The Iraq Show: National Sovereignty Day

Iraq Oil Fire

Shock. Awe. The first season exploded out of the gates. The world watched as fireballs flashed on the green fuzz of night vision.

Blinding. White. American tanks rumbled through the desert, billowing dust clouds into the sky. After Baghdad had been taken and the tyrant had been chased away, our hero swooped down and declared victory.

It was an exciting season. But, after that, the show got pretty damn boring. The battle for Iraq labored on, our hero got less and less believable and everything seemed like a flashback.

Now there’s a new season with a new hero. Last Tuesday we saw the comeback special – an episode called “National Sovereignty Day.” In it, Iraqis celebrated as American troops withdrew from their cities and into the countryside. It was hailed as a first major step toward a permanent exit.

Unfortunately, the writers punched holes in the plot line until none of its segments connected.

In most cases, American forces exited the cities, but, in some, they just redrew the maps to give that appearance. And that retreat doesn’t include the army of 130,000 American private contractors who have been driving the post-war reconstruction.

The end of the occupation remains elusive. The withdrawal date of 2011 is “aspirational” and confounds those who’ve heard military commanders talk about a continued presence until 2024, and maybe even 2029.

And what about the name: “National Sovereignty Day”? What sovereignty do the Iraqis have?

Militarily, a foreign army occupies them.

Civically, a corrupt government represents them.

Economically, the U.S. insists that the wealth of the nation be opened up to foreign investors.

The Iraqi people are extras in their own show, but they should still be hopeful about last Tuesday. Any limit on occupation, however small and symbolic, represents a victory. Still, let’s not pretend that it was much more than a cheap trick aimed at reviving a failed narrative. Until real pressure is mounted on the new hero by his people, the same reality will persist: Sovereignty cannot exist under occupation.

7 Comments

  1. Jordan

    Too bad the domestic audience isn’t watching the show anymore.

  2. ObamaNerd

    Good post! And I like the analogy! Thanks for posting the link.

  3. hey, thanks for leaving a comment over at my place.

    i both agree with you and disagree with you. it’s true that iraq is still under occupation. whether it is currently transitioning into having real sovereignty is still to be determined. to address each of your points:

    (1) In most cases, American forces exited the cities, but, in some, they just redrew the maps to give that appearance.

    yes, but the map redrawing was with the consent of iraqis. where iraqis objected to redrawing the map to exclude a base from an “urban area”, the iraqis got their way and u.s. forces left. in that sense, this point actually could be seen as weighing in favor of iraqi sovereignty, not against.

    (2) And that retreat doesn’t include the army of 130,000 American private contractors who have been driving the post-war reconstruction.

    true, but contractors have already been subject to an earlier deadline. effective january 1, 2009, they no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution under iraqi law. just the threat of prosecution has causes most security firms to act very differently since the year began. many are already effectively confined to bases outside urban centers. to my knowledge, there has not been a single incident, like that blackwater incident, since immunity wss lifted.

    (3) The withdrawal date of 2011 is “aspirational” and confounds those who’ve heard military commanders talk about a continued presence until 2024, and maybe even 2029.

    actually, the SOFA is a binding agreement. and it says, quite specifically, that all u.s. forces must withdraw from all iraqi territory by the end of 2011. it’s true that some military commanders have claimed these dates are just “aspirational”, but frankly, it isn’t up to them. the u.s. could end up breaking the agreement, but that would create a fairly significant crisis both at home and in iraq. the iraqis could also agree to an extension, but that’s pretty unlikely considering that the one thing that almost every political party agrees upon in iraq is that u.s. forces must leave.

    —-

    as i said, i basically agree with you that iraq currently is under occupation. my only disagreement is that i’m a lot less certain than you seem to be about the likelihood that future deadlines won’t be met.

  4. Clint

    Jordan,

    Unfortunately you’re very right about that.

    Upyernoz,

    “this point actually could be seen as weighing in favor of iraqi sovereignty, not against.”

    That’s a good point. But, when it comes down to it, I think the withdrawal of American forces from the cities — even if it is comprehensive — doesn’t amount to much. They are still under occupation, and those troops can still be called in at anytime.

    “contractors have already been subject to an earlier deadline. effective january 1, 2009, they no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution under iraqi law.”

    That’s true and is meaningful for contractors serving military functions, but I actually was referring to those serving an economic function (sorry, wasn’t clear about that). My point there is that the economic reconstruction is largely influenced by these U.S. contractors.

    “my only disagreement is that i’m a lot less certain than you seem to be about the likelihood that future deadlines won’t be met.”

    I wouldn’t say I’m certain the withdrawal will be late, but I am certain that the U.S. will withdraw when it wants to — and no sooner.

  5. so i guess we mostly agree after all.

    the bottom line is that the withdraw from the cities is a step in the right direction, but it’s a very small step. the real test of what will happen will come later, when some of the other SOFA deadlines hit, or when some contractor kills an iraqi and the military has to decide whether to squirrel them out of the country or turn them over to the iraqi authorities for trial as the SOFA would require. the test of how real this withdrawal is will come later.

  6. Jordan

    Jordan,

    Unfortunately you’re very right about that.

    I’m always right until Ian chimes in 😉

  7. Clint,

    I responded to your post: http://theconservative-voice.blogspot.com/2009/06/national-sovereignty-day-in-iraq.html