Apr 14, 2003
The U.S. war against Iraq, with its massive bombing and shelling, has not only meant untold casualties among the Iraqi population. For the survivors, conditions of life have been made impossible. These people went into the war already ravaged by 23 years of war and a suffocating economic embargo with much of the economic infrastructure destroyed and millions killed. Now countless more have had their neighborhoods and homes destroyed. And everyone is trying to survive on nothing: no food and water, no electricity, no medical help – and such terrible unsanitary conditions that there are already reports of outbreaks of cholera in some cities.
So, it was hardly a surprise that once the regime of Saddam Hussein collapsed, massive looting broke out in big and small cities throughout Iraq. In effect, the lid blew off a giant pressure cooker, with different layers of the population going into the streets for all different kinds of reasons.
Certainly, organized gangs and thugs took advantage of the situation and plundered what they could, even using semi-tractor trailers to cart away their booty from office buildings, luxury hotels, and even hospitals. For them, everything has been fair game, including the desperately needed medical equipment, supplies, and medicine for all the Iraqi victims of the U.S. invasion and war. One must assume that it was the elements of the old state and police apparatus of Saddam Hussein that had the resources to pull off many of these operations.
But also a large number ordinary people were driven into the street. People desperate for food and water had no choice but to try to grab whatever little they could get their hands on just to be able to stay alive. They also invaded and sacked government and ruling Baath party buildings and offices, expressing their deep anger and resentment against a regime which had ruled through severe and brutal repression, with its much-hated secret police, summary executions, torture chambers, etc.
Their resentment went beyond the government. In Baghdad, poor people invaded the richer neighborhoods, sacking the homes of the wealthy, that is, those who had profited from their misery over all these years. The wealthy, in turn, responded by hiring their own private guards and mercenaries to guard their homes and patrol their neighborhoods.
When asked about the looting at one of his daily press conferences, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied blandly that this is what happened during a "transition period" between the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and a "liberated Iraq." He went on to say that this "transition" would not be "tidy."
Of course, Rumsfeld did not admit what was so obvious: that the U.S. government, which was in such a hurry to get rid of Saddam Hussein, was not in any hurry to even begin to relieve the worst abject misery of the Iraqi people in the areas where they had begun to take control. Sure, in the first hours of the war, Bush made promises that aid would begin to flow within "36 hours." They my have even taken a few pictures of a couple truckloads of food being "distributed."But the total amount of aid they have pledged – even if it were all actually delivered – is only a drop in the bucket compared to the huge amount of food, water and electricity they have destroyed.
While U.S. and British officials denounce the Saddam Hussein regime, they have begun to try to reconstitute large elements of it to bring supposed "law and order" over the population. In Basra, for example, the British appointed Sheikh Tameeni, a former brigadier general in Saddam Hussein's army, to head the new city council. Under him, new heads of the police, traffic police and civil defense department were named – who also come out of the old Baath Party. And these departments will be filled, also, by the same cops and officials as before.
British officials justified these choices by saying, "You are not going to find anyone in the country who is relatively senior who had not got some sort of linkage with the regime in some sort of way."
Of course, when the Iraqis heard about this Baath Party official's appointments, there was a near riot in the city. A Washington Post reporter saw people trying to attack Sheik Tameeni's home.
Said a doctor who watched the protest, "We are seeing the future of Iraq right here, and it is not good."
In fact, for the people of Iraq, switching from Hussein to a puppet regime more to the liking of the U.S. won't be an improvement, not to speak of a liberation, as promised over and over again. Hussein's regime, like all the other horrible dictatorships in the Middle East and all over the world, is only an appendage of the major imperialist powers, especially of the U.S.
Behind Hussein's great crimes that the U.S. officials and news media denounce can be found the hand of the U.S. It was the U.S. that encouraged Hussein's war against Iran. It was the U.S. that supplied him with all the fixings to fabricate and drop poison gas on the Kurds. Iraqi political prisoners spoke of how the instruments of torture, even the handcuffs, all were "made in the USA" or "made in Great Britain." When the U.S. broke with Saddam Hussein in the wake of his invasion of Kuwait, it still gave him back his army and helicopters to put down the revolts in the north and south of the country. Even during the last 12 years of suffocating economic embargo that the U.S. imposed on Iraq and that led to such suffering of the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein's hold on power was only solidified.
The new regime that the U.S. is beginning to install will only do what the old one did – ensure the continued enrichment of the big oil companies, banks, construction companies and military contractors at the expense of the mass of Iraqi workers and poor – with this difference – more of the profits will now flow directly to U.S. corporations.
This is the outcome for which this filthy war has been fought – and will continue to be fought. For it's not nearly over.