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IRAQ: end this bloody occupation
GEORGE BUSH congratulated Iraqi voters for "setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom." 38 years earlier his presidential predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, proclaimed elections in South Vietnam as "encouraging the growth of constitutional processes."
By the conclusion of the Vietnam war up to two million Vietnamese were dead and 58,000 US troops had been killed in action.
Last month's Iraq elections, held under the conditions of a US-led military occupation, with most Sunni Arabs either abstaining or intimidated from voting, is redefining the term "democracy".
Far from uniting Iraqis, the election of a general assembly to draw up a new constitution has set in train the prospect of a bloody sectarian civil war. Already the ethnic and religious faultlines are widening as the leaders of the different electoral blocs manoeuvre for power.
The main Iraqi Shia Muslim list - the United Iraqi Alliance, backed by the pro-Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - has demanded the post of prime minister and the introduction of Islamic law. Such laws will conflict with the largely secular Kurdistan Alliance. This Kurdish coalition could also fracture as its two main parties - the KDP and PUK - have previously fought each other for power in their northern enclave.
Moreover, the prospect of an independent Kurdish controlled northern Iraq (which incorporates vast oil fields) has incurred the wrath of Turkey's rulers, who have long waged a ruthless campaign against Kurdish self-rule.
On top of this volatile mix is the resentment of the five million Sunni Arabs, from whom were drawn the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein but who now find themselves excluded from power. Many have already turned to waging a guerrilla war. The new balance of political forces following the Iraq election will do nothing to halt this growing insurgency.
US imperialism and its UK junior coalition partner wanted a pliant stooge regime to secure Iraq's oil reserves and to reassert political control in the Middle East. Instead, their candidate, Iyad Allawi, was humiliatingly defeated in the flawed elections, beaten by Islamic parties who are opposed to the occupation.
After nearly two years under occupation most Iraqis are worse off than under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Bombings, assassinations and kidnappings have become the norm. Electricity and water supplies are only available intermittently. Schools, hospitals and the country's infrastructure remain in disrepair. Unemployment and poverty is widespread.
Nearly $9 billion of revenue from Iraq's oil exports has 'disappeared' - into the pockets of corrupt officials. Billions in reconstruction aid has gone to swell the profits of US multinationals like Bechtel and Haliburton.
The occupation, as the socialist warned two years ago, is an unmitigated disaster. Demonstrate in London on 19 March, and show solidarity with those ordinary Iraqis by demanding the withdrawal of British and coalition troops.
In The Socialist 19 February 2005: