Bush & Blair to blame for carnage in Iraq

Up to 270 died and 500 were injured in the suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala on the holiest day in the Shia calendar. 45 Shia's also died in attacks in Pakistan. One journalist described 2 March 2004 as the "Shia's September 11".

By Stephen Boyd

Karbala was packed with more than a million Shia's taking part in the ritual mourning for the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed when the bombs exploded. Immediately the US Military Authorities pointed the finger at Al Qaida claiming they were attempting to spark off a civil war between the Shia and Sunni Muslims to stop the US plans for a new government. A claim which Al Qaida quickly denied.

But the first target of the Shia's anger was the Americans. Some accused the Americans of carrying out the bombings; others blamed them for creating the conditions in Iraq, which led to this tragedy. US tanks that turned up to the scenes of carnage were stoned. US troops fired on the crowds killing a further three people.

In the aftermath of the attacks Shia militias set up heavily armed roadblocks in Karbala. This included the Iranian backed Badr Brigades and Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, who had previously talked of armed resistance against the US.

Civil war?

For weeks the US have been issuing "warnings" of the dangers of civil war in Iraq. They had been "touting" a letter which they claimed came from Al Qaida calling for actions to provoke conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims in order to stop the Americans' plans to "hand over" power on 30 June.

"Odd. Isn't it? There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. Al Qaida has never uttered a threat against Shias....Yet for weeks the American occupation authorities have been warning us about civil war....Somehow I don't believe it" Robert Fisk The Independent 3 March 2004.

The day after these massacres Robert Fisk respected journalist and critic of the US and British occupation of Iraq raised extremely pertinent questions. "If a violent Sunni movement wished to evict the Americans from Iraq....why would it want to turn the Shia population of Iraq, 60 per cent of Iraqis against them? The last thing such a resistance would want is to have the majority of Iraqis against it."

The attackers are as yet unknown. They may have been carried out by Al Qaida, by fanatical Sunnis, by Iraqi exile groups who hope that creating the fear of civil war will drive people into accepting the US plans for flawed and undemocratic elections. They may even have been carried out by the CIA or sections of the US occupying forces, whose warped thinking might be hoping for the same result. It wouldn't be the first time a so-called "democratic" state has done such a thing.

Whoever carried out the attacks and whatever their aims, the prospect of civil war looms in Iraq. The Socialist Party and the CWI have already warned prior to the US and British invasion of Iraq that civil war between the Sunni, Shia's and Kurds was a possible outcome of Bush and Blair's "war of liberation".

Bush's desperate plans

Paul Bremer US pro-consul in Iraq has been struggling for months to get the different Iraqi "factions" to accept the US plans for rigged "elections" which would deliver a compliant Iraqi administration under US supervision. But they face a massive task. Bush is desperately hoping that some semblance of Iraqi self-rule can be in place before the US presidential elections in November so that he can claim his war has begun to deliver democracy to Iraq. The majority Shia population has been demanding open free elections. The US is resisting this call because they fear an Islamic dominated Shia government hostile to the US. Major divisions have opened up even amongst those groups who are going along with the US plans. Sections of the Shia clerics have been calling for a constitution based on strict Sharia Law. Others including Sunni's have been arguing for a more secular constitution, which takes the form of a more "liberal" interpretation of Sharia. Women's groups have been vigorously campaigning against attempts to bring in a constitution, which would take away rights they even had under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Despite US claims, the resistance to the occupation has not been solely the work of Saddam loyalists or foreign Al Qaida fighters. One thing, which unites all Iraqis, is their opposition to the occupation. According to intelligence reports there are 15 different armed resistance groups comprising of up to 50,000 fighters. There have also been consistent protests against unemployment and the impoverishment, which has been inflicted on people by the war and the occupation.

The Socialist Party supports the call for immediate elections (universal suffrage) and the withdrawal of the occupying forces. However an election victory for the Shia could lead to conflict with the Kurds as they fight to retain autonomy and control of the oil rich region of Kirkuk as well as with the Sunnis and the Turcomen who fear Shia domination. Iraq could become the new Lebanon, and spiral out of control into civil war.

Only the re-emergence of the Iraqi workers' movement fighting for a socialist Iraq could prevent this by uniting all workers from all ethnic and religious backgrounds in a common struggle against the common enemies of the occupation armies and capitalism.

More articles on the Post-War developments in Iraq are available in our sitemap

This article is from the March 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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