WITH NO ceremony and two days before it was scheduled to happen, the occupying forces in Iraq have handed over what they called "full sovereignty" to Iraqi nationals.
No-one could witness the re-arranged change-over, which was decided at a NATO summit in Turkey. And who will be able to witness any difference in life in Iraq either? What's changed as Ayad Allawi, the unelected CIA and MI6-trained Prime Minister takes over nominal power in the country?
The old US proconsul Paul Bremer flew home, to be replaced by US 'ambassador' John Negroponte, a long-time expert in repression. Negroponte will have 3,000 US 'diplomats' with him in Baghdad, making his residence the biggest 'embassy' in the world. It's more akin to a palace of an imperial occupying force. And of course the occupying troops will stay - 160,000 of them.
Even before the 'handover' Allawi found out how limited his 'sovereignty' would be. US secretary of state Colin Powell gave warning when he said: "It's sovereignty but [some] of that sovereignty they are going to allow us to exercise on their behalf and with their permission."
Alawi announced that his government would assume emergency powers after the handover. "Oh no, you can't," the US-led occupation authority in Baghdad told Iraq's interim government. Apparently only the US and its coalition can adopt emergency powers after handover.
US spokespersons said 'human rights' clauses in the interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, stop the interim government from imposing administrative detention.
On the other hand, they claim, a recent UN Security Council resolution gives foreign forces in Iraq leave to use "all necessary measures" to provide security ie martial law. Even when Allawi and Co. want to do things that Washington broadly approves of, such as repression, Iraq would have to rely on US-led forces.
At a time of virtual national insurgency, US imperialism is wary of giving its Iraqi appointees real powers such as control of the armed forces and armaments. So much so that a US adviser in Baghdad warned that Iraq remained under "a partial UN weapons embargo".
US PRESIDENT Bush and his central command expect an upsurge in attacks after formally transferring sovereignty to a caretaker administration. They're considering putting 25,000 more troops on standby.
US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz said "The longer-term goal is to get Iraqis in the frontlines." The casualty figures suggest they already are.
Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq on 1 May 2003. Between then and 16 June this year, ie before the recent attacks, 11,317 Iraqi civilians and 6,370 Iraqi soldiers or insurgents were killed, according to Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War, a report from the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus.
952 coalition troops, at least 50 civilian contractors and 30 journalists had also died. Bush's government has spent over $126 billion on the war in Iraq, and the reports calculate this will ultimately cost every American family around $3,415. Its annual costs could provide healthcare for more than half the 43 million US citizens who have no medical insurance.
A poll on 24 June shows that most Americans (54%) now think the US-led invasion of Iraq was mistaken, compared to 41% earlier in June.
The largest US trade union, the 1.6 million member Service Employees International (SEIU), has called for an end to the US occupation of Iraq and withdrawal of US troops.
Last week 4,000 SEIU delegates voted unanimously for a resolution condemning the Bush administration for a "unilateral, pre-emptive war" based on "deception, lies and false promises to the American people and the world" which had cost many Iraqi and US soldiers' lives and billions of dollars.
The resolution also accused the Bush regime of cuts in public services, declining wages and benefits, crumbling health and education systems, escalating public debt and eroding economic, social and personal security.