Iraq: 2006 should be worse than the last 3 years for the occupation forces


The coming 20 March marks the third anniversary of the commencement of the Anglo-American imperialist predatory war against the people of Iraq. Before the end of April, the aggressors had captured Baghdad and illegally overthrown the regime of the elected Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein. George W Bush, against the backdrop of a banner reading ‘Mission Accomplished’, landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, little realising that the real war between the Iraqi people and the imperialist armies of occupation had only just begun. For 94% of the more than 18,000 US soldiers killed or injured in Iraq have been killed or injured since the fall of Baghdad on 9 April, 2003. The installation of a colonial regime by the occupation forces galvanised Iraqi resistance. Within weeks the American military were being ambushed and the spectacle of young Iraqi men dancing in jubilation around blazing vehicles became a common occurrence. Very soon a formidable guerrilla war was in full swing, with the US army of occupation, and its bribed and coerced puppets, being unable to cope with the rising tide of resistance.

So far, the shock and awe with which this savage war of aggression (Operation Iraqi Freedom in US-imperialist speak) started has cost the imperialists waging the war very dearly indeed. Thus far, the US has spent approximately $210 billion, while Britain has spent £4 billion. Close to 2,400 troops of the imperialist coalition, nearly 2,200 American and 101 British, have been killed, while more than 16,000 American soldiers have been wounded. 66 journalists have so far been killed in Iraq, as compared to 63 during the entire course of the war in Vietnam. There are on average 90 attacks by the resistance on the occupation forces and their Iraqi puppets every day. 251 foreigners connected with the occupation regime have been kidnapped, with 5 foreign civilians being kidnapped each month. 183,000 US-led troops (162,000 American, 8,000 British and 13,000 from other countries) are still in action, unable to cope with, let alone overwhelm, the resistance. The roads to the capital are closed by the resistance while the occupation regime and its puppet government shudder in fear behind the concrete walls of the Green Zone. According to the Pentagon’s own latest statistics released on Sunday 22 January, the resistance launched 34,131 attacks in 2005 – an increase of 29 from the 26,496 that took place in 2004. Suicide car bombings climbed from 133 to 411, and individual suicide attacks from 7 to 67 during the same period. Paul Bremer, the former US Pro-Consul in Baghdad, admits in his biography – just published – that in the first year of occupation, there were more than 34,000 partisan attacks. Thus there is no let up in the intensity of the resistance to imperialist occupation.

As for the Iraqi side, the death and destruction wrought by the imperialist carnage have been staggeringly colossal. Close to 200,000 Iraqis, overwhelmingly civilians, have been butchered in a ceaseless succession of aerial and artillery bombardments. Dozens of cities and towns have been reduced to rubble (Fallujah being the most important example of imperialist savagery) and the cost of reconstruction is estimated by the World Bank at $35,819 million. 47% of Iraqis do not get sufficient electricity, and those Iraqis whose sewage system does not work account for 70% of the population. 40% of Iraqis are unemployed, with 8% of children suffering from acute malnutrition and a far higher percentage suffering ordinary malnutrition and hunger, while an inflation rate of well over 20% eats into the earnings of most of those in work (most of the figures above are based on The Independent of 30 January 2006 and the Pentagon’s end of year report).

The occupation regime and its quislings are thoroughly discredited and the lies on which the war was based have been completely exposed. Unable to find a single weapon of mass destruction (WMD), impotent in the face of resistance, the imperialist armies have practised torture on a massive scale at Abu Gharaib and dozens of other concentration camps within Iraq. They are busy attempting to incite a civil war on confessional lines, as revealed only too clearly by the 19 September 2005 incidents in Basra, in which British SAS soldiers were caught re-handed trying precisely to do that. Their actions have created fertile ground for the growth of fundamentalism in a country which had hitherto been a model of secularism in the Middle East. Corruption is rife and MNC’s (multi-national companies) are making a killing through war contracts, while Iraqis starve.

No wonder, then, that more than 80% of Iraqis are irreconcilably opposed to the presence of the imperialist armies of occupation in Iraq.

Far from enabling the US to achieve its goal – that of domination of the oil-rich Middle East and the region extending to Central Asia – the war has lowered US prestige to unprecedented levels and frustrated its foreign policy goals. The systematic torture practised by the US authorities at Guantánamo, as well as rendition – the practice of flying suspects around the world to a network of secret prisons there to be tortured and abused – has exposed the hollowness of US imperialism’s pretended concern for human rights. Dick Cheney went to extraordinary lengths to persuade Congress to grant the CIA an exemption from a Congressional prohibition on “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”. Not only did he fail but his very attempts prompted the question: would the CIA need an exemption if it did not routinely employ torture?

The furore over renditions and torture has undone all the careful diplomatic groundwork that the US was obliged to undertake in an endeavour to patch up the row with Europe on the question of the Iraq war. A senior European diplomat was quoted in the Financial Times as saying: “You don’t talk about torture in the morning and then say in the afternoon: ‘Democratise yourself'” (22 December 2005). The chasm separating the reality of the use of torture and secret prisons by the US and the rhetoric about spreading democracy in the Middle East lies glaringly exposed – serving to enlighten the masses in the US and elsewhere and arousing revulsion against US imperialism.

The exposure of renditions came hot on the heels of the revelation on 23 November that Bush had seriously considered bombing the Doha (Qatar) headquarters of the Arab satellite TV channel Al Jazeera, further revealing the hollowness of imperialist claims about freedom of speech and democratic liberties. The report in the British Daily Mirror was based on leaked minutes of a conversation between Bush and Blair on 16 April 2004. The US deliberately bombed the station’s Baghdad office in April 2003. All this in spite of the fact that Qatar was a major launch pad for the war in Iraq. The network was banned from operating in Baghdad with the apparent consent of the government of Qatar.

In addition, the exposure of the illegal wiretapping programme ordered by Bush without Congressional authorisation and bypassing the mechanism for judicial supervision for monitoring international calls by US citizens has triggered a firestorm in the US which threatens the renewal of significant sections of the Patriot Act. People of the US can easily see these encroachments on their right to privacy as the direct consequence of the filthy war being waged in their name by the ruling class in the US. A series of fake elections in Iraq may well have ended up by producing a puppet government dominated by the Shias of Iraq who might for the US be uncomfortably close to the regime in Iran. Seeing that Iraq was attacked – and the DPRK not attacked – because to the full knowledge of Anglo-American imperialism the former possessed no WMD while the latter did, other countries, notably Iran, could well decide to arm themselves with nuclear weapons as the only insurance policy against an imperialist attack – thus triggering a new nuclear arms race and putting paid to imperialist efforts to deny their intended victims the means of defence. US imperialism today has become the latest target of people’s wrath everywhere, with the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe surging consequent upon the war in Iraq and the savagery and wholesale destruction attendant upon it.

No wonder then that the US administration has become so unpopular even within the US, and that George Bush’s approval ratings have plummeted to a derisory 37%.

Dwindling oil production

Oil production, on which the aggressors had pinned their hopes, is lower today than at any time since the invasion – and less than half of production levels before the invasion. As compared with daily production of 3.5 million barrels prior to the war, Iraq produces no more than 2 mbd at present. During some months, thanks to the attacks by the resistance, production levels plummet to as low as 1.23 mbd, as happened in November 2005. Correspondingly, oil exports are rarely above 1.6 mbd and in November and December last year, Iraqi crude exports fell to 1.2 mbd and 1.1 mbd respectively. The crisis was exacerbated by the closure of the Bayji refinery in northern Iraq as a result of a walkout of tanker drivers after they received death threats, and anger at a 6-fold increase in the price of petrol at the forecourts directly as a result of the withdrawal of subsidies dictated by the IMF.

After 10 days of closures, the Bayji refinery opened on 2 January. 3 weeks later (24 January) a bomb explosion shattered the pipeline linking the oil fields in northern Iraq to the terminal in Turkey. Such is the shortage of petrol that drivers have either to buy petrol on the black market at astronomical prices or wait up to 7 hours in horrendous queues at filling stations. A country as rich in petroleum as Iraq is being forced to import fuel from abroad!

While the Iraqi people suffer daily shortages of petrol, electricity and practically every other item of necessity, away from the public gaze negotiations are being conducted between the oil giants of the US and Britain, backed by their governments, and the puppet authority in Baghdad, for the theft of the century through the grabbing by the former of oil exploitation agreements at bargain basement prices. Iraq’s oil reserves of 112.5 bn barrels could reach 300 bn barrels – exceeding that of Saudi Arabia – through further exploitation

Crude Designs

Crude Designs, a report compiled y War on Want, New Economic Foundation (NEF) and Platform, and published by them on 21 November 2005, says that Iraq stood to lose as much as $194 bn (€166 bn, £112 bn) and risked falling into an “old colonial trap” if it accepted the production-sharing agreements (PSA) that were being sought by the oil monopolies. The new Iraqi Constitution, written by the occupiers, opened the way for greater foreign investment. In parallel with the sham elections, “negotiations” with the oil companies have been under way and legislation is expected to be passed by the new puppet assembly to ease the entry of the world’s four oil giants – Exxon, BP, Chevron and Shell – back into Iraq after being kicked out following the 1972 nationalisation.

Basing itself on its analysis of PSA’s in 7 countries, the report says that the oil multinationals are seeking rates of return on their investment from 42-162%, way in excess of the typical 12%. Andrew Simms, the NEF’s policy director, said:

“Over the last century, Britain and the US left a global trail of conflict, social upheaval and environmental damage as they sought to capture and control a disproportionate share of the world’s oil reserves. Now it seems they are determined to increase their ecological debts at Iraq’s expense. Instead of a new beginning, Iraq is caught in a very old colonial trap”.

And Louise Richards, chief executive of War on Want, hit the nail on the head by adding:

“People have increasingly come to realise that the Iraq war was about oil, profits and plunder. Despite claims from politicians that this is a conspiracy theory, our report gives detailed evidence to show Iraq’s oil profits are well within the sights of the oil multinationals”.

That the war was for oil and domination was always clear to us from the analysis of imperialism and its foreign policy. What is more, on the eve of the Iraq war, the British foreign secretary, in a moment of rare candour for an imperialist politician, made it perfectly clear that at the end of the war, France and Germany, two of the opponents of the war, would not be allowed to “get their snouts in the trough”. These six words, cutting through the diplomatic guff and the hypocritical cant about restoring democracy in Iraq or eliminating the danger presented by Iraq’s non-existent WMD, contain greater truth, and sum up the essence of imperialist economics and politics better than dozens of books by bourgeois professors of international law, and thousands of articles by the “shameless flak-jacketed, cliché-crunching camp followers known as ‘embeds'”, to use John Pilger’s apt description of ‘our’ mercenary journalist fraternity.

A country of Iraq’s natural wealth ought to have no difficulty borrowing the $4 or 5 billion it needs to upgrade its oil production and to conduct exploration. It does not need to enter into PSA’s, which would simply hand over control over scores of oil fields, such as the huge Majnoon sector, to the giant imperialist oil sharks. Alternatively, Iraq could offer more restrictive contracts to oil companies, using as a benchmark the contracts recently concluded by Libya. The Libyan government secured 80-90% share of the revenues through their PSA’s – well above the industry average. It is, however, clear that the puppet government likely to be formed soon in Iraq will have little option but to go along with the imperialist demands. Its twin functions will be to grant permanent military facilities to US imperialism and hand over Iraq’s fabulous oil wealth to the oil giants from the US and Britain. Only the success of the Iraqi resistance can frustrate these evil designs.

Show trial

The show trial of President Saddam Hussein, whose summary conviction, followed by prompt execution, was supposed to provide a belated legitimacy to Anglo-American imperialism’s illegal predatory war for oil and domination, is in a shambles. Charged with torture and murder that allegedly took place after a failed attempt on his life in 1982, Saddam has acquitted himself with integrity, courage and dignity. Using the court room to accuse his accusers, the imperialist tormentors of the Iraqi people, he has turned the tables on the kangaroo court and its organisers. On 5 December 2005, he told the chief judge that he (Saddam) well understood the pressures brought to bear on him (the Judge) by the latter’s imperialist masters: “I am not afraid of execution,” he declared. “I realise there is pressure on you. But I’m not doing it for myself. I am doing it for Iraq. I am not defending myself. But I am defending you”.

Saddam Hussein is in no doubt about the outcome of this travesty of a trial and has told his legal defence team that he would prefer to face a firing squad than be strung up when the time comes. “I don’t value life that much. Every human being has his time to go”, he said, adding “Of course I am not guilty but I know they want me dead. Threatening me with death doesn’t mean anything… The life of any one Iraqi is no less valuable than mine”. Speaking proudly of the resistance which, he said, had stopped dead in its tracks America’s “New World Order”, he went on: “They tried in Iraq and failed badly. By standing against [Bush] we are protecting other countries and regions of the world. Now the US will think a thousand times before daring to attack another country”. He ended by saying that “the Americans with their allies will fly out of Iraq very soon, and their puppets will leave even before the Americans.”

If Saddam’s appearance in court was meant to distract attention from resistance to occupation, it did not. On 4 December the resistance attacked the puppet Interior Ministry with mortars, and on 6 December 2 female suicide bombers reduced a police academy to rubble, in the process killing and wounding dozens of puppet cadets. The resistance has returned to Fallujah in force and in the first week of December it killed 10 US Marines and wounded 11 in a bomb attack on the outskirts of the city.

During his 21 December 2005 appearance before the imperialist tribunal, Saddam exposed the torture and beatings that the US soldiers had inflected on him. The US authorities, through the puppet government, accused chief judge Rizgar Amin of being too lenient with Saddam and his fellow accused. Being unable to bear the pressure brought to bear upon him, the judge resigned on 15 January 2006. A week later, on 23 January, Amin’s successor as chief judge, Sayeed al-Hammashi was forced to step down amid accusations from the puppet government that he had belonged to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. On the same day, he was replaced by Raouf Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd from Hilabja, and therefore with a particular grudge against Saddam Hussein. This somehow does not affect his impartiality in the eyes of his prosecutors.

When resumed on 29 January, the trial disintegrated into total chaos when Saddam Hussein and his defence team stormed out in protest at the removal of Barzan Ibrahim al-Takriti, a co-accused and former intelligence chief and half-brother of Saddam for asserting that the court was nothing but “the daughter of the whore”. Standing up in solidarity, Saddam shouted “Down with traitors” and “down with America”.

The judge then expelled one of the defence lawyers, Salih al-Armouti, a Jordanian, for allegedly inciting his clients. It was at this point that the accused and their entire legal team walked out, insisting that they will boycott proceedings in the future unless the judge apologised.

During the short-lived proceedings, judge Abdul-Rahman repeatedly clashed with Saddam Hussein. At one point when President Hussein said he wanted to leave the court, the judge shouted: “You do not leave. I allow you to leave when I want to”, to which Saddam replied “I was the president of your country for 35 years”. The judge said: “I am the judge and you are the defendant”, as two guards attempted to push President Hussein back into his chair. At his point, the judge felt obliged to change his mind, and instructed the guards to let Saddam Hussein leave, with the latter saying: “It is a tragedy. I led you for 35 years. How can you lead me out of court?”

In view of the chaotic proceedings, the pandemonium at the trial, the frequent replacement of the chief judge and the bias harboured by the present incumbent against the accused, the disregard of all procedural rules and standards of proof, the political interference by the US and the Iraqi puppet government in the conduct of the tribunal proceedings, and the violence surrounding the trial, whereby 7 people associated with it, including 2 defence lawyers, have been murdered, the proceedings have lost all credibility. The charges against the accused are political and designed to confer legitimacy on that which cannot be legitimised, namely, the predatory Anglo-American imperialist war against Iraq. As such, they should be dropped forthwith and the accused freed. This is a demand that the anti-war movement is duty bound to make.

Fake election

On 15 December, the occupation forces staged yet another election fraud. The US finds no dichotomy in its insistence, on the one hand, that free and fair elections could not be held in the Lebanon while 13,000 Syrian troops were deployed there while, on the other hand, going through the charade of elections in Iraq under the shadow of the guns of the 183,000-strong army of occupation. Not unexpectedly, the reactionary clerical-sponsored United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) and their allies in the Kurdish bloc of imperialist stooges, ‘won’ the vote – amid allegations of massive fraud and intimidation.

Two days before this election (13 December 2005), a lorry stuffed with hundreds of thousands of fake ballots was searched as it crossed the border from Iran. All the ballots had been marked in support of the UIA. Members of the Iraqi puppet army and prisoners were allowed to vote 3 days in advance of the polling date in booths established in barracks, jails and hospitals, providing yet another opportunity for ballot-box stuffing.

According to the results published by the so-called Independent Elections Commission, the UIA won 44% of the vote, while the Iraqi National List of the former puppet prime minister secured 8% and Sunni groups received 15-20%. Of the 128 seats won by the UIA to the 275-seat puppet parliament, 30 belong to the nationalist faction of the radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, who had, before joining the UIA electoral bloc, obliged its members to sign a platform insisting on a united Iraq and the expulsion of the occupation forces. The IEC announced that the UIA had received 58% of the vote in Baghdad and 75-85% in many of the governates in the south, while the Consensus Front (Sunni-led) secured 19% and Allawi’s list 14%.

No sooner had the results been published than tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in protest against the results, which were clearly a product of fraud on a gigantic scale. Even Allawi’s list complained bitterly about the irregularities, fraud, intimidation, storming of the polling stations by UIA supporters, who in many cases turned away voters not likely to vote for the UIA, and many other wrong practices which accompanied the election. More than 1,300 complaints have been lodged with the IEC by the aggrieved parties.

The resistance, meanwhile, treating the election farce as a distraction and devilish plan to undermine the national liberation movement of the Iraqi people, intensified its attacks on the occupation regime and its puppets – in the run up to the election as well as in the weeks following it. On Sunday 11 December 2005, units of the resistance stormed an American supply train carrying arms and provisions from Baghdad to cities in the west of Iraq. In the half-hour battle, 5 wagons were totally gutted and a minimum of 15 US troops killed. The following day, in a series of attacks, the resistance temporarily seized control of 3 districts of Baghdad. In a display of classic guerrilla tactics, the resistance lured the Americans into big battles, at a time and place of their own choosing, inflicting heavy losses on the aggressor troops and their puppets, and then melting away, leaving the imperialist soldiery frustrated and demoralised. In the first week of January, the resistance unleashed 420 attacks. Several of these attacks were on targets in the centre of Baghdad. The Turkish ambassador received wounds as the car in which he was travelling on his way to the airport was attacked and a jail was stormed by the resistance in an effort to free nationalist prisoners.

More than 2 months have elapsed since these fake elections were held, yet the US has been unable to form a new government. It is clear that behind the scenes, the despicable collection of imperialist flunkeys, traitors and collaborators, are having a field day fighting over the division of the spoils, while other groups are boycotting the puppet parliament until their complaints are addressed. This unenviable situation has obliged the US to release a number of political prisoners by way of a conciliatory gesture. Those released include Abdel Jabar al Kubaysi, the leader of the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance and two female scientists characterised in the imperialist media as “Mrs Anthrax” and “Dr Death”.

Opposition to war

The opposition to the war continues to grow in the US, paralysing the US administration. Although there are 3 years to go before he steps down, Bush has already become a lame duck president. His administration has become the target of attacks by leading establishment figures, both Democrat and Republican, and disillusionment among the masses continues to spread at an ever-increasing pace. While Bush repeats the mantra that he won’t cut and run and that America will stay the course, it is most unlikely that he can withstand the erosion of his authority.

The war in Iraq, and increasingly in Afghanistan, is going badly. Congressman John Murtha, hitherto a supporter of the war, has called for troops to be out of Iraq within 6 months, while Congress has demanded quarterly progress reports. Senator McCain, while supporting the war, describes the situation in Iraq as “hell on wheels”. Former Senator Gary Hart, writing in the Financial Times of 4 January 2006, says that “the neo-con Houdinis” underpinning the Bush administration, “who gave us Vietnam-in-the-desert” are desperate men and have not yet run out of tricks; that they answer every question concerning the war or the construction of permanent US basis in Iraq with “evasion and purposeful confusion”. These are the colourful terms in which Gary Hart paints this administration of liars, crooks and criminal mercenaries of US imperialism:

“The art of deception does not require outright lies. It may simply lie in refusing to reveal the truth, the art of the trick. Given all the purposeful obfuscation, deception and card-shuffling that went on during the run up to the Iraq war, and the shuck-and-live since things turned ugly, does anyone seriously believe the neoconservative magicians are out of tricks?”

Karl Rove, Bush’s rainmaker until recently, is battling to avoid indictment alongside Lewis Libby. Vice President Dick Cheney is increasingly vulnerable to the special prosecutor’s investigations into the Valerie Plame affair. “You know”, observed Philip Stephens correctly, “things are bad when Rumsfeld resorts to the desperate tactic of blaming the debate in Washington for undermining the fight against the insurgency [in Iraq]” (Financial Times, 25 Nov 2005).

On top of the Iraq mess, the Bush coterie is up to its neck in sleaze. Tom Delay has been indicted and forced to stand aside as Republican leader in the House. And, the impending revelations by Jack Abramoff – Casino Jack – are threatening to claim many scalps and expose a culture of corruption at the heart of Washington. Many lawmakers, aides and officials up the political food chain are threatened with nightmarish exposures as indeed is the nexus between government and big business. A leading article in the Financial Times correctly likened this scandal to that of Enron: “This is for the US politics what the collapse of Enron was for US business: a moment when the slow [!] advance of unacceptable practices is laid bare before the public” (7 January 2006). Doubtless these exposures will help to enlighten the American public about the reality of their republic which, despite the rhetoric about democracy and government of, by and for the people, is run by a closely-knit mafia of finance capital and robber barons of imperialism. Most of the time this reality is hidden from the public eye, but forced into the open from time to time through division within the ruling class consequent upon crises brought about by uncontrollable events. The war in Iraq is decidedly one such uncontrollable event and has acted as a catalyst in bringing into the open and broad daylight the true face of capitalism.

In the middle of January, retired Brigadier General Andrew Gatsis, a much-decorated veteran of the US-imperialist wars in Korea and Vietnam, told the New American:

“We never should have gone in there in the first place since we weren’t immediately threatened.

“There were no weapons of mass destruction; Saddam Hussein’s regime had no connection to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and wasn’t responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre; and …

“All the reasons given by the administration to justify this war have been shown to be false.”

He went on: “We invaded a country that posed no threat to us. What’s different about what we have done in Iraq and what Hitler did when he sent his forces into Czechoslovakia in 1939?

“This war in Iraq has already cost the lives of 2,200 Americans, wounded over 15,000 more and left at least 30,000 Iraqis dead, most of whom were non-combatants caught in cross-fire … And look at the billions of dollars being poured into this flawed effort. It saddens me to see all of this happen to our troops, and all for an unjust cause.”

Such is the popular disquiet in the US about the Iraq war that it has unleashed an isolationist backlash among the population, with 42% of American saying that the country should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own” (quotation from the latest poll, released on 17 November 2005, conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations and reported in the Financial Times of 18 November). These finding are worrying for an administration trying to persuade the American public to support the war in the face of fierce Iraqi resistance. US imperialism had hoped, at the time of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, for a quick victory that would wipe out public fears, generated by the outcome of the war in Vietnam, over US military involvement abroad. Instead, the war in Iraq has had the opposite effect of pushing public opinion, among the American people and vast layers of the elite sections of society, in the direction of isolationism. Nearly two-thirds of opinion leaders in science, engineering, foreign affairs, academia and the news media believe that the US enterprise in Iraq will fail.

In Britain too, the war continues to attract new powerful critics, the latest one being Sir Michael Rose, former SAS Commander, who headed the so-called UN forces in Bosnia in 1994. At the beginning of January, he called for the impeachment of Tony Blair over the Iraq war. In the course of a press interview he said:

“The impeachment of Mr Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle interest in the democratic process in this country once again.”

Stressing the necessity of unity between the government of the country and its army behind a common cause, as an essential pre-requisite for victory in a war, and accepting that the army must be subordinate to the government, General Rose stated that “they have a duty to point out when political strategies are flawed or inadequately resourced”. He added that before asking the soldiers to sacrifice their lives, they must be assured that “the war is just, legal and the last resort available”. Tony Blair, said General Rose, had failed to provide convincing justification for the war for “the intelligence he presented was always embarrassingly patchy and inconsistent.”

Britain, he said, “had been led into war on false premises … a war that was to unleash untold suffering on the Iraqi people” … and that Blair ought not to be allowed “to walk away” from his crime.

In view of Blair’s war crimes, as well as his attacks on the working class at home, it is nothing short of grotesque that the East West Institute, the foreign affairs think tank based in New York and Brussels, recently named Tony Blair statesman of the decade because of his “value-based leadership in international affairs, particularly in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on poverty and destitution in Africa”. If anyone entertains any doubt as to the imperialist credentials of this Institute, let him be reminded that the award to Blair was supported by G W Bush, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

The pretence of a coalition fighting in Iraq is crumbling with each passing day as country after country announces their decision to pull their soldiers from the quagmire that is Iraq. Of the £13.3 billion promised by a number of countries to facilitate reconstruction in Iraq, a mere $436 million in loans and grants has materialised thus far.

Although there are 30,000 US civilian contractors in Iraq, the reconstruction work is hampered by corruption and security problems. Upwards of 25% of the project costs are absorbed by security alone, which is not surprising considering that 60 separate private security companies operate in Iraq employing 15,000 security personnel armed to the teeth and involved in routine abuse of Iraqi prisoners and civilians alike. These companies have been the lynchpin of the occupation.

Although nominally Iraq’s puppet army and police number 217,000, they have neither the training nor the willingness to engage in the fighting against the forces resisting occupation. Most of them have enlisted simply to get paid and desert at the slightest whiff of gunpowder – thus thwarting Anglo-American imperialism’s efforts at Iraqising the war. Whichever way it turns, in whichever direction it looks, Anglo-American imperialism finds itself in an impossible position – waging an unjust and unwinnable war, from which it can extricate itself through an orderly withdrawal or be forced into a devastatingly humiliating retreat. “The only hope for a solution is negotiations with insurgents”, says Tony Dodge, a London-based expert on Iraq, adding that “once an insurgency gets under way, there can never be a military solution: there has to be a negotiated settlement” (Financial Times, 15 December 2005).

If a recent report in the New York Times is to be believed, the US is holding talks with local as well as national leaders. This report comes at the same time as the recent release of some important political prisoners. The problem for the US, however, is that the resistance will not sit down to serious talks unless the occupying powers make an official commitment to withdraw their forces from Iraq within a short period. As Anglo-American imperialism is not yet ready to admit defeat, the war is set to continue, with 2006 likely to prove even more disastrous than 2005 for the perpetrators of this criminal and predatory war.