Iraq: An Unending Disaster

by Gerry Foley / July 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper

Chaos continues in Iraq and the steady bloodletting of the U.S. occupation forces. The Washington Post reported that 16 American soldiers were killed in the third week in June, most by roadside bombs. At the same time, Japan was removing its troops, leaving the U.S. still more isolated.

In this situation, it is not surprising that Bush’s brass is promising a reduction of the U.S. occupation forces. The New York Times reported a statement by the U.S. commander, General Casey, saying that there would be a substantial decrease in U.S. forces by the end of 2007 but it did not gave any precise numbers.

And even this pledge was conditional: “American officials emphasized that any withdrawals would depend on continued progress, including the development of competent Iraqi security forces, a reduction in Sunni Arab hostility toward the new Iraqi government and the assumption that the insurgency will not expand beyond Iraq’s six central provinces.”

However, the lack of such progress was highlighted at almost the same time as this statement by the obvious failure of a massive U.S. and Iraqi government assault designed to stamp out insurgent activity just outside the walls of the Green Zone, the fortified enclave in which the U.S. occupation authorities and their Iraqi clients maintain themselves.

On June 22, insurgents kidnapped about 50 Shiite workers virtually within sight of the fortress area. The Los Angeles Times reported: “The daytime raid took place less than a mile from the fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and many U.S. military operations are based. About 15 of the detainees were released the next day, but the fate of the others is not known.”

Some of the kidnapped workers were later rescued, but some were also found dead. The operation was a sectarian outrage that could only politically damage the resistance to the U.S.-led occupation. But it did demonstrate the failure of the operation to secure even the immediate environs of the Green Zone.

The Los Angeles Times headlined its story, “Iraq Clampdown Appears Ineffective.” The article noted: “The kidnappings sent a reminder that the violence in this country, and particularly the capital, has not been curbed by a major security clampdown put in place June 14 with much fanfare.” Some 50,000 soldiers and security forces were supposed to impose the “clampdown.”

The following day a full-scale battle erupted on Haifa Street, in the vicinity of the Green Zone, long known as a hotbed of insurgent activity. Again the insurgent attack was politically counterproductive. It was an assault with anti-tank rocket and grenades on a convoy of the Mehdi Army, the Shiite militia controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Islamist leader who preaches unity against the occupation.

Agence France-Presse cited a “security source” as saying that four members of the Mehdi Army were killed and eight of their armored vehicles burned. The Iraqi army and U.S. helicopters intervened in the fighting.

In this climate, the U.S.-backed Iraqi government premier, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has announced a “reconciliation plan” designed to wean Sunnis away from the insurgency and into the neocolonial government set up under the occupation. But even U.S. big press commentators have been pessimistic about its chances for success, considering it to be too little, too late.

Recently, U.S. officials have stepped up their accusations about Iran’s stoking the fires of resistance to the occupation among Shiites. But these charges lack substance. If the Iranian government wanted to support opposition to the U.S. occupation, it could deal real blows against it, since most Shiites look to Iran as sort of an elder brother and benefactor and many of the Shiite organizations have had long and close ties with the Islamic Republic.

The fact is that the more conservative Shiite clergy have been and are the decisive tactical ally of the U.S. and its client government. Probably these accusations reflect a fear on the part of the U.S. rulers that as the Shiite-dominated government increases its power, it will begin to move away from the U.S. and toward Iran.

In its statement on “reconciliation,” al-Maliki pledged to solve the problem of the Shiite militias that have been fighting each other and carrying out reprisals against Sunnis. But numerous accounts in the U.S. big press reveal that the Iraqi government army and police are so heavily infiltrated by the Shiite militias that the dividing line between them is obscure.

The official security forces have been charged with many sectarian outrages against Sunnis. Even the U.S. press commentators were forced to note that it is far from clear whether al-Maliki has any ability to curb the Shiite militias.

On June 25, the Los Angeles Times reported a new official estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths since the U.S. invasion that was far higher than the previous calculation but still considered an undercounting by the reporting agencies: “At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies—a toll 20,000 higher than previously acknowledged by the Bush administration.

“Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths in the chaotic first year after the invasion, when there was no functioning Iraqi government, and continued spotty reporting nationwide since.

“The toll, which is mostly of civilians but probably also includes some security forces and insurgents, is daunting: Proportionately, it is equivalent to 570,000 Americans being killed nationwide in the last three years.”

This statistic supports the results of the public-opinion poll cited by conservative U.S. Congressman John Murtha that 88 percent of Sunnis approve of resistance attacks on the occupation forces and more than 40 percent of the Shiites.

This result among the Shiites, on the other hand, could change quickly. It is likely a result of the hopes of many Shiite leaders that the Shiite majority within the country will eventually give them control of the government to do with as they please, as well as the indiscriminate attacks of sectarian forces within the resistance on Shiites.

In the latter case, it is reasonable to hope that more politically conscious forces in the resistance will eventually be able to eliminate the lunatic attacks on Shiites, as well as the atrocious killing of captives, such as the recent torture murder of two American soldiers.

The emergence of a more adept leadership could rapidly increase the problems of the U.S. occupation and its local clients. It cannot be predicted when and how this will happen but the incentives for it are obviously continuing to increase.

However, regardless of what happens and when in the Iraqi resistance or other political forces, it is already evident to the Iraqi people and to world public opinion that the Western imperialist invasion has solved none of the problems of the country nor achieved any of the political mercenary objectives of its perpetrators. It has been an unrelieved disaster for all those concerned, and the price continues to mount.

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