The word "coalition" has been a favorite of the Bush administration and media as they have attempted to put the invasion-occupation of Iraq in a good light. "Coalition" has the implication of joint and collective rather than unilateral action, even if done without UN sanction.
A humorous feature of the Iraq coalition, however, is that only the United States and Britain were serious coalition members in the sense of pushing the invasion and providing military forces. The Spanish and Italian governments gave moral support, along with some two dozen nominal supporters in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, tagged by critics as the "Coalition of the Bribed and Coerced."
This coalition was made up of weaker countries of Eastern Europe and others eager to be on the good side of the Godfather so as to obtain his support for entry into NATO or financial aid, and sometimes entering the coalition only after a bout of arm-twisting. A second humorous feature of the invasion coalition was the extent to which its governments had entered in defiance of the desires of their people--they were allegedly seeking to bring democracy to Iraq, but in the process they showed how little respect they had for their nominal democracies at home.
In a notorious case, also, Bush team official Paul Wolfowitz expressed regret that the Turkish army had not seen fit to make the Turkish government support the U.S. war, despite a 90 percent citizen opposition. That this would have required the overthrow of democracy in Turkey didn't bother Wolfowitz at all.
The Bushies expected not only a quick victory in Iraq but also a rapid and cheap return to conditions that would allow a withdrawal of most of the U.S. troops, a puppet government that would accept U.S. bases, economic policies desired by the Bush administration (mainly privatization of oil and other businesses, and free trade), and a self-funding of the residual occupation (and maybe payback for earlier expenses) from Iraq oil revenues.
It hasn't worked out that way. The Bush administration did get the UN to ratify the aggression-occupation and to help the conquerer with aid that did not challenge the conquest, despite Kofi Annan's plaintive warning before the attack that the "coalition" was about to violate the UN Charter--a bit different treatment than given Iraq when it occupied Kuwait in 1990. In consequence the Iraqi resistance has treated the UN as an agent of the aggressor, and the UN has been forced to retreat and reconsider its role.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration faces the painful problem that the costs of the occupation are not only very large, but U.S. taxpayers are being forced to bear these costs themselves; the self-funding plan hasn't proved viable yet, and having gone into Iraq without Security Council sanction and in violation of the Charter and demands of the REAL international community (the world's population), getting others to share the military and financial burden is not easy.
With amazing chutzpah, unrecognized as such by the mainstream media, the Bushies propose to their erstwhile allies not in their coalition that they should come help in the "liberation," by providing troops and money, but only with consultative rights, leaving all power in the hands of the aggressor-occupation "coalition" (at this level, only the United States). If they would do this they would perhaps be forgiven for not supporting the United States as it lied its way into a war of aggression, earlier allegedly to protect everybody against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, belatedly, an act of U.S. self-sacrifice in the interest of liberating Iraqis from Saddam (but not from the United States).
This crazy tragic-comedy has now taken this turn: the Bushies are proposing to potential troop or money contributors that while they would not be permitted to share in the control of Iraq, if they came in early they would be on the ground floor to reap benefits along with the Godfather himself!
"We're not telling them that this is just about writing checks or sending troops, but about having a stake in Iraq so their government agencies and humanitarian groups are involved in a sector when a new sovereign [sic] government is in power in Iraq. It's a way to get in on the ground floor. That's the selling point," according to a "well-placed U.S. official" (Robin Wright, "U.S. Dangles A Carrot: Opportunities in Iraq," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 2003).
In short, the Bushies are trying to organize a new "coalition of joint venture looters," a limited partnership with the managing general partners based in Washington and London. Given that truly "liberated" Iraqis might not buy into this joint venture looting of their country, this makes pretty open the fact that any claim of a liberation or intent to allow Iraqis to rule their own country is another Big Lie that is a fitting complement to the Big Lie about the urgent threat of those weapons of mass destruction.
First published in Z Magazine
Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
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