Monday, May 10, 2004

Desperately Seeking Clients

A worse problem than the torture scandal for Washington is its inability to create a reliable client in Iraq outside the Kurdish north -- the inability in large part caused by the revolutionary ambition of neo-conservative ideologues to completely remake Iraq overnight, dissolving "the Iraqi military, police, and security agencies as well as the Baath Party" and creating "a 'Year Zero' scenario with its concomitant total political-administrative vacuum" (Dilip Hiro, "The 'Year Zero' Strategy: Bush's Mission in Iraq Remains Unaccomplished," May 4, 2004). As Ellen Meiksins Wood argued, Washington would rather end the direct occupation and establish an indirect rule in a manner typical of the informal empire that it has sustained and expanded: "non-colonial imperialism is far less risky and costly, and far more profitable" ("Capitalist Empire and the Nation State: A New U.S. Imperialism?" Against the Current 106, September/October 2003). Washington's conundrum has been that Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi whose economic and political visions are close to its own have no following whatsoever in Iraq and that Iraqi leaders who do command some loyal followers have their own ideas and interests that may not coincide with Washington's, so it cannot trust them to do its bidding. Its failure to set up a dependably pro-American politico-military force that is capable of governing Iraq on its behalf was starkly brought home during the April 2004 uprising that united Sunnis and Shiites: "[Iraqi security] forces crumbled when the uprising began in April. Many Iraqi security officers refused to fight the insurgents, and some even joined them" (Edward Wong, "U.S. Asks Politicians and Sheiks to Help Rebuild Iraqi Corps in South," New York Times, May 10, 2004). Chastened, Washington has tried to remedy the problem by hiring former officers of Saddam Hussein's army to pacify Falluja; it is now trying to "recruit [about 2,000] Iraqi fighters from prominent Shiite political parties [the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi National Accord, the Dawa Islamic Party, Iraqi Hezbollah that have seats on the Iraqi Governing Council] and tribal sheiks to rebuild the national security forces" (Wong, May 10, 2004). Whether such recruits prove willing to fight the Mahdi Army or any other force that resists the US occupation remains to be seen. The very fact that Washington is recruiting only a relatively small number, however, suggests that it does not have faith in its own scheme.

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