Iraqis say No U.S. occupation

Shouts of “No to colonialism, no to occupation” resounded throughout Iraq this week.

In demonstrations, religious services and a massive Shiite pilgrimage, Iraqis of various faiths demanded that the U.S. leave Iraq. The Iraqi Communist Party, which reopened offices in Baghdad and other cities last week, issued a statement saying: “Our people’s joy at the fall of the tyrant and his rule did not mean in any way that they are happy with the invasion and occupation. It is evident that military rule and occupation in general will not receive approval and support from our people.

“Our people have fought to get rid of Saddam’s oppressive dictatorial regime so they can build on its remains a democratic rule which expresses their independent will and fulfills their legitimate demands, and not a new oppressive military rule.”

The civilian death toll is now at 2,500, and health care, water and electricity remain in disarray. Medical Aid for the Third World said ambulances and civilian cars have been hit by U.S. troops, patients and health workers have had difficulty getting through U.S. military checkpoints, and hospitals and other medical facilities are plundered and neglected.

“Without electricity, safe water supply and the provision of medicines and other medical supplies, many patients are simply left to die,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is developing “an ambitious plan to remake [Iraq] in the image of America’s free-wheeling system of capitalism,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“U.S. officials are aiming at nothing less than ending Hussein’s legacy of state-controlled industries – including oil,” says the article. “The Treasury Department, responsible for developing an economic reform plan, would like to see the oil sector privatized so that U.S. oil companies … would be permitted to bid on drilling rights.”

Also, according to The New York Times, the Bush administration is planning “a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq” that would give the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the region. “If the ties are close enough, the military relationship could become one of the most striking developments in a strategic revolution now playing out across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean,” the Times said.

Joe Gerson, director of the Peace and Economic Security Program at the American Friends Service Committee, commented: “Behind the rhetoric of ‘liberation’ and not staying ‘a day’ longer than needed, the Bush administration is clearly working to create a client government which will allow the U.S. to maintain military bases for the long term.” The U.S. government, in effect, will be transforming Iraq into an “unsinkable aircraft carrier for the United States,” Gerson said. “The unprecedented network of U.S. bases is the basis of a global empire, there’s no way to avoid that term.”

The installation of former Lt. Gen. Jay Garner as head of the U.S. occupation “embodies the Bush administration’s shortsightedness and moral bankruptcy,” William Hartung of the World Policy Institute said. Garner has interests in companies like SY Technologies which stand to profit from the war in Iraq. He is also a longtime associate of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which has close ties to Israel’s right-wing Likud Party and has long supported “regime change” in Iraq.

Mustapha Tlili, also of the World Policy Institute, told the World no one in the Arab world will believe Bush administration spokespeople like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talking about democracy. “The level of anger is beyond mistrust. The U.S. has never before been seen as negatively as today.”

Noting concerns that a UN role in post-war Iraq could throw a cloak of legitimacy over the illegal U.S. military action, Hartung said peace activists “can’t afford to ‘take a pass’ and stand back” from the process of meeting Iraq’s massive economic, humanitarian and security needs, “whatever their cause may be.” Peace activists must demand “widespread, full internationalization of the rebuilding process and … treat the unilateralist nature of the intervention itself as an aberration not to be repeated,” he said.

“How Iraq is rebuilt will determine whether the United States will use its immense power to act as a quasi-imperial power, or as a responsible global partner,” said Hartung. “It will say a great deal about whether this is the last unilateralist war for regime change launched by the Bush junta, or the first in a series of ‘wars without end’ to reshape the globe.”

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org