Apr 10, 2006
During her brief visit to Iraq last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blamed Iraqi politicians for still not having formed a government almost four months after the parliamentary elections. “We have forces on the ground and have sacrificed here,” she said, so the U.S. has “a right to expect that this process [of forming a government] will keep moving forward.”
As if the U.S. occupation and the policies of the Bush administration had nothing to do with the current crisis in Iraq!
In fact, the inability of Iraqi politicians to form a new government can hardly be the main concern of Iraqi people these days, when their country is submerged in a full-fledged civil war. And, speaking of “sacrifice,” the thousands who are dying in this war are Iraqi civilians, victims of torture and execution whose bodies are discovered by the dozens every day!
Rice’s arrogant and hypocritical words reflect the attitude of the Bush administration. In a speech last month, Bush himself tried to put the blame for the disastrous situation on the shoulders of the Iraqi people: “They looked into the abyss as to whether or not they want a civil war or not, and chose not to.”
As if the Iraqi people, who are the victims of this bloodbath, made some kind of conscious decision to have a civil war!
Of course, what Bush aims at with such statements is for American people to think that any civil war in Iraq is the result of long-standing religious divisions. But nothing could be further than the truth.
Until the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq was one of the most secular countries in the Middle East. Especially in the cities, people belonging to the two main religious groups, Shiites and Sunnis, lived together with little obvious conflict or animosity. This didn’t change even during the last part of Saddam Hussein’s regime, when he used some degree of religious rhetoric.
But the U.S. invasion changed this situation. Northern Iraq, where the population is made mostly of ethnic Kurds, had already been under the control of Kurdish militias, funded by the U.S. In the rest of the country, where the population is mainly Arab, Saddam’s fall created a political vacuum. This vacuum was filled by Shiite religious leaders and remnants of Saddam’s state apparatus, which was mainly Sunni. The U.S. encouraged these leaders to form militias and relied on their help to fight the rising insurgency. For example, Shiite and Kurdish militias were part of the attack on Falluja, a Sunni city besieged by the U.S. in November 2004.
Once the U.S. began to use the militias against the population in this fashion, it opened the door for more violence – especially since the elections in December. Now that power is up for grabs, the militias have become more aggressive. When Shiite militias attack Sunni civilians, the Sunni militias use it as an excuse to attack Shiite civilians, and vice versa. And militias on both sides use the threat of more attacks to reinforce their popular bases. That is, they try to get more people from “their” religious group to turn to them for protection. The fact that there are three different Shiite militias competing, and sometimes fighting, against each other makes the situation even worse for the population.
No, this violence in Iraq is not the result of existing ethnic and religious differences, as Bush & Co. want us to believe. The Iraqi people never wanted this bloodbath, nor did they start it. The Bush administration itself is directly responsible for the catastrophe that has befallen Iraq.