On the imperial frontier (2)

Posted on

There was an extraordinary article on the front page of the New York Times today: David E. Sanger and James Dao’s “U.S. Is Completing Plan to Promote a Democratic Iraq.” You could tell instantly how important it is, because the many references to sources are fabulously, succulently anonymous, in the fashion of only the most significant insider journalism. (“One of Mr. Bush’s top advisors,” “one senior official,” “an official close to Mr. Bush,” “a senior Pentagon official,” “administration officials who have been developing [the proposals] for several months” — these are the Hellfire missiles of journalistic sourcing.) In addition, Sanger and Dao actually quote from “administration documents” — from the President’s lips to my mouth to this piece of paper to you. You can’t ask for better.

The subject is the occupation of Iraq, that era after, in the words of one “senior official,” “you will have decapitated the command and control for the Iraqi military forces.” (Off with their command heads.) For a second there, I almost wrote the occupation of Japan. But Sanger and Dao inform us that, according to the same, or another senior official, in an “allusion to General MacArthur,” who ran that occupation after World War II, “The last thing we need is someone walking around with a corncob pipe, telling Iraqis how to form a government.” Instead, they tell us that, during an estimated 18 month American military occupation, there will be “some kind of civilian administrator” appointed, possibly a UN official of, they add in a deft stroke that fills you in on everything you need to know, “theoretically equal influence” with the American military commander.

In addition to planning for minimalist war crimes trials to come and, evidently, the rehabilitation of most of the present Baathist regime, American officials, they tell us, studied “past successes and failures in nation building, reaching back to the American administration of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war” (a curious example, by the way, unless the Iraqis don’t mind waiting forty-odd years for that “democratic” moment to finally arrive).

The piece should be studied carefully for many reasons, but here’s something I, at least, find of great interest: While our media may largely have avoided the issue of oil and Iraq, it turns out that all those senior officials and officials “close” to Bush haven’t. The “delicate question” of “how to deal with Iraq’s oil reserves,” also referred to by one senior official as “the patrimony of the Iraqi people,” turns out to involve grabbing the oil fields before Saddam can torch them, using Iraqi oil to pay for reconstruction (and assumedly the occupation as well), and deciding how, once in control of the oil, to relate to OPEC –“who would represent occupied Iraq at the organization’s meetings” — or even whether to relate to OPEC.

All this has clearly been at or near the heart of this administration’s planning and future dreams. As it turns out, while fretting about how to make it to the moment of invasion, the Bushies have also been living in a glorious, proconsular future out there where the sun beats down and the oil spouts. Actually, the only matter that doesn’t get much attention in the piece is the promotion of a “democratic” Iraq (at least as I might define democracy). Every Iraqi who might play any role in governing as far as I can tell is to be appointed or anointed by the Americans. Why am I not surprised?

I’ve added a piece by David Isenberg from the Asia Times, a reminder that while the tanks cross the desert in the Big I, back in semi-forgotten Afghanistan, military duties are being fobbed off onto hired mercenaries. So it goes on the imperial frontier. Tom

U.S. Is Completing Plan to Promote a Democratic Iraq
By David E. Sanger and James Dao
The New York Times
January 6, 2003

January 6, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 – President Bush’s national security team is assembling final plans for administering and democratizing Iraq after the expected ouster of Saddam Hussein. Those plans call for a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country’s oil fields to pay for reconstruction.

The proposals, according to administration officials who have been developing them for several months, have been discussed informally with Mr. Bush in considerable detail. They would amount to the most ambitious American effort to administer a country since the occupations of Japan and Germany at the end of World War II. With Mr. Bush’s return here this afternoon, his principal foreign policy advisers are expected to shape the final details in White House meetings and then formally present them to the president.

To read more Sanger and Dao click here

Security for sale in Afghanistan
By David Isenberg

Asia Times
January 6, 2003

The role of private military companies received a significant, if little noted, boost late last year when the Virginia-based US contractor DynCorp received a new assignment: protecting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. While this is undoubtedly good news for DynCorp, the jury is still out as to how positive a development it is for Karzai.

According to the US State Department, in mid-November the department’s Diplomatic Security Service assumed responsibility for Karzai’s protection from the military’s Special Operations Forces, upon which a portion of the work was contracted to DynCorp.

DynCorp is a 56-year-old corporation with 23,000 employees and an annual income of almost US$2 billion, headquartered in Reston, Virginia. DynCorp had previously assisted with the protection of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the early 1990s.

To read more Isenberg click here