Apr 6, 2009
At the end of March, U.S. and Iraqi, mostly Shiite, forces arrested a former Sunni ally in Baghdad. Minutes later, his supporters opened fire from rooftops and street corners against American and Iraqi forces. The U.S. then brought in Apache helicopters, which strafed and fired rockets into the Baghdad neighborhood. The heavy street fighting lasted several hours.
The man arrested was one of over 100,000 former Sunni insurgents who had joined what were called Awakening Councils in 2006 and 2007. The U.S. government paid these former insurgents to support the Maliki government and the U.S. “surge.” After the U.S. stopped paying them, the Iraqi government promised jobs either in the Iraqi government or military, both of which are dominated by Shiites. But few ever got jobs, and those who did haven’t been paid.
Instead, the Iraqi government has been cracking down, arresting and assassinating these former Awakening Council members. This has fed tensions and fighting in the Baghdad region. At the end of March, several well-planned bombings killed 123 people in and around Baghdad.
There has also been scattered fighting and bombings in other parts of the country, as many ethnic-based groupings and gangs all throughout the country continue to contend for power in the government and a piece of the fabulous oil revenues.
In no way is the civil war in Iraq over – no matter what U.S. politicians claim.
Of course, it is the Iraqi population who pay the price, not just in violence, but in the most abject poverty and misery. The U.S. super-power doesn’t even lift a finger to help the approximately five million Iraqis, or 20% of the Iraqi population, who continue to be displaced from their homes. Human Rights Watch confirms that “no structure exists to meet their humanitarian needs.” The basic infrastructure was destroyed by U.S. firepower. Close to 90% of all Iraqis still do not have access to electricity. Seventy% do not have access to clean water.
Meanwhile, as the big U.S. and British oil companies profit from increasing oil production, the Iraqi economy remains a disaster. Forty-three% of Iraqis live on less than a dollar a day. Those who are the most vulnerable are suffering the worst: one in three Iraqi children is hungry. At the same time, one in five Iraqi women suffers physical violence.
The big U.S. troop build-up in Iraq did not succeed in bringing either “peace” or any beginning of economic recovery to Iraq. Nor do U.S. promises of a troop withdrawal mean an end to the war.
Even if some U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq and even if Obama says that those who remain are no longer “combat” troops, the war in Iraq will continue to rage, and U.S. troops will continue to be killing and dying.