Wednesday, June 30, 2004

June 30, 2004

Ahead of schedule, the U.S.-governed Coalition Provisional Authority has handed over power to the U.S.-installed Interim Iraqi Government. We are best advised to remember the name Iyad Allawi. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. It's his turn now.

Among all the arguments available to those who label as grotesque the "sovereignty" that the American empire has bequeathed to Iraq, the name Iyad Allawi should be the most cogent one. The U.S.-governed Coalition Provisional Authority has long desired an acceptable Iraqi face to put over the ugly visage of the U.S. occupation, and Iyad Allawi has long volunteered his. And so we have an excellent fit.

His influence in Washington was surpassed only by the sway once wielded by the rapacious embezzler Ahmed Chalabi, the ex-Pentagon darling who has since fallen from the good graces of Washington. And so Allawi - America's choice - is now prime rib.

Allawi is Tony Blair's Chalabi - the very person "through whom the controversial claim was channeled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes."

Allawi helped found the Iraqi National Accord (al-Wifaq) after the 1991 Gulf War, which became one of the leading formations of "the Iraqi opposition in exile," much the same way, apparently, that Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress served as a magnet for decent crooks. So great was Allawi's popular support in the new Iraq of American proconsul L. Paul Bremer that, during "an uprising in the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad, last year, crowds immediately set fire to the INA office."

Getting the empire's nod wasn't a cakewalk for Allawi, but he got the coveted crown in the end. "No other governing council member has reported spending nearly as much over the last year," said the Associated Press of the huge amounts of money that Allawi had funneled since January to Washington lobbyists and New York publicists. It took hard work and oodles of money, and in the end he deserved the crown.

Here then is the new leader of the new Iraq, a leader whose proximity to the hearts of those he is supposed to govern is as accessible as his press conferences are to the Iraqi people. Anyone attending Allawi's media engagements "must enter the Green Zone, the American civil headquarters in Iraq, and pass through four checkpoints manned by US soldiers."

The world can assume that Allawi will allow himself the occasional whining regarding the machinations of his US patron. But Allawi has an understanding heart and he knows deep inside that the Americans just can't help themselves and he will quickly forgive trespasses and return to his place in the colonial order of things. "I am an instrument of British policy," said Emir Feisal bluntly when he was cast in 1919 by the British as the king of the newly created throne of the newly created country of Iraq. Traditions die hard.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz describes Allawi, an ex-member of the eunuch Iraqi Governing Council and possessing long ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency, as "a physician and a distinguished opponent of Saddam Hussein for many years."

The qualities that bring decent men close to America's bosom are truly remarkable.

Early this year, reports the celebrated journalist Seymour Hersh, one of Allawi's former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about Allawi's character and medical bonafides. Azawi depicted Allawi as a "big husky man ... who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students." Allawi's medical degree, Azawi wrote, "was conferred upon him by the Baath party."

According to Hersh, a "Cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi's personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat 'hit team' that sought out and killed Baath party dissenters throughout Europe." Then at some point Allawi fell out of favor with Saddam, just like Saddam fell out of favor with the U.S.

According to Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer who served in the Middle East, "Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he's a thug."

"If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does," said Vincent Cannistraro, another ex-CIA officer. Allawi "was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff."

But he is America's acolyte now and that makes a world of a difference.

The empire had employed more subtle methods in the past. The U.S. would have the world believe that America was responsible for bringing democracy to Asia via the Philippines - through the landmark election in 1907 which established what many still refer to as the country's first democratic institution: the Philippine Assembly.

In fairness to the empire, the U.S. did provide for the mechanics of democracy in the elections of 1907. Such as limiting the exercise to male Filipinos above 21, who had held office under the hated Spaniards, who owned real property of significant value, and who could read, write or speak Spanish or English.

Mechanics which ensured that only 1.41 percent of the population would vote and that the victors would come from the elite class that the Americans were grooming for leadership. The first taste of "democracy" under America.

By such facts is the legacy of the US-sponsored 1907 elections measured. An election held a mere month after the U.S. hanged the great Filipino hero Macario Sakay; just two months after the U.S. colonial army banned the Filipino flag, and only six years after 600,000 Filipinos in the island of Luzon alone had been killed or had died of disease as a result of the US occupation.

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