Socialist Worker

The bloody reality of the new war in Iraq

Issue No. 1870

WITH EVERY day that passes, the occupation in Iraq is creating more horror and hardship for the country's people. There are 1,000 killings a week in Iraq, Independent journalist Robert Fisk reported recently. This has been confirmed since by other journalists who have visited the country's morgues.

In a typical day's work, US troops shot up a wedding, killing a 14 year old boy and wounding six other people, on Thursday of last week. Alongside the deaths is a marked deterioration in the lives of every Iraqi right across the country. 'It is chaos, impoverishment, it's anything but what was promised to them by the coalition partners in London and Washington.'

These were the words of Hans von Sponeck, a former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq who ran the 'oil for food' programme. He told Socialist Worker that, although life for Iraqis was miserable under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, 'fundamental things were obtainable. A food basket was there once a month. Electricity was never good, but it's worse now. 'Reconstruction makes little progress. The schools are not reopening, people are afraid to go out on the streets. The overall living conditions for the Iraqi people are significantly worse than they were when Saddam Hussein was in charge.'

George Bush announced in May of this year the end of 'major combat operations' in Iraq. But since then, as Fisk's report shows, the number of Iraqis killed has risen each month. Hans von Sponeck dismisses the US government's claim that the growing resistance to the occupation is made up of remnants of the old regime, or terrorists coming across the border from Iran or Syria.

He says, 'You probably have new recruits from among the Iraqi population because they are angry and hateful. 'How many people have lost members of their families during the war-and since-because of the indiscriminate, undisciplined behaviour of the troops?' The upsurge in fighting in Iraq has thrown the whole of George Bush's strategy into crisis.

Deepening discontent in Iraq and the growing unpopularity of the occupation in the US and Britain mean that Bush and Blair are faced with a serious dilemma. Paying for support They know if they pull out of Iraq it would be a massive blow to US power. At the same time they are struggling to find sufficient troops to maintain a grip on Iraq. Bush has announced that he will need an extra $87 billion to pay for the occupation.

Gordon Brown plans to suck more money out of schools and hospitals to pay for British support. There are growing signs of discontent among troops serving in Iraq. Tim Predmore, a US soldier on active duty in Iraq, recently wrote an article talking about the occupation.

'Americans are dying. There are an estimated ten to 14 attacks every day,' he writes. 'As the body count continues to grow, it would appear that there is no end in sight. So, then, what is our purpose here? Was this invasion due to weapons of mass destruction, as we so often heard? If so, where are they? Did we invade to dispose of a leader and his regime on the account of close association with Osama Bin Laden? If so, where is the proof? Or is it that our incursion is a result of our own economic advantage? Iraq's oil can be refined at the lowest cost of any in the world. Coincidence?'

In this special section we present the arguments and analysis to build the movement against the occupation.

No sign of liberation

Hamid Karzai, leader of Afghanistan, is a guest at Labour's conference. Yvonne Ridley spoke to Socialist Worker

I Recently went undercover to Afghanistan disguised as an Afghani woman. I went to Bermil, because I heard US forces had killed an Afghani family there. They sent a laser-guided missile into their home. The villagers saw what happened but US troops stopped them from rescuing people. Eleven children were killed and one mother lost all her nine children. Days later a senior US army officer returned and handed over the equivalent of $10,000.

So now we know what an Afghan child's life is worth to the US-less than $1,000. These children were just as innocent as those who died in the Lockerbie disaster. Just like in Iraq, the US has no idea about the local culture. US forces are not peacekeepers. Hamid Karzai is known here as the mayor of Kabul, although even in Kabul he is coming under increasing attack.

Nowhere in Afghanistan can you say life has improved since the war ended. The warlords are regrouping. The country is becoming more dangerous. The US presence attracts 'jihadis' like a magnet. If the US left, things would be much better. Life hasn't improved one bit for ordinary people since the US installed its puppet regime.

Aid agencies hardly dare step outside Kabul. People remain desperately poor. Even in Kabul, things aren't better. You don't exactly see career women flourishing. The first women's minister was hounded from her job. Ethnic tensions are rising as people from one tribe return home to the capital to find their homes have been taken by people from another tribe. I would love to say things are getting better, but Afghanistan is a total mess.
Yvonne Ridley is a journalist with Al Jazeera

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Sat 27 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1870
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