back to front - power play
WORKERS, JUNE 2004 ISSUE
Whatever their initial views on the US invasion, most Iraqis now see it as a traditional colonial war, where the occupier fights to get control of a country's resources, then remains in order to keep it. They want the occupying troops withdrawn immediately, and increasing numbers of Iraqis are prepared to fight them. And the predictions that the ethnic and religious divisions in the country would prevent Iraqi unity have been confounded.
Probably some in the USA and Britain believe the lie that power is being handed over to the Iraqi people on 30 June. A survey in Britain has shown that most British people want the troops withdrawn by the end of June (55% to 28%, Independent poll, 10 May).
But just consider what is actually being planned for 30 June: the US will run the US-appointed Iraqi Council, the US Army will run Iraq's armed forces, and US oilmen will control Iraq's oil. 30 June is "so that it no longer looks like an occupation", in Colin Powell's words. The US promises elections next January, but the director of the UN's electoral assistance division warns, "elections could be postponed unless security improves". This is not a war to introduce democracy.
Nor is it a war to fight terrorism. Richard Clarke, US National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism from 1998 until he resigned in March 2003, recently wrote, "Many thought that the Bush administration was doing a good job of fighting terrorism when, actually, the administration had squandered the opportunity to eliminate al-Qa'eda and instead strengthened our enemies by going off on a completely unnecessary tangent, the invasion of Iraq...Nothing America could have done would have provided al-Qa'eda and its new generation of cloned groups a better recruitment device than our unprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country." The US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute agreed that the attack on Iraq was a strategic error of the first magnitude.
What are the costs? Between 1 May 2003 and 1 April 2004, 461 US soldiers were killed (nearly four times as many as in the April 2003 campaign) and 3000 wounded. The war has cost the USA £86 billion and Britain £10 billion. During the war and the occupation, the US and British forces have killed at least 9,148 Iraqi people, and possibly as many as 11,005 (20 May figures, from www.iraqbodycount.org).
This includes 1,361 in April alone, for example, 40 worshippers in a mosque on 7 April, and 600 in Fallujah where the vast majority of the dead were women, children and the elderly, according to the director of Fallujah's hospital. British forces have killed 37 people in circumstances where the troops were not under threat, as when they killed 12 people in Amara and wounded 27 others on 5/6 April.
Arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions of about 10,000 people without charge or trial, appalling abuse and torture of prisoners (personally authorised by Rumsfeld, according to veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh), deaths in custody, house demolitions, collective punishments and casual killings of Iraqi people by the occupying forces, are all typical of colonial wars. As Kofi Annan observed, "As long as there's an occupation, the resistance will grow."
What is Blair's response to these horrors? He is said to have "ordered a stop to any criticism, implied or overt, of Washington". (Sunday Times, 18 April). And he is sending 3,000 more British troops to Iraq.