U.S. troops killed 15 Iraqis including at least six children and wounded 75 at a rally near Baghdad April 29, and killed another two civilians and wounded 18 the next day during a march of 1,000 people protesting the earlier killings. Although U.S. commanders claimed the shootings were in self-defense, witnesses said the troops had not been threatened.

Furious city residents blamed U.S. troops for an April 26 explosion at an arms dump that killed at least 12.

In Baghdad and other Iraqi cities there are almost daily protests demanding an end to the U.S. occupation.

Meanwhile, humanitarian groups charge the U.S. and Britain are not adequately protecting civilians from thousands of unexploded cluster bombs dropped on Iraq. Children in particular are suffering maiming injuries from picking up the oddly shaped objects, which explode in their hands.

Virtually unreported by the U.S. corporate-controlled media was the first significant meeting involving an inclusive range of Iraqi groups since the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime, including groups that are boycotting U.S. efforts to install an interim government.

The meeting of Iraqi organizations and prominent individuals, including major Shiite Muslim groups, Kurdish organizations, constitutional monarchists and the Iraqi Communist Party, concluded in Madrid April 27 with an agreement to work towards a pluralist federal democracy with a constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights, regardless of religion, sex or gender.

Attending the Madrid conference were more than 100 Iraqis from 11 political groups, as well as writers, filmmakers and intellectuals. The meeting expressed broad agreement that the reconstruction of Iraq must involve the international community and be led by Iraqis, not the U.S. A member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said, “It is important that we set up an Iraqi government rather than an Iraqi administration under General Jay Garner.”

Contrary to the impression given in the U.S. media, Iraq’s Shiites, who constitute 60 percent of the population, span a broad range of viewpoints. “Shiites are not all the same,” a representative of the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress acknowledged. “Some are moderates, some are liberal, the majority of the Communist Party are Shiites. Shiites are not all religious.”

The Madrid meeting discussed a framework to provide political representation for Iraq’s Shiite majority and autonomy for the Kurdish people. It also called for Saddam Hussein to be brought to trial for crimes against humanity.

In opening comments hailed by many delegates, Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Aznar, who supported the U.S. war on Iraq despite opposition by more than 90 percent of Spaniards, warned that Iraq’s “ethnic and religious richness should not be a pretext for third countries to exercise undue influence.”

A day after the Madrid meeting, a U.S.-sponsored meeting in Baghdad revealed significant divisions among the delegates on how to set up a new government.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration is rushing to install a compliant interim regime that would take control of Iraq’s oil sales away from the United Nations Food-for-Oil program. The oil money would be put into a fund managed by the Iraqi Central Bank, led by a U.S. appointee, under supervision of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. A team of Americans headed by Philip Carroll, former chief executive of Shell Oil, is being brought in to run the oil industry.

“The idea is to create facts on the ground as quickly as possible to enhance our negotiating leverage,” a U.S. official said.

The White House has picked Dan Amstutz, a former Reagan official and top executive of Cargill, the world’s biggest grain exporter, to run agricultural reconstruction in Iraq. Kevin Watkins, policy director of Oxfam, an international aid group, assailed the appointment as an example of U.S. commercialization of Iraq’s reconstruction. Amstutz will “arrive with a suitcase full of open-market rhetoric,” and is more likely to try to dump cheap U.S. grain on the potentially lucrative Iraqi market than encourage the country to rebuild its once-successful agricultural sector, Watkins said. “Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission. This guy is uniquely well-placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market – but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country.” Oxfam and other humanitarian groups say the reconstruction of Iraq should be under UN auspices.

But the Bush administration is pushing a Security Council resolution that would sideline the UN into a merely consultative role in Iraq. The U.S. plan is expected to encounter stiff opposition in the Security Council, where Russia and France, who both have veto power, are insisting on a central UN role.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.