The Worst Job… Puppet Leader

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Man, talk about having a job that sucks! Just when you thought that your job was repugnant, along comes someone with a job worse than Milton’s in Office Space. The guy to feel sorry for is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr. Maliki is a guy who’s stuck between a rock, a hard place and a blithering idiot…(ten bonus points if you guess who that is). I guess being the head of a U.S.-installed puppet government didn’t turn out to be all that the brochure claimed. Maybe reading the fine print before signing the contract would have been wise.

Let’s face it, Mr. Maliki has been positioned to take the heat and the fall. He can join Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby who is said to have complained: “They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb, I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.” Oh yeah? Says who?

It’s a no win scenario if ever there was one. If I were in Mr. Maliki’s shoes, I’d don a blond Elvis wig, some cool shades, buy a round-about ticket or three to the Iles Marquises and hope to disappear, but alive. It might help to travel with a seeing-eye dog too.

Mr. Maliki’s no fool. Recently he stated "I wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term.” You heard him, he wants out of the position! Well, of course he does! There’s no telling what the "end of his term" means. Described by the BBC as "a stalwart of the Shia movement which led the resistance to Saddam Hussein," Mr. Maliki was a "compromise choice" when the first nominee for Prime Minister of the newly formed Iraqi government was rejected by Kurds and Sunnis. He heads a government that does not respect or listen to him. Man, that’s gotta stick in his craw!

And as far as authority is concerned… what authority? It’s only on paper. Responsible for quelling sectarian violence in Iraq, Mr. Maliki has no real power or influence. There will continue to be plenty of violence and killing no matter what Mr. Maliki does. Iraq is experiencing civil war regardless of what the White House says.

There are the religious differences: As a Shiite, Mr. Maliki is distrusted by the Sunni insurgency. Shiite militias and death squads are doing a pretty good job of slaughtering Sunnis. But they only did so because the Sunnis had been busy slaughtering the Shia. So… poor Mr. Maliki has no credibility with the Sunnis… or is it the Shiite? Oh who cares! It’s both.

The real leader of the Shiites in Iraq is the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Within the Shiite community, al-Sadr, not Maliki, is The Man. Imagine having to take (conflicting) orders from al-Sadr and from the pro-Sunni U.S. occupiers?

The Shia majority know that the Americans, Saudis and other Sunni governments have it in for them. Just look at what the U.S. and Israel have planned for Shia Iran… a whole lot of bombing… maybe back to the Stone Age.

And then there’s the oil, which brings us to the Kurds. Under the current Iraqi constitution, "the Kurds …have carved out a semi-independent state in northern Iraq." Reprising squabbles reminiscent of post-WW1 era self-determination, the Kurds now claim that Kirkuk, the capital of oil-rich Taameem, ought to be part of their state. With Kurdish refugees returning to Kurdistan, other residents, Arabs and Turkmen, "accuse the Kurds of attempts to change the demographic composition of Kirkuk."

Last September, the Financial Times reported "The war of words between Iraq’s central government and authorities of the autonomous Kurdistan region over the control of oil resources took a sharp upturn…with Kurdish officials threatening secession over Baghdad’s failure to recognize its right to sign exploration contracts."

Kurds were not pleased when just last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that “Even though the Kurds might have been expected … to insist that they will simply control all the resources themselves, that’s not what the oil law does."

Ouch! The Kurds are not going to like that! They don’t get to own their own oil! Somebody is going to pay. How about Mr. Maliki?

Indeed, we know what the oil law does. In the first week of January, the British paper The Independent reported that it had "learnt that the Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country’s massive oil reserves."

Maliki’s country is in ruins thanks to the U.S. invasion and nearly four years of American occupation. And it’s whose fault?!

Well, the White House sure as hell won’t take the blame for a bungled, illegal war it started let alone pay for the billions of dollars in damage it’s done to Iraq’s infrastructure. Iraq may be forced to submit to thirty-year oil leases, PSAs, to raise enough money to rebuild their country. Such an arrangement benefits Big Oil, but does it benefit the Iraqis?

And just who is supposed to rebuild Iraq and thus profit? U.S. companies. Iraqis will get to "flip the burgers" in support of the contractors as their only hope for employment. The real profits will go to U.S. corporations and Bush’s cronies.

It’s not Bush’s fault that Mr. Maliki is having a hard time and that the war hasn’t worked according to plan! Or is it all working according out just hunky dory? Iraq and its internal strife may be insignificant to The Plan. It appears to be coming up roses…blood colored and dripping with Texas Tea.

For now, the U.S. finds it awfully convenient to blame the Iraqis and the various sects in Iraq find it even more convenient to heap scorn on Mr. Maliki. This is great for Bush: If Congress and the media are focused on Iraq they won’t notice what the neoconservatives are cooking up for Iran.

As we all know, The Decider has decided to send in 21,500 more troops in his "new way forward" towards victory. That must really be reassuring to Mr. Maliki. Referring to those troops, Bush has said: "The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi army units… our forces will help secure the city by chasing down terrorists, insurgents and the roaming death squads." Now won’t that be grand? Everyone loves a "neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep.u201D It’s like a Washington D.C. block party with more guns and killing! Oh boy!

Mr. Maliki has announced that he will crack down on the Shiite militias. Could Mr. Maliki have been coerced? The U.S. military has gone to work on the Iraqi Prime Minister to make sure he’s part of the team. ABC News reports: "As late as Oct. 31, he had intervened to end a U.S. blockade of Sadr City, the northeast Shiite enclave in Baghdad that is headquarters to the militia." Mr. Maliki was shown "intelligence" proving al-Sadr is behind the death squads and militias. Gee… you think so?! Do you really think Mr. Maliki didn’t know? I find it hard to believe that Mr. Maliki has been blind to this until now. Nobody is that stupid… Well, almost nobody. There is that blithering idiot on the loose.

The last U.S. puppet leader in Iraq outlasted his usefulness and was summarily dispatched at the end of a rope toot sweet. U.S. puppets are disposable commodities. So, Mr. Maliki must meet impossible goals or go the way of Saddam Hussein. His sense of security must be… uh… never mind.

If Mr. Maliki clamps down on al-Sadr and the Shiites — assuming he even can — he risks condemnation by Shiites. This includes the strutting Iran, the next U.S. target in Israel’s continued efforts for more "security." If Mr. Maliki does nothing to stop the Shiite militias, Sunnis and Sunni-led governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, will go after him. If angry Sunnis and double-crossed Shia don’t get him, the Kurds may secede thus losing Iraq much-needed oil revenues. And sooner or later the Washington Neocon War Machine will take him out. Talk about being stuck in a quagmire! I doubt there’s a government or sect in the Middle East — or the U.S.A. — that doesn’t have Nouri al-Maliki marked for future disposal.

One thing is for sure, with the addition of 21,500 U.S. troops into what Republican Senator Charles Hagel calls "that grinder" the real killing is about to begin. Well, Washington wanted an escalation and now Washington is going to get one.

With so many competing puppet masters trying to pull Prime Minister Mr. Maliki’s strings, he had better cut and run if he wants to stay alive.

As this column was being filed written, the BBC reported that Mr. Maliki’s part of the Bush surge has won the support of the Iraqi parliament. Significant is the support of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr. Does this mean that Sadr has abandoned militia violence and taken up the waiting game of politics? I wish Mr. Bush would do the same.

Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed to and edited this story.

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.

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