Posing the Right Question

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Emulating
the popular game show Jeopardy!, if the answer is “Iraq,”
can you formulate the question?

Consider
the following:

Ambassador
L. Paul Bremer left behind 97 edicts telling the interim government
and the Iraqi people everything from how to drive their autos and
mandatory minimum sentences for carrying grenades and other weapons
to electoral and economic laws and forbidding the death penalty.
Among these edicts, Bremer created a special commission empowered
to review the activities of political parties and candidates and
to bar those who affiliate with militias, espouse hatred and terror,
or violate other laws. Bremer also set the terms of office for the
national security advisor, chief of intelligence, and the 33 inspector
generals (one for each ministry) at five years, taking the incumbents
well into the term of office for the government to be elected January
2005.

The
Hague Regulations (1907) and Geneva Conventions (1949) pertaining
to military occupation guarantee rights to inhabitants of occupied
territories, restrict the actions of occupying authorities, and
provide for the continuity of the legal code in place prior to occupation.
When occupation ends for any reason, regulations introduced by the
occupation authority also end.

UN
Security Council Resolution 1546 (June 8, 2004) recognizes that
the “sovereign Interim Government of Iraq” will assume “full responsibility
and authority” in the governance of Iraq by June 30, BUT will refrain
from “actions affecting Iraq’s destiny beyond the limited interim
period until an elected Transitional Government of Iraq assumes
office” in January 2005.

UN
Resolution 1546 also “reaffirms the authorization for the multinational
force (MNF) … established under resolution 1511 (2003)” in that
the 165,000 foreign troops are in Iraq at the request of the interim
government to provide security until sufficient numbers of Iraqis
can be trained and equipped for the army, police, and border control
duties. The same resolution further grants the MNF “authority to
take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of
security and stability in Iraq.” Iraq can ask for a review of the
mandate at any time (it will automatically be reviewed in June 2005),
and the mandate will terminate not later than December 2005.

Approximately
150 U.S. civilians are to remain, scattered through the various
ministries as “advisors,” for an indeterminate period of time.

The
Occupation Beyond Sovereignty

Obviously,
there is tension between Bremer’s 97 edicts — particularly those
with appointment timelines or ones establishing new laws or sentences
— and the Hague and Geneva conventions under which the application
of occupation statutes end. Having been ceded “full sovereignty”
by the occupation authority, the interim government must have the
power to rescind or ignore any occupation edict — including the
one specifying the procedure by which the interim government can
legally disavow any edict.

Functioning
as a further barrier to complete sovereignty is UN Resolution 1546,
which imposes its own broad limitation: the interim government is
to refrain from any action whose effects “on Iraq’s destiny” will
extend beyond January 2005 when the Transitional Government assumes
office. In itself, this language suggests that the U.S. and UK,
the two countries that crafted the resolution, are using the UN
as a surrogate for their continuing direct intervention in Iraq.
By forbidding a supposedly sovereign government from acting, the
resolution sets up the UN as an “international sovereign” whose
pronouncements trump national sovereignty.

The
practical result of complying with this section of the resolution
would be wholesale drift. Iraq’s “destiny” will not wait for six
months. It is being shaped today, tomorrow, and every tomorrow thereafter
in all its aspects — social, political, cultural, economic, civic,
and environmental.

In
short, while accepting reconstruction help and security training
and assistance from the international community, the interim government
must set its own course and pace. It must create momentum for equitable
economic and political policies that respect Iraqi culture and tradition
but encourage the internalization of fundamental human rights and
civil liberties for every Iraqi.

The
remaining short-term U.S. objective in Iraq is to shift completely
the front-line burden for security to Iraqis. Reasoning that a lower
U.S./MNF profile ought to reduce the violence, Iraq’s interim prime
minister, Iyad Allawi, is eager to assume this responsibility as
quickly as Iraqis can be trained and equipped. Similarly, the UN
may find Allawi and his cabinet eager for Iraqi, not UN, solutions
to other long-standing needs.

It
is commonplace in Bush administration circles to assert that Sept.
11, 2001, “changed everything.” In reality, as 27 former diplomats
and senior military commanders stated in late June, the fundamentals
of life in the U.S. have not changed. So too, in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s
downfall and the country’s military occupation have had a mainly
political effect, but the fundamental needs of life in Iraq remain
— physical security, the end of violence, steady work for steady
pay.

If
the interim government is to succeed, it must be completely free
— that is, sovereign — to set Iraq’s course, free from U.S. edicts
and ill-conceived UN resolutions.

If
Iraq is the answer, the question has to be: “Where do three sovereigns
divide one sovereignty?”

August
5, 2004

Daniel
Smith is a military affairs analyst for Foreign
Policy in Focus
, a retired U.S. army colonel, and a senior fellow
on Military Affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Posted with permission from Foreign Policy
in Focus
.

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