This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice

IRAQ: a colonial war of subjugation

THE RESULTS of an opinion poll carried out by the US led Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) are a blow to George Bush and Tony Blair's "liberation theology". Blair has consistently said that future generations of Iraqis would thank the US and Britain for invading, occupying their country, and freeing it from a tyrant. Well Tony you now have your answer - only 2% of Iraqis regard the armies of occupation as liberators!

By Stephen Boyd

In mid-June Bush told US troops in Florida "We have come not to conquer, but to liberate people and we will stand with them until their freedom is secure" - George the Iraqi people don't agree - 92% of Iraqis view US and British troops as occupiers!

There is no comfort for US and British imperialism in the poll results which also say that 54% of Iraqis believe that all US troops behave like the guards who tortured the prisoners at Abu Chraib prison. 55% said they would feel safer if the armies of occupation left immediately and 67% said they supported or strongly supported Muqtada al Sadr the Shia cleric and leader of the Al Mahdi army that defeated the US Army in the battle of Fallujah.

The 30 June so-called hand over of power to the Iraqi people is a farce. The hand picked US appointed interim Iraqi government will replace the CPA, or as US troops have nicknamed them the "League of Frightened Gentlemen". This new government will have limited powers and will be completely dependent on and answerable to the US. It will have no independent army and will rely on the 150,000 occupation troops and will also depend on the US for its funding as the predicted Iraqi oil bonaza is still far off on the horizon. Iraq's ability to export oil is being increasingly hampered by sabotage from resistance forces, who in mid June blew up one of the last remaining pipelines to the Gulf as well as assasinating the head of security for Iraqi oilfields in the North. Ghazi Talabani was the third senior Iraqi official to be assasinated in a week.

The primary motive behind the Bush regime's appointment of the new government is try and stop the nightly bulletins of bad news from Iraq on US television in the run up to November's presidential election. Bush will attempt the ultimate spin by trying to con the American people with another lie that he has bestowed democracy and security to the Iraqi people, that Iraq is under control, thus justifying his war and occupation and the spending of $165 billion at the last count. This thread of this lie was vividly outlined by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in his response to the killing of 35 "volunteers" for the Iraqi military in Baghdad when he said: "The terrorists used to justify their terror saying it was against the occupation. The occupation is going to end in 12 days time; now the terrorists appear to be trying to stop the transfer of power to the Iraqi people themselves" Associated Press 17 June 2004.

Bush's re-election campaign is in serious trouble. An opinion poll carried out by the Washington Post / ABC News (published 23 June 2004) says that despite spending a record $100 million on anti-Kerry advertising Bush trails Kerry by 45% to 53%. The same poll also states that 71% of Americans say the level of US casualties in Iraq is unacceptable and that 52% feel the war was not worth fighting. Bush's drop in popularity is in part a result of the exposure of his administration's lies on a whole number of issues such as the weapons of mass destruction, and the Saddan Hussein, al Qa'eda September 11th link. Alongside these and other revelations: CIA commanders and operatives have said that out of the 595 detainees in Guantanamo Bay that between "one to two dozen were sworn members of al-Qa'eda", and that "not a single detainee at Guantanamo Bay was a high-ranking terrorist" New York Times, 22 June 2004.


Bush has also to contend with the increase in the price of oil to $40 a barrel due in part to the continued lack of supply from Iraq, the political instability in Saudi Arabia and the Norwegian oil workers' dispute, and what effect this might have on the US economy.

The government of President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer (Sunni) and Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (Shia) would only have a chance of winning credibility amongst the Iraqi people if they were to do the impossible and oppose the US and British occupation. This will be impossible not only because they are willing stooges of the occupation but also they have no army and no money. Prime Minister Allawi's plan is to get senior officers from the disbanded and vilified old Iraqi army to lead the construction of a new force. The first obstacle is the $4 billion estimated cost of building a new army. The second is that the US fears the formation of a conventional Iraqi standing army. All attempts so far by the US pro-consul Paul Bremer and the CPA to form an Iraqi army and police force have failed. When these Iraqi forces where used by Bremer against resistance fighters for example in Fallujah they melted away with reports of over one third of them joining the insurgents. According to Patrick Cockburn: "Officials here suspect that the US would prefer to create an army in Iraq which would be like Latin American security forces, easily influenced by Washington and independent of the civil government" Independent (London) 22 June 2004. In other words the US doesn't want the interim Iraqi government to have its own military force - it wants US controlled Latin American style paramilitary death squads to do its dirty work and bidding.

The saga of the massacre by US forces of up to 1,000 innocent people in Fallujah in April and the proclaimation by Paul Bremer that they would kill or capture al Sadr and close down his army is a further confirmation that the US occupation is doomed to failure. Under a temporary lull in the resistance to the occupation Muqtada al Sadr has withdrawn his Al Mehdi army intact from the holy cities of Najah and Karbala. (The Al Mehdi army is now reported to be the biggest army in Iraq outside of the occupation forces.) Muqtada al Sadr has said that he will support the new Iraqi government if it actively tries to end the occupation. At the end of the day the interim Iraqi government will do what ever Washington wants, and the resistance struggle is set to get stronger.

During the uprisings in April the US found that its "political power base" in Iraq was so weak that it couldn't use its overwhelming military superiority because it feared provoking a general united rebellion of Iraq's Sunni and Shia populations. "The insurgents now have their own capital in Fallujah just 30 miles from Baghdad. Even the road to the airport is unsafe with almost daily ambushes. Americans can only appear on the streets of Baghdad inside armoured convoys" Patrick Cockburn Independent (London) 22 June 2004.

US and British imperialism's attempts to subdue and subjugate the Iraqi people through its imposition of the interim Iraqi government will fail. It will become, like the CPA before it - a target of hatred that symbolises the American occupation.

Exit strategy?

The US is scrambling for an exit strategy from Iraq that will leave its economic and political interests in the region intact. As one Iraqi minister stated: "The policy of the US government is one of retreat, and a retreat under fire is notoriously difficult to conduct". It is impossible for the US and Britain to unite the Iraq's ethnic and religious groups through any solution based on capitalism. The Sunni, Shia and Kurdish "would be capitalist leaders" and the religious zealots will never agree to an amicable sharing of power in Iraq. Rather, they will be driven by their desire for territorial and economic control of the key regions of the country towards civil war rather than unity. The only force capable of uniting the Iraqi people are the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish working class and peasantry united in a struggle for a socialist Iraq.

The events in April and May in Fallujah gave a glimpse of how this unity is possible. Against the background of the brutal assault of Fallujah by US forces - Sunni and Shia united against the occupation, with 200,000 marching in solidarity with the Shias under siege. Although Mutaqda al Sadr now has enormous support in Iraq he is incapable and also unwilling to build such a movement - rather al Sadr is fighting for a right wing Shia dominated Islamic fundamentalist state in Iraq. A resistance movement dominated by Mutaqda al Sadr would also lead Iraq in the direction of communal civil war.

The possibility of unity amongst Iraq's masses can not only be seen in the Fallujah protests but are daily being played out in the cities of Iraq by the re-emerging working class in their struggles for work, better pay and humane living conditions. The interim Iraqi government will not only act as a cover for imperialism's occupation they will also continue the neo-liberal agenda of the Bush regime towards the privatisation of Iraq's oil and public resources to be sold of to the multinational vultures. This will be met with resistance from the Iraqi working class and can also forge unity between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish peoples.

The struggle against colonial occupation, and for a better life for all can concretely be developed into a mass united movement for socialism if linked to the idea of a voluntary socialist federation of Iraq. This vision for Iraq would allow all of the country's ethnic and religious groups to control and own Iraq's vast wealth - to be used for the equal benefit of everyone free from fear of persecution and oppression.

Here's the contents list for this issue

Back issues are available here.

For the SP documents, etc, on the occupation of Iraq