Not welcome Anywhere!

George Bush is not a popular man. He was even booed at the Pope's funeral when his smug face appeared on giant screen TVs showing the ceremony outside St. Peter's Square booed and whistled. Back in the USA, his popularity is at rock-bottom. At this point of the second term he is the least popular president since the Second World War.

And he is hated in Iraq as well. To mark the two-year anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, up to 300, 000 Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad. This is the biggest popular demonstration since 1958. Big demonstrations were also held in Ramadi and in Najaf. All were called by Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr.

The protestors demanded a swift trial of Saddam Hussein, a timetable for US withdrawal, the release of Iraqis detained by the US, an end to the marginalization of the opposition and an end to torture in Iraqi prisons. They also carried effigies of Saddam, Bush and Blair, each labeled "International Terrorist."

The massive Baghdad demonstration assembled in Firdos Square, where two years previously a handful of Iraqis saw US forces topple Saddam's statue.The crowds reenacted this by pulling down effigies of Bush and Blair, dressed in the infamous orange jumpsuits to recall US torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Needless to say, this protest against US occupation did not hit the front pages.

Frustration at the delays in forming a government and for the new Parliament to ask the US occupiers to leave undoubtedly fueled the protests and may be showing a popular sentiment shifting in Shiite areas towards Muqtada al-Sadr's position on the American presence. This would indicate that he is winning politically even though the US defeated his militia militarily last year. His boycott of the recent election has given him space to move and ensured that he is not bogged down by the political compromises and wrangling caused by the US "two-thirds majority" rule (imposed to secure its plans for the nation).

In Baghad, a Sadr aide said that the demonstrations would continue, to pressure the parliament to demand a US withdrawal. And it appears to have worked, convincing the new Iraqi prime minister to begin speaking once again of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. Whether anything concrete will develop depends on the pressure from below he experiences.

One thing is sure, unless protests are backed up by direct action any number of people can march through the street while the "democratic" government simply ignores them.

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