Thoughts on the "Transfer of Sovereignty"


Well, the Bush Administration may have finally done something smart in Iraq : By 'transferring sovereignty' to the Iraqis two days ahead of schedule, it's possible that they thwarted the plans of terrorists who were planning something huge for June 30 (the previously announced date). If such terrorists were as surprised by the announcement as I was, they might have cancelled their plans since they would lose the symbolic appeal if they happened two days after the fact. So as you can see, I'm perfectly capable of giving credit to the Bush team when I think it is earned.

Now then . . . . Can someone please explain to me how one government can 'transfer sovereignty' to another one?? Think about it: If the current Iraqi government derives its legitimacy from the US federal government, then the current Iraqi government isn't really sovereign after all'it's rather akin to the Department of Energy. The ultimate criterion is this: Suppose another tyrant seizes power in Iraq . Presumably the benevolent US would once again sacrifice its troops and treasure to 'liberate' the Iraqis a second time (i.e., overthrow their government using bombs and bullets), occupy them for another year or so, and then finally 'transfer sovereignty' to them again. Clearly, if the US government reserves the right for future interventions, then the current Iraqi government is in no way sovereign.

Moreover, don't Americans supposedly have strong and clear views on the nature of legitimate government? Isn't that what the 'American way of life' is all about, that sovereignty is derived from the consent of the governed? If so, then what exactly was supposed to happen on June 30 (or June 28)? Up until that point, did the Iraqi people give their consent'explicitly or implicitly'to the US invasion and occupation, and then transfer their consent to the current Iraqi government on June 28?

I'm honestly not being flippant here. Since I personally do not believe in the legitimacy of any violent institution, all of this talk of nation-building and political jargon seems silly. But for those who truly believe in what Bush et al. claim they're doing in Iraq , I am really curious: How do you reconcile a concept of sovereignty that can be taken and given by a superior military power, with the ostensibly American notions of representative government and constitutionalism?

Iraq is Still Occupied

Of course, even if the jurists on staff at the Claremont Institute or writing for National Review could come up with scholarly explanations, the fact remains that the US is still in charge of Iraq . The only reason the present government has power in Iraq is that it is backed up by the hundreds of thousands of US troops still in the country. If Iraq were a giant lavatory, the sign on it would still read, 'Occupied.'

The July 1 issue of USA Today illustrated the Orwellian America of George Bush. In an article entitled, 'U.S. says it hit 4th hide-out of Zarqawi terrorist network,' we read, 'U.S. forces launched an attack Wednesday on what officials said was a Fallujah safe house . . . . [W]itnesses in Fallujah said four people were killed and 10 were injured in a missile attack. U.S. authorities said 'precision weapons' were used to strike the safe house.'

Now what cracks me up is that, in the very same article, we read, 'Despite the end of the occupation, about 165,000 foreign troops'most of them Americans'remain in Iraq to provide security and train Iraq 's new security services.'

And there you have it: In a story that admits there are still over one hundred thousand American soldiers in Iraq , and that these soldiers are still engaging in such 'security' actions as blowing up houses with missiles, nonetheless we are told without blush that the occupation is ended. Just as the US can invade another country so long as it declares that this country has dangerous weapons, so too (apparently) can the US end a foreign occupation simply by declaring it. We don't even need to ship the troops back home, just like we didn't need to actually find the stockpiles of WMD.

Involuntary Volunteers

On the same page of that USA Today, there was another funny article, this one entitled, 'Pentagon will activate 10,000 more Army troops.' The article explains: 'In the last several months, the Pentagon has extended tours in Iraq for troops due to rotate home and put in effect 'stop-loss' orders that bar troops in or headed for Iraq to leave the service, even if their voluntary commitments are fulfilled.'

Okay, fine; I'm sure we're all familiar with this development. But then in the very next sentence, we hear from Robert Smiley, the Army's director of training, readiness, and mobilization: 'We are doing this to meet mission requirements as our all-volunteer Army moves into one of the most demanding periods for fighting and winning the nation's wars . . . .'

That Crazy Saddam

Finally, I must briefly comment on the trial of Saddam Hussein. Here too, it's hard to know what to believe; you certainly can't trust what the various governments say. On the radio, the new leader of Iraq (i.e., the guy installed by the US troops) said that although the US wanted to hand over custody of Saddam , Iraq simply didn't possess adequate jailing facilities. But then a few days later in the paper, I read that the new leader of Iraq eagerly sought custody of Saddam to prove the legitimacy and justice of his new government, but that the US was reluctant because it had concerns over security.

I was also troubled by the obvious lies (yes, I used that strong word) of James Woolsey, former head of the CIA. He was a guest on some cable news talk show, the day after Saddam first appeared before an Iraqi court. The show's host asked Woolsey about Saddam's performance, and Woolsey said that Saddam talked like a 'raving sociopath' (or perhaps it was 'ranting sociopath,' I can't remember for sure). Yet the footage of Saddam'which of course was just video, with no subtitles'showed him to be in full command of his faculties. He asked questions, listened to the answers, and sat with his fingers forming a teepee, looking quite pensive. (I remarked to my wife that if the voiceover had told viewers that this was footage of a physics professor, it would have been perfectly plausible.)

My point is not to defend Saddam Hussein; I'm sure he is an evil man who did many horrible things. My point is that James Woolsey is consciously lying to the American people about Saddam Hussein. Saddam, like any dictator who wields power for decades, is perfectly rational and knows full well how to manipulate others; he is far from a raving lunatic. (If you were held prisoner for months by US troops without expert legal counsel, and then placed before a court and told that you were being tried as a war criminal, you'd probably be asking the very same questions'about the court and its source of legitimacy'that Saddam did.) The former head of the CIA obviously knows this, and so he had to be lying when he characterized Saddam the way he did.

Now there are two explanations for this: (1) The Administration's case against Saddam's Iraq is as air-tight as Rumsfeld et al. would have us believe, and Woolsey felt he had to lie because Americans like black-and-white stories; it's far easier to believe in a crazy madman who hates the US, rather than a crafty, intelligent one who could have legitimate gripes with US foreign policy. Or: (2) The Administration's case against Saddam is not so air-tight, and thus Woolsey did his part to prevent people from taking Saddam seriously. Rather than listening to his actual words, better to show us mere video footage and have Woolsey assure us that Saddam behaved like a raving sociopath.

Either way, the episode doesn't bode well for those Americans who actually believe their government officials when they claim to be spreading freedom and justice to the world. If our motives and policies are really so noble, why do our so-called representatives keep lying to us?

Your rating: None
Bob Murphy's picture
Columns on STR: 62