Socialist Worker

Iraqis rage at US arrogance

Issue No. 1849

US OCCUPIERS are fuelling resentment and protest as they arrogantly stamp their authority across Iraq. This week Jay Garner, the former general the US has installed as overlord, arrested Mohammed Mohsen al Zubaidi, who had declared himself mayor of Baghdad. Garner said Zubaidi was arrested for his 'inability to support the coalition military authority'.

The US stopped him in the middle of TV interviews and later arrested him along with seven others. Garner is lording it over Iraqis in his new headquarters. This is inside a palace compound once used by Saddam Hussein, protected by barbed wire, tanks and US troops.

As one Iraqi commented, 'It is just the way the bureaucrats behaved under Saddam.' The US has also ousted local Shia leader Abbas Abu Ragef from the town hall in Kut, where there has been a series of anti-US protests. Lt General David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, warned last week, 'The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq.' Anyone challenging this authority 'would be subject to arrest'.

The occupiers were shocked at the recent mass pilgrimage of millions of Shia Muslims to Kerbala. Garner immediately tried to put the blame for their anti-US slogans on Iran. 'I will be candid. I do not think the coalition will accept out of region influence,' he said.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, 'If you're suggesting, how would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: that isn't going to happen.'

The US convened a conference of 300 Iraqis on Monday to try to impose its own placemen and ensure that the new Iraqi regime suits its interests. Author Patrick Cockburn describes the delegates: 'Most are former exiles seen as carpetbaggers or American pawns by ordinary Iraqis. And looking at the names of some of the more dubious characters, it may be that the real looting of Iraq is still to come.'

The US has already put Dan Amstutz - a former senior executive of the biggest grain exporter in the world, Cargill - in charge of Iraq's agriculture. He is a rampant free marketeer and served as a trade negotiator under Ronald Reagan.

Kevin Watkins, policy director of the charity Oxfam, said Amstutz would 'arrive with a suitcase of open-market rhetoric'. 'Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission,' he said. 'This guy is uniquely placed to advance the commercial interests of US grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market - but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country.'

Equally likely to cause outrage are plans to put a US chairman in charge of the Iraqi oil industry. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the US has lined up the former chief executive of the US division of the giant Royal Dutch/Shell oil company, Philip Carroll.


Humiliation is now a routine

IRAQIS ARE furious that the US guards the oil and pursues its interests yet still hasn't restored water and power supplies to many areas. There are numerous rallies of protesters demanding an end to the occupation. On Monday night US troops opened fire on a protest in the town of Falluja, killing 17 people and wounding scores more.

'Anti-US demonstrations are growing, and attacks on soldiers appear to be becoming systematic and daily,' reports the Independent. Hostility grew last weekend following the explosion of an arms dump that killed at least 12 Iraqi civilians.

The US was storing the weapons before destroying them. Troops claimed the explosion happened because they came under attack from Iraqis. Every civilian eyewitness denies this and blames the US for destroying the weapons 500 metres from a residential area.

One resident said, 'Saddam was a butcher, and now this. This is a residential area. Why are the Americans blowing up weapons near us?' People carrying six coffins, with the bodies of some of the dead, were joined by at least 500 Iraqis in an anti-US demonstration.

Anger is also rising at the way US troops are humiliating Iraqis daily. Chris Hughes of the Mirror reported this week how US troops stripped people suspected of looting and paraded them naked through the streets. He describes one scene:

'After being hauled before a kangaroo court, the men had the words 'Ali Baba Haram' - Arabic for 'Dirty thief, he stole' - scrawled on their chests with a marker pen. Trying to cover themselves, they were then paraded in front of a jeering crowd before fleeing to safety.'

Guardian writer Jonathan Steele has reported on the extent of the protests in Kut. 'Throughout southern Iraq, confrontation between Shia Muslims and the US forces is rising,' he wrote. 'The prophecy that 'Iraq will become Palestine', which some Iraqis were making within hours of the US entry into Baghdad, is not as far-fetched as it first seemed. On Wednesday four army lorries and a Humvee were ambushed by 400 people on a bridge over the Tigris. Yesterday stones were thrown when combat engineers brought in bulldozers to remove a barricade outside the town hall. Two marines were injured and at some point in the ensuing melee Daoud Salman Abu al-Heel, a 25 year old demonstrator, was killed. Three gunships clattered over the town shortly after the killing. Low-flying helicopter gunships, stone-throwing crowds, arrests of popular leaders, and now the first death: the ingredients of an intifada [uprising] are beginning to appear.'

There are similar reports from Baghdad and northern Iraq. 'Children - who at first flocked around the American forces and and were given sweets by the soldiers - have begun hurling rocks in Mosul and the Shia city of Najaf,' reports Phil Reeves in the Observer.

Every day there are anti-US protests outside the Palestine Hotel, where most foreign journalists stay, with people chanting, 'Americans go home!' A report in the New York Times last week described how most of the people it interviewed in Baghdad 'were angry at the United States military' and how 'they did not want an American overlord'.

It quoted a dentist, Ghassan Abda Rzak al-Obaidy, saying, 'The Americans want to stay the longest period of time possible. They want to sell their goods and services. It's a war of money.'


Children ripped apart

CIVILIANS ARE continuing to be killed every day in Iraq by unexploded cluster bomblets and landmines. At least 80 civilians have been killed since the capture of Baghdad three weeks ago.

Human Rights Watch has found the number of civilians killed or wounded since the war ended in northern Iraq is higher than during the war. It said many of the victims were children who play with explosives and cluster bomblets. The British army has admitted firing over 2,000 cluster shells during the battle for Basra alone.

The US says it dropped 1,500 cluster bombs. This figure includes only cluster bombs dropped from the air, and not those fired from the ground. As Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch says, 'Instead of whitewashing the facts, the Pentagon needs to come clean about the army's use of cluster munitions.' The British Ministry of Defence admitted last week that soldiers returning from the war will be tested to check their levels of depleted uranium to assess whether they are at risk from kidney damage and lung cancer.


Monster Rumsfeld

DONALD RUMSFELD denounces this 'constant refrain of 'the juveniles' as though there's 100 children in there - these are not children'.

He is referring to children under 16 who are being held in the horrific conditions of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Three boys aged between 13 and 16 years old are being held as 'enemy combatants'. The entire camp is in breach of the Geneva Convention.


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Features
Sat 3 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1849
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