The Spark

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

The U.S. uses Saddam's general to cover its retreat

May 3, 2004

On April 30, U.S. military officials announced that they had reached an agreement that could end the crisis in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. According to this deal, not U.S. Marines but an Iraqi "security force" would enter Fallujah to "restore order." And this force would be headed by a General Jasim Muhammad Saleh, formerly of ... Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards.

Republican Guards? Wait a minute! Weren't those Saddam's most loyal troops – those notorious thugs that the former dictator used to oppress the Iraqi people? Whatever happened to the famous "deck of cards," the "bad guys," as Bush and Rumsfeld kept calling them?

Well, apparently some have become U.S. allies, "not-so-bad guys" again, just like Saddam himself was in the 1980s.

So the Bush administration now openly admits that it is relying on Saddam's butchers to carry out the occupation of Iraq. This exposes another one of Bush's lies – if anybody still had doubts, of course – that the U.S. invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

No, this war was not about Saddam Hussein. It is, and has always been, a war for the U.S. to bring a key area of strategic importance and vast oil reserves in the Middle East under its direct control, to the benefit of U.S. corporations. This is, and has been, a colonial war for the U.S. ruling class to take over Iraq. And the ongoing siege of Fallujah delivers further proof of this fact.

Faced with an insurgency there since the beginning of the occupation last year, the U.S. military put Fallujah under siege about a month ago. Then it started to attack the city in two different ways – through house-to-house searches and bombardment. The goal of the house-to-house searches, of course, would be to find insurgents by obtaining information about them from the population. If the insurgents had the support of the population, however, which is certainly the case since otherwise the insurgency couldn't have survived, this could mean only one thing: torture. As for the bombing of the city, it was carried out to drive out the civilian population so that troops can move in and fight the insurgents unhindered.

This strategy has failed. Most of the residents of Fallujah have not left the city despite the brutality of the house-to-house searches and the bombing of neighborhoods. And that has left the U.S. military with a choice it can't be happy with: send in the troops anyway at the cost of high casualties or make some kind of truce with the insurgents. For now, they seem to have chosen the second option, bringing in one of Saddam's old generals as a cover.

This of course has the problem of exposing, more openly and without a doubt, Bush's lies about "freeing the Iraqi people." But it raises another, potentially bigger problem for the U.S. It represents nothing less than an admission that it can't control Fallujah. And if the U.S. can't control one city, how will it control the whole country? For if Fallujah looks like a victory for the insurgents, it will encourage other insurgents in other cities.

That's why it is certain that the battle of Fallujah is not over. Nor is an end to the occupation and war in Iraq in sight. In fact, Fallujah proves that this war is escalating; that it is becoming more brutal and more costly every day. For Fallujah has shown how far the U.S. is willing to go in terms of waging all-out war against a whole population. It has also shown who the U.S. sees as its allies in this war: whoever is ready to share the dirty work of controlling the population on behalf of the U.S. military, including Saddam Hussein's butchers.