if not outright independence. They are even laying claim to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, where tensions between Kurds, Turkomans, and Arabs have led to a series of deadly clashes.
Thousands of displaced Kurds are living in tents around the city waiting to return to their homes, currently occupied by Arabs who were settled there by Saddam in the 1980s. Neighboring Turkey with its own restless, but much larger, Kurdish population is doing all it can to prevent any kind of autonomy for Iraq's Kurds.
Certainly the grand strategy of the neo-cons to "remake" the whole Middle East is in tatters. But that hasn't stopped them from urging the administration to continue its crusade. Their new manifesto, An End to Evil (written by Richard Perle and David Frum), not only calls for the heads of the usual suspects such as Iran, Syria, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, they also want the Bush administration to take a confrontational approach to former European allies such as France and Belgium.
Perle and Frum go on to slam the UN and call for the complete restructuring of the US military (to exorcise the "dead hand of military tradition") and intelligence services (proposing to turn them into "a single paramilitary structure ultimately answerable to the secretary of defense"). This is frightening stuff to be sure, and no one can predict the extent of their ferocity if they get another four years.
So the question is whether the Iraq mess will be enough to depose Bush? It's still too early to tell. Unfortunately his leading Democratic challengers, themselves implicated in the debacle in Iraq, seem reluctant to make the occupation an issue, even as the post-invasion chaos and the WMD scandal eat away at his normally high-flying ratings. This would be a wasted opportunity on the part of the Democrats as Bush plans to run as a wartime president to give him an edge over any rival.
This is where the anti-war movement can play an important role, by keeping the illegitimacy of the war and its bloody aftermath before the electorate. We have numerous opportunities to do this, most notably on March 20 (as the globe takes to the streets on the first anniversary of the war) and, more important, between August 29 and September 4 when the Republican National Convention is due to be held in New York City.
City activists have been busy since the summer preparing for what is shaping up to be one of the largest protests in US history. If we can mobilize on a scale that goes beyond the core of the radical left, we can do more that just rain on the Republicans' party it's very possible, with say a million in the streets of Manhattan, that we can help knock the crown off Bush's head. That may not, in the words of Perle and Frum, be an end to evil, but it certainly removes one very noxious source.
Bilal El-Amine is an activist and editor of Left Turn Magazine, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at email@example.com.