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Iraq's 'Liberation' Nightmare
"SIX MONTHS after American tanks roared triumphantly into the centre of Baghdad... the United States has turned military victory into political defeat in Iraq". (Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 10/10/03)
To say that the US and British governments' attempt to pacify and rebuild war-torn Iraq is a failure is a gross understatement. An admission of this failure comes in the form of yet another "initiative" by the Bush administration.
Control of operations in Iraq and that other US/UK failure, Afghanistan, now will be centralised under White House control - the 'Iraq Stabilisation Group' - and headed up by national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice.
It is an attempt to rescue the situation from the mess created by the Pentagon and the State Department. The security situation, critical to rebuilding Iraq's smashed economy, continues to deteriorate. The latest suicide bombing targeted a central Baghdad hotel used by the stooge Iraqi Governing Council and by US contractors. It is also rumoured that the hotel housed CIA spies.
There has been a steady stream of US casualties from guerrilla attacks (around 25 a day) since Bush declared last May that hostilities had ceased. However, with an estimated 10,000 killed it is ordinary Iraqis who are bearing the brunt of the country's lawlessness.
The post-Saddam Iraqi police are also increasingly being targeted. A suicide bomber blew up a Baghdad police station killing at least nine people on 9 October.
And last weekend, 300 US-appointed Iraqi police fled the northern Iraqi oil town of Baiji after residents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns turned on them. Residents were angered by the police seizing from people cars which had previously belonged to the Saddam regime. To try and calm the situation the US sacked the police chief.
However, there are now demonstrations almost daily by Iraqis demanding jobs and calling on the occupying powers to leave. Many Iraqis understand that the US presence is about the vast oil reserves not 'liberation'.
In a move designed to overcome this growing local hostility, especially in the Sunni Muslim 'triangle' north and west of Baghdad, the US has persuaded Turkey's military to send up to 20,000 soldiers to Iraq.
This is yet another disaster in the making. This week a suicide bomber tried to blow up the Turkish embassy in Baghdad. The deployment was even opposed by members of the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) - not least the Kurdish representatives who see Turkey's ruling class as determined to prevent any Kurdish self-determination in the region (the Kurdish minority comprises 15%-20% of Iraq's population).
Many other Iraqi groups are also opposed to the Turkish presence, which generates bitter memories of the repressive Turkish Ottoman empire's rule over the country - that ended in 1917.
The IGC was also ignored over the decision to train 30,000 Iraqi police in neighbouring Jordan for $1.3 billion. The IGC instead wanted them trained in Iraq at one-third the cost. This is, presumably, what the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) means by 'democracy'.
The CPA has hailed the franchising of mobile phone networks and the introduction of new banknotes without Saddam Hussein's image as evidence of economic progress. The coalition failed to point out however, that it was their bombs which wrecked Iraq's telephone land lines and that unemployment and poverty is growing. Two-thirds of Iraqis in this oil-rich country are dependent on foreign food aid and, typically, have to obtain petrol on the black market.
The coalition is determined to promote capitalism and has said that the state sector will be privatised (apart from oil and land) and that foreign firms will be able to repatriate 100% of profits. Not that many companies would risk investing in such an insecure country.
And with oil revenues falling far short of expected yields, Bush has demanded $100 billion from the US Congress and from international donors for reconstruction.
With US presidential and Congressional elections due in 2004 and with other countries who opposed military intervention happy to see Bush 'sweat', raising such a large sum won't be easy. Moreover, the bombing of the United Nations building and attacks on diplomats and aid workers is making foreign relief agencies and potential donor countries wary of intervening in Iraq's reconstruction.
Iraq's 'liberation', promised before the war by Bush and Blair, has turned into the nightmare of an imperialist occupation.
In The Socialist 18 October 2003:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
War and occupation
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis