For five years the Bush administration has played wack-a-mole with the American people as to why we are in Iraq, with a new justification quickly spawning after the hollow core of the prior position was exposed. WMD's was followed by fighting Al Qaeda and ultimately bringing democracy to the Middle East. Last week the proverbial mole may have met his maker and exposed the true reason over a million Americans have been put in harm's way.
In May 2004, President Bush explained that our mission in Iraq was "to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations." A week into his second term, Bush said he would "absolutely" honor any request for withdrawal of U.S. troops by a sovereign Iraqi government, only to then ignore multiple request over the next three years and polls showing near unanimous support among Iraqi's for a timeline for withdrawal.
All this was laid bare this month as the Iraqi government went on the offensive in its call for U.S. withdrawal by 2010. Far from embracing the desires of a sovereign Iraq, the White House instead feebly attempted to claim Prime Minister Maliki's statement was mistranslated, while the McCain camp argued that Iraqi's really want the U.S. to stay until 2020. Apparently their view of a "free Iraq" is an Iraq that is free to do what we tell them to do.
The Iraqi demand for a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops comes in the context of ongoing negotiations with the U.S. over a Status of Forces (SoF) Agreement in which the White House is seeking to define its legacy through (i) an indefinite occupation; (ii) more than 50 permanent bases (including five mega-bases); (iii) the unlimited ability to pursue the "war on terror" in Iraq (including ability to arrest Iraqis without consulting government); (iv) control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000 feet; (v) supervision of Iraq's defense, interior and national security ministries for ten years; and (vi) immunity for U.S. forces and contractors. In addition, the U.S. wants the right to unilaterally determine whether an act by another country (i.e., Iran) constitutes a "threat" to Iraq and respond as it deems fit in order to "protect" Iraq.
The Iraqi's have rejected this invitation to be an American colony as "arrogant" and an affront to their sovereignty, but the White House is playing hardball and recently cost the Iraqi's $5 billion by blocking the transfer of certain Iraqi currency reserves out of the declining dollar.
From the start of the occupation, the Bush administration has shown little regard for Iraqi sovereignty and international legal prohibitions against making significant changes to the legal and political institutions of an occupied country. Instead, the administration pursued what, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz characterized as "an even more radical form of shock therapy than pursued in the former Soviet world," as it completely reshaped Iraq's legal and economic regime to turn it into a Club Med for corporate interests.
The shock therapy was administered by Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority, through 100 separate Orders which suspended all tariffs and import fees (Order 12); immunized foreign contractors (Order 17); calls for the sale of 200 state owned enterprises through 40-year ownership licenses (Order 39); allowed foreign corporations to fully own Iraqi businesses and remove profits tax free (Order 39); cut corporate income taxes by two-thirds through a 15 percent flat tax (Order 49) and even restricts Iraqi farmers from using certain seeds without paying a license fee to seed suppliers such as Monsanto (Order 81).
The Bush administration also has ignored Congressional restrictions on the use of government funds "to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq," as the State Department recently assisted the Big 5 oil companies in winning rights to develop some of Iraq's largest oilfields. Soon they will join Halliburton and others who have made billions off the war while protected by our troops.
The current spat over the SoF Agreement once again raises the question of why we fought this war to begin with. After five years of war at a cost of approximately $539 billion, 90,000 Iraqi lives, over 35,000 American soldiers wounded or killed, we now know what we suspected all along -- that Operation Iraqi Freedom was never about liberating the people of Iraq but instead about liberating its assets for foreign exploitation. Naomi Klein was right four years ago when she described the Bush mission as "pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia."
That is why with or without the SoF Agreement, Bush's legacy is secure. The hollow echo of Operation Iraqi Freedom reminds us that while other presidents may have failed the American people in one way or another, no president has failed, deceived or betrayed the American people like George W. Bush.