The Globe Watch, April 8, 2004
This is our first installment of the Globe Watch -- what will be a regular examination of Canada's very own national newspaper, the Globe and Mail -- and one must be careful not to let it turn into a full-time pursuit, given the frequent quality of the Globe's journalism. Or lack thereof, as it were.
We'll start with a recent column by regular columnist Marcus Gee whose job, if recent work is any guide, is to act as a loyal pro-Bush stenographer. And with this column, Gee stays true to form, opening with:
"Washington's critics say that it is in trouble in Iraq because it is acting too much like an empire. In fact, it is in trouble because it is not acting enough like one."
Got that? Apparently, Washington's problem is, they're not acting empirical enough. But wait, it gets better.
Given the ongoing coverage over the last several weeks of increasing unrest and violence in Iraq, and the ever-tougher reactions of the U.S. military to try to keep the peace, try to imagine that Gee (or anyone, for that matter) could actually write the following:
"Because [the American people] believe in democracy, they want to hand over power as quickly as possible to Iraqis. Because they don't see themselves as an empire, they want to rule with the lightest possible hand."
Yup, despite the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation based on clearly fictitious claims of WMDs, the near-total destruction of that country's infrastructure, the deaths of several thousand (at least) Iraqi civilians, the installation of a blatantly pro-American puppet governing council, and the annexation of pretty much all of Iraq's natural resources, it's not like the U.S. has any aspirations of empire, or anything like that.
Mercifully, once you stop slapping your forehead, you realize that there are places where you can still get real news coverage. Case in point -- a recent article by Naomi Klein in The Nation. At the risk of abusing the notion of "fair use", I have to quote extensively from Klein's piece. As you read it, keep in mind Gee's description of a "well-meaning empire" that "wants to hand over power as quickly as possible," and that wants to rule with "the lightest possible hand".
As the June 30 "handover" approaches, Paul Bremer has unveiled a slew of new tricks to hold on to power long after "sovereignty" has been declared.
Some recent highlights: At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licenses the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster."
The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by the US Embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society. Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq." He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on fourteen "enduring bases" in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them "a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East."
The US occupation authority has also found a sneaky way to maintain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so, it seems, is US military control.
In the same flurry of activity, the CPA announced that it would put further constraints on the Iraqi military by appointing a national security adviser for Iraq. This US appointee would have powers equivalent to those held by Condoleezza Rice and will stay in office for a five-year term, long after Iraq is scheduled to have made the transition to a democratically elected government.
Of course, none of this sort of thing generally disturbs stenos like Gee, who loyally rouse themselves from their slumber, sign their name to the latest Bush White House press release and fax it in. I mean, can you seriously imagine a real journalist penning the following:
It is, after all, quite obvious what Iraq needs: a federal system with a strong central government and an independent judiciary and constitution to settle disputes. The Americans are being so democratic about getting there that the goal of democracy itself is now in peril.
Yup, that's the Americans -- democratic to a fault. In a moment of unintentional hilarity, Gee closes his column with:
"... like it or not, the United States is an empire -- a well-meaning empire, but an empire all the same. It had better learn to act like one."
Oh, I don't think we have anything to worry about on that score, do we?