IRAQ: Transfer of Sovereignty- occupation under another name
On 28 June, at 10.26 in the morning, the much-heralded ‘transfer of sovereignty’ to the Iraqi people took place during a scantily-attended five-minute ceremony in a dreary room in the office of Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the ‘new’ interim government. Fearful that the Iraqi resistance might spoil the party through an uninvited intrusion, the date for the nominal transfer had been advanced by two days, and the secret ceremony, out of sight behind the high walls of the US compound in central Baghdad, was stripped of all fanfare and unaccompanied by meticulously orchestrated wall-to-wall media coverage of the type which attended upon last year’s invasion and the quick military victory.
Nothing to celebrate
The reason for this lack of pomp, fanfare and media glitz is not difficult to see. There is absolutely nothing for the occupation forces to celebrate. The following facts are self-explanatory. Since the start of this predatory war in March last year, 1,000 aggressor troops and 2,500 Iraqi soldiers have been killed, together with 104 civilian contractors, 20 journalists and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Thus far, the US Treasury has spent £70 billion and the British taxpayers have forked out £6 billion. The occupation has practised wholesale torture and prisoner abuse (of which more later), arrested 50,000 Iraqis, of whom upwards of 6,000 are still rotting in the concentration camps set up by these modern-day crusaders and ‘liberators’ of the Iraqi people, in an effort to contain the national revolt of the Iraqi people against the occupation of their country.
And what is there to show for all this expenditure of treasure, armaments and soldiery? Iraq is in a state of total rebellion against the occupation regime, which the puppet interim government will never be able to govern. Writing in the aftermath of the humiliation of the US military in the battle of Fallujah, Philip Stephens wrote thus in the Financial Times of 7 May:
“The epiphany for Washington’s political class came in Falluja. The stand-off between American troops and insurgents was as brutal a demonstration as could be imagined of the limits of American power. All those hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the most formidable military machine ever assembled and the US could not overcome a few hundred fighters in an Iraqi town few had ever head of. Falluja shattered all illusions” (‘America’s unspoken desire to head for the exit’).
Mr Stephens goes on to say that the urge of the US to head for the exit is growing by the day. Hence the all-pervasive tack among American ruling circles to ‘redefine the mission’, for only “…by lowering its ambitions can the US salvage a modicum of pride.” But this is a delusion, says Mr Stephens, as the “…circumstances in which the US eventually leaves Iraq will determine its power and its role in the world for decades to come. Retreat now would leave America defined by Falluja and by Abu Ghraib prison” (ibid.).
In other words, if the US does not leave, it faces an unwinnable war; if it does, its power will be much diminished and it will be defined by Fallujah and by Abu Ghraib – an utterly humiliating and impossible prospect either way.
It is a measure of his detachment from reality that, after the handover to the puppet interim government, US President George W Bush, speaking from Istanbul where he was to attend the NATO summit, stated that the world had witnessed “the arrival of a free, sovereign Iraqi government” after “decades of brutal rule”. Can he have had Abu Ghraib in mind?
But even he, no matter how deranged, was unable to detect any military success. He therefore spoke of the occupations’ “moral victory” and a “great day of hope”.
As Paul Bremer, the outgoing pro-consul, handed over national sovereignty to the CIA and MI5 agent, Iyad Allawi, “without pomp and with only the most shabby of ceremonies” (to use the words of the Daily Mail of 29 June), Lt-General Ricardo Sanches, US commander in Iraq, was busy reiterating the lie issued by the US ministry of truth. Speaking from a cynical shop-worn script, and without the slightest conviction, he said “When you look at it, you can’t help but be proud of what we have achieved.”
Bremer, for his part, ensconced for 13 months in his heavily-protected bunker in the Green Zone of Baghdad, and thus suffering from extreme myopia, had at regular intervals reiterated that he had created a “stable, pluralistic, democratic Iraq at peace with itself”. The fact is that the situation today is far worse for US imperialism than when he arrived, with almost the entire population of Iraq up in arms against the US-led occupation. This is precisely the reason why he made such a hasty, unseemly and undignified backdoor exit from the five-minute ‘handover’ ceremony, wherafter he was rushed by helicopter to a heavily-guarded airport, where a plane, engines running, was on standby to whisk him out of the country as fast as possible. Bremer had left the country within two hours of the ceremony, which had been kept secret from even senior British soldiers and which, because of the ever-present danger from the resistance, allowed no time for pipes, drums, salutations and such other frivolities. In the words of the Daily Mail of 29 June, “The insurgents have been lobbing rockets and mortars into the Green Zone around Saddam’s old presidential palace on a daily basis and it would have torn a hole through the threadbare script if they had hit their target during any handover ceremony”.
Nor was it ever likely, as rumour would have it, that Bush was going to fly in for the ‘handover’, as he did for Thanksgiving last November to carve a turkey made out of rubber (no joke). The situation today is far too dangerous for another one of his tawdry PR stunts.
Unable to impose its will on the Iraqi people, the US, for reasons of legitimacy, had to ask for the help of the UN, which it had bypassed and treated with contempt not so long ago. It sought the help of the UN in determining the composition of the interim government, only to ignore it in the end. Lakhdar Brahimi, special UN envoy in Iraq, was not even informed by Bremer of the appointment of Allawi as prime minister until after the announcement, causing a weary Mr Brahimi to comment that “Mr Bremer is the dictator. He has the signature. Nothing happens without his signature in this country.”
Occupation under another name
Forget about the manner of constituting the interim government, let us look at the content – the substance – of the sovereignty allegedly transferred to the Iraqi people. 165,000 foreign occupying forces (140,000 US and 25,000 from other countries) will remain in occupation up to 2006 at least. The Iraqis will have no control over these forces. While the British prime minister, Tony Blair, says that the Iraqis would in principle have the final say over the military operations of the imperialist coalition, though the latter could not be ordered to do things it did not want, George W Bush says merely that US military tactics will henceforth be ‘flexible’.
In this regard it is instructive to note the answer given by Colin Powell to the following question he was asked during an interview with Reuters on 26 April:
“You have said that Iraqi sovereignty will be limited after June 30th … to the extent that Iraqi armed forces will be under US control, so you have unity of command. Why should Iraqis view their government as legitimate if its sovereignty is limited in any way, and if they don’t actually choose its members?”
His reply was no less than comical. Iraqis, he said, would receive full sovereignty, but they would have to return some of it to the US:
“I think we can make the case to the Iraqi people that they are getting full sovereignty; I hope that’ll be accompanied by a UN resolution that also makes that case. And I hope that they will understand that in order for this government to get up and running and to be effective, some of its sovereignty will have to be given back, if I can put it that way, or limited by them, an understanding by them that it is important to let the multi-national force be able to operate under its own command, the US command, with the coalition forces under US direction.”
Irrespective of the wishes of the new ‘government’, the Iraqi forces will be under UN (that is US) control. This much is written in the Transitional Law (Article 59(B)) signed last March by the outgoing US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which the interim ‘government’ will not be permitted to change.
Air and sea ports will remain under the control of the occupation. Management of the reconstruction of Iraq, devastated by this imperialist predatory war, will be transferred from the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) to the US embassy, with US multinationals as the biggest players. Functioning from the same compound as the CPA, it will be the largest US embassy ever, with a staff of 3,000, 4 regional hubs in Mosul, Kirkuk, Hilla and Basra, as well as 5 regional teams working with the military. It will oversee the spending of $18.4 billion (Euro15.2 billion, £10 billion) of funds via an Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.
John Negroponte, of Honduran death squad notoriety and architect of the arming off the Nicaraguan contras, has taken over as ambassador. With 165,000 troops armed to the teeth, he will be the new Bremer, except in name. And his embassy will for all practical purposes be the new CPA, with an Iraqi puppet face. Two hundred ‘foreign experts’ will be attached to the Iraqi ministries to ensure they keep to the limits prescribed by the occupation regime. Thus, under the fig leaf of the transfer of sovereignty, the real power will lie with the imperialist occupying powers. Under the velvet glove of ‘democracy’, the iron fist of occupation remains clenched and ready to strike.
This is particularly so in view of the fact that present-day Iraq has no credible security forces of its own. On paper, there are 9,000 policemen in Baghdad, in addition to another 30,000 on the payroll who either do not turn up for duty or never existed in the first place. In any case, most of them are untrained. An auxiliary force of 25,000, supposedly there to guard vital installations such as oil, bridges and roads, according to the Mail of 29 June “…look like members of the Boys’ Brigade on a day out, while regular soldiers are behaving like cowboys”. In view of this, the ‘handover’ of 28 June is “… nothing but a cheap political gesture of the most unscrupulous and mendacious kind” (ibid.).
As if all this were not enough, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) – effectively an interim constitution – adopted in March to provide a framework for the interim government, cannot be amended except by a three-quarters majority of the National Assembly (to be elected in January 2005) AND the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. Meanwhile all the laws, regulations, orders and directives emanating from the now supposedly defunct CPA are to continue to be in force. The CPA has been allegedly buried, but it continues to rule Iraq from its grave, or, to be more precise, from the outsized US embassy in Baghdad. Thus it is clear that the ‘handover’ is rather similar to the re-arranging of deck chairs on the Titanic, with Negroponte rather than Bremer ruling the roost in Iraq.
Under the ‘new’ dispensation, a National Conference is to meet in July to select 80 members of the Consultative Council – allegedly to guarantee a voice for more regions and movements ahead of the January 2005 elections, following which the transitional government takes power. By August 2005, the National Assembly is to complete the draft of a permanent constitution, on which there is to be a referendum in October 2005, followed by general elections in November and the installation of a permanent government in office in December 2005. This entire lengthy process has no purpose other than to divert attention from the occupation and to fool simple Simons, to keep the handful of puppets busy fighting each other for lucrative posts, while the real business is done in the US embassy and its orders enforced at gunpoint by the 165,000 armed thugs at its disposal.
Imperialist defeats in Fallujah and Najaf
At the time of the ‘handover, Iyad Allawi the head of the interim government, vowed to crush the guerrillas by military force, to create an anti-terrorism force, and to reorganise Iraq’s non-existent security forces. But the ferocity and frequency of the attacks by the resistance makes it all too clear that this puppet government will be powerless in the face of the rising tide of the national revolt of the Iraqi people. If the 165,000-strong imperialist armies of occupation – well-trained, well-armed and disciplined – have not been able to come to grips with the insurgency, how are the badly-trained, badly-armed Iraqi forces, lacking all discipline, to solve the security problem? This is particularly relevant in view of the US military’s admission that Iraqi security forces recruited by the occupation have either deserted or rebelled or, in the middle of major battles, simply gone over to the resistance.
In fact, the imperialist armies, faced with the wrath of the Iraqi people and the ferocity of the armed resistance, are having to back away from confrontation and cut deals with the same resistance they had vowed to crush and, into the bargain, seek the help of generals from the former Ba’ath regime. Finding by the end of April that, notwithstanding the loss of over 1,000 lives, the resistance was defiant, and stronger than ever, the US, on 29 April, made a deal with a former General of the Republican Guard to head a 1,100-strong Fallujah Brigade to control this city of 350,000. This Fallujah Brigade includes a large number of fighters against the US forces. In a significant climb-down, which was not lost on the resistance, the Pentagon quietly dropped its earlier demands that the insurgents disarm and hand over those responsible for killing four American contractors as a condition for a US pull-out from Fallujah.
A deal not very dissimilar from that cut in Fallujah has been made by the US forces in the city of Najaf, which had been in open revolt against the US-led occupation since 4 April, following the banning by the CPA of a paper belonging to Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shia cleric, at the end of March, followed by the arrest on 3 April of one of his close aides and the strafing on 4 April of Sadr City, a sprawling working-class district of Baghdad and the stronghold of Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi (Mahdi army). On 5 April, the CPA issued a warrant for the arrest of Sadr on murder charges, whereupon Sadr moved to Najaf, from where he defied the US and led a nationwide revolt, threatening to unleash suicide bombers if US soldiers dared enter the centre of Najaf.
After 6 weeks of heavy fighting, which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Iraqis and several dozen US soldiers, and unable to defeat the Mahdi army, Martin Dempsey, commanding general of the first armoured division, declared on 11 May that he had begun negotiations with ‘stakeholders’ – including members of Sadr’s militia – to form two battalions of 1,840 troops in Najaf, which Mr Sadr’s ‘lieutenants’, he said, could help to recruit. Quietly dropped was the earlier declared objective ‘to kill or capture’ Sadr. Under the agreement, concluded on 26 May, the US forces withdrew to bases on the outskirts of Najaf and nearby Kufa, where they had been involved in heavy fighting with Sadr’s Mahdi army. This agreement was the first to be signed by Sadr himself and sealed by his office. Hitherto, the US forces had refused to negotiate directly with him. Not only does this deal not insist on Sadr facing the occupation’s kangaroo justice for the killing of al-Khoi (an agent of American and British intelligence services), it does not even demand the dissolution of his militia.
The fighting in Fallujah and Najaf, and the US capitulation, have dealt serious blows to US prestige and its military might. The defeats suffered by the US in Fallujah, Najaf and Kufa have wider ramifications, pointing as they do to the eventual collapse of the Anglo-American predatory enterprise in Iraq and a humiliating exit, the very thought of which terrifies the statesmen and ideologues of imperialism.
“It is impossible,” writes Mr Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, “to exaggerate the dangers attendant upon a US failure in Iraq: Jihadis would conclude that they had now defeated a second superpower. Friendly regimes would be shaken, and US prestige would be destroyed. Iraq is not another Vietnam. It is far more dangerous than that.”
Instead of easy victory, and the resulting control of oil and domination of the entire Middle East, as US imperialism had hoped, the prospect is that of defeat and the fall of puppet regimes – not only in Iraq, but throughout the entire Gulf region.
The intensified resistance, combined with the truly fascistic conduct of the occupation forces as revealed in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and other concentration camps run by the aggressor armies, and the escalating costs – human material and financial – are hastening the defeat of the occupation regime.
At the beginning of May, the scandal of prisoner abuse in Iraq broke out with a vengeance. Horrifyingly revolting images of prisoner abuse were shown on television screens and lurid details published in newspapers about the killing and systematic torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere by the US and British forces of occupation – all in violation of the Geneva Convention which requires the humane treatment of prisoners of war as well as civilian detainees. This serious and systematic ill-treatment of detainees ranged from sleep ‘management’, sensory deprivation, forced adoption of “stress positions”, isolation for longer than 30 days, and exposing prisoners to heat, cold and sensory assault, to savage and severe beatings, threatening detainees with dogs and subjecting them to sodomy and rape.
The Financial Times of 8 May speaks of the “sickening depictions of a hooded prisoner, wired and perched on a box, and the naked bodies of prisoners, piled up like animals, all for the viewing pleasure of US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison”. Adds the Financial Times, “Throughout the Middle East, the sexual humiliation was played and replayed on television screens, presented as living proof of the decadence of US might and long-presumed American hypocrisy in the Middle East.”
Not only were young Iraqi boys and girls raped, sex was practised even on dead prisoners (acting inappropriately with dead bodies in official speak). By way of psychological torture and to offend the feelings of religiously devout prisoners, vice girls (hookers) hired by the military smeared menstrual blood across their faces in an unbearably humiliating experience for those on the receiving end. Copies of the Koran were wantonly kicked in a deliberate attempt by the soldiers to insult the religious feelings of their victims. While some soldiers were busy practising their sadistic pleasure, others were gleefully photographing the proceedings – a testament to the lurid frenzy of imperialism and its decadence.
Even the fascistic Mr Rumsfeld was forced, during his appearance before the armed services committee of the US Congress, to characterise the treatment of Iraqi detainees as “blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman”. Quite correctly, his opening statement was interrupted by hecklers who shouted “War criminal” at him.
Washington has tried to blame the murder and abuse of prisoners on rogue elements. “Americans don’t do this to other people”, asserted that hypocritical hyena, Condoleezza Rice. That this is not so is revealed by the US army’s own investigation which talks of the “systematic and illegal abuse of detainees” at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The practice of torture and abuse on such a vast scale needed the approval of senior Pentagon officials, in some cases by Defence Secretary Rumsfeld.
The internal report by General Antonio Teguba makes it perfectly clear that the purpose behind this systematic abuse was to prepare prisoners for interrogation by military intelligence (MI) and the US government agencies (the CIA), and that torture and abuse were carried out at the request of the MI. Major General Geoffrey Miller, who had been in charge of Guantanamo, was sent to Iraq by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the knowledge and support of the Pentagon, to examine “counter-terrorism interrogation and detention operations in Iraq” and “review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence”, being badly needed to counter the rising tide of resistance in Iraq. Miller had gone to Iraq to advise on how to ‘prepare’ detainees for interrogation and make them cough “actionable intelligence”. Naturally, having presided over the Nazi-style Guantanamo concentration camp, Miller had little difficulty in advising the authorities in Iraq to adopt similar practices to those prevalent in Guantanamo – that is, to “gitmo-ise” the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and throughout Iraq. This is frankly admitted by the Teguba report.
It is no point the US and British administrations feigning ignorance of the happenings in Abu Ghraib, Basra and other places. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated on 7 May that it had last year repeatedly drawn the attention of the US prison authorities to the systematic and serious ill-treatment of detainees and asked them to address this issue. According to the ICRC, this ill-treatment “went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered as a practice tolerated” by the occupying forces. The British government was forced to admit that it had been warned by the ICRC about prisoners in the charge of the British army as well. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Red Cross director of operations, stated at a press conference on 7 May that the abuses in Iraqi prisons were not “isolated acts by individual members of the coalition forces but amount to a pattern and a broad system.”
The ICRC report gives examples of several types of abuses, including, for instance, “acts of humiliation such as being made to stand naked … with women’s underwear over the head for prolonged periods, while being laughed at by guards, including female guards, and sometimes photographed in this position”.
It adds that these and other methods of physical and psychological coercion “were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information.”
In an attempt at damage limitation, Bush asserted that the prisoner abuse was “a stain over our country’s honour and reputation”, that the photos of abuse “do not reflect our values”. On the contrary, the torture and abuse by US imperialism of the victims of its wars of aggression is nothing new, as the people of Korea and Vietnam – tens of thousands of whose citizens were tortured and killed in the most horrific ways and who bore the full brunt of the values of American imperialism – will tell you. Writing in the Daily Mirror of 7 May, John Pilger gives the following sickening account of the pictures displayed in the offices of the major American newspapers and television companies in Saigon, which he visited in the 1960’s as a war correspondent:
“There were photographs of dismembered bodies, of soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles and of the actual moments of torture. There were men and women being beaten to death, and drowned, and humiliated in stomach-turning ways. On one photograph was a stick-on balloon over the torturer’s head, which said: ‘That’ll teach you to talk to the press’ “.
Pilger goes on to describe how children were burned to “a bubbling pulp” by napalm, farmers hunted in helicopter ‘turkey shoots’, suspects tortured to death with ropes around their necks, “dragged behind a jeep with doped and laughing American soldiers. Bizarrely, many US soldiers kept human parts in their wallets and special forces officers …. kept human skulls in their huts, inscribed with the words: one down, a million to go” (‘Torture is not new, but now it’s news’).
The massacre at the village of Mi Lai was just the tip of the iceberg.
The Daily Mirror, in its editorial of 7 May, speaks of the reputation of the British army – allegedly characterised by “discipline, self-control and humanity” – being dragged down by a few ‘renegades’, adding that there is “…. No place in our armed forces for brutes like that, as the country’s top soldier, Sir Michael Jackson, has said”.
Neither Sir Michael Jackson, nor the British army, are new to torture. The 300-year history of British colonialism and imperialism is filled with wholesale torture and massacres, as the people of India, Ireland, the West Indies, Iraq, Aden, Palestine, Kenya, etc. will easily be able to corroborate. In Kenya, where the British army killed 10,000 blacks for the loss of 32 European lives, where the torture, flogging and abuse of women was commonplace, the British ran special prisons which “were probably as bad as any similar Nazi or Japanese establishment” (V G Kiernan, The Imperial Historian).
Case for war thoroughly discredited
The above revelations have served thoroughly to discredit the Anglo-American imperialists’ case for war against Iraq and to expose their arguments for what they always were, namely, fabricated lies used as a pretext for launching an aggressive and predatory war against Iraq. In the words of the leading article in the Financial Times of 15 May, the “… greatest damage has been inflicted by the revelations over the killing, torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison. After the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the rationale for the invasion of Iraq had shifted to the restoration of human rights and the rule of law – an argument blown away by the horrifying treatment of the prisoners. The cold-blooded execution of an American contractor reinforced the impression of a spiral down into violent chaos.
“The accusations of mistreatment of prisoners by British troops added to that impression.”
The first so-called justification for war, that of the possession by Iraq of WMD, was proved to be a lie a long time ago. No WMD have been found in Iraq. All the assertions of the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made to UNSC in February 2003 have been proved to be a complete fabrication.
The second ‘justification’, that of freeing the Iraqi people from a dreadful tyranny, was only “wheeled on stage to distract the audience from the embarrassing absence of WMD” (Financial Times, 18 June 2004). After the vicious damage and loss of life suffered in Fallujah and Najaf, and the revelations of prisoner abuse, this ‘justification’ has been smashed to smithereens, clearly demonstrating that this war had nothing to do with WMD or the liberation of Iraqis, but was, on the contrary, an imperialist war for loot, spoliage, plunder and domination.
In the light of the happenings in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, it comes as no surprise that even according to a poll conducted by the CPA, 92% of Iraqis regard the US troops as occupiers, while a niggardly 2% perceive them as liberators (see the Financial Times of 18 June 2004).
Public support for the war is ebbing fast in the US and the UK, and anger is rising everywhere else. Bush is presiding over an administration in a tailspin over the affair of prison abuse. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq commands the approval of only 36% of the American people, according to a Zogby poll made pubic on 16 May. Faced with an increasing US body count and ghastly images of torture in Abu Ghraib, the US public has begun to have an inkling of the failure in Iraq, with the majority of the people polled thinking that it was not worth going to war against Iraq. Only 42% are of the view that Bush deserves re-election. Blair’s “grip on politics looks decidedly weaker”, says the Financial Times of 15 May, “and his alliance with Mr Bush on Iraq is the reason”.
Deadly blows by the resistance
Meanwhile, spurred on by the very occupation itself and the atrocities committed by the invaders, the resistance continues to strike deadly blows at the occupation forces and its stooges. On average there are 60 attacks a day by the resistance. Just in the first half of June, there have been 17 car bombings. On 13 June, Bassim al-Kubba, Iraq’s most senior diplomat, was killed on his way to work. The following day, Kamal al-Jarrah, a senior official of the education ministry, was shot dead outside his home in Baghdad. On the same day, 12 people, including 4 policemen, died in car bombing outside an American base in Baghdad. A rocket for the first time hit the Republican Palace, headquarters for Bremer’s CPA, spreading alarm among the occupation forces. One expatriate manager operating near the palace said: “We are afraid to move outside. The missiles are getting more and more on target.”
On 15 June a suicide car bomber in central Baghdad killed 5 contractors working for General Electric in another shattering blow to reconstruction efforts. Two Britons, an American, a Frenchman and a Filipino were among the 13 killed in a blast near Baghdad’s Green Zone.
Earlier, on 17 May, in a shattering blow to the occupation regime’s efforts at cobbling together a puppet interim government, the resistance killed Izzedin Salim, the president of Iraq’s Governing Council, in a car bomb. On 16 June, the resistance gunned down Ghazi Talabani, the Kurdish security chief, in Iraq’s northern oilfields, as saboteurs blew up another pipeline near Basra. This came just one day after an attack on the Basra oil terminal – bringing Iraq’s oil exports to a complete halt. On 17 June, two car bomb attacks killed 41 – the first of them exploded outside an army recruitment centre, killing 35. On 24 June the resistance launched a series of co-ordinated attacks in five cities, killing 100 people. Bombs exploded in Mosul and Baghdad, Ramadi and Baquba, in a successful attempt to demonstrate that there will be no peace for the incoming interim ‘government’. A US helicopter was shot down in Fallujah, in which 3 US soldiers were killed. “The most powerful army in the world has proved virtually impotent against an insurgency it is not only failing to combat but also to identify”, correctly observed the Financial Times of 28 June.
Thus, what is emerging is a pattern of increasingly well-organised and co-ordinated attacks against foreigners working for the US-led occupation, assassination of collaborating senior Iraqi officials, and sabotage of military and industrial targets – al aimed at defeating the attempts of the occupation at stabilising and pacifying the country.
Increased Iraqi resistance, and the disproportionate and reckless use of force by the occupation in response to rising resistance, was further stoking the fires of insurgency. A US helicopter attack on a wedding party on 19 May, in the village of Makr al-Deeb near Iraq’s border with Syria, killed 40 innocent people, mainly women and children below 12. The attack inflamed Iraqi and Arab opinion. A month later, on 19 June, US aircraft bombed a building in Fallujah, killing 26 civilians, on the pretext that the building was being used by ‘foreign terrorists’. “Rather than winning hearts and minds”, wrote Charles Clover in the Financial Times of 26 June, “America’s military has become the most acute source of anti-American rage”.
Disintegration in the imperialist camp
The situation in Iraq is so much out of the control of imperialism as to have accelerated the disintegration within the imperialist camp and in the camp of its stooges in Iraq. The NATO summit in Istanbul at the end of June was marked by a total failure to agree on anything meaningful on Iraq. All the brotherly solidarity on display on the beaches of Normandy at the beginning of June melted away like snow under the heat of the sun. The withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq has been followed by the withdrawal of the Honduran, Nicaraguan and Kazakhstani contingents. Relations within the Bush government are so bad that bourgeois journalists openly refer to “the cacophony that passes for policy dialogue in the Bush administration” (Financial Times, 14 May). On 3 June, George Tenet, the CIA chief, quit for “personal reasons”, causing further disarray within the US administration. Within Iraq, on 20 May, US forces and Iraqi police conducted simultaneous raids on the house and offices of Ahmad Chalabi, hitherto the US’s favourite, who had been groomed to become the president of a puppet regime in Baghdad. The raids were allegedly part of a wide-ranging investigation against Chalabi, and 15 of his associates in the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress were arrested on charges of corruption, fraud, kidnapping, embezzlement, illegally seizing government facilities and passing secrets on to the Iranian government.
That Mr Chalabi was a convicted fraudster and embezzler never before bothered the US government. Despite his notoriety, his so-called INC received $33 million from the State Department over several years. Until almost the eve of these raids, Chalabi and his INC had been receiving $335,000 each month from the US for ‘intelligence’ gathering! What has really narked (pardon the pun!) the US is Chalabi’s increasing disenchantment with the US – he had lately begun to distance himself from the occupation. Pouring scorn on the US-led CPA, Chalabi made this apt observation following the raid on his premises:
“I am America’s best friend in Iraq. If the CPA finds it necessary to direct an armed attack against my home, you can see the state of relations between the CPA and the Iraqi people.”
The raid on Chalabi’s headquarters marked the collapse of the assumptions on which the war against Iraq had been based – a small US force needed for pacifying a compliant Iraqi population desperately waiting to be liberated.
In Britain too, Blair is in deep trouble. At the end of April, 52 former ambassadors and international officials wrote to him, charging that he was damaging UK and western interests by backing Bush’s policies in the Middle East. The writers of the letter were shocked into action by the rising resistance in Iraq and Bush’s backing for Sharon to keep Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and Blair’s endorsement of this “one-sided illegal” new policy, which violates several UNSC resolutions. This policy, they say, inflames Arab opinion, and the letter envisages Palestine and Iraq as two fronts in a war of resistance against the West – that is, imperialism. Indiscriminate use of force, they say, rather than isolating, has served to build the opposition, warning that the mishandling in Iraq has led to an accelerating downward spiral with no brake and has effectively closed off any plausible way forward.
Naturally, neither the 52 nor other bourgeois critics of Bush and Blair’s handling of the Iraqi or Palestinian problem realise that what is taking place in Iraq and Palestine is armed resistance to occupation, and that the best way to put an end to armed resistance is to put an end to the occupation. The problem is not the mishandling of the occupation but the occupation itself. The problem is not just prisoner abuse, but the predatory, unprovoked, genocidal war of aggression, the waging of which is one of the biggest crimes against humanity, for which Bush and Blair and the leading personnel from their administrations and armies should face charges in an international court on the lines of the Nuremberg Tribunals which brought to justice leading Nazi war criminals.
From their behaviour and the indiscriminate use of force employed by them, nay, from the very war they are waging against Iraq, it is clear that Anglo-American imperialist forces treat the Iraqi people as untermenschen (sub-human). After the Second World War, people were told that this kind of behaviour was only indulged in by the German Nazis and that it must never happen again. Well, it is stalking right in front of our eyes – in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan – wearing American, British and Israeli army uniforms. John Pilger, in the article already cited, makes the apt observation:
“US marine snipers, who in Falluja shot dead women, children and the elderly, just as German snipers shot dead Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, were reflecting the racism of their leaders.”
He adds: “Paul W Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary who is said to be the architect of the invasion of Iraq, has spoken of ‘snakes’ and ‘draining the swamps in the ‘uncivilised parts of the world’ “. Like the Nazis of yore, the present-day Nazis must be dragged in shackles, kicking and screaming, to an international tribunal and judged for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Imperialism heading for defeat
What is certain is that the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq is in deep trouble and well on the way to a humiliating defeat, with nightmarish consequences for imperialism, extending far beyond the borders of Iraq. On the basis of the events unfolding in Iraq, Philip Stephens, writing in the Financial Times of 14 May, builds up a “doom-laden scenario” which “somehow seems entirely plausible”. Under this scenario, Blair is forced out of office in the coming October, and Bush is defeated in the November presidential election. President Kerry and Prime Minister Gordon Brown take the Anglo-American armies out of Iraq. The Saudi monarchy makes way for a fundamentalist regime. The oil price goes through the ceiling, plunging the global economy into stagnation, thus preparing the ground for the substitution of globalisation by protectionism. Another 11 September 2001 type of incident hits the US or Britain. And there is a military takeover in Pakistan, bringing fundamentalists to power in this nuclear-armed country. Although not a prediction, it is “…a measure of the perilous fragile nature of the international order that each and every doom-laden scenario somehow seems entirely plausible.”
Mr Stephens has an inkling that something is seriously wrong with the international set-up. What it is, he hasn’t a clue. In fact, it would be entirely unrealistic, even rude, to expect of a well-bred and well-remunerated respectable journalist with impeccable bourgeois credentials to understand, let alone openly discuss, such mundane things as the crisis of imperialism and the growth of inter-imperialist contradictions, which are inexorably driving the entire imperialist system at breakneck speed to a crash – and bringing in its wake imperialist predatory wars as an apparent solution to, and way out of, the crisis.
No wonder, Mr Stephens, groping his way like a blind puppy, cries out in despair that he cannot recall a moment when he has been “quite so fearful about what may happen next. It feels as if we are standing at the very edge of the cliff.”
By acting the way it is (and it cannot help doing so), imperialism is exacerbating all the contradictions inherent to it and facing the people the world over with a stark choice: either eke out a miserable and servile existence and sink lower and lower under the present system, or overthrow imperialism. The Iraqi people understand this choice clearly. That is why, braving horrendous difficulties, paying an exceptionally high price, displaying extraordinary courage and heroism, they are busy defeating Anglo-American imperialism. They shall certainly be victorious. Let the proletariat in the imperialist countries play its proper role by extending unstinting fraternal solidarity to the Iraqi people in the latter’s struggle for national liberation. Let it impede and frustrate the imperialist war by refusing to co-operate with it. It must work for the defeat of Anglo-American imperialism – nothing less will do.
Victory to the Iraqi people.