Destroying Iraq in order to save it

At the height of the Vietnam war, a US officer informed the world that he had to destroy a village to save it. Today, with the current insurgency claiming over 700 dead Iraqis and over 100 dead American troops in April, the US has been applying that perverse logic for some time.

Rest assured. Blair has told us that the insurgents are just Saddamites, Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists. The US army told us that 95% of Iraqis killed are insurgents. Iraqi doctors disagree. In Fallujah, which the US has promised to "pacify," they report at least half are civilians, with many women and children among them. This is Blair being tough. How many of the politicians who supported the war for "humanitarian" reasons will visit their graves? Why is American willingness to kill as many Iraqis as necessary to secure its goals not worthy of mention when Saddam's was? Because the US talks about liberty and democracy as it kills civilians? The state terrorism of the occupation which expresses itself most obviously in the collective punishment of Fallujah must be denounced along with the slaughter visited upon the civilians of Basra. Sadly, too many people consider the killing of civilians acceptable along as "we" do it.

But the US siege is not just killing civilians directly. It is also targeting them indirectly. The Fallujah's power station was bombed. The bridge across the Euphrates was closed, so ensuring that the bulk of the town's inhabitants could not go to Fallujah's main hospital. According to many eyewitnesses, U.S. snipers are shooting at ambulances. This was confirmed at a press conference by the Iraqi Minister of Health, who condemned the acts not only in Fallujah but also in Sadr City, Baghdad.

At Najaf, a similar American incursion is on hold as the Grand Ayatollah Sistani has warned that its consequences would be an even larger Shi'ite uprising.

There is a massacre going on, but the western media seems more concerning in reporting the deaths of coalition troops than getting reporters into Fallujah. None of the outrage at Saddam's crimes against Iraqis can be seen. Clearly, when America wages war on residential areas with battle tanks, bombers and helicopter gunships is it different. And best not to mention British troops killing of 15 people in Amara. The media even reported the American offer for insurgents in Fallujah to turn in their weapons and its promise not to resume its attacks while rebels are disarming with a straight face.

"Fear and violence"
Perhaps the American violence is to be expected. As Lieutenant Colonel Nate Sassaman of the US military put it last December: "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." This appears to have U.S. policy in Iraq from the start. The bombing of mosques, the strafing of slums and the sniping of ambulances all add up to one thing: a heavy dose of fear and violence.

Strangely, it does not seem to be working. The world's sole superpower (and its poodle) actually does seem to believe that if they can kill enough people and destroy enough property, the Iraqis will warm to their occupiers. The occupying troops, who share more in common with ordinary Iraqis than the rich politicians and business people who sent them there, are being asked to kill or be killed in order to convince Iraqis that they are there to help them. The insanity of war has never been clearer.

And few Iraqis are helping their occupiers. Even the US-trained and supplied Iraqi police and defense forces are fighting the occupation. In Fallujah two Iraqi battalions simply refused to fight, saying that "We did not sign up to fight Iraqis." If only the coalition troops could be that brave.

End the occupation
This occupation must be ended. The "transfer of sovereignty" Bush and Blair keep twittering on about is no such thing. It is just the US appointing another set of Iraqi politicians to be their puppets. It is another lie, like the lies which justified the imperialist invasion to begin with.

Luckily some are seeing sense. The Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero seems to be making good on his campaign promise to withdraw all Spanish troops from Iraq, ordering the withdraw all Spanish forces from occupied Iraq "as soon as possible". The president of Honduras has done likewise.

In response, Bush voiced regret at the "abrupt Spanish action," which shows Bush's grasp of reality. The decision was hardly "abrupt," given that from the start of his election campaign Zapatero promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. The Spanish people voted for that policy. Unsurprisingly, Bush is showing his usual contempt for democracy by his suggestion that Zapatero, like Blair and Aznar, place US imperial interests above the wishes of his people. And, moreover, Zapatero knows that the Spanish will take to the streets if he acts otherwise. Why should the Spanish suffer even more for Bush's lies and US imperial interests?

What now? Should we, as some desire, rush to the ballot box? The next meaningful election is a year away and any "protest" vote (assuming it will materialise, which is doubtful) before then can and will be ignored. We are paying the price for years of left fetishism for party building and parliamentarianism. Instead of building a movement rooted in our workplaces and communities which can take effective (direct) action we have a series of sects, the biggest of which is busy repeating history by watering down its principles to get as many votes as possible.

Until we get our act together, it seems likely that whatever set of liars are in office can ignore the people they claim to represent. That means that as well as opposing the occupation, we must start the hard task of creating a movement which can turn words into action. A movement based on direct action, solidarity and the importance of anti-parliamentarianism. No easy task, but one which is essential if we want to change the world for the better.

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