The Occupation Continues (to fail)

After two years of war and occupation in Iraq, the senseless loss of both American and Iraqi lives continues on a daily basis, and it seems hard to imagine any action the people of the world can take to stop the madness. Despite our uncertainty, now is the time to redouble our efforts to end the occupation, because it increasingly appears that those in charge have no idea what to do about the present situation, either. Bush’s rhetoric about Iraq has increasingly retreated into a fantasy world — every day he makes glowing statements about the liberation of the Iraqi people, how Iraq is becoming a stable democracy, how America will prevail, and how the Iraqis are about to elect their leaders. Back on planet earth, things look a bit different.

We must assume that someone in the Bush regime knows what is actually going on and that the absurd statements coming from the White House are sort of like a cry for help — a sign of profound weakness and impotence in the midst of a war spiraling out of control. In short, while it sometimes appears to those of us in the street as if there is no way to stop the war and the occupation, we may be watching it all collapse from the inside, brought down by its enormous weight and internal contradictions, together with the efforts of the insurgents.

More than 1,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far, perhaps 15,000 Iraqi civilians and an unknown number of Iraqi combatants — the US regime refuses to keep track and no one in Iraq really to knows. This war, like most wars, has a way of acquiring its own internal logic — the US rulers must continue to fight so that those killed so far have not died in vain. What is the point, or are there only justifications left?

Bush first claimed the war was to seize weapons of mass destruction or stop terrorism, but with these excuses exposed, he switched to saying the war was to liberate the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator.

What is most striking now is how life under the US puppet Iraqi regime is beginning to look as bad as life under Saddam Hussein. After at first disbanding the Iraqi army, the occupation forces have increasingly been working with former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime in order to reorganize Iraqi security forces and “maintain order.”

Interim Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, who was the head man for Hussein’s Bath party in Europe before he split with Saddam and worked for the CIA, has cracked down on Iraqi freedom since taking office. In August, he closed the Baghdad offices of Arab TV network al-Jazeera in a move widely seen as an attack on press freedom in Iraq. Falah al-Naqib, Iraq’s interior minister, explained “They have been showing a lot of crimes and criminals on TV, and they [send] a bad picture about Iraq and about Iraqis and encourage criminals to increase their activities.”

Allawi supported reinstating the death penalty, has formed a new secret police force reminiscent of Saddam’s secret police, has reportedly recruited former torturers to serve in the new secret police, and has threatened to declare martial law to quell unrest. The supposed liberation of Iraq, like the grounds for the war, is a fraud.

This is hardly surprising — the US is always happy to support a tyrant as long as he is our tyrant and so long as fundamental US interests — in this case access to oil supplies — are at stake.

The other point repeatedly pushed by Bush is that Iraq is the front-line in the war on terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, whereas wars must be fought against a foe, or perhaps an ideology. How can any physical location be a front-line in a war against a tactic? Terrorism is essentially the use of violence by a powerless group, whereas identical violence used by the state is considered “legitimate military action.” 3,000 people died in the Twin Towers attack — how many times that number of equally innocent civilians have been killed by the US in Iraq? None of these killings by either side are justified — we must stand for a world in which all senseless killing is unacceptable.

The Iraqi people are struggling against an occupation of their homeland by a foreign power. If the occupation were to disappear, the conflict might not end totally, but its character would shift dramatically from an occupation to perhaps a civil war. Iraqis would have space to determine their own fate and could get about the business of reconstructing their society. Increasing the US military pressure will only increase the resistance and the waste of lives. As understanding of this reality expands, including amongst US troops stationed in Iraq, Bush’s ability to continue the occupation will increasingly be threatened.

Folks in the United States must continue to demand an end to the occupation and an end to the senseless violence — employing whatever powerful and creative tactics we can devise. The people of Iraq and the people of the world are depending on those of us within the belly of the beast, for we are the most able to strike against the US war machine. Bush’s patriotic claims must be exposed as a lie — he is callously sending American troops to their death for nothing other than his own pride. In these times when the occupation looks the most desperate, we must remember that the darkest hour comes just before the dawn.