Sovereignty Doesn't Pass the Duck Test
By Jack Rabbit
is a saying that if something walks like a duck and quacks
like a duck, then it's a duck. This is sometimes called the
duck test. Monday, two days ahead of schedule, Iraq was declared
a sovereign state. It doesn't pass the duck test.
The justification given by the Bush administration for the
invasion and occupation of Iraq simply doesn't wash. Almost
all of the reasons advanced by the administration and its
supporters are not true. These generally follow two themes:
first, that Saddam was a threat to world peace and a supporter
of international terrorism; second, that Saddam was a brutal
dictator and that we are doing the Iraqi people a great favor
by removing him and allowing them to govern themselves.
The reasons that fall under the first theme have been repudiated
often enough. The invasion of Iraq was justified with lies
and the occupation continues to be justified with the same
lies. These reasons are worth recapping to make one important
point about them: These were not honest mistakes, these were
The charge that Saddam was somehow responsible, partly or
wholly, for the September 11 attacks is based on reports that
Mohammed Atta, one of the principle hijackers on September
11, met in Prague with an agent of Iraqi intelligence. This
report was debunked before the invasion began, and now the
September 11 Commission has underscored the fact.
Only Bush, Cheney and conspiracy theorists like Laurie Mylroie
continue to push the idea that Saddam even had associations
with al Qaida. The secular Saddam saw Islamic fundamentalists
as a threat to his hold on power; he was not a natural ally
to one such as Osama. Osama, in turn, regards Saddam as a
socialist and a secularist who is harmful to the cause of
Islam. The only thing they had in common was a hatred of the
United States. There is no reason to believe that Saddam had
any association with Osama or his network.
Another justification advanced by the administration for
invading Iraq was that Saddam was heavily armed and posed
an immediate threat to world or regional peace. However, Scott
Ritter, the former chief UN weapons inspector, challenged
this assumption months before the invasion began. Ritter,
who was in a position to know, stated that almost all of Saddam's
biochemical arsenal had been destroyed by the time weapons
inspectors left Iraq in December 1998 and that any material
that had not been destroyed would have lost its potency by
the time the administration was building its case for invasion
This should have given pause to those who were stating Saddam
was a threat. It certainly goes a long ways in explaining
why UN inspectors admitted back into Iraq in late 2002 under
UN Security Council Resolution 1441 found nothing of significance
and why American authorities have found even less. Saddam
did not have any vast biochemical arsenal, let alone one that
constituted a threat, immediate or otherwise.
Mr. Cheney was fond of saying that Saddam was rebuilding
a nuclear arsenal. This assertion was based on the evidence
of a document that was represented as an agreement by the
government of Niger to sell Iraq yellowcake uranium for the
purpose of making nuclear weapons. The document is a fake.
The forgery is crude and easily detected. Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei,
chairman of the International Atomic Energy Administration,
told the UN Security Council two weeks before the start of
the invasion that the document was a fake. There was no reason
to believe that Saddam was rebuilding a nuclear arsenal.
If these were honest mistakes, the Pentagon would not have
commissioned the Office of Special Plans to cull intelligence
for facts supporting the rationale for the attack and discarding
facts contrary to it. That intelligence was being cooked in
this process was known months before the war.
There is more reason to believe that the intelligence community
was strongarmed by the White House and Pentagon to make intelligence
assessments fit pre-determined policy. A report by the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace showed that there was a
"dramatic shift" of intelligence assessments of Iraq's capabilities
between those made prior to and those made after October 2002;
the authors of the repost say that that this "suggests" that
the intelligence community was "unduly influenced by policy
makers' views" at that time.
Finally, we know that General Powell in order to support
the case for war relied on the testimony of the late General
Hussein Kamel given in 1995 in secret to UN weapons inspectors;
yet in that same document, General Kamel testified that he
had ordered Iraq's chemical weapons destroyed following his
nation's defeat in the first Gulf War. Powell omitted any
mention of this, although it is certainly an important fact
bearing on whether or not Saddam possessed threatening weapons.
This behavior is not consistent with a pattern of making
errors in judging facts. This suggests that those disseminating
the information were selecting what information to release
and what information to withhold based not on its relevance
but on whether it was consistent with or contrary to their
case for war. In short, the evidence and the pattern of behavior
suggest strongly that members of the administration had made
up their minds to invade Iraq and employed deceit in order
to gain support for the war. To put it more succinctly: they
So much for the first theme. Now on to the second.
One piece of truth was given in the administration's case
for war. This was that Saddam was a brutal tyrant. Bush and
the neoconservative ideologues in his administration said
that this justified the invasion as a needed humanitarian
intervention. However, if that had been a fact strong enough
to drum up national and international support for the war,
then Bush and his lieutenants would not have behaved in the
way they did with respect to the other facets of their case.
The fact is that Saddam was not the only brutal dictator
in the world. Should we not also engage in military action
to overthrow the dictators of Burma, who have never permitted
the legally elected president of that nation to assume power?
Or Sudan, where President Bashir looks the other way as ethnic
Arab militias terrorize and ethnically cleanse the non-Arab
population of Darfur?
The situation in Darfur today presents a better reason for
humanitarian intervention than the situation in Iraq did in
the Spring of 2003. As Human Rights Watch pointed out in its
World Report 2004, while Saddam was guilty of many heinous
acts and at times in his long reign humanitarian intervention
might have been justified, there was no immediate humanitarian
crisis in Iraq for which Saddam was responsible at the time
the invasion began of the kind that now exists in Darfur.
Thus, the invasion is not justified on either security concerns
or any need for humanitarian intervention.
Nevertheless, since Saddam's tyranny is the only reason
given for the invasion with a basis in fact, it is that reason
upon which those who planned the war elaborate in their further
attempts to justify the invasion and continued occupation.
This only results in more distortion. As of now, they won't
even admit that the occupation is still an occupation, although
that is just what it continues to be.
The neoconservatives assert that Iraq was invaded to bring
democracy to that country and to make it self-governing. They
claim that they care about the Iraqi people and want to make
them free and prosperous. According to them, the invasion
is a selfless act of American good will and the world should
be grateful for their and Mr. Bush's leadership.
Simply overthrowing Saddam will not necessarily lead to
a qualitatively better life for the common people of Iraq.
The dishonest nature of the Bush administration's case against
Saddam should indicate that they don't care about the Iraqi
people, but had ulterior motives.
The neoconservatives don't give two bits for the real people
of the global South; they care only for artificial persons
of the global North. This is a resource war. It is gunboat
diplomacy using Cruise missiles. The invasion of Iraq was
carried out to place that which rightly belongs to the Iraqi
people in the hands of private western interests.
If one wants to believe the fable that the invasion and
occupation of Iraq is a selfless act, then one should only
consider that when American troops entered Baghdad they allowed
hospitals and museums to be looted but secured the oil ministry.
What does that indicate about their priorities? Even before
the invasion, reconstruction contracts were being awarded
to the Bush administration's favorite corporate contributors.
If Bush and the neoconservatives were really interested
in helping the Iraqi people, they might have given priority
to Iraqi businesses. However, that would cut into the business
opportunities for firms like Halliburton, Bechtel and DynCorps.
One might think that the Iraqi people could solve their own
problems better than these clumsy corporate dinosaurs.
Since the invasion, gangs of shiftless young men have taken
to kidnapping and raping Iraqi women. The Iraqi people may
try to do something about it, but not if the American viceroy
has anything to say about it. Any attempt by the Iraqi people
to take such concerns as public safety into their own hands
is not tolerated. The same can be said about US efforts to
get the electric grid working over a year after the invasion.
As the oppressive Iraq summer approaches, electricity is unreliable.
The US taxpayer is shelling out an awful lot of money to rebuild
Iraq, but there is very little to show for it.
The looting of Iraq in the name of liberation continues.
According to Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, who was in Iraq
a) US state department funds earmarked for drinking water
have been diverted to fund the new US embassy in Saddam's
b) The US government has withheld $15 billion in reconstruction
funds to use a leverage over the interim government and whatever
c) $2.5 billion in Iraqi oil revenues have been diverted
to supplement the costs of projects for which funds have already
been allocated by the US Congress.
In addition, as Ms. Klein says:
[I]f financial scandals made you blush, the entire
reconstruction of Iraq would be pretty mortifying. From the
start, its architects rejected the idea that it should be
a New Deal-style public works project for Iraqis to reclaim
their country. Instead, it was treated as an ideological experiment
in privatization. The dream was for multinational firms, mostly
from the US, to swoop in and dazzle the Iraqis with their
speed and efficiency. Iraqis saw something else: desperately
needed jobs going to Americans, Europeans and south Asians;
roads crowded with trucks shipping in supplies produced in
foreign plants, while Iraqi factories were not even supplied
with emergency generators. As a result, the reconstruction
was seen not as a recovery from war but as an extension of
the occupation, a foreign invasion of a different sort. And
so, as the resistance grew, the reconstruction itself became
a prime target.
One might think that some democracy or self-government might
solve this. Somebody seems to have a problem with that concept
and it is isn't Iraqi insurgents.
Under the UN resolution passed June 8 by a 15-0 vote of
the Security Council, a multinational force will remain in
Iraq. While the resolution throughout calls the force multinational,
the fact is that 85% of the foreign troops in Iraq are American.
This is unlikely to change. Mr. Bush has been unable to persuade
skeptical European leaders to allow a wider participation
of NATO forces other than some unspecified commitments for
equipment and training for Iraqi security forces.
The resolution notes that the force is there "at the request
of the incoming Interim Government of Iraq," which was chosen
by the Iraqi Governing Council, which was in turn chosen by
the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority, which was
dissolved with the transfer. Iraq will have enough sovereignty
to ask foreign troops to leave. However, the interim government
of Prime Iyad Allawi is unlikely to do that. Meanwhile, the
multinational force, which is mostly American, "shall have
the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute
to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq."
Prime Minister Allawi became the Bush administration's choice
to lead Iraq after self-proclaimed exile leader and convicted
embezzler Ahmed Chalabi lost the credibility and favor he
never deserved in the first place. Allawi, a former Baathist,
has close ties to the CIA and is believed to be the author
of the absurd story about Saddam's ability to launch weapons
of mass destruction 45 minutes after giving the order. While
an improvement over Chalabi, he can only be seen to be one
put in place by a foreign power for the purpose of requesting
that foreign troops remain in Iraq.
Unless and until the Iraqi government asks foreign troops
to leave, foreign troops will remain in Iraq under foreign
command. While under the UN resolution the mandate for the
multinational force in Iraq expires at the end of 2005, the
Iraqi government could ask troops to remain. There have long
been rumors, unconvincingly denied by Mr. Rumsfeld, that the
US plans to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.
The resolution states the interim government shall assume
"full responsibility and authority" for governing Iraq "while
refraining from taking any actions affecting Iraq's destiny
beyond the limited interim period until an elected Transitional
Government of Iraq assumes office." This in effect leaves
the interim government without the power to modify or repeal
laws decreed by the CPA.
According to a report appearing in the Wall Street Journal
(a real wild-eyed radical left-leaning publication, that)
on May 13, "The [interim] government's actions are likely
to be heavily influenced by dozens of U.S. and Iraqi appointees
at virtually all levels." Even some members of the former
Iraqi Governing Council are concerned that the lack of authority
given to the interim government will stifle any chance of
forward progress for the nation. The Journal quotes
on Iraqi official as saying: "If it's a sovereign Iraqi government
that can't change laws or make decisions, we haven't gained
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch,
refers to the arrangement under the UN resolution of June
8 as "sovereignty lite." Mr. Roth is too kind. As sovereignty,
this arrangement doesn't pass the duck test.
In the nineteenth century, when a powerful nation invaded
a weaker country in order to take control of its resources
and force open markets for the stronger nation's business
interests, it was called colonialism or imperialism. Foreign
troops would enforce the will of the imperial power in the
colony. The stronger country would also put in place its own
government to serve its interests; sometimes the stronger
country would place its own people in direct control of the
colony and other times they may allow a native puppet government
to rule on their behalf. Under no circumstances were the natives
to govern themselves. If they did, they might assert their
interests and welfare over those of the imperial power.
Imperialism, like slavery, presumes that some people have
a natural right to rule over others. It is inherently anti-democratic
and can permit a colony no real self-government.
If imperialism is a good name for this arrangement in the
nineteenth century, it is no worse a name for it in the twenty-first.
Since Saddam's overthrow, foreign troops under foreign command
are in Iraq, western firms conduct most of the business, an
American administrator has given orders and the natives have
nothing to say about it. As of yesterday, things are different.
Foreign troops under foreign command will remain in Iraq,
western firms will get most of the business, a puppet regime
responsible to the Americans will be in power and the Iraqi
people will have nothing to say about it.
Even the descriptions of Iraq since the invasion sound like
a by-gone era of imperialism. Naomi Klein describes the part
of Baghdad where foreign businessmen and American administrators
The contractors have responded by behaving even
more like an invading army, building elaborate fortresses
in the green zone - the walled-in city within a city that
houses the occupation authority in Baghdad - and surrounding
themselves with mercenaries. And being hated is expensive.
According to the latest estimates, security costs are eating
up 25% of reconstruction contracts - money not being spent
on hospitals, water-treatment plants or telephone exchanges.
Will yesteday's handover bring democracy to Iraq? No. Is
there any government by consent of the governed? No. Is this
sovereignty? Don't make me laugh.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Colonial occupation is
No sovereignty has been handed over to the Iraqi people.
The occupation and looting of their nation continues. The
passing of the resolution in the UN Security Council declaring
this to be an end of occupation and recognizing this as sovereignty
is one of the UN's most shameful moments.
In terms of the war on terror, invading Iraq has only made
a bad situation worse. Bush and his lieutenants tell Americans
and anybody else who is still willing to listen that Iraq
is "the central front in the war on terror." This is nonsense
on it face, since Saddam had no associations with terrorists.
Consequently, invading Iraq could not have possibly made Americans
safer from the likes of Osama.
On the contrary, since the invasion, al Qaida has regrouped
and staged a number of attacks. Terrorists strike not only
in Iraq but against western targets in Saudi Arabia. They
have become stronger, not weaker. Richard Clarke, the former
US counterterrorism chief, pointed out that Osama's propaganda
always asserted that the US wanted to invade and occupy an
oil rich Arab state. Now it has done so. The Bush administration
has provided al Qaida with a good recruiting point.
Invading Iraq has brought no benefit to the American people.
While it arguably leaves the Iraqi people marginally better
off than they might have been under Saddam's rule, it still
does not leave them as well off as they could be under self-government.
However, a truly self-governing Iraq is not in the interests
of the transnational corporations that support Bush and the
neoconservatives; therefore, we should not expect any real
moves towards Iraqi sovereignty, only more of the kind of
Orwellian rhetoric inherent in the UN resolution passed June
The invasion of Iraq was based on lies and continues to
be justified with lies. It has not brought democracy or self-government
to Iraq and is not intended to do anything like that, in spite
of neoconservative rhetoric to the contrary.
The invasion has brought America into international disrepute.
Those few allies who supported Bush in his ill-advised war
are being punished at the polls. In spite of the UN resolution
authorizing a multinational force, no one is willing to assist.
Worst of all, the invasion has made terrorists not weaker,
This is a mouthful, but it can be said with a straight face:
The invasion of Iraq may be the greatest single foreign policy
blunder in the history of mankind. The worst part is that
it wasn't even an honest mistake. Among the most outrageous
prevarications the Bush administration has made concerning
its misadventure in Iraq is that a nation with no control
over 160,000 foreign troops on its soil, a head of government
whose office depends more on a foreign power than on the people
and a legislative body with no authority to change laws imposed
on it by a foreign power is somehow sovereign. It neither
walks like a duck nor quacks like a duck. This just doesn't
pass the duck test.