The Spark

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

Iraq:
The U.S. "civilian administrator" faces the Iraqi population

Apr 28, 2003

The following was translated and excerpted from an article appearing in the April 25, 2003 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle).

A month to the day after the U.S. war on Iraq began, former general Jay Garner entered Baghdad as its "civilian administrator." He had himself filmed visiting a hospital, a power plant and a water treatment facility. Not surprisingly, Garner, who is linked to the U.S. arms industry and to the Israeli lobby, tried to hide his true task – which is to preside over the absolute U.S. control of the country. But media stunts like this don't make the population of Baghdad forget what it suffers, deprived of electricity and drinkable water, with a curfew imposed on it "from the last evening prayer to the first morning prayer," according to the quasi-colonial terms used by the U.S. authorities.

Despite all the speeches about humanitarian aid, the military occupiers scorn the suffering of the population, for whom they had only bombs and missiles. It's not an "oversight" that U.S. troops were deployed to protect the Ministry of Oil against possible looters, but left hospitals which had already been hit by bombs unguarded from looting.

The same thing can be seen in the so-called "reconstruction." The director of the Durah power plant which used to serve a third of Baghdad told a British newspaper that his plant couldn't get the gas it needs from Kirkuk in the north because it can't communicate with the supplier. The occupation forces control all communications. The same newspaper said that Baghdad doesn't have drinkable water because the treatment plant is missing needed parts. Yet 22 million dollars worth of these parts are still blocked by the U.S. under the pretext that they could have a military use. Too bad for the population which is exposed to the risk of a vast epidemic!

As for the official Washington claim that all governmental power will be turned over to an Iraqi administration in three months – Garner himself told the press, "I can't fix a strict deadline of 90 days. We'll remain here as long as necessary. We'll turn over control of sectors of the government, not according to a calendar, but when they are ready to accept it." "Ready to accept it" means that the old Iraqi police and army have to be re-established so they can maintain the order imperialism needs in the country.

The New York Times reported that the U.S. intends to maintain four military bases in Iraq. When asked, the White House said it only asks for "access rights" to four bases. Typical diplomatic-double talk. And it doesn't hide the fact that U.S. imperialism intends to make Iraq an advanced base of its military-political apparatus in the Middle East and at the same time a protected zone for U.S. corporations.

These plans seems to anger at least a portion of the Iraqi population. There were demonstrations against Iraqi politicians who had seized power in various cities, claiming to cooperate with the occupiers. There was a demonstration against a political conference organized by the U.S. in Nasiriya at the beginning of April, a conference boycotted by most Shiite leaders. And when over a million Shiites made a pilgrimage to Karbala, there were loud anti-American slogans. There it was the religious hierarchy which seems to have taken the lead.

At this point it seems that the most prominent political forces come from the Muslim hierarchy, particularly the Shiites, who are taking advantage of their presence throughout Iraq to rush into the vacuum apparatus created by the fall of Saddam Hussein. In some cities near the border with Iran, for example in Kut, these forces even seized power, using the armed Iraqi opposition militias formed in Iran during the dictatorship.

If these reactionary forces prove to be capable of containing the energy of the population, they could be ready to become partners of imperialism, if it decides to accept them. But now, these reactionary forces are divided into rival factions, competing to see who can make the strongest anti-American statements, in order to gain influence. This is causing Bush problems, since the men he trusts and pushes toward power, grouped in the Iraqi National Congress led by the corrupt banker Ahmad Chalabi, seem to be opposed by everyone. This shows that Garner is far from consolidating a regime devoted to the interests of U.S. imperialism and capable of imposing its interests on the Iraqi population.

Just because these reactionary religious factions right now dominate the opposition movement to the U.S. and British occupation, doesn't necessarily mean that they are the only political forces out there. On April 20, the Reuters news agency announced the appearance of the first opposition newspaper in Baghdad. It wasn't a fundamentalist paper, it was the newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party.

The Iraqi Communist Party has a checkered past. Most importantly it abandoned the interests of the Iraqi workers in the name of nationalism and contributed to disarm the workers just when Saddam Hussein began to build up his dictatorship in the 1960s. This party couldn't offer a perspective to the Iraqi masses if its persists in its past policy. But its reappearance indicates that certain political traditions of the Iraqi proletariat are still alive, despite the terrible repression of the Baath regime and decades of dictatorship. The fundamentalists can only take the workers backward. But the poor population of Iraq can defend itself both from the local exploiters and from imperialism by fighting for the class interests of the poor working population. And they can find allies for such a fight among all the exploited throughout the Middle East on the basis of their common class interests.