Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

And they call this liberation

THE REVELATIONS about the systematic torture and ill treatment of prisoners in Iraq are just the latest blow to Bush, Blair and those who justified their decision to go to war. The images of naked prisoners being physically and sexually abused have aroused indignation around the world and will have a special impact in the Arab countries.

These latest revelations help lay to rest the myth that the war was about removing a dictatorship and giving the Iraqi people "freedom" and "democracy".

Saddam may have gone but brutal dictatorial methods remain, now carried out by the US and other Coalition forces. Under Saddam, the Abu Ghraib prison was notorious for the torture and brutal treatment of opponents of his regime. Since he was overthrown the uniforms may have changed but the "interrogation" methods remain fundamentally the same.

In recent weeks the strategy of Bush, Rumsfeld and the neo-conservative right in charge in Washington has dramatically and speedily come apart. With Iraq rapidly turning into a quagmire for the occupying forces, growing sections of the US establishment are beginning to view their decision to go to war as a costly miscalculation.

The bloody fighting that took place a few weeks ago in Falluja and uprising in the Shia cities in the south of the country have been a turning point, and a disastrous one for the occupying powers. Stung by the brutal killing of four mercenaries the US attempted a Jenin style invasion of the Sunni city of Falluja.

They killed 1,000 people, mainly civilians; this in a city of 100,000. There is no doubt that they could have gone on to take the city, but the angry reaction to the siege through the rest of Iraq, including among the Shia population, forced them to hold back.

In what has proven to be an act of unmitigated stupidity, the US administration opened a second front by moving against the "radical" Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr and his 10,000 strong militia. This provoked an uprising among the Shia population in cities like Najaf, Kerbala and in Basra, which is under British control. Faced with the prospect of Sunnis and Shias uniting in armed opposition to the occupation, the US was forced to partially back off.

These events dealt a blow , possibly a fatal blow, to their attempts to put together an Iraqi army so that, following the cosmetic handover to a handpicked Iraqi authority in June there would at least be the appearance of being in charge.

When ordered to move against the Shia uprising, 40% of the troops in the new Iraqi army refused to leave their bases and a further 10% took their weapons and went over to the insurgents.

With their previous strategy in tatters, the US are now trying to lean on some of the groups who were fighting against them. In Falluja they have effectively handed power to a Falluja Brigade, made up of some of those who were defending the city and commanded by a former Baathist army officer. In the Shia south they are also trying use sections of the shia militias to keep control.

This strategy, which would lead to a Lebanon style division of Iraq, will not work either. The US now faces a situation in which it is rapidly becoming too hot to stay but from which they have no exit strategy.

US, British and other troops will pay with their lives for this situation. But the main price is being and will be paid by the Iraqi people. Thousands of civilians have already been killed. 50% of the workforce is unemployed. Under Saddam 70% of the population had access to water. This has fallen to 60%.

Meanwhile the resources of the country are being privatised. The only people doing well in Iraq are the private contractors and the only industry that is growing is the private security industry and the 18,000 well paid mercenaries employed on various security duties. Even the interrogation of prisoners has been privatised, with Virginia company, CACI International, involved in the torture at Abu Ghraib.

The alternative to this disaster is a united struggle by the working class and oppressed people of Iraq for an end to the occupation, for democratic rights, and for ownership and control of the oil, the other resources and the major industries - in other words for a Socialist Iraq.

Further reports on developments in Iraq are available here

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