US SECRETARY of state Colin Powell now admits the "hand-over" of power in Iraq on 30 June is a sham. He said on television last weekend that Iraqi generals and the new defence minister will put their troops "under the direction of the multinational force commander, who will be an American".
Powell's undersecretary, Marc Grossman, has also told the US Congress about what Tony Blair calls the transfer of sovereignty. Grossman says, "I'd say what we're talking about is limited authority."
All this undermines the claim by British foreign secretary Jack Straw and by Tony Blair that 30 June will mark the "peaceful transition to a democratic, representative Iraq". Blair is desperate to deflect the crisis in Iraq by claiming Iraqis will take over. And the admission by Powell is a sign of the growing panic in the White House over what to do.
George Bush's attempts to get wider UN backing for the occupation are running up against demands from France, Russia and other states for a thick slice of the oil revenues from Iraq.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein Iraq has earned $18 billion in oil profits. The money is held in the US Federal Reserve and the US wants control of it to remain with a board that it dominates. The US has already given over half of it to its own multinational contractors, such as Halliburton, which has strong links with vice-president Richard Cheney and with the White House.
John Negroponte, the organiser of Central American death squads in the 1980s, takes over as effective governor of Iraq on 30 June and says the US will continue to control the oil funds, but will "consult" the Iraqi administration. A well informed piece in the Wall Street Journal, the conservative US business paper, last week showed how the US has already arranged for its own "advisers" to stop even US-appointed Iraqi ministers having any power after 30 June. Under the headline "US Tightens Grip On Iraq's Future", the article read:
"As Washington prepares to hand over power, US administrator Paul Bremer and other officials are quietly building institutions that will give the US powerful levers for influencing nearly every important decision the interim government will make. In a series of edicts earlier this spring Mr Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important new security adviser position which will be in charge of training and organising Iraq's new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued US oversight. Meanwhile the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover. In many cases these US and Iraqi proxies will serve multi-year terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens. The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws, and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit US approval, say US officials and others familiar with the plan."
This process has already hit Iraq's Ministry of Communications, which an Iraqi, Haider Al Abadi, used to be in charge of. The authority to license television stations, sanction newspapers and to regulate cell phone companies was recently transferred to a commission whose members were chosen by the US. All these commissioners are on five-year terms.
"No one from the US found the time to call me and tell me themselves," said Haider.
Iraqis demand that they be allowed to run their country
IRAQI DEMOCRATS Against Occupation held a meeting on Wednesday of last week in London on the occupation of Iraq. The speakers included Dr Mohammed Al Musawi from the Shia Islamic Worldwide League. He said,
"From the beginning the majority of the Iraqis wanted the occupying forces to declare a schedule of their withdrawal from Iraq. "The slogan of the occupying forces was 'freedom and democracy'. I was in Iraq a few days ago. You can see how people are disappointed, even those who had some hopes. My previous visit was six months ago. Back then people were much more hopeful than today. Where is the 'freedom and democracy'? They won't allow people to vote. They want a political set-up that serves US interests. They don't want democracy when democracy would give a voice to Iraqis who want independence. In the invasion all the ministries in Iraq were looted without a single American soldier defending them, except the oil ministry, which was guarded. Have they come to safeguard only their own interest in oil? The government is in the hands of Bremer and his assistants. There are no basic services, no electricity and no health services. We don't want the US to form a government that is designed according to their own interests and aims. We don't want the interim government from 30 June to be able to sell off Iraq's assets. It is also important to us to have an electoral system that gives all Iraqis their rights. There are many different languages and many different faiths. Everyone should get his or her rights, regardless of their religion. We call for a democratic procedure which gives every Iraqi one vote."
Dr Ibrahim Allawi, editor in chief of Baghdad left wing paper Al Ghad told the meeting, "This American adventure has failed. The US faces defeat. In the New York Review of Books there is an article by Peter Galbraith, one of the people who destroyed the former Yugoslavia. He is giving his recipe for how to destroy Iraq. His article is entitled 'How To Get Out Of Iraq'. He proposes separating Iraq into four states, just like Yugoslavia-one Kurd, two Shia and one Sunni. Baghdad will be shared. The Iraq war is an international war. Without international support the Iraqi people will be crushed. It is not a question of saving the Iraqi people. If Iraq goes, freedom goes in the West. In the US and Britain you can see the new security measures. Without victory in Iraq the whole world will be in darkness."
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and Respect candidate for the London Assembly, was also invited to address the meeting.
She said, "I wish that the energy that was used to scrutinise the photographs that appeared in the Mirror had been used to scrutinise the evidence over weapons of mass destruction. The occupation has not made life better for the Iraqi people. They are being denied the very thing we were told the war was about-democracy and freedom. The US doesn't want elections until they can guarantee they will get the right result. They are selling off the Iraqi economy. Real military and economic power after 30 June will lie with the Americans and their hand-picked supporters in Iraq. That is the future for Iraq. We should immediately withdraw all of our troops, end the occupation and allow the Iraqis to decide their own future."
Thousands are held in jails just like Abu Ghraib
ALMOST 10,000 prisoners from Dubya Bush's so called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive US-run prisons and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Some of these detention centres are so sensitive that even the most senior members of the US Congress have no idea where they are located.
No one knows whether these prisoners are being tortured and humiliated like those held in Abu Ghraib prison. From Iraq to Afghanistan to Cuba, this US gulag is driven by the pressure to squeeze intelligence from prisoners captured by US forces.
Iraq has become a holding pen for America's prisoners from 21 countries, according to a report from the highly regarded international campaign group Human Rights Watch. The US military is keeping prisoners at 10 centres, most of which were used by Saddam Hussein's regime. The total in January was 8,968, and is thought to have increased.
It is impossible to know for sure because the Pentagon refuses to provide complete information. The CIA, meanwhile, runs an interrogation centre in Kabul that is known by special forces and others simply as "The Pit".