Category Archives: empire-building

gertrude of arabia: british intelligence officer

The Daily Beast Clive Irving


Gertrude of Arabia, the Woman Who Invented Iraq

The story of the British intelligence agent who rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, drew new borders—and gave us today’s ungovernable country.
She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.The Middle East as we know it was largely the idea of a small coterie of men composed of British scholars, archaeologists, military officers and colonial administrators who were called the Orientalists—this is the “orient” according to the definition first made by the Greeks, meaning everything east of the Mediterranean as Alexander the Great advanced to seize it.For decades, beginning in the mid-19th century, the Orientalists had explored the desert and found there the ruins of the great powers of the ancient world—Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia. Through archaeology they revealed these splendors to the modern world and, from their digs, stuffed Western museums with prizes like the polychromatic tiled Ishtar Gates of Babylon, moved to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, or the Cyrus Cylinder, containing the Persian king Cyrus’s new creed of governance as he conquered Babylon, shipped to the British Museum.

They wondered why such resplendently rich and deeply embedded pre-Christian urbanized cultures ended up buried by the drifting sands of the desert, completely unknown and ignored by the roaming Arab, Turkish and Persian tribes above. The many glories of Babylon, for example, lay unexplored not far from the boundaries of Baghdad.

The Middle East as we know it was largely the idea of a small coterie of men composed of British scholars, archaeologists, military officers and colonial administrators who were called the Orientalists.

Among the explorers, a state of mind developed that was patronizing and paternalistic. If they had not made these discoveries, who would know of these great cities? If Arabs took the artifacts it would be, to these men, mindless looting; if the Western scholars shipped them home, often in vast consignments, it was to preserve them for posterity.

The Ottomans had managed Arabia through a decentralized system of provinces called valyets, run by governors they appointed. Tribal, sectarian and territorial conflicts made it a constantly turbulent place, despite the hammer of Ottoman rule. Under a more centralized system the place would have been ungovernable. But the Turks never entertained the Western idea of nation building, it was as much as they could do to keep even a semblance of order.

The Orientalists thought differently. The Western idea of nation building was the future of Arabia. As World War I drew to its end and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the Orientalists saw an opportunity to bring modern coherence to the desert by imposing new kingdoms of their own devising, as long as the kings would be compliant with the strategic interests of the British Empire.

Into this coterie of schemers came two mavericks, both scholars, both fluent Arab speakers, both small in stature and psychologically fragile, both capable of extraordinary feats of desert exploration—a young man called T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, a more seasoned connoisseur of the desert life.

Both had been recruited before World War I to gather intelligence on the Ottomans. Both were hard to accommodate within a normal military and diplomatic machine and so ended up working for a clandestine outfit in Cairo called the Arab Bureau, which was more aware of their singular gifts and more tolerant of their habits.

Bell’s epic desert trek in 1913-14 was already legendary. Her objective had been a city called Hail that no European had reached since 1893. Under the cover of archaeological research, her real purpose was to assess the strength of a murderous family called the al Rashids, whose capital Hail was.

The Rashids had been kicked out of Riyadh by the young Abdul Aziz bin Abdurrahman al Saud, otherwise known as Ibn Saud, who was to become the founder of Saudi Arabia.

Despite the rigors of the terrain, Bell was as susceptible to the spiritual appeal of the desert as others like her young protégée Lawrence. “Sometimes I have gone to bed with a heart so heavy that I thought I could not carry it through the next day,” she wrote. “Then comes the dawn, soft and benificent, stealing over the wide plain and down the long slopes of the little hollows, and in the end it steals into my heart also….”

When she reached Hail, the Rashids were suspicious and put her under what amounted to house arrest in the royal complex.

But as a woman, Bell enjoyed an advantage over male colleagues that she was to deploy on many missions: molesting or harming women was contrary to the desert code of conduct, even in a family as homicidal as the Rashids. For a week or so, Bell was warmly entertained by the women of this polygamous society, and the women’s gossip provided a rich source of intelligence on palace intrigues, of which there were many. From this she was able to see what her British minders valued: That the Rashids were yesterday’s men and the Saudis would likely be a formidable and independent power in Arabia. The Rashids released her, and she went on to Baghdad, Damascus, and home to London.

It was inside knowledge like this that put Bell in an influential position when the war ended and the European powers decided how they would carve up Arabia. Lawrence had committed himself to the princes of the Hashemite tribe, notably Feisal, with whom he had fought against the Turks, and promised Damascus to them. But unknown to Lawrence, a secret deal had been cut with the French, who wanted control of the eastern Mediterranean and were to get Damascus while Britain would fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by re-drawing the map of Arabia.

The British were more aware than the French of the importance that oil would assume. Syria, the new French subject state, was unpromising as an oil prospect. The first Middle Eastern oil field began pumping in Persia at the head of the Persian Gulf in 1911, under British control, and geologists suspected, rightly, that vast oil reserves lay untapped in both Persia and Iraq.

While Lawrence left the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 stricken by the guilt for a British betrayal of his Arabs to which he had not been a party, Bell was sent to Baghdad, where Feisal was to be given his consolation prize: the throne of a new Iraq.

As well as the prospect of huge oil reserves, this new Iraq was crucial to the lines of communication to the great jewel of the British Empire, India. And, ostensibly, it was the diplomats and generals of the Indian administration who ran the show in Baghdad. But they depended on Bell as an expert and a negotiator, fluent in Arabic and used to the schisms and vendettas of the region. In fact, many of the decisive meetings as the British struggled to create a provisional government took place in Bell’s own house.

On August 23, 1921, at a ceremony in central Baghdad, Feisal was installed as the monarch of Iraq, even though he had no tribal roots in the country to assist his legitimacy. “We’ve got our king crowned,” wrote Bell with relief. And she made a claim about this election that would be echoed decades later by Saddam Hussein, that Feisal had been endorsed by 96 percent of the people, even though he was the only candidate and the majority of the population was illiterate.

Indeed, Bell was so carried away with her confidence in the nation she had helped to create that she crowed: “Before I die I look to see Feisal ruling from the Persian frontier to the Mediterranean.”

In reality, the Iraqi borders had been arbitrarily drawn and disregarded 2,000 years of tribal, sectarian, and nomadic occupation. The Persian frontier was the only firmly delineated border, asserted by mountains. Beyond Baghdad the line drawn between Syria, now the property of France, and Iraq was more cartography than anthropology. Nothing had cooled the innate hostilities of the Shia, in the south, who (in a reversal of the current travesty in Baghdad) were virtually unrepresented in Bell’s new assembly, and the Sunnis to the north, as well as the Kurds, the Armenians and the Turks, each with their own turf. Lawrence, in fact, had protested that the inclusion of the Kurds was a mistake. And the desert border in the south was, in Bell’s own words, “as yet undefined.”

The reason for this was Ibn Saud. Bell wrote in a letter to her father, “I’ve been laying out on the map what I think should be our desert boundaries.” Eventually that line was settled by the Saudis, whose Wahhabi warriors were the most formidable force in the desert and who foresaw what many other Arabs at the time did: Iraq was a Western construct that defied thousands of years of history, with an alien, puppet king who would not long survive and internal forces that were centrifugal rather than coherent.

For a while, Bell was the popular and admired face of the British contingent in Baghdad. An American visitor pleased her by calling her “the first citizen of Iraq.” The Arabs called her “Al Khatun,” meaning a noble woman who earned respect. She went riding and swimming every day, somewhat diminishing the benefits of that by chain smoking in public. She also made no secret of the fact that she was an atheist. It seemed that she was more comfortable in the company of Arabs than she had been among her peers in Cairo.

Lawrence, for example, while respectful of her scholarship, thought that Bell “had no great depth of mind” and politically was a poor judge of people and “changed direction like a weathercock.” Sir Mark Sykes, a crusty diplomat who had colluded with the French to give them Damascus, was more defiantly a misogynist. He called her “a silly chattering windbag, an infernal liar, a conceited, gushing, rump-wagging, blethering ass.”

Sometimes Bell revealed a dark self-knowledge. In 1923 she wrote to her father: “At the back of my mind is that we people of war can never return to complete sanity. The shock has been too great; we’re unbalanced. I am aware that I myself have much less control over my own emotions than I used to have.”

By then she had only three years to live, and was becoming frail from overwork. She described her routine in a letter: “I get up at 5:30, do exercises till 5:45 and walk in the garden till 6 or a little after cutting flowers. All that grows now is a beautiful double jasmine of which I have bowls full every day, and zinnias, ugly and useful. I breakfast at 6:40 on an egg and some fruit…leave for the office by car at 6:55 and get there at 7…”

As well as administrating in the manner of a colonial official, she often acted like a viceroy, receiving a stream of tribal sheiks, Arab officials or simply citizens with grievances. The king had to be managed, as he sat in his garden “in full Arab dress, the white and gold of the Mecca princes.” But she also devoted much of her time to a personal passion: creating the Iraq Museum in Baghdad where she gathered a priceless collection of treasures from the world of antiquity—reminding herself and the Iraqi people how the earliest urban civilizations had flourished around the Tigris and Euphrates.

There were, though, other loves that belied the appearance of a desiccated, workaholic spinster. She lived with the memories of two passionate romances, both thwarted.

At the age of 24 she became engaged to a young diplomat but her rich industrialist father deemed it an unsuitable match and, in the compliant Victorian manner, she ended it. Her second affair was far deeper, tragic and, in its effects, everlasting. She fell in love with Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie, a soldier with a record of derring-do with appropriate movie star looks. But Doughty-Wylie was married, and as long as the war occupied them both neither could see a way out. Bell was, however, completely besotted:

“I can’t sleep,” she wrote to him, “I can’t sleep. It’s one in the morning of Sunday. I’ve tried to sleep, every night it becomes less and less possible. You, and you, and you are between me and any rest; but out of your arms there is no rest. Life, you called me, and fire. I flame and I am consumed.”

He responded in kind: “You gave me a new world, Gertrude. I have often loved women as a man like me does love them, well and badly, little and much, as the blood took me…or simply for the adventure—to see what happened. But that is all behind me.”

Doughty-Wylie died in the amphibious assault on the Turks at Gallipoli in 1916—ill-conceived by Winston Churchill as an attempt to strike at the “soft underbelly” of the Ottoman Empire.

Bell died at her house by the Tigris in Baghdad in July 1926 at the age of 57.  She had taken an overdose of barbiturates, whether deliberately or accidentally it was impossible to tell. Lawrence by then was a recluse, in flight from the road show devised by the American journalist Lowell Thomas that had turned him, as Lawrence of Arabia, into the most famous man on Earth.

But it was Gertrude Bell, who was never a public figure, who had left the greater mark on the Middle East, for better or worse.

King Feisal, who had been ailing for some time, died in Switzerland in 1933, at the age of 48, to be succeeded by his son Prince Ghazi. The monarchy was brought down by a pro-British military coup in 1938, a regime that would ultimately mutate into that of Saddam Hussein’s in 1979.



© The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University
© The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University

“Coming towards me was a party of camel riders. They were clearly all Arabs, except one who seemed to be a woman. It was Gertrude Bell. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a well-­dressed Englishwoman, looking spick and span in spite of her weeks of desert travel. I never forgot that first striking impression.”  Sir William Willcocks,1914

An advisor on Arab affairs during World War I, she was the only woman with a diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and the only woman (invited by Winston Churchill) at the Cairo Conference in 1921.

In 1925, Bell drafted a new Law of Antiquities which safe-guarded Iraq’s right to hold onto excavated artifacts. She championed education for Muslim girls, helping to establish one of the most progressive educational systems in the Middle East.

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was part proper Victorian and part modern woman. The precocious daughter of a wealthy industrialist family from northern England, her life was a series of “firsts”:

  • The first woman to receive highest honors in Modern History at Oxford
  • The first person to climb all the peaks of the Engelhörner range in the Swiss Alps
  • The first woman to do a solo journey into the uncharted Arabian desert (traveling by camel for 1500 miles across Central Arabia in 1914)
  • The first female Intelligence officer employed by the British Military
© The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University
© The Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University

building rome….

Top Defense Contractors Spent $27 Million Lobbying At Time Of Afghan Surge Announcement

With Reporting By Julian Hattem from the Huffington Post

The ten largest defense contractors in the nation spent more than $27 million lobbying the federal government in the last quarter of 2009, according to a review of recently-filed lobbying records.

The massive amount of money used to influence the legislative process came as the White House announced it would ramp up military activity in Afghanistan and Congress considered appropriations bills to pay for that buildup. All told, these ten companies, the largest revenue earners in the industry, spent roughly $7.2 million more lobbying in the fourth quarter of 2009 (October through December) than in the three months prior.

Such an increase in lobbying expenditures is partly a reflection of just how profitable the business of waging war can be. Each of these companies earned billions of dollars in defense contracts this past year. As the U.S. ramps up its military activities overseas, and the army is stretched thin by other ventures, it stands to reason that the contracts won’t dry up any time soon.

In mid-December, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill that totaled more than $635 billion. Shortly thereafter, the firm Northrop Grumman moved its corporate office to the Washington D.C. region to be closer to the heart of legislative action. Among the issues on which these ten firms lobbied, “appropriations” was the most frequently cited in lobbying forms.

“We’ve built Rome,” one longtime good-government official said of the symbiosis between contractors and the government.

On a related note, the Congressional Research Service released a report on Thursday, which showed that the number of private security contractors has bulged in the wake of Obama’s Afghanistan-surge announcement. Currently, contractors in Afghanistan make up between 22 percent and 30 percent of armed U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Below is a breakdown of the military contractor, lobbying expenditures and the amount of money the company earned in contracts last year.

Company: Boeing
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $6.13 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $3.71 million
Federal Contracts in FY08 (according to $23,547,610,878

Company: United Technologies
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $3.66 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $1.39 million
Federal Contracts in FY08: $8,973,091,375

Company: Lockheed Martin
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $3.16 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $3.1 million
Federal Contracts in FY08: $35,729,713,235

Company: Honeywell International
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $1.94 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $1.66 million
Federal Contracts in FY08: $2,439,634,130

Company: Northrop Grumman
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $5.43 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $3.62 million
Federal Contracts in FY08: $24,921,637,857

Company: General Dynamics
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $3,000,697
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $2,496,308
Federal Contracts in FY08: $14,244,546,441

Company: Raytheon
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $2.19 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $1.9 million
Federal Contracts in FY08: $14,276,349,843

Company: L3
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $1.05 million
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $990,000
Federal Contracts in FY08: $7,464,053,901

Company: Textron
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $460,000
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $890,000
Federal Contracts in FY08: $2,858,396,315

Company: Goodrich
Lobbying In Fourth Quarter: $447, 098
Lobbying In Third Quarter: $425,529
Federal Contracts in FY08: $490,224,761

disagreement on u.s. role in brokering bhutto’s political rise

U.S. Brokered Bhutto’s Return to Pakistan
White House Would Back Her as Prime Minister While Musharraf Held Presidency

By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 28, 2007; A01

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy — and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington’s key ally in the battle against terrorism.

It was a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council. As President Pervez Musharraf’s political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.

“The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact,” said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But the diplomacy that ended abruptly with Bhutto’s assassination yesterday was always an enormous gamble, according to current and former U.S. policymakers, intelligence officials and outside analysts. By entering into the legendary “Great Game” of South Asia, the United States also made its goals and allies more vulnerable — in a country in which more than 70 percent of the population already looked unfavorably upon Washington.

Bhutto’s assassination leaves Pakistan’s future — and Musharraf’s — in doubt, some experts said. “U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto’s participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf’s continued power as president,” said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. “Now Musharraf is finished.”

Bhutto’s assassination also demonstrates the growing power and reach of militant anti-government forces in Pakistan, which pose an existential threat to the country, said J. Alexander Thier, a former U.N. official now at the U.S. Institute for Peace. “The dangerous cocktail of forces of instability exist in Pakistan — Talibanism, sectarianism, ethnic nationalism — could react in dangerous and unexpected ways if things unravel further,” he said.

But others insist the U.S.-orchestrated deal fundamentally altered Pakistani politics in ways that will be difficult to undo, even though Bhutto is gone. “Her return has helped crack open this political situation. It’s now very fluid, which makes it uncomfortable and dangerous,” said Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But the status quo before she returned was also dangerous from a U.S. perspective. Forcing some movement in the long run was in the U.S. interests.”

Bhutto’s assassination during a campaign stop in Rawalpindi might even work in favor of her Pakistan People’s Party, with parliamentary elections due in less than two weeks, Coleman said. “From the U.S. perspective, the PPP is the best ally the U.S. has in terms of an institution in Pakistan.”

Bhutto’s political comeback was a long time in the works — and uncertain for much of the past 18 months. In mid-2006, Bhutto and Musharraf started communicating through intermediaries about how they might cooperate. Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher was often an intermediary, traveling to Islamabad to speak with Musharraf and to Bhutto’s homes in London and Dubai to meet with her.

Under U.S. urging, Bhutto and Musharraf met face to face in January and July in Dubai, according to U.S. officials. It was not a warm exchange, with Musharraf resisting a deal to drop corruption charges so she could return to Pakistan. He made no secret of his feelings.

In his 2006 autobiography “In the Line of Fire,” Musharraf wrote that Bhutto had “twice been tried, been tested and failed, [and] had to be denied a third chance.” She had not allowed her own party to become democratic, he alleged. “Benazir became her party’s ‘chairperson for life,’ in the tradition of the old African dictators!”

A turning point was Bhutto’s three-week U.S. visit in August, when she talked again to Boucher and to Khalilzad, an old friend. A former U.S. ambassador in neighboring Afghanistan, Khalilzad had long been skeptical about Musharraf, and while in Kabul he had disagreed with then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell over whether the Pakistani leader was being helpful in the fight against the Taliban. He also warned that Pakistani intelligence was allowing the Taliban to regroup in the border areas, U.S. officials said.

When Bhutto returned to the United States in September, Khalilzad asked for a lift on her plane from New York to Aspen, Colo., where both were giving speeches. They spent much of the five-hour plane ride strategizing, said sources familiar with the diplomacy.

Friends say Bhutto asked for U.S. help. “She pitched the idea to the Bush administration,” said Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador and friend of Bhutto from their days at Harvard. “She had been prime minister twice, and had not been able to accomplish very much because she did not have power over the most important institutions in Pakistan — the ISI [intelligence agency], the military and the nuclear establishment,” he said.

“Without controlling those, she couldn’t pursue peace with India, go after extremists or transfer funds from the military to social programs,” Galbraith said. “Cohabitation with Musharraf made sense because he had control over the three institutions that she never did. This was the one way to accomplish something and create a moderate center.”

The turning point to get Musharraf on board was a September trip by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte to Islamabad. “He basically delivered a message to Musharraf that we would stand by him, but he needed a democratic facade on the government, and we thought Benazir was the right choice for that face,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and National Security Council staff member now at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

“Musharraf still detested her, and he came around reluctantly as he began to recognize this fall that his position was untenable,” Riedel said. The Pakistani leader had two choices: Bhutto or former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf had overthrown in a 1999 military coup. “Musharraf took what he thought was the lesser of two evils,” Riedel said.

Many career foreign policy officials were skeptical of the U.S. plan. “There were many inside the administration, at the State and Defense Departments and in intelligence, who thought this was a bad idea from the beginning because the prospects that the two could work together to run the country effectively were nil,” said Riedel.

As part of the deal, Bhutto’s party agreed not to protest against Musharraf’s reelection in September to his third term. In return, Musharraf agreed to lift the corruption charges against Bhutto. But Bhutto sought one particular guarantee — that Washington would ensure Musharraf followed through on free and fair elections producing a civilian government.

Rice, who became engaged in the final stages of brokering a deal, called Bhutto in Dubai and pledged that Washington would see the process through, according to Siegel. A week later, on Oct. 18, Bhutto returned.

Ten weeks later, she was dead.

Xenia Dormandy, former National Security Council expert on South Asia now at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, said U.S. meddling is not to blame for Bhutto’s death. “It is very clear the United States encouraged” an agreement, she said, “but U.S. policy is in no way responsible for what happened. I don’t think we could have played it differently.”

U.S. policy — and the commitment to Musharraf — remains unchanged. In a statement yesterday, Rice appealed to Pakistanis to remain calm and to continue seeking to build a “moderate” democracy.

“I don’t think it would do any justice to her memory to have an election postponed or canceled simply as a result of this tragic incident,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. “The only people that win through such a course of action are the people who perpetrated this attack.”

Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

iraq as a pentagon construction site for the middle east

Iraq as a Pentagon Construction Site

How the Bush Administration ‘Endures’

by Tom Engelhardt, December 3, 2007


The title of the agreement, signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in a “video conference” last week, and carefully labeled as a “non-binding” set of principles for further negotiations, was a mouthful: a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America.” Whew!  Words matter, of course. They seldom turn up by accident in official documents or statements. Last week, in the first reports on this “declaration,” one of those words that matter caught my attention. Actually, it wasn’t in the declaration itself, where the key phrase was “long-term relationship” (something in the lives of private individuals that falls just short of a marriage), but in a “fact-sheet” issued by the White House. Here’s the relevant line: “Iraq’s leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq.” Of course, “enduring” there bears the same relationship to permanency as “long-term relationship” does to marriage.  In a number of the early news reports, that word “enduring,” part of the “enduring relationship” that the Iraqi leadership supposedly “asked for,” was put into (or near) the mouths of “Iraqi leaders” or of the Iraqi prime minister himself. It also achieved a certain prominence in the post-declaration “press gaggle” conducted by the man coordinating this process out of the Oval Office, the President’s so-called War Tsar, Gen. Douglas Lute. He said of the document: “It signals a commitment of both their government and the United States to an enduring relationship based on mutual interests.”  

In trying to imagine any Iraqi leader actually requesting that “enduring” relationship, something kept nagging at me. After all, those mutual vows of longevity were to be taken in a well publicized civil ceremony in a world in which, when it comes to the American presidential embrace, don’t-ask/don’t-tell is usually the preferred course of action for foreign leaders. Finally, I remembered where I had seen that word “enduring” before in a situation that also involved a “long-term relationship.” It had been four-and-a-half years earlier and not coming out of the mouths of Iraqi officials either.  

Back in April 2003, just after Baghdad fell to American troops, Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt reported on the front page of the New York Times that the Pentagon had launched its invasion the previous month with plans for four “permanent bases” in out of the way parts of Iraq already on the drawing board. Since then, the Pentagon has indeed sunk billions of dollars into building those mega-bases (with a couple of extra ones thrown in) at or near the places mentioned by Shanker and Schmitt.  When questioned by reporters at the time about whether such “permanent bases” were in the works, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the U.S. was “unlikely to seek any permanent or ‘long-term’ bases in Iraq” — and that was that. The Times’ piece essentially went down the mainstream-media memory hole.

On this subject, the official position of the Bush administration has never changed. Just last week, for instance, General Lute slipped up, in response to a question at his press gaggle. The exchange went like this:  “Q: And permanent bases?  “GENERAL LUTE: Likewise. That’s another dimension of continuing U.S. support to the government of Iraq, and will certainly be a key item for negotiation next year.” White House spokesperson Dana Perino quickly issued a denial, saying: “We do not seek permanent bases in Iraq.”  

Back in 2003, Pentagon officials, already seeking to avoid that potentially explosive “permanent” tag, plucked “enduring” out of the military lexicon and began referring to such bases, charmingly enough, as “enduring camps.” And the word remains with us — connected to bases and occupations anywhere. For instance, of a planned expansion of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a Col. Jonathan Ives told an AP reporter recently, “We’ve grown in our commitment to Afghanistan by putting another brigade (of troops) here, and with that we know that we’re going to have an enduring presence. So this is going to become a long-term base for us, whether that means five years, 10 years — we don’t know.”  

Still, whatever they were called, the bases went up on an impressive scale, massively fortified, sometimes 15-20 square miles in area, housing up to tens of thousands of troops and private contractors, with multiple bus routes, traffic lights, fast-food restaurants, PXs, and other amenities of home, and reeking of the kind of investment that practically shouts out for, minimally, a relationship of a distinctly “enduring” nature.  

The Facts on Land — and Sea  These were part of what should be considered the facts on the ground in Iraq, though, between April 2003 and the present, they were rarely reported on or debated in the mainstream in the U.S. But if you place those mega-bases (not to speak of the more than 100 smaller ones built at one point or another) in the context of early Bush administration plans for the Iraqi military, things quickly begin to make more sense.  

Remember, Iraq is essentially the hot seat at the center of the Middle East. It had, in the previous two-plus decades fought an eight-year war with neighboring Iran, invaded neighboring Kuwait, and been invaded itself. And yet, the new Coalition Provisional Authority, run by the President’s personal envoy, L. Paul Bremer III, promptly disbanded the Iraqi military. This is now accepted as a goof of the first order when it came to sparking an insurgency. But, in terms of Bush administration planning, it was no mistake at all.  At the time, the Pentagon made it quite clear that its plan for a future Iraqi military was for a force of 40,000 lightly armed troops — meant to do little more than patrol the country’s borders. (Saddam Hussein’s army had been something like a 600,000-man force.)

It was, in other words, to be a Military Lite — and there was essentially to be no Iraqi air force. In other words, in one of the more heavily armed and tension-ridden regions of the planet, Iraq was to become a Middle Eastern Costa Rica — if, that is, you didn’t assume that the U.S. Armed Forces, from those four “enduring camps” somewhere outside Iraq’s major cities, including a giant air base at Balad, north of Baghdad, and with the back-up help of U.S. Naval forces in the Persian Gulf, were to serve as the real Iraqi military for the foreseeable future.  

Again, it’s necessary to put these facts on the ground in a larger — in this case, pre-invasion — geopolitical context. From the first Gulf War on, Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of energy on the planet, was being groomed as the American military bastion in the heart of the Middle East. But the Saudis grew uncomfortable — think here, the claims of Osama bin Laden and Co. that U.S. troops were defiling the Kingdom and its holy places — with the Pentagon’s elaborate enduring camps on its territory. Something had to give — and it wasn’t going to be the American military presence in the Middle East. The answer undoubtedly seemed clear enough to top Bush administration officials.

As an anonymous American diplomat told the Sunday Herald of Scotland back in October 2002, “A rehabilitated Iraq is the only sound long-term strategic alternative to Saudi Arabia. It’s not just a case of swopping horses in mid-stream, the impending U.S. regime change in Baghdad is a strategic necessity.”  

As those officials imagined it — and as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz predicted — by the fall of 2003, major American military operations in the region would have been re-organized around Iraq, even as American forces there would be drawn down to perhaps 30,000-40,000 troops stationed eternally at those “enduring camps.” In addition, a group of Iraqi secular exiles, friendly to the United States, would be in power in Baghdad, backed by the occupation and ready to open up the Iraqi economy, especially its oil industry to Western (particularly American) multinationals.

Americans and their allies and private contractors would, quite literally, have free run of the country, the equivalent of nineteenth century colonial extraterritoriality (something “legally” institutionalized in June 2004, thanks to Order 17, issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority, just before it officially turned over “sovereignty” to the Iraqis); and, sooner or later, a Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA would be “negotiated” that would define the rights of American troops garrisoned in that country.  At that point, the U.S. would have successfully repositioned itself militarily in relation to the oil heartlands of the planet. It would also have essentially encircled a second member of the “axis of evil,” Iran (once you included the numerous new U.S. bases that had been built and were being expanded in occupied Afghanistan as part of the ongoing war against the Taliban). It would be triumphant and dominant and, with its Israeli ally, militarily beyond challenge in the region. The cowing of, collapse of, or destruction of the Syrian and Iranian regimes would surely follow in short order.  

Of course, much of this never came about as planned. It turned out that, once the Sunni insurgency gained traction, the Bush administration had little choice but to reconstitute a sizeable, if still relatively lightly armed, Iraqi military (as a largely Shiite force) and then, more recently, arm Sunni militias as well, possibly opening the way for future clashes of a major nature. It had to accept a Shiite regime locked inside the highly fortified Green Zone of the Iraqi capital that was religious, sectarian, largely powerless, and allied to some degree with Iran.

It had to accept chaos, significant and unexpected casualties, continual urban warfare, and an enormous strain and drain on its armed forces (as well as a black hole of distraction from other global issues). None of this had been predicted, or imagined, by Bush’s top officials.  On the other hand, the Bush administration has demonstrated significant “endurance” of its own, especially when it came to the linked issues of oil and bases.

In a recent report for Harper’s Magazine, “The Black Box, Inside Iraq’s Oil Machine,” Luke Mitchell describes traveling the southern Iraqi oil field of Rumaila with a petroleum engineer working for Foster Wheeler, a Houston engineering firm hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to oversee much of the oilfield reconstruction,” and protected by private guards employed by the British security company Erinys. He describes what’s left of the Iraqi oil industry after decades of war, sanctions, civil war, sabotage, and black-market theft — a run-down industrial plant with a rusting delivery system that, at a technical level, is now largely in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy, the State Department, and private contractors like KBR, the former division of Halliburton.

At the most basic level, he reports that many of “Iraq’s native oil professionals,” who heroically patched up and held together a broken system in the years after the first Gulf War, have (along with so many other Iraqi professionals) fled the country. He writes:  “The Wall Street Journal in 2006 called this flight a ‘petroleum exodus’ and reported that about a hundred oil workers had been murdered since the war began and that ‘of the top hundred of so managers running the Iraqi oil ministry and its branches in 2003, about two-thirds are no longer at their jobs.’ Now most of the [oil] engineers in Iraq are from Texas and Oklahoma.” 

Similarly, in Baghdad, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not expected to handle the crucial energy problems of its country alone. Here’s a relevant (if well-buried) passage from a recent New York Times piece on the subject: “Earlier this month, the White House dispatched several senior aides to Baghdad to work with the Iraqis on specific legislative areas. They include the under secretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs, Reuben Jeffery III, who is working on the budget and oil law…” This is what passes for “sovereignty” in present-day Iraq.  

In this context, the following line of text about agreed-upon subjects for negotiation in last week’s Bush/Maliki “declaration” caused eyebrows to be raised (at least abroad): “Facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq.” As the British Guardian put the matter: “The promise was immediately seen as a potential bonanza for American oil companies.”

A BBC report commented, “Correspondents say US investors benefiting from preferential treatment could earn huge profits from Iraq’s vast oil reserves, causing widespread resentment among Iraqis.” (American coverage regularly ignores or plays down the oil aspect of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies, even though that country has the third largest reserves on the planet.)  

Bases, Bases Everywhere  

Among the most tenacious and enduring Bush administration facts on the ground are those giant bases, still largely ignored — with honorable exceptions — by the mainstream media. Thom Shanker and Cara Buckley of the New York Times, to give but one example, managed to write that paper’s major piece about the joint “declaration” without mentioning the word “base,” no less “permanent,” and only Gen. Lute’s slip made the permanence of bases a minor note in other mainstream reports. And yet it’s not just that the building of bases did go on — and on a remarkable scale — but that it continues today.  

Whatever the descriptive labels, the Pentagon, throughout this whole period, has continued to create, base by base, the sort of “facts” that any negotiations, no matter who engages in them, will need to take into account. And the ramping up of the already gigantic “mega-bases” in Iraq proceeds apace. Recent reports indicate that the Pentagon will call on Congress to pony up another billion dollars soon enough for further upgrades and “improvements.”  

We also know that frantic construction has been under way on three new bases of varying sizes. The most obvious of these — though it’s seldom thought of this way — is the gigantic new U.S. Embassy, possibly the largest in the world, being built on an almost Vatican-sized plot of land inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. It is meant to be a citadel, a hardened universe of its own, in, but not of, the Iraqi capital. In recent months, it has also turned into a construction nightmare, soaking up another $144 million in American taxpayer monies, bringing its price tag to three-quarters of a billion dollars and still climbing. It is to house 1,000 or so “diplomats,” with perhaps a few thousand extra security guards and hired hands of every sort.  

When, in the future, you read in the papers about administration plans to withdraw American forces to bases “outside of Iraqi urban areas,” note that there will continue to be a major base in the heart of the Iraqi capital for who knows how long to come. As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler put it, the 21-building compound “is viewed by some officials as a key element of building a sustainable, long-term diplomatic presence in Baghdad.” Presence, yes, but diplomatic?  

In the meantime, a relatively small base, “Combat Outpost Shocker,” provocatively placed within a few kilometers of the Iranian border, has been rushed to completion this fall on a mere $5 million construction contract.

And only in the last weeks, reports have emerged on the latest U.S. base under construction, uniquely being built on a key oil-exporting platform in the waters off the southern Iraqi port of Basra and meant for the U.S. Navy and allies. Such a base gives meaning to this passage in the Bush/Maliki declaration: “Providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace.”  As the British Telegraph described this multi-million dollar project: “The US-led coalition is building a permanent security base on Iraq’s oil pumping platforms in the Gulf to act as the ‘nerve centre’ of efforts to protect the country’s most vital strategic asset.”

Chip Cummins of the Wall Street Journal summed up the project this way in a piece headlined, “U.S. Digs In to Guard Iraq Oil Exports — Long-Term Presence Planned at Persian Gulf Terminals Viewed as Vulnerable”: “[T]he new construction suggests that one footprint of U.S. military power in Iraq isn’t shrinking anytime soon: American officials are girding for an open-ended commitment to protect the country’s oil industry.”  Though you’d never know it from mainstream reporting, the single enduring fact of the Iraq War may be this constant building and upgrading of U.S. bases.

Since the Times revealed those base-building plans back in the spring of 2003, Iraq has essentially been a vast construction site for the Pentagon. The American media did, in the end, come to focus on the civilian “reconstruction” of Iraq which, from the rebuilding of electricity-production facilities to the construction of a new police academy has proved a catastrophic mixture of crony capitalism, graft, corruption, theft, inefficiency, and sabotage. But there has been next to no focus on the construction success story of the Iraq War and occupation: those bases.  

In this way, whatever the disasters of its misbegotten war, the Bush administration has, in a sense, itself “endured” in Iraq. Now, with only a year left, its officials clearly hope to write that endurance and those “enduring camps” into the genetic code of both countries — an “enduring relationship” meant to outlast January 2009 and to outflank any future administration. In fact, by some official projections, the bases are meant to be occupied for up to 50 to 60 years without ever becoming “permanent.”  

You can, of course, claim that the Iraqis “asked for” this new, “enduring relationship,” as the declaration so politely suggests. It is certainly true that, as part of the bargain, the Bush administration is offering to defend its “boys” to the hilt against almost any conceivable eventuality, including the sort of internal coup that it has, these last years, been rumored to have considered launching itself.  In an attempt to make an end-run around Congress, administration officials continue to present what is to be negotiated as merely a typical SOFA-style agreement. “There are about a hundred countries around the world with which we have [such] bilateral defense or security cooperation agreements,” Gen. Lute said reassuringly, indicating that this matter would be handled by the executive branch without significant input from Congress.

The guarantees the Bush administration seems ready to offer the Maliki government, however, clearly rise to treaty level and, if we had even a faintly assertive Congress, would surely require the advice and consent of the Senate. Iraqi officials have already made clear that such an agreement will have to pass through their parliament in a country where the idea of “enduring” U.S. bases in an “enduring” relationship is bound to be exceedingly unpopular.  

Still, a formula for the future is obviously being put in place and, after more than four years of frenzied construction, the housing for it, so to speak, is more than ready. As the Washington Post described the plan, “Iraqi officials said that under the proposed formula, Iraq would get full responsibility for internal security and U.S. troops would relocate to bases outside the cities. Iraqi officials foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops…”  

No matter what comes out of the mouths of Iraqi officials, though, what’s “enduring” in all this is deeply Pentagonish and has emerged from the Bush administration’s earliest dreams about reshaping the Middle East and achieving global domination of an unprecedented sort. It’s a case, as the old Joni Mitchell song put it, of going “round and round and round in the circle game.”  

[Note: Spencer Ackerman has been offering especially good coverage of developments surrounding the recent Bush/Maliki declaration at TPM Muckraker. I’d also like to offer one of my periodic statements of thanks to Iraq-oriented sites that give me daily aid and succor in gathering crucial material and analysis, especially Juan Cole’s invaluable Informed Comment,, and Paul Woodward’s The War in Context.]   Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s, where this article first appeared, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), has recently been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.  

declaration between u.s. and iraq


Declaration Of ‘Enduring’ Presence

On Monday, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signed a non-binding “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” that will set the parameters for negotiating an “enduring” political, economic, cultural, and security relationship between the United States and Iraq.  In the agreement, the two heads of state agreed to “extend the mandate of the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter” for one final year, which will give the two countries “another year to negotiate our bilateral arrangement” that will address “issues such as what mission U.S. forces in Iraq will pursue, whether they will establish permanent bases, and what kind of immunity, if any, should be granted to private security contractors.” The statement envisions that by the end of President Bush’s term, Iraq will be removed from its Chapter 7 U.N. designation “as a threat to international peace and security,” which it has been under since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. The underlying deal of the agreement, according to “two senior officials,” is “a long-term troop presence in Iraq and preferential treatment for American investments in return for an American guarantee of long-term security including defense against internal coups.” The “shape and size” of the long-term commitment of troops is yet to be determined, according to White House war czar Gen. Doug Lute, but it will be “a key part of the negotiations” that occur over the next year.

PERMANENT BASES?: In the security section of the agreement, the United States commits in concept to help “deter foreign aggression against Iraq” as well as “combat all terrorist groups, at the forefront of which is Al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation.” The White House will not say definitively whether such a security guarantee will require permanent bases for American troops. In a press briefing on Monday, Lute said that bases are “another dimension of continuing U.S. support to the government of Iraq, and will certainly be a key item for negotiation next year.” In June, Bush administration officials told The New York Times that they envision “maintaining three or four major bases in the country.” Maliki’s administration has given unclear and at times conflicting accounts of his position on permanent bases. Haidar Abadi, a Shiite parliament member who serves as an adviser to al-Maliki, told Tribune Newspapers that “no military bases will be offered for long terms like in South Korea,” but in a conference call with reporters, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, refused to rule out the possibility of bases, saying only that it “is going to be discussed with the political parties.” Iraq’s National Security Adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie has previously told the White House that there should be “no military bases for Iraq.”

WHO NEEDS CONGRESS?: According to Lute, the bilateral arrangement that will be worked out over the next year is not intended to “lead to the status of a formal treaty,” but will establish more of a status of forces agreement (SOFA), which is “the basic document for garrisoning U.S. forces on foreign soil.” “We don’t anticipate now that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would then bring us to formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress,” said Lute. If the Bush administration wants “to commit the United States to the long-term security of Iraq without a word of discussion with Congress” through a status of forces agreement, then it will be in accord with “historical practice,” according to Peggy McGuinness, a former State Department official and current law professor at the University of Missouri, because “a SOFA is usually a purely executive agreement.” The agreement’s lack of congressional input was blasted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office, who said that “President Bush is now trying to unilaterally negotiate an agreement with Iraq on security — an area [where] the President has absolutely zero credibility.” The situation is quite different, however, in Iraq. The Iraqi constitution requires that the Iraqi parliament ratify “international treaties and agreements by a two-thirds majority.” The approval of the agreement by Iraq’s parliament is in no way guaranteed, considering that in May, 144 out of 275 parliamentarians signed a petition calling for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces. In fact, the agreement is already drawing criticism from various sections of the Iraqi parliament.

POLITICAL RECONCILIATION?: In his press conference on Monday, Lute said that he is “confident that” the agreement “will actually contribute to” political “reconciliation in the long run.” Lute says the agreement “will cause different sects inside the Iraqi political structure not to have to hedge their bet in a go-it-alone-like setting” because “they’ll be able to bet on the reliable partnership of the United States.” Lute’s optimistic assessment of the political persuasiveness of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq is contradicted somewhat by the opposition the agreement is already facing. According to correspondents for the BBC, the prospect that “US investors benefiting from preferential treatment could earn huge profits from Iraq’s vast oil reserves” is “causing widespread resentment among Iraqis.” Both Sunni and Shia politicians have said that they worry the agreement could lead to “U.S. interference for years to come.” One leading Iraqi politician, Saleh Mutlaq, who heads the smaller of two Sunni blocs in parliament, said that his constituency will view the deal as “a U.S. imposition” and that a timetable for withdrawal is needed instead. In fact, contrary to what the Bush administration claims, a date certain for redeployment of troops out of Iraq is more likely the needed “leverage to advance a political settlement between Iraq’s warring factions.”

Critical policy analysis by Truthout regarding the agreement:  click here

Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America

As Iraqi leaders confirmed in their Communiqué signed on August 26, 2007, and endorsed by President Bush, the Governments of Iraq and the United States are committed to developing a long-term relationship of cooperation and friendship as two fully sovereign and independent states with common interests. This relationship will serve the interest of coming generations based on the heroic sacrifices made by the Iraqi people and the American people for the sake of a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal, and unified Iraq.

The relationship of cooperation envisioned by the Republic of Iraq and the United States includes a range of issues, foremost of which is cooperation in the political, economic, cultural, and security fields, taking account of the following principles:

First: The Political, Diplomatic, and Cultural Spheres

1. Supporting the Republic of Iraq in defending its democratic system against internal and external threats.

2. Respecting and upholding the Constitution as the expression of the will of the Iraqi people and standing against any attempt to impede, suspend, or violate it.

3. Supporting the efforts of the Republic of Iraq to achieve national reconciliation including as envisioned in the Communiqué of August 26.

4. Supporting the Republic of Iraq’s efforts to enhance its position in regional and international organizations and institutions so that it may play a positive and constructive role in the region and the world.

5. Cooperating jointly with the states of the region on the basis of mutual respect, non-intervention in internal affairs, rejection of the use of violence in resolving disputes, and adoption of constructive dialogue in resolving outstanding problems among the various states of the region.

6. Promoting political efforts to establish positive relationships between the states of the region and the world, which serve the common goals of all relevant parties in a manner that enhances the security and stability of the region, and the prosperity of its peoples.

7. Encouraging cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges between the two countries.

Second: The Economic Sphere

1. Supporting Iraq’s development in various economic fields, including its productive capabilities, and aiding its transition to a market economy.

2. Encouraging all parties to abide by their commitments as stipulated in the International Compact with Iraq.

3. Supporting the building of Iraq’s economic institutions and infrastructure with the provision of financial and technical assistance to train and develop competencies and capacities of vital Iraqi institutions.

4. Supporting Iraq’s further integration into regional and international financial and economic organizations.

5. Facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq.

6. Assisting Iraq in recovering illegally exported funds and properties, especially those smuggled by the family of Saddam Hussein and his regime’s associates, as well as antiquities and items of cultural heritage, smuggled before and after April 9, 2003.

7. Helping the Republic of Iraq to obtain forgiveness of its debts and compensation for the wars waged by the former regime.

8. Supporting the Republic of Iraq to obtain positive and preferential trading conditions for Iraq within the global marketplace including accession to the World Trade Organization and most favored nation status with the United States.

Third: The Security Sphere

1. Providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace.

2. Supporting the Republic of Iraq in its efforts to combat all terrorist groups, at the forefront of which is Al-Qaeda, Saddamists, and all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation, and destroy their logistical networks and their sources of finance, and defeat and uproot them from Iraq. This support will be provided consistent with mechanisms and arrangements to be established in the bilateral cooperation agreements mentioned herein.

3. Supporting the Republic of Iraq in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces to enable them to protect Iraq and all its peoples, and completing the building of its administrative systems, in accordance with the request of the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi Government in confirmation of its resolute rights under existing Security Council resolutions will request to extend the mandate of the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter for a final time. As a condition for this request, following the expiration of the above mentioned extension, Iraq’s status under Chapter VII and its designation as a threat to international peace and security will end, and Iraq will return to the legal and international standing it enjoyed prior to the issuance of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 661 (August, 1990), thus enhancing the recognition and confirming the full sovereignty of Iraq over its territories, waters, and airspace, and its control over its forces and the administration of its affairs.

Taking into account the principles discussed above, bilateral negotiations between the Republic of Iraq and the United States shall begin as soon as possible, with the aim to achieve, before July 31, 2008, agreements between the two governments with respect to the political, cultural, economic, and security spheres.

President of the United States of America
George W. Bush
Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq
Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki

tony blair had G_D on his side…

Tony Blair

Blair conceals his religious zeal for Iraq policies

(click on above link to read article and read commentary from angry readers!)

WITH GOD On Our Side, we now learn from Tony Blair, wasn’t just a Bob Dylan song. During his 10 years in Downing Street, and especially in the run-up to the Iraq war, our former prime minister was a nightly reader of the Bible and a regular church-goer, with civil servants and aides dispatched on foreign trips to find churches where the PM could pray.

“To be honest about it,” admits Blair, religion was “hugely important” to him. Except that he wasn’t honest about it at all. Religion, aided by the organisational genius of Karl Rove, helped put George Bush in the White House, twice. The American electorate knew their president held daily prayer meetings in the White House and elected him regardless.

Blair, on the other hand, kept his Christian moral compass quiet for fear that he would be branded “a nutter”. Instead, his chief spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, once said, “We don’t do God,” when the reality was that Blair’s Christian faith was at the centre of everything he did.

There is, as Blair says himself, nothing wrong with holding religious conviction. But there is something wrong in keeping it hidden, keeping such knowledge away from the people who you want to elect you, because you suspect your religious credentials won’t wash well in public. And if you have sent your country to war on more than one occasion, ignoring international law and the United Nations, then why would keeping your strong religious faith a secret be deemed necessary?

Like much of Tony Blair’s record and legacy, there are contradictions and contortions of the truth. That he was a conviction politician will never be in doubt. But had he taken time out to explain why his Christianity was important to him, would he have won three general elections? Would we have dismissed him, as he thinks we would have, as a nutter? We will never know. But it would appear Blair lost trust in the British electorate long before they lost trust in him.

archbishop of canterbury speaks out against hegemony in iraq

archbishop of canterbury challenges christian zionism and current u.s. war policies

Statement of Archbishop of Canterburyarchbishop-of-canterbury.jpg


Sarah Joseph, Times On Line

At one end of the spectrum you have Christian Zionism which is very interested in the Holy Land in ways which I find very strange, and not at all easy to accept.  At the other end of the spectrum you have Christians for whom the Holy Land is some distant theme park.”  He does however feel that a “growing number of Christians have become aware of the reality of the situation on the ground” and journeys there have helped “expose their minds and hearts to the realities.”  He wants to see those numbers growing.

Christian Zionists support the return of Jews to Israel because they believe the second coming of Jesus will not occur until all Jews are in Israel.  The Archbishop is scathing, accusing them of being connected to “the chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens to America is very much as the heart of God’s purpose for humanity.”

In today’s world it is easy to see why people would believe such an idea:  America seems so intrinsically involved in everything.  The Archbishop recognizes that “We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.”  But, he propounds, “it is not  accumulating territory, it is trying to accumulate influence and control.  That’s not working.  “Far from seeing this positively he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering and normalizing it.  Rightly or wrongly, that’s what the British Empire did–in India for example.  It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things  back together–Iraq,  for example” 

Wikipedia (non-Williams) hegemony quote:  recently, many scholars have argued that the complex events of September 11, 2001 were instantly and deliberately conflated with “The War on Terror,” a tool with which George W. Bush exploited nationalism, racism, Christianity, and fear so as to pursue corporate profiteering in the energy sector, pharmaceuticals, armaments, telecommunications, and other key sectors.[3]

chomsky’s perspective on u.s.-iran policy

Noam Chomsky on U.S. policy towards Iran

The Real News November 19th, 2007

Transcript:PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: ElBaradei, is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated quite definitively there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. The recent resolution˜the Kyle-Lieberman amendment˜and the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, which one of the charges is that Iran has been helping what they call insurgents in Iraq. There’s practically no evidence of that either. Based on what we know as evidence, there’s not a lot of reasons for U.S. policy to be as aggressive right now towards Iran as it is, certainly not for the stated reason. What really does motivate U.S. policy towards Iran?

NOAM CHOMSKY, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, MIT: Well, if I can make a comment about the stated reasons, the very fact that we’re discussing them tells us a lot about the sort of intellectual culture and moral culture in the United States. I mean, suppose it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn‚t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq’s a country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You can’t have a serious discussion about whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the discussion is that we own the world. So if we invade and occupy another country, then it’s a criminal act for anyone to interfere with it. What about the nuclear weapons? I mean, are there countries with nuclear weapons in the region? Israel has! a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. The United States gives more support to it than any other country in the world. The Bush administration is trying very hard to push through an agreement that not only authorizes India’s illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons but assists it. That’s what the U.S.-Indo Nuclear Pact is about. And, furthermore, there happens to be an obligation of the states in the Security Council and elsewhere to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. Now that would include Iran and Israel and any U.S. forces deployed there. That’s part of Resolution 687. Now to your question. The real reasons for the attack on Iran, the sanctions, and so on go back into history. I mean, we like to forget the history; Iranians don’t. In 1953, the United States and Britain overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal dictator, the Shah, who ruled until 1979. And during his rule, incidentally, the United States was strongly supp! orting the same programs they’re objecting to today. In 1979, the popu lation overthrew the dictator, and since then the United States has been essentially torturing Iran. First it tried a military coup. Then it supported Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Then, after that was over, the United States started imposing harsh sanctions on Iran. And now it’s escalating that. The point is: Iran is out of control. You know, it’s supposed to be a U.S.-client state, as it was under the Shah, and it’s refusing to play that role.

JAY: The sanctions that were just issued recently [are] the beginnings of a kind of act of war, this ratcheting up of the rhetoric right at a time when the IAEA is saying, in fact, Iran’s cooperating in the process. But it’s all coming down to this question of does Iran even have its right to enrich uranium for civilian nuclear, which in fact it has, under the non-proliferation treaty. But Bush in his last press conference, where he had his famous World War III warning, has said even the knowledge of having nuclear weapons we won’t permit, never mind a civilian program. This puts U.S. policy on a collision course with the IAEA, with international law.

CHOMSKY: Just a couple of years ago, from 2004 through 2006, Iran did agree to suspend all uranium enrichment, halt even what everyone agrees they’re legally entitled to. That was an agreement with the European Union. They agreed to suspend all uranium enrichment. And in return, the European Union was to provide what were called full guarantees on security issues˜that means getting the United States to call off its threats to attack and destroy Iran. Well, the European Union didn’t live up to its obligation, [as] they couldn’t get the U.S. to stop it. So the Iranians then also pulled out and began to return to uranium enrichment. The way that’s described here is– the Iranians broke the agreement.

JAY: The experts are saying, including ElBaradei and others, that if you can enrich uranium to something just under 5%, which is apparently what’s needed for civilian purposes, you’re most of the way there towards the technology of having a bomb, that once you have that enrichment technology, you’re not that much further towards a bomb.

CHOMSKY: Yeah, but that’s true of every developed country in the world. Why pick out Iran? It’s true of Japan, it’s true of Brazil, it’s true of Egypt. And in fact, one could say˜here I tend to agree with the Bush administration. In the non-proliferation treaty, there’s an article, Article 4, which says that countries signing the NPT are allowed to develop nuclear energy. Well, okay, that made some sense in 1970, but by now technology has developed enough so that it has reached the point that you describe. When you’ve developed nuclear energy, you’re not that far from nuclear weapons. So, yeah, I think something should be done about that. But that has nothing special to do with Iran. In fact, it’s a much more serious problem for those nuclear weapons states who are obligated under that same treaty to make good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. And, in fa! ct, there are some solutions to that. ElBaradei had proposed a couple of years ago that no states should develop weapons-grade materials: all high enrichment should be done by an international agency, maybe the IAEA or something else, and then countries should apply to it. If they want enriched uranium for nuclear energy, the international agency should determine whether they’re doing it for peaceful means. As far as I’m aware, there’s only one country that formally agreed to ElBaradei’s proposal. That was Iran. And there’s more. I mean, there’s an international treaty, called the Fissban, to ban production of fissile materials except under international control. The United States has been strongly opposed to that, to a verifiable treaty. Nevertheless, it did come to the General Assembly, the U.N. Disarmament Commission in the General Assembly, which overwhelmingly voted in favour of it. The disarmament commission vote was, I think, 147 to 1, the United States being the 1. ! Unless a verifiable fissile materials treaty is passed and implemented , the world very well may move towards nuclear disaster.

JAY: Do you think we’re actually moving towards a military confrontation? Or are we seeing a game of brinksmanship?

CHOMSKY: Well, whether purposely or not, yes, we’re moving towards a military confrontation.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT. He is the author of over 30 political books dissecting U.S. interventionism in the developing world, the political economy of human rights and the propaganda role of corporate media.