Socialist Worker

Occupation is a disaster for the warmongers

Veteran anti-war campaigner Tariq Ali gave a speech analysing the problems for the US in Iraq at last weekend’s peace conference.

Issue No. 1981

Tariq Ali speaking at the International Peace Conference 
 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tariq Ali speaking at the International Peace Conference (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The war in Iraq is a complete and utter disaster. For the people of Iraq there is more suffering today than under the previous government. You have unlimited torture, the use of chemical weapons, limitless killing of civilians by the occupation forces in Iraq.

That is why it is our duty to build a peace movement that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. People ask, “If we leave, won’t there be a messy civil war?” But what do they think is going on now?

Every one of the colonial occupations of the 20th century has led to a mass ethnic cleansing. When imperialists find they cannot control the situation they try to divide the population.

That is what is going on in Iraq today. Having failed to occupy the country, because of the resistance mounted inside Iraq, they have moved on to Plan B. They are now trying to divide Iraq into three bits.

But this creates massive contradictions for the US in the region. There’s Turkey on one side and Iran on the other.

There will be the risk of setting off a new wave of opposition. While most of the Arab regimes are puppets that are unlikely to open their mouths, the people of the Middle East are opposed to the occupation of Iraq.

Every opinion poll in Iraq, even ones carried out by pro-imperialists, reports that 60 to 70 percent of the population are opposed to the occupation. Large swathes of Shia don’t support the politicians that speak in their name.

I have no doubt that the occupation will get messy. George Bush and Tony Blair are building military bases in Kurdish areas.

Every time politicians on either side of the Atlantic open their mouths they say they won’t allow “terrorists” to change “our way of life”. But all the Iraqis are saying is, “Get out of our country.” It is the governments in the US and Britain that are changing the Iraqi people’s way of life by creating this ugly war against them.

We need to stop these absurd laws against terrorism. The 90 day detention proposal was defeated, and thank heaven for that. But it’s not that 28 days is much better.

Why do they want to torture prisoners psychologically and physically by holding them without charge? It’s to soften them up before they appear in court.

That’s why it’s important to keep the peace movement and find different ways of moving to keep up pressure on our politicians, who only act when they are pressured from below.

Conferences like this are useful, but we must understand some of the complexities of the situation in Iraq.

There is no single resistance. But if we had nobody resisting then Bush and Blair would have claimed victory. If there’s an anti-war movement in the US today, it’s because large swathes of Iraqi people fought back.

This attempt to write off the resistance as “terrorists” is as old as imperialism itself. If they pass laws saying it is no longer legal to support the resistance we will defy these law.

But it’s not going to be easy for the US. I do not believe it has the troops necessary to go to war with any other country.

This occupation cannot last. For good or bad, it’s the Iraqi people who will determine the future. I recently returned from a trip to Cuba and Venezuela. The officials there had large maps of Iraq pinned on their wall—they pointed to them and said, “They’re fighting for us as well.”


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