The Spark

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

U.S. occupation of Iraq:
The deepening catastrophe

Jun 18, 2007

On his last visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters he was there to deliver Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki the message that “our troops are buying them time to pursue reconciliation, that frankly we are disappointed with the progress so far.”

Disappointed? It’s true that Iraqi government officials carry a certain amount of responsibility in the ongoing civil war, because many, if not all, of them are tied to the militias which attack the population. But Gates certainly knows that the brutal, atrocious militias have thrived, above all, thanks to the U.S. occupation!

The well-being of the Iraqi population has never been a concern of the U.S. government. The U.S. has only been concerned about policing the Iraqi people in order to reduce resistance against the occupation.

After the quick overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the U.S. military dismantled Saddam’s army and police for fear of a lengthy guerrilla war. But that left Iraq – with the exception of the Kurdish north, which had not been controlled by Saddam – without a police force, at a time when organized armed resistance was starting to form. So the U.S. military used various militias, existing or newly formed, to fill the gap.

The largely Shiite southern Iraq came under the control of Shiite militias, mostly tied to religious organizations. The U.S. military funded these militias and used them, along with the two existing Kurdish militias from the north, in its fight against Sunni insurgents.

But fighting against insurgents meant attacking entire neighborhoods – and sometimes entire cities, as in Fallujah in 2004, for example – where insurgents were based. Thus the U.S. itself started the bloodletting – between Kurds and Arabs, as well as between Shiite and Sunni Arabs – which has turned into the civil war that Gates now lectures Iraqi politicians about!

Of course, the leaders of the militias have their own ambitions – above all putting their hands on part of Iraq’s oil wealth. So they intentionally attack civilians, provoking similar attacks by rival groups on “their own” people, to whom they then offer “protection” in order to solidify their own base. The fighting has thus escalated into a full-fledged civil war, with dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties every day, often people randomly killed only because of the ethnic or religious group they belong to.

For the U.S. military, the situation in Iraq has gotten completely out of control. The U.S. now wants to pull its troops out of Iraq, at least out of the streets, but it wants to see two things before doing that: to have some kind of military success, so the war doesn’t look like a complete defeat; and to leave behind some kind of a unified Iraqi army and police force that can keep the population under control.

With the “troop surge” in the last four months, the U.S. military has started a crackdown on Baghdad and the Anbar province, but that has not weakened the resistance. The insurgents have simply moved to other cities. And the “reconciliation,” that is the U.S.-led effort to consolidate Shiite militias and the Iraqi army and police into a unified force, has also not succeeded because of the rivalries among militia leaders.

In the meantime violence has increased, including violence inflicted on the population directly by the U.S. military. At the same time, conditions continue to deteriorate for the people. With temperatures getting higher, for example, cholera cases have started to be reported, much earlier than the hotter summer months, when cholera usually tends to spread.

Cholera results from contaminated water and can easily be prevented with clean water. But clean running water and electricity, which is needed to purify water, have become real luxuries in Iraqi cities, at best available a few hours a day. With the widespread unemployment and poverty, many Iraqis also can’t afford bottled water – not to mention that many people are afraid to go out and buy water because their neighborhood is terrorized by militias.

The U.S. occupation has truly been a disaster for the Iraqi people. And every new attempt by the U.S. to change the situation makes it worse, because it’s not aimed at helping the population but, rather, controlling it. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, the violence and deteriorating conditions brought about by the war have caused at least 650,000 deaths in Iraq. As this horrific toll increases by the day, so does the anger of Iraqi people at the U.S. occupation and its representatives on the ground, U.S. troops in uniform. In polls, a majority of Iraqis have named the U.S. occupation as the number one cause behind the civil war, and a majority have said that they approve of violence against U.S. troops.

If the catastrophic situation in Iraq has any chance of improving, the first step has to be the withdrawal of U.S. troops – completely and immediately!