The U.S. is losing the war in Iraq. The Bush administration has lost the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds; four out of five Iraqis hold a negative view of the U.S. occupation authority and U.S. troops. The U.S. has, with the expose of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, lost whatever shreds of moral authority it once claimed in Iraq, the Arab world, or the international community. And at home, President Bush is losing support faster than ever before; a majority of Americans believe the war was not worth the price, and 64% of Americans believe the president does not have a clear plan for Iraq.

Bush’s new “five-step plan” to “help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom” is not new, does not lay out serious steps to resolve the Iraq crisis, and will not bring about anything resembling democracy or freedom. Instead, it is a recipe for continuing U.S. occupation, continuing deaths of hundreds of U.S. and coalition troops and thousands of Iraqis, and continuing destruction in Iraq.

  • Step One: Hand over something

Whatever it is that the U.S. plans to “hand over” to the not-yet-appointed appointed interim Iraqi government on June 30, it will certainly not be sovereignty. Iraq will not be sovereign as long as 135,000 U.S. and tens of thousands of “coalition” troops remain in the country under U.S. command and unaccountable to the Iraqi government.

  • Step Two: Improve security

With or without a UN endorsement, the massive U.S. military deployment can never “help establish security” in Iraq; to the contrary it is the largest cause of insecurity and violence, and the target of almost all of the opposition’s violence.

  • Step Three: Rebuild the infrastructure

So far U.S. claims regarding its rebuilding efforts have been far more rhetorical than real. There is no indication this is likely to change, and the dominance of U.S.-selected private contractors to carry out the rebuilding guarantees that it will proceed at a far slower pace and at a much higher cost, than if carried out by local Iraqi or regional Arab resources. Anti-occupation attacks makes repair more difficult, and new U.S. military offensives continue to further damage Iraqi infrastructure, as well as houses and holy sites.

  • Step Four: Internationalize the war

The Bush claim that it is seeking “more international support” is a sham. Washington’s proposed new Security Council resolution is a blueprint for a bluewash – a UN endorsement of continuing U.S. occupation. The White House may be able to bribe and threaten enough countries to ensure a Council vote passing a resolution – but that doesn’t translate into international legitimacy.

  • Step Five: Hold elections

The “national elections” Bush refers to will not be held until early 2005. In the meantime, the interim government that will be given “authority” in Iraq on June 30th will not have the power to approve or disapprove of U.S. military actions and offensives. According to U.S. officials, it will not have the power to overturn any of the economic privatization or security laws imposed by U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer in the last year, and will not have the power to draft or enforce any significant new legislation.

Bluewashing Iraq – The U.S.-UK Draft Resolution

The draft UN resolution the U.S. has put on the table is seriously flawed. It was carefully drafted to include the key buzzwords that many European, Arab and other governments are looking for – “sovereignty” is mentioned 12 times, and the text is sprinkled with references to the “territorial integrity of Iraq,” the UN playing “a leading role,” even the “end of the occupation.” But in fact the resolution is designed to legitimize continuing U.S. control of the occupation while giving the illusion of international support – “bluewashing” the Iraq war with a UN endorsement.

It gives the U.S.-controlled military force “authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq, ” while encouraging other countries to send money, troops or other resources to be placed under U.S. control. There is a thinly-veiled reference to potential NATO involvement, though remaining under U.S. command. The occupation of Iraq by the U.S.-commanded force is open-ended. The resolution refers only to a Security Council review of the mandate (not the automatic expiration of the mandate, only a review) after one year or if requested by the “Transitional Government” of Iraq – a reference not to the June 30th “Interim Government” but to the authority that will be created by the Transitional Assembly at some unknown future time after January 2005.

The resolution does not specify what powers the Interim Government will have. Earlier the U.S. administration stated that the Interim Government would not have the authority to overrule existing laws promulgated and enforced by Paul Bremer; the U.S.-UK draft does not spell out such a limitation, but neither does it specify what actual powers would be held by the Interim Government. (Detailed analysis of draft UN Resolution will follow.)


  1. The U.S. should end the occupation now, and bring the troops home. All economic, legal, oil, and security laws imposed by the U.S. occupation authority should be rescinded.
  2. The UN Security Council should refuse to endorse the U.S.-UK resolution designed to provide political cover for an illegal war, and the United Nations as a whole should refuse to participate in the U.S. occupation.
  3. Only with the end of the U.S. occupation, a United Nations team, backed by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, should be empowered to assist Iraq in managing international assistance, holding elections, and planning for reconstruction and development.
  4. Emptying the Abu Ghraib prison of inmates, and holding the highest-ranking U.S. military and civilian officials accountable for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, should be seen as the first steps in a major U.S. national campaign to reverse the political culture of racism and demonization towards Iraqis, Palestinians and other Arabs – the culture that made the prison torture possible.
  5. The Pentagon should end the use of unaccountable private military contractors in any combat zones.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies where she directs the New Internationalism project. Her books include Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer and more recently Ending the Iraq War: A Primer.

Get more news like this, directly in your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter.