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The Nation

Blackwater Banned

The news that the Iraqi government has banned Blackwater USA, the notorious mercenary firm, from operating in the country reveals another of the great fictions promoted by the Bush crowd in the course of this catastrophic war. The notion that Iraq is a sovereign nation in control of its own destiny. The Bush Administration announced this myth several years ago after Iraqis adopted a Constitution and started electing a government. It was shrewd political propaganda--a reassuring sign of progress--but the claim was not true then or now. Major media and American political leaders, nevertheless, embraced the happy talk and pretended it was real. (The Nation's own Jeremy Scahill has done pathbreaking reporting on Blackwater: See Bush's Shadow Army and Mercenary Jackpot, among others. Scahill also testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in May about the impact of private military contractors on the conduct of the war.) The banning of Blackwater makes it impossible to ignore the fact that Iraq is not in charge of Iraq. We are. Iraq's Interior Ministry announced that authorities have cancelled Blackwater's licence to operate in the country and intend to prosecute the company for a shooting that killed eight Iraqis. The New York Times account added this disclaimer in the second paragraph: "But under the rules that govern private security contractors here, the Iraqis do not have the legal authority to do so." Who says? The occupying Americans. The Coalition Provisional Authority issued a "law" when they supposedly handed over sovereignty to Iraq--Order No. 17--that gave Blackwater and other US contractors immunity from Iraqi law. How clever of the American pro-consul. The basic reality in wars of occupation--see the history of colonialism--is that a country can never regain true sovereignty so long as the occupying army remains on the scene, able to impose its will by force of arms. That of course is Iraq's situation, no matter what the White House says or Americans wish to believe. Iraq will not become a sovereign nation until the US troops depart. Maybe this why polls show 76 percent of Iraqis want the US out. The end game for colonialist regimes nearly always started with the imperial power allowing the people to "elect" their own government. But these were typically puppet governments, composed of carefully screened and supposedly safe political figures. More to the point, they remained under the control of the occupying army. People in the Middle East or Africa or Asia understand this distinction because liberation is still fresh in their national history. So now the US puppet government in Iraq is talking back to its mentor--claiming to have powers the US has not given it. The Americans may not tolerate such uppity behavior. Prosecute Americans for crimes against Iraqi citizens? How dare you. Blackwater could become an interesting problem for the American overseers to resolve. Maybe Washington will decide that Bagdad is not yet ready for sovereignty, after all. William Greider, The Nation's National affairs correspondent, has been a political journalist for more than 35 years. A former Rolling Stone and Washington Post editor, he is the author of "One World, Ready or Not," "Secrets of the Temple" and "Who Will Tell The People" and, most recently, "The Soul of Capitalism" (Simon & Schuster).

© 2007 The Nation

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