"WERE WE to fail it is more than 'the power of America' that would be defeated," Tony Blair said last weekend. "The hope of freedom and religious tolerance in Iraq would be snuffed out. Dictators would rejoice. Fanatics and terrorists would be triumphant."
There were fanatics and terrorists on the rampage in Iraq last week. They were the US troops who slaughtered at least 600 people. The city of Fallujah is in revolt against the repression meted out by the US-led troops (see report here).
No wonder Fallujah is a centre of resistance. On 5 May last year US troops murdered 18 civilians, including children, at a school in Fallujah. Two days later they killed another two Iraqis protesting against the massacre. It was these acts of military terrorism that led the people of Fallujah to resist, putting up banners across the city saying "Leave our country" and "You are here for oil-not freedom".
The US sent 1,500 more troops into the city and placed it under curfew. In June last year 1,300 troops swept the city at 2am arresting dozens. The US used 500-pound bombs on the city in November in "Operation Iron Hammer" and again two weeks ago-killing 40 at the city's mosque. At every turn, Bush and Blair have met Iraqi resistance with greater repression-both in the "Sunni triangle" around Baghdad, and southern Iraq where the majority are Shia Muslims.
Now the US has threatened Moqtada Sadr, the radical Shia cleric who has become a focus for the resistance. Ricardo Sanchez, a senior US general said, "The mission of US forces is to kill or capture Moqtada Sadr." The threat will have a familiar ring to Sadr. Saddam Hussein made similar threats against his father, another Shia cleric, before having him killed in 1999.
The fact that Shia Muslims-the largest group to face repression under Saddam Hussein-have joined with Sunni Muslims to oppose the occupation shows how widespread the resistance is. Bush has ruled out elections, even after the "handover of power" due to take place on 30 June. He knows that free elections in Iraq would bring to power people opposed to the occupation.
He knows that most Iraqis oppose the network of permanent US bases being built across the country and the corporate takeover of Iraq by US multinationals. Some in Britain and the US are arguing to postpone the handover date-refusing even to give the illusion of Iraqi self rule (see page 7).
Others argue that, although the war was wrong, we cannot abandon Iraq now. From the Daily Mail to the Guardian, they say that a United Nations (UN) force should replace US and British troops.
If Bush and Blair are forced to take the UN option, it will only be to relieve the pressure on their forces and to maintain a cover for their pillage of Iraq. Nor could the UN be the pacifying force some hope for. As Salim Lone, a former communications director at the UN, wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday, UN general secretary Kofi Annan backed the US decision not to hold elections in Iraq.
So, Lone says, "The UN ended up intensifying the crisis, appearing pro-US, anti-Iraqi and anti-democratic. The UN image has fallen to abysmally low levels in the Arab and Muslim worlds." There are three simple measures that could bring peace to Iraq:
(1) Immediate free elections.
(2) The handing back of the wealth stolen from Iraq.
(3) The withdrawal of all foreign troops, mercenaries and military advisers.
Japan: protests demand 'troops home'
Thousands of Japanese people demonstrated last week demanding their government bring its troops back from Iraq, after three Japanese citizens were taken hostage. As in Spain, they blame the decision to send troops for the tragedies which have occurred since.