Socialist Worker

We reject this foreign occupation

Day by day more and more Iraqis are seeing the US forces occupying their country as their enemy. There is mounting resistance against the troops which Bush and Blair promised would bring freedom

Issue No. 1848

THE US is succeeding in uniting Iraqis in hatred of the invasion. On Friday of last week around 20,000 people left Baghdad's Abi Hanefah Nouman mosque. They marched through the streets waving Korans and carrying banners in Arabic and English reading, 'Leave our country. We want peace'.

A leading Sunni Muslim cleric accused the US of crushing Iraq on Israel's behalf and denounced the US military occupation as illegal. He called for the unity of the country's Sunni and Shia populations to force out the US troops.

One protester told reporters, 'We will give the American troops a few months to leave Iraq. If they do not then we will fight them with knives.' At the same time in the predominantly Shia Muslim northern suburbs of Baghdad around 50,000 people filled the streets surrounding the Al-Hikma mosque to hear a leading Shia cleric.

He said that a government 'that allows Iraqis to say what they want but gives them no say in their destiny would be worse than that of Saddam Hussein'. The Baghdad protests are fuelled by a burning sense of resentment against US forces. They murdered thousands of civilians and destroyed residential areas during the first phase of the war.

They defended the country's oil ministry while failing to protect hospitals, colleges, museums and libraries. There was still no water and electricity at the beginning of this week, but the US had imposed a strict curfew on millions of people.

Independent journalist Robert Fisk reports that the US troops are not making even the most elementary investigations to find the torturers and killers from Saddam Hussein's regime. Instead the killing of civilians goes on. Last week US marines in a tank killed three people who were in the vicinity of a bank robbery. The dead were not connected with the robbery in any way.

'Unfortunately we killed the good guys,' said Lieutenant Patrick Spencer of the Marines 13/4 company. 'We found that out later, when we checked the bodies.'

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week US marines shot down Iraqis in the northern city of Mosul. On the first day they killed at least ten. The next day they shot dead three. The unrest in Mosul was sparked by two pieces of US arrogance.

Firstly the occupying forces hoisted the American flag on US military vehicles and over the city's municipal offices. Secondly the US allowed Mishaan Al-Jubari to declare himself city governor. He is a pro-US former Republican Guard general who fled Iraq after he was accused of corruption.

As the bodycount grew in Mosul, a US soldier complained to the New York Times that the people were 'not grateful'. Demonstrations against the invasion have spread through much of Iraq. In Karbala, south west of Baghdad, a cleric told people, 'We reject this foreign occupation, which is a new imperialism. We don't want it anymore. We don't need the Americans. They're here to control our oil.'

In Kut, demonstrators spat at US troops and chanted 'No Chalabi', referring to the man who may be installed as the US puppet in Iraq. As the US held the first 'talks' about self-rule with handpicked opposition groups, around 20,000 people protested in Nasiriya.

The most senior US military officer in Baghdad, Major-General James Mattis, promised that electricity would be restored by last weekend. Instead, parts of the city which had some supplies over the previous few days found even they had been cut off.

Reporter Kim Sengupta writes, 'Baghdad, whose public services were once of First World standard, has slipped back 100 years. As well as the lack of power, the telephone system has not worked for more than two weeks - since the Americans bombed the exchanges. Eleven days after US forces occupied the city and four days after their engineers were supposed to have begun working around the clock at the power plants, the lack of amenities is fuelling the anti-American feeling in the streets. 'They did the destroying, why can't they repair them?' is the most common question.'

Around 30 Baghdad hospitals are closed because of looting and arson. The three still functioning are reporting water-borne diseases. General Mattis said the US military is helping the Iraqis. But at the Durah plant, which once supplied 30 percent of electricity for Baghdad, the US airborne regiments were there only to guard the premises.

The World Health Organisation has said the main hospitals in the northern city of Mosul had been looted and were operating at about 50 percent of capacity.

Country run by corporations

BUSH'S VISION of a 'free Iraq' is of a country run by US corporations with its oil wealth in the hands of multinationals. A $680 million contract for Iraqi reconstruction was awarded to US engineering company Bechtel last week. Bechtel has close links to Bush's Republican Party.

Chief executive Riley Bechtel has just been appointed to George Bush's export council. Bechtel's senior vice-president, Jack Sheehan, is a member of a Pentagon advisory group, the Defence Policy Board. George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan and adviser to the pro-war Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, is also on Bechtel's board.

Over the last four years Bechtel has donated around $700,000 to the Republicans. Bechtel's contract involves rebuilding Iraq's electrical, water and sewage systems and its schools, hospitals and roads.

The battle to control Iraq's massive oil reserves is also just beginning. French and Russian oil companies are determined to keep hold of the oilfields they struck deals to develop with Saddam Hussein's regime. But the US is rushing to put together a team to 'advise' any future Iraqi regime.

'For the international oil companies Iraq is the best new opportunity in decades in a world where the vast majority of reserves are in countries unwilling to let them in,' said Tom Nicolls, editor of the Petroleum Economist journal.

The US is also planning to use Iraq to maintain a long-term strategic foothold in the Middle East. This will include the right to use four of the country's military bases, including Baghdad International Airport.

ISRAEL AND the CIA are planning to build an oil pipeline from Iraq to Israel. Such a pipeline would transform economic power in the region. Syria would be left out while Israel's energy bills would be cut by 25 percent.

A former CIA official said last weekend, 'It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the US administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel's energy supply as well as that of the US.' The pipeline idea was promoted by US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.

Current US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld promoted the plan in the 1980s. He wanted the pipeline to be built by Bechtel - the company that has just been awarded the contract to rebuild Iraq.

Ba'ath are back

THE US and British governments promised they would remove the Ba'ath regime from power in Iraq. But they are now re-employing known Ba'ath officials in positions of power and authority.

At least 2,000 Ba'ath Party police are back on the streets of Baghdad at the invitation of the US. Minders from the information ministry who used to spy on journalists and monitor their reports are now offering their services as translators. Bureaucrats from the oil ministry have been offered their jobs back.

Where are weapons?

NO WEAPONS of mass destruction have yet been found in Iraq. Many politicians are beginning to ask why they were conned into believing that Iraq posed a real and immediate threat to the US.

Lindsay Hoyle, Labour MP for Chorley, voted in favour of the war. Last weekend he said, 'We were led to believe that the Iraqis could fire these weapons within 45 minutes. If that was the case where have they vanished to? We were told there was hard evidence.'

Aid denied entry

US FORCES refused the charity Save the Children permission to land a plane carrying medical supplies in northern Iraq last week. The plane was loaded with enough supplies to treat 40,000 people including emergency feeding kits and supplies for hospitals.

Rob MacGillivray, the charity's emergency programme manager, said, 'This lack of cooperation from the US military is costing children their lives.'

A UN food convoy coming to Baghdad from Jordan this week will carry 1,400 tonnes of wheatflour. Another supply line has been established from Turkey for the north of the country with trucks bringing in 3,000 tonnes of food.

The World Food Programme says that 480,000 tonnes of food will be required for Iraq each month but that it cannot find the £202 million it needs for providing emergency aid.

'They murdered our brother in war of rich'

JOSE COUSO PERMUY was a photographer shot dead by US troops in the Palestine hotel in Baghdad. Here is a statement read out by his brothers David and Javier, and his sister Barbara, at a recent anti-war demonstration in Madrid:

'DON'T TELL us, as the government does, that our brother died of an 'unfortunate accident', that there were snipers and that he knew the risks he was taking. Don't tell us, as the government does, that his death was exploited by the Iraqi regime, or that his death upsets public opinion and it is necessary to forget it. They MURDERED our brother.

'So that there would be no witnesses. So that there would be no voices contradicting the Disney image of 'intelligent' bombs, 'humanitarian' wars and civilian deaths as 'collateral damage'.

'In these sad days, we say that if they are capable of MURDERING an accredited journalist like our brother, in the middle of Baghdad in the eyes of the whole international community, what are they doing to civilians or those they regard as enemies who get in their way? In the name of morality they are immoral. In the name of liberty they crush liberty. In the name of life they kill.

'But there are worse. The minions, the accomplices, the yesmen, the campfollowers, the puppets, the buckpassers, the cringers, the well rewarded, who from this government look down on the people and ally themselves with the Empire.

'In face of all this there are us, the lions who hold their heads up, THE PEOPLE. We have come out on the streets, with our hands our fists, our cries, our songs, our tears, our wounds, our resistance, our courage. Today, Jose Couso, our brother, the people are with you, hating the war of the rich and knowing there is only one word to describe Bush, Blair and Aznar: MURDERERS.'

Tanks roll over peace

THE ISRAELI government launched one of the largest military raids in Gaza since the start of the intifada. This shows how contemptuously Israel regards the 'road map for peace', lauded by Tony Blair.

Six people were killed and 48 wounded when armoured vehicles entered the Yibna district of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. Among the dead was a 14 year old Palestinian civilian. The raid is a calculated sign from Israeli leader Ariel Sharon that there will be no let-up in military activity in the Occupied Territories.

More than 15,000 mourners waving rifles and Palestinian flags crowded the streets of Rafah to bury five of the dead.

The 'new' Iraq

New ethnic cleansing

THOUSANDS OF Arab villagers across central and northern Iraq are in fear of their lives as the war has unleashed ethnic cleansing similar to what happened under Saddam Hussein. Some Kurdish groups are trying to reverse through violence the 'Arabisation' process which drove them from their homes under the Ba'athist regime. Hundreds of people have already died in inter-ethnic clashes.

US forces have not made any attempt to stop the widespread expulsion of Arabs and Turkomans. Bush's method of dealing with issues through military power encourages people to copy the use of violence at the local level.

Near Daquq, 30 miles south of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, more than 2,000 Arab villagers have been made to leave the land they have farmed for more than three decades.

The man at the Hunting Club

AHMAD CHALABI is leader of the Iraqi National Congress and the Pentagon's choice to be president of Iraq. After 44 years in exile Chalabi swept into Baghdad last week and installed himself in the Hunting Club, the notorious haunt of Saddam's loyal henchmen. US troops ensured Chalabi was the first exiled Iraqi leader to return to Baghdad and they ensure he is well protected.

Despite Chalabi's hollow claims that he is not interested in running Iraq, one of his aides rushed to declare himself mayor of Baghdad last week. Chalabi brought with him a private army of Iraqi exiles, hailed as freedom fighters by the right wing press.

They have now been accused of lawlessness by the US troops. They have been seen stealing cars and trucks from hospitals in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya. Chalabi himself was convicted of swindling £40 million from a bank in Jordan in 1989.

DU: the US's deadly legacy

US AND British troops have dropped hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) on Iraq. They have dropped some 2,000 tonnes on Baghdad. DU is designed to be lethal. It can crash through the armour of a modern tank and it poisons land and contaminates water supplies for years causing cancers and genetic defects.

In 1991 the US forces dropped 340 tonnes of DU on Iraq and cancer rates rocketed. It became a standard weapon in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. The Pentagon recently claimed it had no obligation to clear up the DU because it has not been proved to be dangerous. It quoted the Royal Society in Britain as backing its view.

The Royal Society was furious and immediately stated they believed soldiers and children to be particularly at risk from DU. New research by the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in the US has just revealed that even tiny amounts of DU can cause genetic damage in humans.

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Sat 26 Apr 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1848
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