If anybody on Earth is vulnerable to the charge of being a U.S. “puppet”, it's Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq. And yet, he keeps saying things that hint that he does not see his American masters as liberators so much as intruders. The latest occasion was the 1 January turnover of the “Green Zone” in Baghdad to the Iraqis, the Green Zone having been, for all intents and purposes, United States territory since the invasion. Listen to his language (and marvel that it got past U.S. censors): It's a “day of sovereignty”. Hmmm.... gee, I thought Iraq was already a “sovereign nation”; haven't they been saying that all this time? But let's continue. The withdrawal of foreign (i.e., the U.S. plus a handful of chumps) forces from Iraq was “the dream that nobody was allowed to think about”. “Allowed?” By whom? Doesn't that convey a feeling of having been somewhat oppressed, say, and having now been somewhat liberated? I don't think we have to split too many hairs to see this feeling coming out. And contrast it, if you will, with the Germans, the Japanese, and the Koreans, who are, by and large, all perfectly happy with an eternal American military presence on their soil. "Well, it's good business, and hey, we might be attacked by someone, and besides, the best way to avoid being attacked by the Americans is to have them already here. Right?" But the Iraqis seem to see it differently. They seem to have some semblance of – what's the term? -- self-respect. And they also seem to possess a certain male body part that those other places have forgotten even exists. It's no wonder the Israelis are afraid of these people! I would be too, if they were only a Scud away.
Plus, we have to give al-Maliki and other Iraqi politicians credit for a very delicate balancing act over the past few years. They were obviously in office – if not in any sort of real “power” -- strictly by the grace of the occupier, i.e. us. On the other hand, their constituents expected them to defend Iraqi sovereignty, or some semblance thereof, and not turn into complete Uncle Toms, or whatever the Iraqi equivalent is. (Uncle Udays? Nah, doesn't work.) So they picked their way along between these two irreconcilable sides, knowing that if they groveled too blatantly in front of the American commissars they could be the next in line for tough love, IED-style... and if they got too feisty and assertive regarding Iraqi freedom (the real kind, not the kind we name our military operations after) they could be thrown out of the Green Zone on their ear. And yet, all that time, they were gently pushing back, and tinkering with the “public language” of the war and the occupation, gradually turning things around so that the U.S. started looking more and more like an unwelcome guest. But they knew enough about the way we operate to know that the best way to assure that an unwelcome guest never leaves is to demand that he leave. So there were no direct demands, only “discussions”, and “negotiations”, which ultimately resulted in a “Status of Forces Agreement”. They certainly aren't going to get rid of us overnight... but all of a sudden, the occupiers have acquired the status of second-class citizens and the Iraqis are in charge again – certainly not completely, but more than before. Unless the whole thing is an elaborate facade, of course – and only time will tell regarding that question, and regarding the question of real, practical changes. The last time we seriously occupied another country, i.e. Vietnam, we had to be thrown out by main force – I don't care what the historical revisionists say. You can't have newsreels showing that the only piece of Vietnamese territory we had any control over was the embassy roof, and then claim we left voluntarily. Now, losing the Green Zone to the restless natives is certainly a major blow to all empire-builders, but it is far from the last word. If the so-called “terrorists” are smart, they'll grant Iraq an era of total peace for as long as it takes to convince everyone that we have no more reason to be over there, at which point we might really leave, once and for all, and then... well, as I said, time will tell.