While Tony Blair clung to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as the justification for war on Iraq, the US administration tended to hold more with the argument that the war was about removing Saddam Hussein and delivering democracy to the people of Iraq.
As the occupation continues, both arguments are being resoundingly stripped of any credibility.
David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group charged with finding the WMDs, resigned last month, saying he didn't believe there had been any WMDs stockpiled since the 1991 Gulf War. His replacement, Charles Duelfer, a former UN weapons inspector, has previously gone on record saying he did not believe weapons would be found. Even Colin Powell - who last February categorically informed the UN Security Council that 'We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his WMDs; he's determined to make more' - has now admitted it is an 'open question' whether WMDs will ever materialise. US corporation Halliburton has to date spent $40 million on this wild goose chase - enough to support 6,600 Iraqi families for a year at $500 per month.
Meanwhile, 60 to 70 percent of Iraqis are unemployed, rebuilding and renovation supposed to have been carried out by profiteers Halliburton and Bechtel has been shoddy or delayed, and Baghdad frequently goes without power for up to ten hours a day. Iraqis feel their country has been looted - a chant popular with kids is 'George Bush Ali Baba!'. As the resistance to the occupation goes on, the occupiers and corporations cite 'security issues' as the reason for delay. Here we find another source of profit: British security company Group 4 is offering two 24-hour security guards for any building for $6,106 per month - of which just 10 percent is the Iraqi employees' salaries.
So what of democracy? Paul Bremer insists that there is 'not enough time' to organise free elections in time for the (arbitrarily set by the US) deadline of 30 June. His plan is instead to appoint 'organising committees' of the great and the good in each of Iraq's 18 provinces, who will then appoint 'caucuses', who in turn will elect representatives to a transitional assembly, which will take over from the Coalition Provisional Assembly. 'Free elections' will have to wait until the end of 2005. As Naomi Klein points out, going from George W Bush down, this amounts to rule by appointee's appointee's appointees' appointees' appointees' selectees.
The people of Iraq do not accept Bremer's logic. Shia leader Ayatollah Al Sistani has told his supporters to 'talk to the Americans, but end every conversation by asking when the Americans are going to leave'. Sabah Al Qaisi of the Sunni Council said in the Guardian, 'We want real, free and decent elections. Elections under occupation are not the correct way to do it. We want the Americans to leave and then we will hold elections.' The end of January saw the biggest demonstration since the end of the war, with 100,000 Iraqis marching for democracy.
Bush's dream of being able to claim the US is pulling out of Iraq in the run-up to the presidential election may yet crumble. The battle for real democracy may yet be won on the streets.