The occupation of Iraq is nothing short of a total mess. Even bourgeois commentators are finding it increasingly difficult to talk with the same kind of brash triumphalism that characterised the news bulletins of only a few months ago. The truth is simply too persistent to be kept quiet. Increasingly it is becoming clear to anyone with basic powers of observation that, far from quickly and efficiently bringing ‘democracy’ to the country, the war against, and occupation of, Iraq have turned the clock backwards on this wealthy and highly-educated nation, whose standard of living was once the envy of the region. Furthermore, in spite of the extraordinary levels of force being brutally wielded by the ‘coalition’ against the population of Iraq, the imperialists are losing; they are unable to match the wit and determination of the heroic Iraqi resistance, which every day becomes stronger and more unified.
The Basra incident has exposed the occupiers’ murky tactics and totally undermined the myth that the Iraqi puppet government has any real power. Although some of the facts of the case are still disputed (the British are desperately engaged in a cover-up operation), a basic summary of events is as follows: two British soldiers, disguised as Arabs, and with a considerable cache of weapons in their car, were stopped by an Iraqi police officer. They shot him, and were later arrested and imprisoned by Iraqi police. Numerous members of the puppet government, including Fattah al-Shaykh, representative of the Basra area, have stated that there were explosives found in the car, and that the only possible explanation for the situation is that the soldiers were engaged in a ‘black op’ in an attempt to stir up sectarian strife amongst the Iraqi population. Having unsuccessfully tried to negotiate the release of these SAS men, the British forces then attempted to rescue them, driving tanks through the walls of the Major Crimes Building in Basra.
The incident demonstrates two things most clearly. First, that the occupiers are engaging in covert terror operations in an attempt to divide the Iraqi resistance along religious lines and justify the continuing military occupation (claiming that, if they left, a bloody civil war would ensue). Secondly, the readiness to ride roughshod over their local allies proves that, for all their talk of democratic, independent Iraq, the invaders have no respect for the new ‘administration’. Their ‘Multi-National Force’ is actually an army of imperialist occupation.
Third world country
A growing number of commentators have noted that conditions for the people of Iraq are now considerably worse than they were prior to the start of the war, even bearing in mind the suffocating sanctions that had been imposed on Iraq for 12 years before the war. Mohammed Hassan, an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, points out: “A recent UN report noted that a quarter of Iraqi children suffer from chronic malnutrition, the probability of dying before the age of 40 is three times higher in Iraq than in the neighbouring countries, three quarters of the inhabitants do not have access to a stable supply of electricity, a third have great difficulty in obtaining drinking water.” (‘Resistance in Iraq, true and false’, Interview with Mohammed Hassan conducted by David Pestieau, www.wpb.be, 18 June 2005)
This in a country that formerly had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East, boasting total literacy (according to Unicef) and an advanced health care system that was freely available to all citizens.
The most pressing health issue in Iraq today is that no attention has been paid to repairing the extensive damage to the water system resulting from the war. Baghdad, a city that is divided in two by the Tigris River, has never known water problems so acute as the ones it is now dealing with. According to a report by Medact, a British-based charity, “Iraq [has] … experienced an alarming recurrence of previously well-controlled communicable diseases, including acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and typhoid, particularly among children.” (www.medact.org)
Dr Khalid Adnan, a specialist in internal medicine in the ash-Sha‘b district of Baghdad, has said that 5 percent of the entire Iraqi population is now afflicted with disorders such as intense diarrhoea and viral infection as a result of the water supply problems. (‘Iraqi resistance report 309’, www.freearabvoice.org, 11 June 2005)
Even bourgeois organs such as The Independent occasionally reveal the truth about what is taking place in Iraq. Patrick Cockburn writes: “A striking feature of Baghdad is that for all the billions of dollars spent here since the fall of Saddam there is hardly a new building under construction. Nobody knows what happened to the money, vastly greater than that supposedly purloined by Saddam under UN sanctions which has been so assiduously investigated in New York. Most of Baghdad is getting four hours of electricity blackout and two hours’ erratic supply before the cuts begin again.” (‘A fatal detachment from reality: how Bush’s failures in Iraq and New Orleans are linked’, The Independent, 10 September 2005)
A report conducted by the Norway-based Institute of Applied International Studies (Fafo), in cooperation with the Iraq’s Central Office for Statistics and Information Technology, Iraq’s Health Ministry, and the UN Development Program (UNDP) “shows that about 400,000 Iraqi children are suffering from ‘wasting’ and ’emaciation’ conditions of chronic diarrhoea and protein deficiency.” (‘200 children die every day – Iraq’s health care under the occupation’ by Ghali Hassan, www.counterpunch.org, 1 December 2004)
“A second report, to be released soon, revealed that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children between the ages of six months and 5 years has increased from 4 percent before the invasion to 7.7 percent since the US invasion of Iraq. In other words, despite the 13 year sanctions, Iraqi children were living much better (by 3.7 percent) under the regime of Saddam Hussein than under the Occupation.” (Ibid)
A recent Unicef report pointed out that “before 1990 and the imposition of sanctions, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East”. Now, UNICEF reports, “at least 200 children are dying every day. They are dying from malnutrition, a lack of clean water and a lack of medical equipment and drugs to cure easily treatable diseases”. (Cited in Ghali Hassan)
The Unicef-estimated child mortality rate is 125 per 1,000 live births.
According to Tom Nagy of George Washington University, who has researched extensively into the effect of sanctions on Iraq’s water and the health care system, the US was “intentionally destroying whatever had remained of Iraq’s water system within six months by using sanctions to prevent the import of a mere handful of items of equipment and chemicals” that are vital for the treatment of water. (Cited in Ghali Hassan)
Brutality of the occupation. Attack on Tal Afar
According to the UN mission in Iraq, there is “systematic use of torture during interrogations at police stations and within other premises belonging to the Ministry of Interior”. (www.uniraq.org) The Iraqi government has acknowledged that its security elements have been engaged in torture of prisoners, allegedly in an attempt to stamp out a ‘Sunni insurgency’. (‘UN chides Iraqi troops over rights violations’, www.islamonline.org/English, 8 September 2005) So much for the imposition of ‘democracy’!
It has been conclusively proven that the occupation forces are using chemical weapons, including napalm, against the Iraqi people (this is now admitted by the Pentagon). (See ‘Covering up Napalm in Iraq’ by Mike Whitney, www.zmag.org, 28 June 2005) According to The Mirror of 28 November last year: “News that President George Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun the world … Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh … Since the American assault on Falluja there have been reports of ‘melted’ corpses, which appeared to have napalm injuries.”
Similar reports have emerged from the city of Tal Afar, where the occupation forces and their Iraqi stooges are currently embroiled. This operation, launched on 10 September, is the largest-scale coalition attack since Fallujah, and can only be described as a callous campaign of indiscriminate aggression against the population of Tal Afar. As with Fallujah, the resistance fighters were not stupid enough to embroil themselves in conventional warfare with the heavily armed US troops and their quivering Iraqi sidekicks. Rather, they retreated, either leaving Tal Afar or assimilating into the population in order not to be spotted. Even the hapless ‘masterminds’ of US military strategy must be familiar with Mao Zedong’s famous principles of guerrilla warfare: “The enemy advances, we retreat. The enemy camps, we harass. The enemy tires, we attack. The enemy retreats, we pursue.” (‘A single spark can start a prairie fire’, 1930) Meanwhile, thousands of residents of Tal Afar have not been allowed by the occupation forces to leave the city, despite the fact that the invaders have cut off their water and electricity supplies. Hence, the aim of the attack on Tal Afar is not to root out the resistance but to intimidate the Iraqi population in general. It is a cruel and calculated warning that the ‘liberators’ will not stand opposition to their conquest.
Strength of the resistance continues to proliferate
Every day is bringing forth new attacks by the Iraqi resistance. Each attack serves to cement the will and buttress the courage of the Iraqi people, whilst at the same time exacerbating the desperation and despondency of the occupying troops.
The Pentagon has admitted that the ‘coalition’ forces are coming under attack at least 65 times a day. The Guardian of 21 September admits that “the 150,000 foreign troops on Iraqi soil are overwhelmingly committed to self-protection” .
In the words of Mohammed Hassan: “The resistance continues at all levels: on the military level, but also on the political and social level. Witness the recent general strike in Ramadi. As well as the protests of writers, and women who are mobilising against the reintroduction of the sharia … And this resistance is strongly influenced by the Baathists, allied to communists, nationalists and Islamic forces.” Comrade Hassan cites Pat Lang, ex-Pentagon chief of espionage for the Middle East, as saying: “The insurgency has been getting stronger every passing day. When the violence recedes, it’s a sign that they are regrouping. I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency … They’re well co-ordinated and have consistently adjusted their strategy.” (Op cit)
International Herald Tribune of 25 July notes that: “They [the resistance] just keep getting stronger.
“Despite months of assurances that the forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.
“A string of recent attacks, including the execution of moderate Sunni leaders and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats, has brought home for many Iraqis that the democratic process that has been unfolding since the Americans restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004 has not only failed to isolate the guerrillas, it has become the target itself.” (Cited in ‘Iraq – imperialist occupation unsustainable, Lalkar, September 2005)
As long as nine months ago, Iraq’s Intelligence Chief, General Mohammed Shahwani, was already admitting to a Saudi newspaper that the “US was facing 40,000 hard-core fighters” and a support group of as “many as 150,000 to 200,000”. (Cited in ‘Bush’s grand plan: Incite civil war’ by Mike Whitney, www.zmag.org, 15 January 2005) Even if one limits oneself to the almost certainly underestimated figures of a US stooge, it is clear that the ‘coalition’ forces of occupation are outnumbered by the resistance.
Vicious attempts to divide and rule
The response of the occupation forces to the strength of the resistance has been to try and divide it along religious and ethnic lines. The principal means used by the occupation forces has been violent sabotage, in the form of bombing attacks against a particular religious sect. Attacks on mosques etc are widely regarded by the resistance as being the work of the CIA or US-friendly militias. Saad Naji Jawad, professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, points out: “Inside the armed resistance there are different groups and trends. You have Baathists, Islamists, Sunnis, Shias, sometimes you also have Kurds. The main characteristic is Arab nationalist … There are differences on certain issues – some are Islamists others are secular – but all agree on national liberation and the need for real democracy … The Iraqi National Congress is similar to organisations such as the African National Congress and the PLO. It is an alliance of forces united around one main demand – national liberation.” (http://abutamam.blogspot.com)
The co-ordination between the different resistance groups is constantly improving. According to a letter from the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance: “the different resisting groups in Iraq have developed a network between each other in order to achieve their ultimate goal. The program of the Iraqi resistance is as follows:
1. End the occupation and liberate the country
2. Transition period of two years
3. Iraqi united- National government for all
4. Iraqi constitution written by Iraqis themselves
5. Democratic rules
6. Free election and full participation of the different political parties”.
The ‘Iraqi Resistance Report’ of 15 September noted that all the major resistance groups had issued a joint declaration making it clear that they had “nothing to do with [the] call” allegedly made by Zarqawi (who, incidentally, is widely believed to be dead) to wage in “total war on the Shi’ah” , stating: “the Resistance would set as its aim and direct its strikes at the occupation and its stooges, and no one else. A call to kill the Shi‘ah is a fire that burns all Iraqis, Sunni and Shi‘i alike” . (http://iraqiresistancereportshere.blogspot.com)
All the resistance groups are fighting towards the same end, and have put their differences aside for the purpose of fighting the imperialist occupation. The IPA letter continues: “The fear of the Islamic character of the Iraqi resistance could be answered by the fact that after the liberation of Iraq, the Iraqi resistance will then be the only legitimised representative of the Iraqi people. A transition period will then give the Iraqi people the chance to choose their representatives to form a united national government with full participation of all parties including the Islamic forces. We have then to accept the choice of the Iraqi people.” (http://www.iraqresistance.net)
Constitution is illegitimate
We should in passing mention the proposed Iraqi constitution, about which there has been much furore in the press. The first point to be made is that, regardless of how it turns out, the constitution cannot in any way be regarded as a legitimate expression of the Iraqi people’s will, or even of any significant social class of Iraqis other than the handful of collaborators whose representatives have been hand-picked to draft it. Fred Goldstein, writing in Workers World of 3 September, puts it well: “The world is supposed to become engrossed and take sides as the various factions fight over centralism versus federalism, secularism versus Islam, etc. These are not issues that the world-wide movement should be preoccupied with.
“For all those who support the resistance and who support sovereignty and self-determination for the Iraqi people the issue is not what is in the constitution of the puppets of Washington but the fact that the whole gang is tied to imperialism.
“The Shah of Iran was a ‘secularist’ and moderniser. But he was put on his throne by the CIA in 1953 and proceeded to suppress revolutionaries and progressives, institute torture, and give the oil wealth of the country to US oil companies. The Saudi monarchy is clerical, feudal and repressive. Women are veiled and the royal family rules. They have been clients of the US government and the US oil companies since World War II.” (‘Iraq’s constitutional quagmire shows Bush plan in shambles’, www.workers.org)
The new constitution, in all its permutations, makes ample provisions for the US and its allies to extract Iraq’s oil at will. As Deirdre Griswold, also writing in Workers World, points out, this is a far cry from Iraq’s 1970 constitution, which states that “National resources and basic means of production are owned by the People”. The Ba’ath government nationalised the oil in the late 1960s, much to the anger of the US and British imperialists.
None of the versions of the constitution on offer contain anywhere near the same level of protection of the rights of women and ethnic groups that was offered by the old constitution which provided: “(a) Citizens are equal before the law, without discrimination because of sex, blood, language, social origin, or religion. (b) Equal opportunities are guaranteed to all citizens, according to the law.” (Article 19, op cit)
Furthermore, Iraq was formerly a secular state. All the delegates to the talks on the constitution, however, accept that Islam should be the state religion. (‘Iraq constitution: Sticking points’, BBC News Online, 25 August 2005)
In the final analysis, there will be no constitution that truly reflects the needs of the Iraqi population until the occupiers have been driven out and power has passed into the hands of the victorious resistance forces.
Anglo-American occupation unravelling – strategic retreat on the cards
War and occupation have, so far, cost the US over $300bn. In the light of the lack of resources that were put aside for defending the US against natural disasters (fresh in everyone’s minds as a result of the Katrina disaster), the US public has become increasingly indignant at this rate of spending on a war that it no longer supports. The debt being incurred by the US as a result of its military adventurism is causing severe economic vulnerability. Jeff Berg writes: “its [the US’] debt-to-asset and debt-to-GDP ratios as well as its national debt, the percentage of its national debt that is foreign held, its budgetary deficit and capital accounts deficit are all at their highest levels in American history. Furthermore they are also higher than the levels experienced by countries that have subsequently crashed such as Argentina in 2001, Russia in 1991 and America in 1929”.
He continues: “as diverse a group of thinkers as Seymour Melman, Paul Krugman, Chalmers Johnson, Gore Vidal, Paul Craig Roberts, Greg Palast, and Joe Stiglitz are led by the data to state with a certainty rare for professionals that the US economy in the mid to near term is in for an unavoidable ‘correction’ as significant as any it has ever experienced”. (‘Katrina + Baghdad = Tipping Point?’ by Jeff Berg, www.countercurrents.org, 9 September 2005)
Meanwhile, official US military death figures since the start of the war have reached 1,896 (1,759 since Bush’s “mission accomplished” announcement on 1 May 2003), with at least 14,362 wounded. (This is the official figure; estimates as to the actual total go up as high as 42,500.) UK military deaths have reached 96. All in all, not the short, sharp action that had been promised by Bush and Blair.
James Petras, summarising medical studies, reports that “one out of five returning soldiers are suffering from severe psychological trauma, no doubt from witnessing or participating in the mass killing of civilians. The family of one returned soldier, who recently committed suicide, reported that he constantly referred to his killing of an unarmed child in the streets of Iraq — calling himself a ‘murderer’” . (‘Iraq: Covering up US war crimes’ by James Petras, www.greenleft.org.au, 1 December 2004)
All of this is serving to generate increasing public hostility to the war, as well as adding weight to the arguments of the more cautious elements of the bourgeoisie. It appears that Britain and the US may be planning to reduce considerably their presence in Iraq, in the hope that the dirty work can be performed mainly by the fledgling Iraqi army. Lalkar of September/October 2005 notes: “No wonder, then, that Anglo-American imperialism has worked out plans to reduce drastically the size of its forces in Iraq. A secret report ‘UK Eyes Only’, leaked to the press on 10 July, contained clear plans to reduce the British army of occupation from 8,500 to 3,000 as of the middle of next year, whereas the US plans to reduce its forces to 66,000 from the current level of 150,000. The report, denied officially, contains the proviso that the reduction in force levels would depend on the security situation and ‘internal Iraqi pressure’.”
The US had exactly the same plan following the heroic Tet Offensive by the national liberation forces in Vietnam (in 1968). They thought they could leave the fighting to their South Vietnamese puppets. As every school child knows, they were wrong. We do not doubt that they will be proved wrong in Iraq as well. No military force will be able to quench the thirst of the Iraqi people for independence and freedom from occupation.
Victory to the Iraqi resistance!