Amnesty International’s latest report on Iraq is aptly entitled “New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq”. Though Amnesty’s report is by no means a comprehensive catalogue of violations, it does shed some light on the horrific treatment of tens of thousands of people unlawfully detained by the occupation and the Iraqi regime’s forces. There is little doubt that this report would have attracted much wider and more prominent coverage had it been about North Korea, Iran or China.
Today the word “progress” is favoured by US and British politicians and the media when it comes to describing developments in Iraq. President Obama has even felt comfortable to pontificate, “Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course.” His predecessor was often portrayed as the bumbling idiot who was dictated to by his vice-president, Dick Cheney. Well, the very articulate, suave and highly intelligent Obama has reverted to telling the same lies. Iraq today is sinking deeper into the mire of repression, corruption and instability.
The means of repression are Saddamist and more, the levels of state corruption have overtaken the most corrupt in the world, and the instability is fast approaching Somali proportions. The Amnesty report and the recent Human Rights Watch statement on secret regime directives to ban and crush popular protest do not deal with the most lethal and intimidating means of repression: the increased use of US air power, including bombing missions by drones, and the military raids launched by the US and US-trained and led Iraqi forces. Days after Obama announced the withdrawal of more US forces from Iraq last month, US and Iraqi forces killed many people in raids in Diala, Falluja and Diwaniya in the south.
For the Iraqi people the occupation, repression, state corruption, unemployment, lack of basic services and extremely harsh daily existence are painfully relentless. Not only are 50,000 US troops and over 400 military bases and posts still in Iraq, but there are also tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries contracted to the Pentagon, State Department and Iraqi regime. This is in line with the recent trend to privatise the armed forces, both as a means of channelling funds into the coffers of the war merchants and to stem the tide of popular opposition to war by reducing casualties among US soldiers and camouflaging the occupation. But the main prop for this policy is the ongoing attempt to make Iraqis kill Iraqis by expanding the Iraqi security forces under US control.
Faced with determined resistance, mounting US casualties and overwhelming Iraqi and worldwide popular opposition to the occupation, the US suffered a serious military and political setback in Iraq. Coupled with adverse developments in Afghanistan, Iran and Lebanon the US is shifting its strategy and redeploying its forces in the entire region, treating it as a unified theatre of war of many fronts.
In echoes of Vietnam, US strategists have been feverishly trying to turn military defeat into political victory. Alas, they have so far been successful with the new strategy of “Iraqisation” and privatisation of the war. This setback for the Iraqi people has been brought about by the transformation of most of the Iraqi political groups opposed to Saddam’s dictatorship into willing accomplices of US imperialism in Iraq.
Thirty five years of Saddamist repression, often backed by the US and Britain, has had a devastating impact on Iraq’s organised political forces, with often exiled leaderships, including the ever degenerating Iraqi Communist Party. Seven months after the sham elections, they are still fighting over who will become prime minister and who will control the greater portion of Iraq’s wealth. In this, they all turn to the largest US embassy in the world for guidance and support.
This transformation has been effectively used by the US and Britain to sow sectarian conflict and ethnic tensions in Iraqi society. Thus the Iraqi people have had no unified political leadership that could lead the struggle to cleanse Iraq of the imperialist occupation. In these most difficult of circumstances, the largely spontaneous struggle of the Iraqi people has been incredibly determined and heroic.
This magnificent chapter of struggle has come at the cost of over a million people killed, and many millions maimed, orphaned and widowed. But the Iraqi people’s history is testimony to the fact that they never bow their heads to oppressors, whether of the colonialist, imperialist or domestic varieties. Protracted it might be, but their struggle against imperialist occupation and domestic oppressors goes on, and is worthy of greater attention and support in Britain.
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