Rewiring a State

The Techno-Politics of Electricity in the CPA's Iraq

by Nida Alahmad
published in MER266

The Coalition Provisional Authority, the US-British body that briefly ruled in Baghdad from May 2003 to June 2004, had grand ambitions for Iraq. The idea was to transform the country completely from what was basically a command economy (notwithstanding liberalization measures in the 1990s) into an open market and from a dictatorship into a liberal democracy. The radical nature of these plans and orders, coupled with the CPA’s swift dissolution, has led many to dismiss the body as a hasty and ill-conceived imperial experiment. Indeed it was -- and a destructive one as well. But the CPA period still deserves serious examination. It was the only time when the US, in its capacity as occupier, was in charge of Iraq administratively and legally.

Iraq: What Remains

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER266

American soldiers are gone from Iraq, along with much of Washington’s influence. The Obama administration, which came to office opposed to the entire enterprise but then tried, and failed, to extend the troop presence, professes still to play a leading part in what goes on. In reality, it looks more like a bemused bystander who hopes that, somehow, things will not abruptly fall to pieces.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER266

“The Iraq war is largely about oil,” wrote Alan Greenspan in his memoir The Age of Turbulence (2007). “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows.” It may indeed be self-evident that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, as the former Federal Reserve chairman says, because of oil. But what does this proposition mean? The answer is not so obvious.

In Between, Fragmented and Disoriented

Art Making in Iraq

by Nada Shabout
published in MER263

It is argued that the celebrated Arab protest movements have changed the path of visual arts in the region. Headlines predict that art inspired by the uprisings will be freer and more critical. Artists have partaken in the displays of mass dissent, demonstrating in the streets and protesting further through their work. Inflated claims notwithstanding, and despite unfulfilled hopes, the protests have indeed directed welcome attention to art scenes in Arab cities. Change, many still hope, is finally possible.

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A Year After Tahrir

by Chris Toensing | published January 30, 2012

Of "Instructors" and Interests in Iraq

by Reidar Visser | published August 22, 2011

The Obama administration repeatedly declares that it is “on track” to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, in keeping with candidate Barack Obama’s signature promise to “end the war in Iraq.” But, even as the White House avows this intention, policymakers in Washington repeatedly express their hope that the Iraqi government will ask some US troops, perhaps 10,000 or more, to stay past December. In an ideal world, US strategists would like the Iraqis to decide to extend the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in late 2008, which provides legal cover for the US military presence in post-invasion Iraq. A series of summertime developments in Iraq have now made it clear that no such straightforward extension is forthcoming.


Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

"Free People Will Set the Course of History"

Intellectuals, Democracy and American Empire

by Robert Blecher | published March 2003

As the Bush administration struggled to find a justification for launching an attack on Iraq, churning out sketchy intelligence reports about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and links with al-Qaeda, Washington wordsmiths produced their own grist for the war mill: the prospect of a democratic pax americana in the Middle East. The importance of the pundits’ contribution to the war machine should not be underestimated. As the task of swaying public opinion grew more difficult, rhetoric around freedom and democracy has become ever more central. In the weeks after September 11, 2001, George W. Bush did not talk of remaking the Middle East.


Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

The Peace Movement Plans for the Future

by Mark LeVine | published July 2003

As the Bush administration struggles with occupying Iraq, the anti-war movement is in the midst of intense self-evaluation. For all of the movement’s success in raising doubts about and opposition to the March 2003 invasion, as of July George W. Bush’s war is still popular among Americans. The war caused thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and Iraqis may be dying for years to come due to widespread use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions. While some local Kurdish and Shi‘i leaders have cautiously decided to work with the occupation regime, the inability of US forces to restore law, order or public services, along with the imperial style of US viceroy L. Paul Bremer, have led to increasing opposition to the occupation among ordinary Iraqis. Yet sentiment among Americans, amidst concerns over post-war casualties and the missing weapons of mass destruction, still supports (albeit cautiously) the invasion and occupation of Iraq.


Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Torture and the Future

by Lisa Hajjar | published May 2004

There is a popular belief that Western history constitutes a progressive move from more to less torture. Iron maidens and racks are now museum exhibits, crucifixions are sectarian iconography and scientific experimentation on twins is History Channel infotainment. This narrative of progress deftly blends ideas about “time,” “place” and “culture.” In the popular imagination, “civilized societies” (a.k.a. “us”) do not rely on torture, whereas those societies where torture is still common remain “uncivilized,” torture being both a proof and a problem of their enduring “backwardness.”

Washington's Physics Problem in Iraq

by Chris Toensing | published July 12, 2011

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, says its chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a “physics problem.”

According to a 2008 accord between the United States and Iraq, the US military is to be evacuated from Mesopotamia -- down to the last tank mechanic and dishwasher -- by the close of the calendar year. Lately, there have been hints that Iraq might want a “residual force” of as many as 12,000 troops to stay, but nothing firm.

Hence Mullen’s dilemma: How does the Pentagon plan for withdrawing its personnel and equipment when it doesn’t know for sure how many soldiers will be leaving? There are only so many C-130s to load and so much time in which to load them.