Tariq Ali on Iraq

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Wed Aug 27 2003 - 13:37:48 EDT

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Occupied Iraq will never know peace

August 27, 2003

The recolonisation of Iraq is not proceeding smoothly. The resistance
in the country (and in Palestine) is not, as Israeli and Western
propagandists like to argue, a case of Islam gone mad. It is, in both
cases, a direct consequence of the occupation.

Before the recent war, some of us argued that the Iraqi people,
however much they despised Saddam Hussein, would not take kindly to
being occupied by the United States and its British adjutant.

Contrary to the cocooned Iraqis who had been on the US payroll for
far too long and who told George Bush that US troops would be
garlanded with flowers and given sweets, we warned that the
occupation would lead to the harrying and killing of Western soldiers
every day and would soon develop into a low-intensity guerilla war.

The fact that events have vindicated this analysis is no reason to
celebrate. The entire country is now in a mess and the situation is
much worse than it was before the conflict.

The only explanation provided by Western news managers for the
resistance is that these are dissatisfied remnants of the old regime.

This week Washington contradicted its propaganda by deciding to
recruit the real remnants of the old state apparatus - the secret
police - to try to track down the resistance organisations, which
number more than 40 different groups. The demonstrations in Basra and
the deaths of more British soldiers are a clear indication these
former bastions of anti-Saddam sentiment are now prepared to join the

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad shocked the West, but
as Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from
the Iraqi capital last week, there is a deep ambivalence towards the
UN among ordinary Iraqis. This is an understatement.

In fact, the UN is seen as one of Washington's more ruthless
enforcers. It supervised the sanctions that, according to UNICEF
figures, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million
Iraqi children and a horrific rise in the mortality rate. Two senior
UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in
protest against these policies, explaining that the UN had failed in
its duties to the people of Iraq.

Simultaneously the US and Britain, with UN approval, rained hundreds
of tonnes of bombs and thousands of missiles on Iraq from 1992
onwards and, in 1999, US officials calmly informed The Wall Street
Journal that they had run out of targets.

By 2001, the bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the US
invasion of Vietnam.

That's why the UN is not viewed sympathetically by many Iraqis. The
recent Security Council decision to retrospectively sanction the
occupation, a direct breach of the UN charter, has only added to the

All this poses the question of whether the UN today is anything more
than a cleaning-up operation for the American Empire?

The effects of the Iraqi resistance are now beginning to be felt in
both the occupying countries. The latest Newsweek poll reveals that
President Bush's approval ratings are down 18 points to 53 per cent
and, for the first time since September 11, more registered voters
(49 per cent) say they would not like to see him re-elected. This can
only get worse (or better, depending on one's point of view) as US
casualties in Iraq continue to rise.

In Britain more than two-thirds of the population now believe that
Tony Blair lied to them on Iraq. This view is shared by senior
figures in the establishment. There was open disquiet within the
armed forces before the war. Some generals were not too pleased by
the sight of their Prime Minister, snarling at the leash like a petty
mastiff, as he prepared to dispatch a third of the British army to
help occupy one of the country's largest former colonies in the
Middle East.

After the capture of Baghdad, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, the former head
of the joint intelligence committee and a former national security
adviser to Blair, wrote an astonishing letter to the Financial Times
in which he accused Blair of having deliberately engineered a war
hysteria to frighten a deeply sceptical population into backing a
war. Fishmongers sell fish, warmongers sell war, wrote Braithwaite,
arguing that Blair had oversold his wares.

This anger within the establishment came to a head with the alleged
suicide of the Ministry of Defence's leading scientist, Dr David
Kelly, and forced a judicial inquiry, a form of therapy much favoured
by the English ruling class.

This week Blair will be interrogated before Lord Hutton, but already
the inquiry has uncovered a mound of wriggling worms.

There is talk now that New Labour will offer the Defence Secretary, a
talentless mediocrity by the name of Geoff Hoon, as a blood sacrifice
to calm the public. But what if Hoon refuses to go alone? After all,
he knows where the bodies are buried.

And Australia? Here the Prime Minister - a perennial parrot on the
imperial shoulder - managed to pull his troops out before the
resistance began. They were badly needed in the Solomon Islands. Like
Blair, John Howard parroted untruths to justify the war and, like
Blair, he's lucky that the official Opposition is led by a weak-kneed
and ineffective politician scared of his own shadow.

And one day, when the children of dead Iraqis and Americans ask why
their parents died, the answer will come: because the politicians

Meanwhile, there will be no peace as long as Palestine and Iraq
continue to be occupied - and no amount of apologetics will conceal
this fact.

Tariq Ali has been in Australia as a guest of the Age Melbourne
Writers' Festival. His next book, Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation
of Iraq, will be published by Verso in October.

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