The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Falluja, Iraq:
The Population Caught in a Vise

Jun 20, 2016

Since May 25th, the Iraqi army and various mainly Shiite militias, supported by bombing from the imperialist coalition, have been trying to retake Falluja. This city in the northwest of Iraq has been occupied by Islamic State militias since January 2014.

In this Sunni city, which used to have 300,000 inhabitants, there are now only 50,000 according to Human Rights Watch. Many have attempted to flee at the risk of their lives, to escape the Islamic State militias, but also the intensified bombing. They have to escape shots from the Islamic State and land mines that it placed all around the city, while trying to reach the countryside or to cross the Euphrates river on makeshift boats.

“The people use anything that floats, from a chest of drawers to a plastic container,” said Caroline Gluck, the spokeswoman for the High Commissariat for Refugees for Iraq. In Amriyat al-Falluja, a place some 30 miles to the south of Falluja, displaced people, having fled locations under ISIS control, flow in every day, starving and exhausted, according to the Norwegian Council for Refugees. Those who escaped testify to the tragic situation that the population remaining in Falluja suffers from: famine, total lack of medicine, lack of drinkable water, without speaking of exactions committed by the jihadists who impose their rules that come from the Middle Ages.

But the population, mainly Sunni, equally fears reprisals from the Shiite militia called Population Mobilization Forces, which is supposed to liberate them. Hadi al-Ameri, the commander of the Badr militia, a former minister in the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki, announced clearly some months ago his wish to attack the Sunni zone, “until nothing remains.” According to Joe Stork, assistant director of the Middle East and North African division of Human Rights Watch, “Iraqi civilians are trapped between a hammer and anvil, suffering on the one hand attacks from the Islamic State and on the other, abuses committed by pro-governmental militias in the territory they have reconquered.” He had denounced the exactions committed by the Shiite militias in Diyala Province in February 2015.

The chaos in which Iraq as well as the whole of the region is plunged, isn’t a consequence of any geographic curse, nor of pretended ancestral religious conflicts, but the consequence of multiple imperialist interventions in the region. It flows in particular from the war unleashed in 2003 by the U.S. and allied imperialisms against Iraq, and the years of the occupation that followed. It was during this occupation, in 2004, that the U.S. army made a blood bath among the population of Falluja, in order to show what it costs to oppose that army.

Once Saddam Hussein was conquered, the imperialists destroyed the apparatus of the Iraqi state, whose cadres were Sunni, creating a new Iraqi power based on religious adherence, and supported essentially by Shiite militias. In this, they followed the policy that imperialism has always used, dividing in order to rule, supporting themselves on the most reactionary forces. When the U.S. troops left Iraq in December 2011, nothing was restored to normal, very much the contrary. The imperialist leaders had opened a Pandora’s Box, and out flowed the militias of all persuasions, Shiite and Sunni, including those of the Islamic State.

Today Iraq is a country which is imploding under the action of armed bands: Sunni militias of the Islamic State, those mainly Shiite of the Iraqi power put in place by the U.S. authorities, and all others, including those supported and financed by Iran. Even if the Islamic State militias are conquered in Iraq and Syria, that won’t be the end of the suffering of the population. Imperialism has nothing to offer to the working people of Iraq, as elsewhere in the world, but a future of barbarism.