War in Iraq - Western aggression keeps backfiring

Nov/Dec 2006

We reproduce below several short articles, which were originally published as editorials of Workers' Fight workplace bulletins over the past few weeks.

17 Oct - Enough of this bloodbath! Troops out now!

The latest assessment of the price paid by the Iraqi population for the invasion of their country by US and British forces is horrifying.

According to a survey published by a team of scientists from Johns Hopkins university, 654,965 Iraqis died as a direct result of the invasion and occupation, between March 2003 and July this year. Among these deaths, over 600,000 were due to violent causes, the most common being gunfire. Of those, as many as one third were killed by the occupation forces.

Bush reacted to these figures by deriding them. As to the British Foreign Office, it is said to be « studying » this survey, while Labour's spin-doctors must be working overtime to find a way of playing down this bloodbath.

The truth is, that far from receding, as Blair's ministers had promised, when they were hailing the « emergence of democracy » in Iraq, the level of violence has never ceased to increase.

The so-called « democratic » regime propelled into office by the occupation forces has already shown its true face. It is a coalition of warring factions, which only agreed to take their seats in parliament in order to share the bounty of western subsidies. But all along, their militias, armed thanks to these same subsidies, if not with the weapons of the new western-equipped police and army, were fighting each other for political power.

In this civil war, the Iraqi population is a pawn in the political game of ruthless would-be dictators. By whipping up religious and ethnic fears, the warlords are using the population as cannon fodder in their power games. And today, Iraqi women, men and children are footing the bill of the warlords' ambitions with their own blood.

The occupation stokes the fires

Of course, the western leaders may have the nerve to claim that, on the basis of these latest figures, they are « only » responsible for one third of the casualties in Iraq. But this is pure hypocrisy. If the warlords are able to terrorise the population today, it is only because the invading powers offered them the resources and protection which allowed them to form fully-armed militias. Western bullets and shells may have killed « only » one third of the victims, but the Western governments are responsible for every single one of these deaths!

Today, 40 months after the invasion, Bush and Blair cannot expect to fool anyone with grandiose speeches about « bringing democracy to the Iraqi people ». Even the top generals in Blair's army do not believe in it and dare to say so.

Several times in the past, retired high-ranking British officers have expressed doubts about the objectives of Blair's policy in Iraq.

This time, it was the newly-appointed army Chief of Staff, Richard Dannatt, himself, who said in an interview to the Daily Mail that the government should « get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems ». So far, no-one in officialdom had dared to state the obvious - that the military occupation can only make matters worse for Iraq. And if such a high-ranking government appointee dared to say it, it is not hard to imagine what the feelings in the ranks must be!

A policy of destruction and death

Of course, within hours, Defence Secretary, Des Browne, was instructing Dannatt to retract his statement. As to Blair, he had the nerve to claim that he agreed with everything Dannatt had said, since he is in favour of withdrawal as soon as this is « feasible » - i.e. once the situation is « stabilised ». Except that the whole point of Dannatt's statement was precisely to stress that the continued occupation only made the situation even more unstable!

Dannatt will keep his job as army Chief of Staff, even if he has « breached official protocol » by speaking out on political matters. The last thing the government would want to do right now is unsettle the army which they rely on to carry out their policy, no matter how bloody and costly it is to the poor populations on the receiving end, or how damaging for the soldiers themselves.

What remains of Blair's policy in the Middle East are these intolerable wars, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with all the destruction and terrible bloodbaths they have caused. Once again, the determination of the rich western capitalist classes to tighten their stranglehold over the Middle East, will have resulted in a catastrophe for the populations of the region.

As to the working class, it can have only one clear and unambiguous position: against both these terrible wars, for troops out now!

24 Oct - The "calm" that hides the storm

Just over 2 months after handing over the province of Maysan to the Iraqi army on the grounds that it was now « calm », British soldiers are now on standby to restore order in its capital, Amara. This follows 2 days of gun battles in the streets, which left 31 dead and 100 injured.

Of course, at the time, claiming that the Maysan province was « calm » was nothing short of a lie. It was in this province, that in the early days of the occupation, the guerillas showed their ability to strike for the first time. Following a brutal operation carried out by British forces against the population of a small town in 2003, they attacked and killed a whole platoon in retaliation. Since then, the striking power of the guerillas has no t shown any sign of weakening, while the province has become a battleground for rival Shia militias vying for local power.

These rivalries came to a head last week. The Home ministry, in Baghdad, is in the hands of one Shia militia, known as the Badr brigade. This militia has been using this ministry to take control of the local police forces across the country, in particular in the Shia-dominated areas. In Amara, the police arrested the local leader of a rival militia. This was enough to bring hundreds of armed men out into the streets, to occupy police buildings in order to obtain the release of their leader.

What happened in Amara is not just an isolated incident. Across the country the on-going rivalries between militias are causing more and more casualties. Far from being able to restore any kind of peace in Iraq, the occupation forces only inflame these rivalries - if only because of their continuing support for those militias which have agreed to sit in their puppet « democratic » government in Baghdad. All the occupation forces do in the end, is to train their fire indiscriminately on the population, thereby bringing more recruits to the most anti-western militias.

It is no coincidence if, in October, western forces experienced their largest number of casualties since the occupation of Fallujah, two years ago. Nor is it a coincidence if casualty levels among the population are at their highest since Bush declared the war officially « over ». This only reflects the real situation in Iraq that this

government tries so hard to conceal from our eyes.

Following the events in Amara, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells stated in an interview on Radio Five that the Iraqi police and army would be able to take over within a year at most, thereby allowing the withdrawal of British troops. This is little more than a bad joke. British troops should withdraw, yes, but they should withdraw now, before they cause even more damage!

7 Nov - The wolves claim the blood of one of their own

Everyone knew what the verdict of the Saddam Hussein trial in Baghdad would be. It was a stage-managed affair, not because Saddam Hussein is innocent of the crimes he is accused of, but because the script and the conclusion of the trial had already been written in Washington. The western powers wanted a symbolic demonstration that the regime they had overthrown was really finished. And they got what they wanted.

But the mere fact that the verdict was announced on the eve of the US Congress election, in which Bush is predicted to face a disaster, is more than just a symbol. It is evidence of the fact that Iraq's "democratic" justice is but a tool in the hands of Bush's election machinery!

Indeed, contrary to what Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett declared in the following hours, this verdict has nothing to do with "justice". Nor is it the expression of a population emerging from 24 years of dictatorship to build a new Iraq . It is the crude expression of the diktats of Washington and London, backed up by the fire power of the world's most powerful army and an indefinite curfew on Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

What of Saddam's western minders?

Most conspicuous by their absence in the dock in this trial were Saddam's old Western minders.

How can it be forgotten that, for most of his time at the helm of Iraq's Baath dictatorship, Saddam was but an auxiliary of the rich western countries' power games in the Middle East, including against his own people?

During his trial, where were the CIA and MI5 officials who aided and abetted Saddam in his efforts to smash the Iraqi working class movement and Communist Party?

Many of the weapons that he used against the Iranian population during the most bloody war of that period, as well as against his own people, were either provided or funded by Western powers. During this trial, where were the western arms manufacturers who sold him these weapons and the western ministers who funded his army?

In the heyday of Saddam's regime, there was no question of the West blaming him for resorting to chemical weapons against the Iranians or even against his own population. During his Anfal campaign, for which he still has to be tried, the Daily Telegraph even managed to blame his gassing of Kurdish villages on Iran!

If, as Margaret Beckett says, one should rejoice that Saddam Hussein "has been held to account", what about the Thatchers, the Reagans and all those who endorsed their criminal policies by failing to expose the use of Saddam's state terrorism? When will they ever be "held to account"?

And what about today's criminals?

In any case, one thing the US and British governments cannot blame on Saddam Hussein is the catastrophic situation their invasion of Iraq has created for the country and its population.

Not only has the invasion destroyed much of Iraq's infrastructure and forced over 3.5m Iraqis out of their homes and many more into destitution. Not only has it claimed over 600,000 civilians' lives. But it has paved the way for a bloody civil war between militias vying for political power.

Bush and Blair can blame al-Qaeda and "international terrorism" for this until the end of time. But the facts speak for themselves. On the day before the verdict, 67 civilian Iraqis were officially killed across the country, 53 of them having been shot by the western-trained Iraqi army.

The truth is, that the very forces on which London and Washington claim to be relying in order to bring back some sort of normality to Iraq - the new police and army trained and equipped by the occupation forces - are themselves vehicles for the warring militias. Just as the western-backed so-called "democratic" government is itself an uneasy coalition of politicians allied to these militias. As such, they are all part of the problem, not part of the solution.

When London and Washington finally choose to pull their troops out, and the sooner the better, the bill left for the Iraqi people will be exorbitant. And there is not even the slightest guarantee that the regime that will come out of this bloody mess will be any better than Saddam's.

As to the Bushs, the Blairs and the other criminals responsible for this mess, it will be up to us working people to see to it that they are "held to account".