During the past few days the situation in Iraq has largely taken a back seat to the US Attorney firings in the news. While under-reported of late, the situation in the middle-east is as troublesome as ever. The House and Senate both passed emergency funding measures that include time-lines for withdrawing US combat forces from Iraq, which President Bush has pledged to veto. Iran and Britain are engaged in an increasingly tense standoff over the Iranian seizure and detention of 15 British Sailors and Marines. On Thursday Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah denounced the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq while speaking at a gathering of the Arab League.
When asked about the King's comments White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino said "It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq." Merriam-Webster defines 'occupy' as "to take or hold possession or control of " and 'occupation' as "the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force." It is farcical to argue that the presence of American forces in Iraq does not amount to an occupation of that nation, even if the level of control exercised is less than the war's architects desire.
To her credit the reporter inquiring of Ms. Perino was not satisfied, the entire exchange went as follows:
Ms. Perino was also at least partly wrong when she said "When it comes to the coalition forces being in Iraq, we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and at the invitation of the Iraqi people." According to a recent poll taken by D3 Systems for BBC, ABC News, ARD German TV, and USA Today the majority of Iraqi people do not support the occupation of their country. 78% percent of Iraqi's either strongly (46%) or somewhat (32%) opposed "the presence of coalition forces in Iraq."
Q I have two questions on the Middle East. Has the President been in touch
with King Abdullah on his critical comments that we're wrong to be in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm -- no. The President only spoke to President Roh
this morning, of South Korea. There have been no other calls that I know of.
Let me just remind you of something I said this morning, which is the United
States and Saudi Arabia cooperate on a wide number of issues. It is not accurate
to say that the United States is occupying Iraq. We are there under --
Q It is not right to say we're occupying Iraq --
MS. PERINO: That's right.
Q -- with 150,000 troops there?
MS. PERINO: Helen, we are there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq that was democratically elected --
Q Did we invade that country?
MS. PERINO: We were there under the U.N. Security Council resolution, and we are there now at the -- I think one of the things to point out -- and I think somebody brought up the Talabani comments this morning -- is that he was talking about the initial when we -- initially when we went in, of establishing a coalition provisional authority, rather than an Iraqi provisional authority. And we were there --
Q Did we have a right to go in?
MS. PERINO: We were there under a U.N. mandate, yes.
While the legitimacy of the US led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq can be debated, Ms. Perino is clearly wrong in her assertion that the US is not occupying Iraq and is grossly inaccurate in her indications that the Iraqi people have invited American forces into Iraq.