The fate of Iraq is now being compared to what the Philippines had gone through in the hands of the U.S. Despite the expected fanfare amid the U.S. handover of sovereignty to Iraq on June 30, peace advocates are repudiating this event as nothing more than “window-dressing.” They believe that Iraq will remain “a colony or a puppet state, subservient to Washington and protective of American interests.”
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
A church leader stressed that the state of Iraq on June 30, 2004 will be just like the Philippines on July 4, 1946.
Sharon Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), was reacting to a lecture delivered by visiting Austrian professor, Dr. Hans Koechler. The lecture forum was held at the Shalom Center in Manila June 18 and was attended by church leaders, human rights advocates and others.
Koechler, who has written 280 books and scholarly articles dealing with philosophy, human rights and international law, latter chairs the Philosophy Department of the University of Innsbruck. He teaches political science and philosophy of law and has special interests in electoral processes.
Noting the similarity between Iraq and the Philippines, Duremdes said that the U.S. sent troops to the Philippines in the late 19th century in the guise of helping Filipinos in the latter’s war against Spanish colonialism. However, the U.S. purchased the Philippines from Spain under the Treaty of Paris in December 1898. It established civil government in the Philippines in 1901 after a short but bitter war that claimed 1.5 million Filipino lives. At that time, the Filipino population was placed at seven to eight million.
Though it “granted” independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946 after decades of both armed and legal resistance by various movements, the U.S continues to be criticized by activists and progressive intellectuals for interfering in Philippine affairs under a neo-colonial relationship.
“Immoral and illegal”
Koechler, who is also founder and president of the Vienna-based International Organization called the U.S.-led war on Iraq which was launched on March 20, 2003 an “immoral and illegal” war that was “based on totally false assumptions: possession of weapons of mass destruction and the support of the Iraqi government for international terrorism.”
He also denounced U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell’s presentation of “false evidence and fake documents” in attempting to justify the war.
He further noted that the war on Iraq had no sanction of the United Nations.
In a similar forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City that afternoon, Koechler, a leading authority on United Nations reform, said that the U.S. occupation forces have no political authority in Iraq being a “war aggressor” and therefore does not have any right to hand over “full sovereignty” to the Iraqis on June 30.
In the Diliman forum held at Balai Kalinaw, UP Prof. Bobby Tuazon stressed however that the UN Security Council resolution adopted June 8 which upholds the hand over of “sovereignty,” only gave a façade of legitimacy not only to the U.S. occupation but also to the puppet interim council that the Bush administration installed.
Such legitimacy, Tuazon said, will expedite the push for the Americans’ neoliberal economic blueprint for Iraq. Under the blueprint, the U.S. occupiers seek to overhaul Iraq’s once state-managed economy into an American-style free market economy with trade liberalization and privatization. Priority for privatization is Iraq’s oil industry, which is second to the world’s major oil producer, Saudi Arabia.
For his part, at the Shalom forum, Bp. Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI or Philippine Independent Church) said, “The bases for war are lies, propaganda, and false documents. Therefore, the war is immoral.”
A United Nations weapons inspection team went to Iraq shortly before the war began and found that its weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled years before. Meanwhile, a U.S. commission probing the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 recently concluded that there is no evidence linking al-Qaida to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In the first quarter of 2003, the U.S.-led coalition forces toppled the government of Saddam – “at the cost of the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis,” said Koechler. They then established an Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) which Koechler described as a body that is “without legitimacy.”
Despite the capture of Saddam in late December last year, Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation continues and has escalated in the last few weeks.
The Austrian philosophy professor added that the handover of sovereignty to Iraq would be “fictitious” because the would-be governing authority was established by the occupying power. He also said that the body would not survive a single day without the protection of the occupying forces.
According to Koechler, “The only honest alternative would be the Iraqi people’s sovereign decision after the withdrawal of the occupying powers.”
Duremdes, meanwhile, said, “The sovereignty is going to be placed in the hands of Iraqis who are like proxies.” She also revealed that the U.S. will be keeping at least 138,000 troops in Iraq even after the handover.
Prof. Arche Ligo of St. Scholastica’s College’s Department of Women’s Studies compared U.S. war propaganda to the “logic” of those who beat up women, calling it a “macho discourse” that “justifies the battery.”
Nothing but a “window-dressing”
In a statement, the People’s Forum on Peace for Life said, “The ‘transfer of sovereignty’ issue has become the subject of the new discourse. The shift in the area of interest will likely redefine the concept of sovereignty, going the same way of debasement as ‘peace,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘freedom,’ and many other noble concepts. On June 30, Iraq will not become a sovereign state but will remain a colony or a puppet state, subservient to Washington and protective of American interests. As such, despite the ‘Iraqi face’ of the new government, the insurgency is bound to continue with a likelihood of developing into a civil war.”
“The handover of sovereignty to Iraq on June 30 would be simply a window-dressing,” said Duremdes. “After that,” she added, “Filipinos can say, ‘So what’s new? Welcome to the club!’ But they can also link arms with the Iraqis who have risen to fight for their freedom.”
The Shalom forum had the theme “The U.S. Handover of Sovereignty to Iraq: Moral and Legal Questions” and was sponsored by the People’s Forum on Peace for Life, the NCCP, the Ecumenical Women’s Forum, and Pilgrims for Peace.