Iraq: ‘sovereignty’ was not transferred; a British ‘Fahrenheit 911’?

Why do Tony Blair, e.g. in his press conference on 25 May , the BBC, Jack Straw and “Condi” Rice, in her little scribble to Mr President ("Mr President, Iraq is sovereign… – Condiâ€?; Bush: "Let FreeDom Reign!â€?) persist in talking about the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis when the occupiers never possessed it to hand over? Sovereignty continued to reside in the Iraqi people through all the bombings, invasion and occupation. Don’t these people have advisers who know better? Or, as an e-correspondent of mine suggests, "I think these people know precisely what they are saying. The Coalition’s largesse knows no bounds! Sovereignty certainly cannot be given back to the Iraqi people by the Coalition, who did not possess it in the first place. Nemo dat quod non habet!â€? It’s a relatively small thing, but it makes its squalid little contribution to one’s rage and frustration. Even in talking of their pretend ‘handover’ of Iraq to its own people, they can’t resist the resident lie.

Still on Iraq (sorry): I’ve just come home from seeing Michael Moore’s magnificent film, Fahrenheit 911. I assume that some of the welter of allegations and accusations in the movie may well be inaccurate or unwarranted, but even allowing for that, it seems to me a remarkable and powerfully articulated indictment. If there’s any justice, it should annihilate Bush’s chances of re-election. But I fear that the great majority of American voters who go to see it will be, like me, already converted, and want to have the views they already hold confirmed. Will it reach enough of the undecided swing voters? Michael Moore, interviewed on the radio the other day while over here for the launch of Fahrenheit, said the man he really blamed was Blair. Bush had of course done terrible things, but he was genuinely too stupid to know any better. Blair was much cleverer, much better informed, and might well have had a real opportunity (Moore said) to stop Bush’s war before it began by refusing to have Britain take part in it without clear UN approval. Yet he had gone along with the lies and evasions and twisting of intelligence. He was far more culpable than Bush: yet where were the British Fahrenheit 911s, the angry exposures, the holding to account? Good questions.

In a way, I envy the Americans: at least in the faintly Lincoln-like Kerry they have a respectable, supportable alternative to Bush and his gang. Where’s the alternative to Blair for whom we could conscientiously vote?

6 Responses

  1. Brian, I too enjoyed the film. The Saudi connection was not only something Moore flagged up in his latest book, but BBC4 covered in a excellent two-parter a couple of weeks ago. The link between the Bush family and the Bin Laden cash explained why, on the day after 9/11, the only aircraft not grounded were those hoovering up Bin Laden’s US relatives. I suspect the administration would have found it deeply embarrassing had any of these links been exposed whilst the dust of the Trade Centre Towers was still in the air. And before the spin operations could get into overdrive! Money makes the world go-around!
    I was deeply moved by the mother of the soldier killed in Iraq as she visited the White House. Although she described herself as a “liberal democrat”, whatever that converts to into Celsius , I felt her views on the war may be held by many Americans hopefully in the “swing states” that may be just enough to ensure both Bushes are one-term presidents.
    Strangely enough, over the last couple of weeks we’ve been entertaining a friend from Austin, Texas. She’s a teacher, and bearing in mind this is Bush’s home state she could hardly use his name without its accompanying none too complimentary adjective.

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks for that, Tony. I agree with you (and with Michael Moore) that there was something distinctly shady about the way the bin Ladens were flown out of the country so promptly, when all other civil aircraft had been grounded and before they could be questioned by the FBI or the CIA. And yes, the bereaved mother was indeed moving, although I thought there was a little too much footage devoted to her: even in a just and necessary war, decent people are killed and grieving parents are devastated, so the demonstration of this mother’s grief, although almost unbearable to watch and listen to, didn’t really tell us anything in itself about the illegality or necessity of the war, or so I thought.

    I too have been hearing almost desperate denunciations of Bush and his minders from American friends, including specifically a leftish liberal Democrat (lady) from New York, which I suppose is less surprising than hearing it from Austin Texas. But I still wonder how many of the key ‘undecided’s in swing states will (a) see Fahrenheit 911 and (b) be swayed rather than enraged by it?

    Come back Bill: all is forgiven.


  3. Anonymous says:

    What is Sovereignty? Check you dictionary.
    Have you read C, Hitchens mauling of the Bomb Throwers latest.

  4. Brian says:

    “Anonymous”, whoever you might be,

    It’s not a question of dictionary definitions. It’s a matter of international law, with implications for the rights and duties of an occupier in a defeated country. International law doesn’t recognise the exercise of sovereignty (which would confer effectively unlimited rights to change the laws and policies of the occupied country and to exploit its resources) by an occupier, since sovereignty continues to reside in the people of that country — e.g. they continue to have rights over their natural resources, even if temporarily powerless to exercise them. See, among many other sources, You don’t legally take away someone’s rights by preventing him from exercising them, even if in practical terms you do.

    Although frequently and sharply reminded, e.g. by the International Red Cross and other organizations concerned with human rights and international law, of their obligations as the occupying power and the limitations on their rights as such, spokesmen for the US and UK including their political leaders have consistently spoken about transferring sovereignty (meaning from themselves) to Iraq — not, you’ll observe, to the Iraqi people (who have actually never been deprived of it), but to an unelected government set up by the occupiers. Every relevant Security Council resolution, including Res. 1546 (2004) of 8 June 2004, approving the transfer of “full responsibility and authority” (not sovereignty!) to the transitional Iraqi government and the formal end of the occupation (, has included an article “Reaffirming the independence, *sovereignty*, unity, and territorial integrity of Iraq”: and by voting for these resolutions the US and UK have accepted that they have not obtained by occupying Iraq either its sovereignty, or the rights that go with sovereignty. The abuse of language of this kind reveals an alarming arrogance, together with an even more alarming ignorance of their important obligations and responsibilities.

    You might not think this what a friend who made the same point as yourself called a “pathetic little semantic argument on matters devoid of consequence”, if you were, say, a shareholder in Halliburton which has been granted contracts to exploit Iraqi oil and other resources worth billions of dollars, and which may well face legal action when a genuinely sovereign Iraqi government eventually challenges those contracts as ultra vires, since sovereignty over Iraq’s natural resources and the accompanying right to grant contracts for their exploitation were never possessed by the occupying coalition.

    And if you persist in looking to the dictionary for your arguments, what about these, from the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary?:

    “1860 Mill Repr. Govt. (1865) 21/2 That [form of government] in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community. 1872 Schele de Vere Americanisms 265 Popular sovereignty is naturally the fundamental doctrine of the republic.”

    To rely on dictionary definitions which describe among other things colloquial usages of the word sovereignty rather than writing an essay on its legal implications, you are in effect blurring the distinction between sovereignty as a legal concept and sovereignty as a loose and inaccurate synonym for “absolute power”. They are quite different things.


  5. MIMI says:

    With regard to MM’s Fahrenheit 911, upon viewing the film again recently, I now realize how understated and indeed conservative Moore’s assertions actually were. In fact, the Bush administration’s total disregard for international law and human rights is an affront to all people of conscience. As an Amerian living in the red state of Georgia, I find I cannot adequately express my horror at the shameful behavior of the thugs, thieves, mass murderers and war criminals, who currently threaten our civil liberties, security and freedom. Of course, I am referring to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bolton, Feith, Wolfowitz, and yes, appallingly, I must include Mr. Blair, for they are the real evil doers of our time. Not only have they invaded countries, imprisoned, tortured and murdered foreign citizens for oil and empire, they have waged false flag “terrorist attacks” against their own people, thus murdering innocents and brainwashing the electorate by a cynical and systematic scheme of fear and intimidation. Now they are dismantling our civil liberties and stifling dissent in an effort to install a total dictatorship. Indeed, we in the United States are witnessing the death of our democracy by a thousand cuts.
    Please know that two of the most alarming aspects of our current dilemmaa are the complicity of the American corporate media and the corruption of our electoral system. Those of us who are aware of our dire situation have gained that knowledge from the internet, a few liberal radio stations and the foreign press. For instance, the massive anti-war demonstrations prior to the Iraqi invasion, were not covered in the American press; similarly, the Downing Street Memo, was ignored here initially and has yet to receive real coverage. Even more frightening is the assault on our voting system, which has been corrupted by corporate voting machines, owned and operated by Bush supporters and the defense industry. These machines, which can be hacked from remote locations, have reduced our elections to mere charades. Yet those in power refuse to acknowledge there is a problem, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. The result is that the people are disenfranchised, the corrupt rule and only warmongers need apply for elected office.
    Public awareness is slowly spreading and the sleeping sheep are awakening at last. However, the outlook remains bleak. Vice President Cheney has warned us repeatedly it is “only a matter of time” until we are hit with a dirty bomb or some simialrly catastrophic attack. With the passage of the anti-democratic Patriot Act, we are told that the President can declare martial law and suspend the Constitution, if we are hit with a major terrorist attack. If you believe in a higher power, please pray for your American cousins; if not, any suggestions, any aid or comfort you could offer would be most welcome at this critical moment.

  6. Brian says:


    Many thanks for this moving contribution, which I am reproducing as a new entry, since it refers to an entry on this blog dating back to July 2004, more than a year ago, where few would now read it. You will be able to read any comments on what you have written by checking in at the new entry.


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