From Unjust War to Unjust Occupation

Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at

Massive U.S. military power was concentrated on battering and then seizing Iraq's cities. Meanwhile its main coalition partner--the "embedded" media--concentrated on whitewashing that conquest.

Selective footage and staged photo ops combined to give a fundamentally false and "triumphalist" picture. People glued to U.S. television saw the taking of Baghdad portrayed as a "sigh"--as if the Iraqi resistance just "melted away." And celebrating crowds were shown as evidence that the Iraqi population as a whole was "welcoming" the invaders.

But bleeding through the wall of managed disinformation, came the underlying truths of a brutal invasion transforming itself into a brutal occupation.

One account in the Christian Science Monitor (April 11) described how the U.S. forces entered Baghdad by designating the areas ahead of them as "grid squares" (one kilometer by one kilometer)--and then completely destroying everything within that area using rockets and missiles. Over and over, Iraqi fighters tried to hold barricades made of sand-filled cars--to hold the invading tank columns out of the city. In one of the early three-hour "reconnaissance in force" raids into Baghdad, the Third Infantry Division claimed to kill between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqis, civilians and soldiers, caught in their "kill zone." The Red Cross said hospitals of the city were completely flooded afterwards with the dying and wounded. Major General Buford C. Blount, the field commander of the Third Infantry Division, told journalists: "We just wanted to let them know that we're here."

After one battle in the city of Najaf, a lieutenant colonel described "waves and waves" of fighters coming out of a factory at the U.S. tank columns. "For lack of a better word, I feel almost guilty about the massacre," said one soldier privately. "We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?"

The city of Baghdad produced reports of repeated sniping, suicide attacks, no-go areas, and intense firefights--and of U.S. forces unable and unwilling to establish control in vast "no-go areas." Meanwhile, there are initial reports of U.S. troops blowing away civilians at roadblocks and of whole units with orders to simply "take out" anyone who moves around them.

Lying Eye

On the TV screens, the U.S. media showed, over and over, gatherings of people toppling statues of Saddam Hussein -- using the footage to give the false impression that Iraq's people overwhelmingly support the U.S. conquest.

Large celebrations in Kurdish Sulymania were reported in the media as if the people were welcoming the U.S. invasion as "liberators." In fact, these street celebrations took place in the Kurdish zone, where there were no U.S. tank columns. Kurdish people greeted the fall of Hussein after years of harsh war and cruel genocide--but with hopes for self-rule, not eagerness for foreign occupation.

One day, perhaps not too far in the future, the people of Iraq's villages and vast neighborhoods will get to tell their story of this invasion. They will tell what they saw and felt as an oppressive government was shattered from above, and a new, brutal, foreign invader pushed its way deep into their lives. They will describe what the U.S. media has largely blanked out: the mounds of corpses, the flattened neighborhoods, the crowded hospital parking lots filled with the injured and dying, the loss of their sons and brothers under the bombing and machine gun fire, the debates among the people about how to resist, and the fury and fear of watching an invading army move across the land.

For now, of course, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has other plans for the airwaves--in a press conference Rumsfeld called on the media to seek out Iraqis who welcome the U.S. invasion to put them on TV during the coming weeks.

All of this false and falsified chatter about "liberation" has a calculated purpose: to put a veil of disinformation over the tightening occupation.

The Nature of the Beast, the Flaw in its Plan

The self-congratulations in Washington ,DC can't hide the fact that this invasion did not go as hoped, and left a deep problem facing the conquerors.

The U.S. plan for Iraq was "regime change" but not system change. Iraq was to remain a Third World capitalist economy organized around extracting oil for international corporations and economies. The class nature of this vision means that, all along, the U.S. knew it would need an army capable of containing and suppressing and exploiting the masses of Iraq's people.

The U.S. had planned to decapitate the old Iraqi government, and to "shock and awe" parts of the Iraqi military to join its side. They hoped to control the post-Saddam cities with former Iraqi troops.

To no one's surprise, this ruthless superpower succeeded in beating a small, weak Third World military of an unpopular government. But they were not as "invincible" or "all- powerful" as they claim. Many things in this war reveal the weaknesses of their forces and their style of war--even if the Iraqi defenders were not ultimately able to defeat them.

The U.S. did not succeed (so far at least) in pulling over a part of the old Iraqi establishment and military to their cause. The Shia forces of the south did not rise up to support the U.S. invasion--and many leaders in that region have pointedly called on the invaders to leave.

Kurdish militias in the north have been the only internal armed force willing to ally with the U.S. military. They helped take the northern city of Kirkuk. But Turkey's government--determined to prevent Kurdish control of oil production in northern Iraq which would strengthen Kurdish autonomy--demanded that Kurdish troops be withdrawn from Kirkuk. Now the U.S. finds its own troops are being pulled into Kirkuk to prevent the Kurdish militia from taking control.

Now Comes the Brutal Occupation

"We shoot them down like the morons they are."

Brigadier-General John Kelly, First Marine Division

A powerful logic of this war draws the U.S. troops deeper and deeper into Iraq and its cities- -as a long-term occupying force. Despite all the talk of "liberation," this occupation can only be carried out by brutal treatment of Iraq's people.

In the name of restoring order, a few remnants of Saddam Hussein's police (who were demonized as murderers of a police state only days ago) are now being dusted off and put to work "policing" for the invader. And at the same time, the U.S. officials announced that Iraq will soon also be getting thousands of police flown in from the U.S.

For millions of us who live here in the U.S., facing the police occupation in the neighborhoods and barrios, already the scenes from Iraq are chilling and familiar: Armed authorities forcing Iraqi people to "assume the position." People shot for "driving while Iraqi."

And anyone who thinks that "engaged" U.S. troops might help "stop the looting" needs to check out some reality. Nothing in all history will compare to the looting of the world that the U.S. ruling class intends to carry out at gunpoint, as it strains for unchallenged hegemony over rivals and neocolonies alike.

Occupiers Out!

"Iraq is not just about Iraq."

Senior administration official, New York Times , April 6

"We will never allow them to stay."

Baghdad store owner Ali Al-Obeidispeaking to AP

From many places, people are being told (counseled and ordered) that "once the war started" the time for protest and resistance was over. And that the best we can hope for is a "quick war" and some "kinder, gentler, perhaps multilateral" occupation.

In fact, the need for resistance and deepening international solidarity has only become more urgent.

The U.S. launched a major global offensive after 9/11 with sweeping ambitions. They have now seized most of a highly strategic country--killing many people and shattering much of the country in the process. Now that war of aggression against Iraq is transforming into a brutal and protracted occupation. U.S. soldiers are not "coming home soon" but entering into the cities of Iraq as hired killers for some new, emerging, pro-U.S. arrangement.

In some quarters there are demands that people should now focus on making this occupation more "humane" and more "multilateral," and there are hopes of helping make "something good come out of this" (meaning: out of the U.S. conquest). And it is rather important to look at this situation with clear eyes, and with some real courage.

We will soon watch a new reality TV show: "American Idol: the Puppet Search in Iraq."

The new order that the U.S. imposes on Iraq will be an unjust and brutal one. And this will be true whether or not it starts with some "multilateral" participation by the UN (or other powers) or whether the new government is eventually rubber-stamped by U.S.-orchestrated elections.

The Iraqi people can only forge a future for themselves in resistance to this occupation and in opposition to the predatory interests of the occupiers.

The global movement opposing this war has accomplished tremendous things against great odds-- leaving the warmakers much more isolated and exposed than they otherwise would have been. And an important part of the resistance so far is creating the networks for the intensified resistance, under changing conditions, that is now demanded of us all.

As you read these words, U.S. troops are moving into the neighborhoods of Iraqi cities, setting up road blocks, tracking down opponents, reorganizing the police of the Saddam regime, building encampments, sizing up the oilfields, and growling new threats at more countries and peoples. Each of us needs to take our stand, pick up our pace, raise our consciousness, and dare to intensify our common resistance against this U.S. juggernaut of war and repression.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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