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Loophole No. 17 in Iraq 

George W fanaticizes that he's the George Washington of Iraq, a great military leader who mounted his mighty white steed and brought democracy to the people there.

Well, the Iraqis recently got a sense of just how limited George the Great's democracy is. When some heavily armed paramilitary agents working for the private military contractor, Blackwater, went on a Rambo-style shooting spree that left 11 innocent civilians dead in Baghdad, the people and their elected officials were furious that trigger-happy corporate mercenaries feel free to gun people down. Iraq's prime minister promptly ordered Blackwater and its privatized troops out of the country.

That's when Bush-the-Democracy-Bringer reminded the sovereign leaders of Iraq that ... well ... um ... uh ... the Iraqi government has no authority over the military contractors that are loose on their land. Specifically, Order No. 17, issued in 2004 by the American occupying authority, gives Blackwater, Dyncorp, Triple Canopy and other corporate forces immunity from Iraqi laws. Nor are they subject to U.S. military law.

Imagine how George Washington and other leaders of the new American government would have felt in 1791 if they learned that the Continental Congress had quietly issued an order exempting the British East India Company from U.S. laws. If corporations are immune from the people's authority, a country has neither a democracy nor sovereignty.

Still, the people of Iraq should be grateful to George the Great. While he stiffed their democratic authority by decreeing that Blackwater must remain there, he did magnanimously allow the appointment of a 16-member, joint U.S.-Iraqi commission to investigate Blackwater's killing of the civilians.

Of course, commissions are where truth is taken to be strangled. And we've seen from our own 9-11 commission and the report of Iraq Study Group how much respect Bush & Co. has for the findings of such commissions.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale now from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower. com.

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