6 March 2004

Gen. John Abizaid

JIM LEHRER: But what about U.S. military being subordinate to Iraqi civilian control? Is that going to happen in June and July?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: No, I think when you see the approved language and the transitional administrative law, that it makes it very clear that a multinational force commander that has been provided under the provisions of U.N. Resolution 1511 will continue to conduct operational activity in Iraq, and that although there'll be a partnership with Iraqi units, I think to say that we would be subordinate to them is not correct.

JIM LEHRER: But that's going to... that doesn't concern you, this transition time?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Oh, the transition concerns me because as we move towards an important political event, it's clear to me that the terrorists and insurgents will move as hard as they can to disrupt this process. And not only do we have to set the conditions for the transition to be effective and legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people by the first of July, but then we have to continue to set the conditions for elections to be held as early as December possibly if that's what the politicians decide upon.

So, these political activities will create friction in and of themselves, and in this environment of friction there'll be additional violence.

Our forces will not be on the sidelines. They'll conduct operations with Iraqis. We'll try to include Iraqi officers in our staffs. We will do everything we can to empower Iraqi security forces to stand up on their own and operate where they can alone. But the truth of the matter is they'll need a lot of backing for some time until the new government, not only becomes legitimate, but becomes sovereign.

JIM LEHRER: And your troops wouldn't hesitate to step in between two warring factions if that developed, right? Is that what you're saying?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Our troops will do what they need to do to include stepping in between warring faction if that's what's required.

What is the difference between a sovereign, sovereign government and a legitimate sovereign government. (Some might say elections, but that's another story.) It's bad enough that alleged sovereignty will be transferred to a body wholly-owned and -operated by the CPA. Now we learn that the 'sovereign' government will no have a monopoly of forces within its own territory.

That is, to say the least, a most unusual definition of sovereignty. Agreement on the transitional constitution was announced and then the Shi'ite parties withdrew their support. Does the US really imagine that the occupation will continue indefinitely because they negotiate a security agreement with an unelected body? Especially if, as seems likely, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani pronounces against it.

This is an exact repetition of the model of indrect rule used by the British in the 20s to create a monarchy whch then signed a security agreement allowing the Birtish to remain indefinitely. No Iraqi with a sense of history will find it acceptable. What happens to those that don't? Unscheduled trips to the Central African Republic? Or just:

Our troops will do what they need to do to include stepping in between warring faction if that's what's required.

The occupation appoints the IGC. The occupation then imposes a security agreement which limits sovereignty, before transferring said limited sovereignty to some body about which the Iraqis, as yet, know nothing. The occupation announced a constitution which, uniquely in the world, does not define how the legislative body is appointed.

All we're really seeing is an obsession with dates and the gutting of language so that 'sovereignty' means something less than sovereignty and 'constitution' means something less than a constitution. But they both make great sound-bites. Sadly they do little for security or democracy.

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