IRAQ: End the occupation now

After three months of wrangling, following the 30 January elections, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced a new government on 28 April. Within a week 270 people had been killed in attacks by different organisations. Early in May US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a visit to the country to tell the new government that the resistance can be beaten politically and that they must demonstrate that the political process works. She wanted to see a new draft constitution written by August and fresh elections thereafter. The very length of time it took to allocate ministerial posts demonstrates the weakness of this government. It is an amalgamation of privileged and sectarian interests more concerned with promoting their own privileges than the plight of the Iraqi people. The US and British military will remain in charge. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

Al Jaafari left Iraq in 1980 and spent part of his exile in Britain. His deputy is the proven crook, Ahmed Chalabi, formerly wanted in Jordan for financial crimes but now apparently pardoned. The Finance Minister is a former consultant to the World Bank, who heads a London investment firm and has Ahmed Chalabi as an uncle and the Prime Minister as a cousin. Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), is President. Within hours of the US allowing the Kurds in Iraq to form their own Parliament on 4 October 1992, the PUK thanked the US and Turkish states by attacking the revolutionary nationalist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The government is a reliable ally for the US and Britain.

Having boycotted the elections, the Sunni population is under-represented in the government and National Assembly. US and British officials are encouraging the government to open talks with the Sunni National Dialogue Council, which they believe is linked to the resistance. US Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld warned the Shia and Kurdish representatives in the government not to purge former predominantly Sunni Ba’athists from the security forces. The Sunni population provides the majority of the armed resistance and the coalition forces are sufficiently encouraged by the January elections to believe that another round of elections will draw the Sunni leadership in and isolate any resistance.

A lull then a storm
In the weeks following the election the number of attacks on the coalition forces reportedly dropped from 60 a day to 40 a day. US forces admitted to 33 military deaths in March, the lowest monthly toll in over a year. On 5 April Britain’s senior officer in Iraq, Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszley, said a series of setbacks had ‘helped to take the wind out of the sails of parts of the insurgency’. Ordinary people ‘increasingly see the pointlessness of it [resisting]’. This was two days after a force of 60 guerrillas attacked the US-run Abu Ghraib prison, wounding 44 US soldiers. US Joint Chief of Staff General Myers pronounced ‘We’re on track’. Talabani talked of a complete foreign troop withdrawal in two years. By 26 April General Myers had adjusted his message, ‘In terms of the number of incidents, its right about where it was a year ago…I think we’re definitely winning. I think we’ve been winning for some time’. In 2004 major attacks on the occupation armies increased three fold on the 2003 figure.

At the start of May a US report revealed that there had been 15,527 attacks on coalition forces in Iraq from July 2004 to March 2005; a daily average of 61 attacks. 2,404 attacks took place in Baghdad between 1 November 2004 and 12 March 2005; over 18 a day. This is intense guerrilla war. The US military is still unable to secure the main strategic road in Iraq from Baghdad to its international airport. With US military deaths rising over 1,600 and the wounded exceeding 12,000 the US general in charge of recruitment said he was facing ‘the toughest recruitment climate ever faced by the all-volunteer army’. Tours of duty were reduced from four years to 15 months to encourage recruits. Recruitment fell short of target by 42% in April. Recent Pentagon figures indicate 5,133 US troops missing from duty. GI Rights Hotline, that advises soldiers who want to get out of service, took over 30,000 calls in 2004.

There are divisions in the resistance. Sections of the resistance are opposed to kidnappings and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Some argue for attacks on the occupation forces only. The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars called for Sunnis to join the army and police. Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, reports that a powerful new Ba’ath Party is being formed.

The social conditions for mass popular resistance to the occupation forces and their allies are in place. Unemployment is approximately 50%, the number of children under five suffering malnutrition has doubled from 4% to 8% since the invasion. In Baghdad electricity, fuel and water shortages are as bad as they were two years ago. Medicines are in short supply. Amid these conditions 300,000 people demonstrated in Baghdad on 9 April. This was the largest anti-occupation force protest since the invasion. Demonstrators burned effigies of Bush, Blair and Saddam Hussein and demanded the release of prisoners, the withdrawal of the occupation forces and that Saddam Hussein be brought to trial quickly. The protest was called by the Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr and joined by Sunni and Shia communities.

Corruption and impunity
Royal Dutch Shell has a chairman for Iraq who has not set foot in the country since 2002. Iraqi oil production stands at 1.5 million barrels per day, below the pre-invasion level. The target was 3.5 million barrels per day. The US says it has allocated $21 billion for reconstruction, a sum equal to Iraq’s entire economic output in 2004, but no cranes are reported visible on the Baghdad skyline. 30-40% of any project’s costs are consumed in security payments and corruption accounts for 15-20% of the rest. According to the Financial Times only 10-20% of funds are actually spent on the projects they were allocated for. The Inspector to the Iraq Provisional Assembly reported in March that $9 billion had been spent on fantasy jobs, DynCorp had over-charged the Pentagon $600,000 in gas bills and Halliburton made $108 million from over-charging.

While this plunder continues only a quarter of Fallujah’s population of 300,000 has returned to the city. The US State Department gives the following assessment of Fallujah’s buildings: 25% of houses rendered uninhabitable, 25% more with severe damage and 50% light to moderate damage. Add the percentages up to discover that no building is unscathed. US soldiers have re-named the streets: Mobil Road, Michigan Main Street and so on.

US soldiers who kill Iraqis go unpunished. There is nothing to restrain them from killing civilians and fighters as they please. A Pentagon inquiry into the shooting of a wounded, unarmed Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque that was filmed on video found the soldier not guilty. A US commission of inquiry into the shooting dead of the senior Italian secret agent Nicola Callipari protecting the released journalist Giuliana Sgrena, found the soldiers not culpable because they were ‘inexperienced’. A Pentagon inquiry into the senior officer at Abu Ghraib, Lieutenant General Sanchez, exonerated him from responsibility for the torture. Brigadier Janis Karpinski, in charge of prisons in Iraq, was demoted to colonel, not because she failed to properly supervise the guards who abused the prisoners but for shoplifting and an unspecified dereliction of duty.

The US state has no intention of leaving Iraq. By the end of 2006 it intends to have an Iraqi army and police force of 300,000 which will allow US and British forces to deploy in key bases from which to stand guard over the country and the oil. However, this Iraqi force is based on sectarian militias and is unreliable. It has not demonstrated any ability to fight the resistance without the occupation forces.

In March, Italy announced that it was withdrawing its 2,700 soldiers from September. The following month Poland said its 1,700 troops would leave at the start of 2006. We demand British and all occupation armies out of Iraq.

FRFI 185 June / July 2005

 

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