War, Occupation, Mass Murder, Abu Ghraib, Najaf, Kut, Fallujah, Haditha, Shia, Sunni, Mahdi Army, US Army, Al Qaeda, Mercenaries, Poverty, Hunger, Brutality, Torture, Prison, Execution, Disease, Shortages, Destruction, Quagmire, Killing, Killing…
What Iraq has the US Created?
By Shannon Bundock
50,000 hired killers swarm the streets of Iraq. After the US military itself, mercenaries form the second largest force in Iraq, enormously outnumbering even the closest US allies.
Spain's Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, a member of the UN working group on mercenaries, recently revealed that high-tech hitmen are being recruited on the streets of Peru, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. They are lured from poverty and bleak futures by massive pay checks – at least large enough to outweigh the risk of entering one of the most deadly war zones of the 21st century. Unlike regular troops, mercenaries function outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and have little or no legal accountability.
The US Department of Defense is currently working with private companies that provide such services as intelligence, weaponry, interrogation, prison security and ground support troops. The Centre for Public Integrity currently lists 125 companies with contracts worth more than $40.7 billion for work in Iraq. Amada Guevara, also a member of the UN working group on mercenaries, put it succinctly, “This amounts to privatization of warfare,"
Along with the recent 21,500-strong surge of US troops, this adds up to more than 200,000 trained and equipped soldiers, all aiming to defend and advance the position of the occupying forces.
What Kind of Life has Occupation Delivered?
Since the March 2003 invasion, the impact of these forces on the ground in Iraq has resulted in roughly 700,000 Iraqi deaths. The last four years of war and occupation in Iraq have been characterized by the destruction, suffering and pain delivered to the Iraqi people through gun barrels and warplanes.
At the end of January a letter was sent to the UK government by 100 prominent British doctors who have worked in Iraq, Iraqi doctors, leading British consultants and general practitioners. According to UK Independent Newspaper, “…the conditions in hospitals revealed in their letter amount to a breach of the Geneva conventions that require the protection of human life.”
Backing up the assertions outlined in this letter are the experiences relayed by Iraqi medical professionals. Doctors at Basra's Maternity and Child Hospital have noted that every month between 14 and 16 new cases of leukemia are reported but cannot be treated for lack of medication.
According to a February 23rd article in the Japan Times, “The U.S.-led invasion of the country has greatly affected Iraqi children's psychological development, according to a report of the Association of Psychologists of Iraq (API) released in 2006. One thousand children were interviewed for the report, which concluded that fear of kidnappings and explosions has led to severe stress among children.
"The only thing they have on their minds are guns, bullets, death and a fear of the U.S. occupation," Maruan Abdullah, the API spokesman concludes.”
Battling the Occupiers
Amid the battlefields of Basrah, Kut, Najaf, Nasiriyah, Baghdad, Karbala, Kirkuk, Mosul, Samarra and Umm Qasr, which have brought such great pain and suffering, Iraqis still believe a brighter future is possible and they have unrelentingly fought back.
On Wednesday February 21st Iraqi journalists led a protest and sit-in against a US raid of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate (IJS). According to the protesters US forces stormed the union’s headquarters in Baghdad on February 19th with troops ransacking offices, arresting 10 of the union’s security guards and confiscating 10 computers and 15 small electricity generators.
The raid just two days after the IJS received formal recognition from the Iraqi government. This new status allowed the IJS access to its previously blocked bank account and it had just bought new computers and satellite equipment. Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the US raid and stated, “Anyone working for media that does not endorse US policy and actions could now be at risk.” The demonstrators vowed to continue their demonstration until the U.S. forces release the guards they arrested and return seized equipment and property.
In the same week Iraqis in Basra took to the street demanding that UK forces release detained Iraqis. According to the Agence-France Presse the demonstrators chanted, "No, no to occupation. We want the detainees released," and waved placards which said "No to colonialism".
These two examples come within a week of each other. Given the suppression of media in Iraq it is surprising that such stories even make it past the borders of Iraq. The fact that even some accounts of the strikes, protests, pickets, sit ins, and mass actions are leaking out to the rest of the world, is a heartening testament to the breadth and scope that the Iraqi anti-occupation resistance has managed to achieve. At the core of the anti-occupation resistance is the only demand that can solve the problems that come with occupation, and that is the demand for the end of occupation and recognition of self-determination for Iraqi people.
America’s Bootless Mission
While the Iraqi people are poor and ill-equipped, their resistance has managed to prevent the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world from stabilizing the occupation of Iraq. Each month, each week there are new developments in the crisis faced by occupation forces. The statistics released by US think-tank the Brookings Institution show a consistent and astonishing increase in the daily attacks on US/UK occupation forces. In February 2004, this average was 14 attacks a day. By December 2006, the average reached 185 attacks per day.
Given these conditions, the US military, and its commanders in Washington, are evidently facing tremendous pressure. By this point the cracks in the war planners’ strategy have been widely exposed. Some of those cracks stem from the underestimation of the Iraqi resistance, and the arrogant prediction that, "We will in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... weeks rather than months." as forecast by US Vice President Dick Cheney on March 16th 2003.
Other cracks have emerged in the US ruling class itself, as it debates and battles to come up with the “winning strategy” for Iraq. Such differences resulted in Iraq taking centre stage as The election issue during the November 2006 elections in the US.
Democrats and some Republicans slammed the current campaign to bulldoze through Iraq and secure the country with brute force. It is important to note that these criticisms were not founded in a disagreement with the objective to secure Iraq in the favour of US/UK interests. The core of the debate centred on just how they can secure Iraq in the favour of US/UK interests. The failures of the Shock-and-Awe strategy harkening back to 2003 weigh heavily and resulted in significant losses for the Republicans and the Bush camp in the November elections.
In February, the House approved a non-binding resolution that criticized the decision to deploy the additional 21,500 troops, but the measure was blocked in the Senate. Manoeuvrings with toothless motions will not bring about any strategic change in Iraq – least of all an immediate withdrawal - but rather they serve to document the depth of division setting in among the US ruling class.
From the perspective of regular poor and working people, what these splits signify is a weakening and deteriorating political, economic and military position for the imperialist powers in Iraq. People living in the US have become more and more frustrated with the US government’s war campaign. After being lied to about, “Weapons of Mass Destruction”; bringing “Liberation”; and overthrowing the beacon-of-all-that-is-evil, Saddam Hussein, the people in the US have overwhelmingly not accepted that the war and occupation of Iraq is achieving anything positive for them or for Iraqis. This was the driving force behind the January 27th demonstrations that swept US cities following the decision to increase troop levels in Iraq by 21,500.
Beyond the splits and debates in top circles of the US ruling class, and even beyond the anti-war demands being flung towards Washington from the streets of US cities and towns, there are more problems arising for the occupation.
In February the British government announced that it will begin a withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. While the British force is significantly smaller than the US’ 140,000 troop presence, they play a considerable role in Southern Iraq. The first batch to leave will reduce the British force by 1,600. On top of this Denmark has also announced that it will withdraw all of its 460 troops stationed in Iraq in August. Most of the Danish troops are stationed in Basra in southern Iraq under British command. Since the beginning of the invasion in 2003, Italy, Spain, Hungry and Japan have all withdrawn significant troop contributions.
With this pullout pressure on the US is further compounded and they are left in a very difficult position, to say the least.
Solidarity and Resistance: Building an Effective Antiwar Movement
As March 2007 approaches, antiwar demonstrations will be held around the world to mark the fourth anniversary of the brutal US/UK invasion of Iraq. For these anti-war rallies to be an effective part of the anti-war movement, it is absolutely necessary that they are framed in a strategy for consistent anti-war action and movement building.
As the US, UK, Canada and other imperialist powers expand their plundering and killing machines across the Middle East, they draw a map for the anti-war movement. Iraq is at the centre of this map as the most critical axis in the imperialist strategy for hegemony and domination in the Middle East. Thusly Iraq is the axis of focus for the anti-war, anti-imperialist movement. With the close of 2006, the era of war and occupation opened a new chapter – the re-colonization and ramped up plundering of Africa. US bombs in Southern Somalia, and a UN military threat to Sudan are at the forefront of this campaign. On the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq the anti-war movement must respond to this expansion of the era of war and occupation. While building an effective anti-war movement, we can also draw a new map – one of anti-occupation resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, and everywhere that the war sites are set.
For those active in the anti-war movement around the world, it proves both humbling and inspiring to learn of the anti-occupation action which Iraqis are engaging in despite four years of the most brutal suppression. Imperialist warplanes and tanks are arranged to stem the flooding brought on by this river of resistance. Despite all odds however, the tributaries still spring up, raising the waves of resistance ever larger and stronger.
The education and mobilization which is organized in Canada and the US can contribute to this flood, and help to overwhelm the war-mongers, the murderers, the plunderers and destroyers. Waves of resistance leave fertile ground. Oppressed nations, free of occupation, can begin healing, growing and determining their future in the interest of their people.
US/UK Out of Iraq! Out Now!
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