HOW QUICKLY the image of a ‘liberated’ Iraq fell apart last week. Within two days of the US entering Baghdad there was chaos, looting and continued fighting. The media has talked about ‘rampaging mobs’ as if Iraqis are a naturally ‘uncivilised’ people who don’t know how to live in peace. But the chaos is a direct result of the war the US has waged on Iraq.
The US just wanted to blast in, seize the oil and level Iraq. When Bush’s military reached Baghdad they rushed to protect the oil ministry headquarters, not the city’s hospitals that were full of the victims of their bombs and bullets.
There was still no water or electricity in the city on Monday this week. The US was not concerned about the chaos that the war would create. This is exactly what US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy means. He is on the wing of the Project for the New American Century that advocates crushing the US’s opponents and spending as little time, money and effort as possible dealing with the consequences.
Faced with ‘restoring order’, the occupiers have turned to the forces which operated under Saddam Hussein’s rule. The US called for former policemen to come and patrol Baghdad this week. The order was passed on by Major General Zuhair al-Nuami, head of the police department at the interior ministry under the Ba’athists.
On Monday over 2,000 police registered for work under the US occupation. Many had stopped patrolling only days before as US forces closed in on the capital. Some were so fearful of reprisals from local residents that they turned up without their uniforms. British defence secretary Geoff Hoon commented, ‘The Ba’ath Party had a system of administration that will deliver.’
The US ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq is reflecting all the tensions that Saddam Hussein stirred up between the former ruling group, the Sunnis, the Shia majority and the Kurds. He was carrying on a divide and rule strategy pursued by the British when they ran the region. US occupation means repression. The US Special Forces drove into the town of Najaf last week with an Iraqi militia on board. The militia, named the Iraqi Coalition of National Unity, then set up headquarters in the town. Its leader pronounced himself mayor of Najaf. The militia has been looting and terrorising the neighbourhood.
One local resident says the group ‘has no basis in this city. We don’t know who they are. They threaten us, saying, ‘We are with the Americans, you can do nothing to us’.’
The rivalry between different groups exploded last week when the son of a former Shia leader, a stooge favoured by the US, was assassinated as he returned to Najaf.
Turmoil in Basra The British cannot claim they are better at bringing democracy in the towns they control. They announced last week they had selected a leader from one of the rival tribes in Iraq to run their ‘liberated’ Basra.
The Arab press has named him as Mozahem al Tamimi, who used to be a Ba’ath Party member and brigadier general in Saddam Hussein’s army. Several hundred protesters threw stones at his house last week as he held a meeting to discuss how to restore order. On Monday demonstrators returned, chanting, ‘No, no, Mozahem,’ and, ‘No Ba’ath and no tribes.’
Yet the British have set up a local council in Basra with ten tribal leaders among the 24 council members. Any illusion that Iraq will be ‘for the Iraqis themselves’ is shattered by the list of people the US is imposing now. Those lined up for senior posts include:
The US is also considering bringing back that symbol of modern, democratic rule, a monarchy.
In the frame for the Iraqi throne are:
THE SUN, which urged on the slaughter of Iraqis, is now hypocritically collecting money for Ali Abbas, the 12 year old boy who lost both arms as US bombs also killed his mother, father and a brother.
The US and Britain have created thousands of similar tragedies. The Pentagon estimates US troops killed more Iraqis in a single day- 5 April-than were killed in the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 100 civilian casualties per hour were being brought into Baghdad hospitals following the 5 April assault.
Robert Collier from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a few days later, ‘The body bags have run out at Baghdad’s Al-Kindi Hospital, and morgue workers have to cut up big rolls of black plastic to wrap the war’s latest victims. A team of four men worked all Monday afternoon, heaving body after body into the new, rough-cut bags. Dozens of corpses lay stacked inside the refrigerated room. Doctors have been carrying out some emergency surgery with only 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. In the United States, that’s standard prescription-strength dosage for muscle pain.’
US troops fired tank shells at what they knew were civilians in their cars at 7am on the Route 8 motorway on Wednesday of last week. The respected journalist Robert Fisk described the carnage they left behind. ‘Some say a hundred civilians died there. Others believe only 40 or 50 men, women and children were cut to pieces by American tank fire. Many of their corpses still lie rotting in their cars, a young woman, burnt naked, slumped face down over the rear seat on the Hillah flyover bridge next to half a male corpse that is hanging out of the driver’s door. Many families had come to find their dead relatives and bury them but I counted at least 16 civilian bodies, and parts of bodies, still on the highway, several of them women. All would have been alive today had George Bush not ordered his army to invade their country.’
A Washington Post article on 8 April said, ‘The Bravo Company convoy drove past dozens of burned-out vehicles and charred bodies on the way to downtown Baghdad. ‘Civilian passenger cars and trucks were also among the blasted vehicles, some with corpses inside.’
The article described what happened after the convoy came under fire: ‘Any vehicle that approached from the north was considered fair game.
A wounded man hit by shrapnel in a US artillery barrage on 5 April attack on southern Baghdad said, ‘We didn’t do anything to them. I was 100 percent sure they would not shoot at a civilian. Now I’m 100 percent sure they will.’ A man from the southern suburb of Yamama accused US forces of ‘firing at any car, any person.’ The hospital was reportedly stacking bodies on top of one another in its morgue.
Roland Huguenin, one of six International Red Cross workers in the Iraqi capital, said doctors were horrified by the casualties they had found in a hospital in Hilla, about 160 kilometres south of Baghdad. ‘There has been an incredible number of casualties,’ reported Huguenin. ‘We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. We had small toddlers of two or three years of age who had lost their legs, their arms.’
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