Press Release  ·  June 21, 2004

Bush playing shell game with new Iraqi “caretaker government”

As the June 30 deadline for the handover of Iraqi sovereignty approaches, Juan Cole writes in the July 19 In These Times, “In effect, the Bush administration is playing a shell game to create the illusion of progress. The Interim Governing Council is simply being renamed.”

In “The New and Improved Iraq,” Cole examines the political histories of newly appointed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and President Ghazi al-Yawar, both members of the IGC. “The caretaker government faces five key issues, any one of which could be destabilizing,” he writes. These include creating a new Iraqi army, preventing the country’s various factions from fighting one another, rebuilding essential public services, maintaining a balance between religious and secular forces, and figuring out how to hold free and fair elections. Cole, one of the leading scholars of Iraqi politics, has appeared on numerous news programs including NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and “Fresh Air,” “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” Fox News and the BBC.

With the Supreme Court set to decide if civilian courts have the right to hear appeal cases involving prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Stephen J. Fortunato Jr., an associate justice on the Rhode Island Superior Court, describes how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has rigged the appeals process. In “A Court of Cronies,” Fortunato writes that the four judges named to head the Review Panel, which was created to hear appeals from prisoners facing military tribunals, all have close ties to Rumsfeld. Two of the judges, Griffin Bell and William T. Coleman, worked with Rumsfeld to draft the structure of the military tribunals. Bell and a third judge, Frank J. Williams, have both gone on record as supporting the Bush administration’s policy of declaring prisoners of war “enemy combatants” and therefore, as Williams put it, “protected neither under our criminal-justice system nor under the international Law of War.” The fourth judge on the panel is Edward G. Biester, a county judge in Pennsylvania who is a close personal friend of Rumsfeld. “As rigged by Rumsfeld, the Review Panel is congenitally unable of being ‘fair and impartial.’” Fortunato writes.

In an extended In Person interview on the In These Times website, Kevin Y. Kim interviews Samir Khader, the Al-Jazeera producer featured in Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, a documentary about the war in Iraq. “We see ourselves at Al-Jazeera as the manifestation of the change that should happen in the Middle East,” says Khader. “We introduce free speech, pluralism, openness to the Arab world. We were the first, the only network to cross redlines. To break taboos.” Asked about the “accidental” U.S. bombing of Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad and Kabul, Khader says, “I think they did it on purpose as a way to give a message: Beware you are harming our interests.” He also gives advice to President George W. Bush on how to better handle the occupation.