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Proletarian issue 1 (August 2004)
Iraq: the occupation continues
The imperialist media have been keen to give the impression that the occupation of Iraq is over, but with 165,000 troops and a staff of 3,000 in five locations, ‘ambassador’ John Negroponte is the new colonial governor of Iraq in all but name.
On Monday 28 June, in a dingy back office in Baghdad’s heavily guarded ‘Green Zone’, HQ to the imperialist occupation powers, a short ceremony took place that has been widely heralded in the bourgeois press as the ‘handover of power’ and ‘transfer of sovereignty’ to the Iraqi people.

Given the ever-growing frequency and accuracy of attacks on the US’s HQ in Baghdad, the fear of what the resistance might do was such a worry to the occupiers that, instead of surrounding the occasion with slickly choreographed pomp and beaming it around the world in wall-to-wall coverage (all to prove how truly ‘valid’ and ‘popular’ the occasion was, of course), the date for the ‘handover’ was brought forward by two days and the ‘ceremony’ consisted of no more than the hurried signing of a piece of paper in front of a furtively convened press conference, which journalists were asked to refrain from covering for 90 minutes after it was over.

Indeed, no sooner had former occupation chief Paul Bremer completed his snatched assignation with a couple of Iraq’s latest hand-picked stooges, than he rushed out of the back door and onto a helicopter that was waiting to whisk him to the airport, where a plane stood ready to get him out of the country with all possible speed. Clearly, his own statements about the “stable, pluralistic, democratic Iraq at peace with itself” that had been created since the invasion rang no truer with him than with the rest of us.

It is all too easy to imagine the sigh of relief that Bremer, one of the resistance’s most prominent targets for more than a year, must have given on leaving Iraqi air space; nor can we doubt what rewards are waiting him back in the US in return for his faithful services to imperialism. It would be well for Bremer to note, however, that just as the US sent its army thousands of miles to terrorise the Iraqi people, it may yet come to pass that the Iraqi people’s retribution finds a way to travel back to him and his imperialist masters, no matter how much security they surround themselves with, or how many ‘anti-terror’ powers they give to their police.

The sudden ‘handover’ was conducted amidst such secrecy, indeed, that no-one in the British occupying force knew anything about it until after the event.

Sovereign government?

Having lost their self-styled “best friend” in Iraq, the dollar-guzzling collaborator Ahmed Chalabi, the US had to cast about for some months before finding a suitable substitute. So effective has the resistance been, and so much hatred is there from the Iraqi people for those collaborating with the occupation, that a prospective candidate had no sooner had his name announced to the press than he was busy issuing trenchant denials. Clearly, as far as even the most pliant Iraqis were concerned, the risks of the enterprise far outweighed the benefits. In the end, the US settled on Dr Iyad Allawi, a notorious gangster and agent who has been exiled from Iraq in London for the last 30 years.

That Allawi is not afraid to get his hands dirty is proven by his behaviour in murdering on the spot six prisoners who were suspected of being members of the resistance. The killings took place in a police station just days before the ‘handover’ ceremony and were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 July. Allawi explained to watching men that those fighting the occupation deserved “worse than death” and, in order to send “a clear message to police” on how to deal with the resistance, he pulled out a pistol and executed them, shooting six men in the head in quick succession, while a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from his personal security team watched in “stunned silence”.

Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. The offices of both men have, of course, denied that the incident ever took place.

Having been hand-picked by their country’s conquerors, the new ‘government’ is unlikely to be threatening the status quo anytime soon. But, leaving aside their credentials and lack of a mandate, what scope is there for them to make any independent decisions and carry them out, should they suddenly take it into their heads to try and do anything so foolish?

It will probably not come as a shock to the reader to discover that between the verbiage about a ‘new’, ‘sovereign’ Iraq and the situation as it really exists there lies a huge chasm. Before ‘disbanding’ itself, the US’s governing body in Iraq, the ‘Coalition Provisional Authority’ (CPA), passed an edict specifying that, irrespective of the wishes of the new ‘government’, Iraqi armed forces will be under UN (read US) control. This law, like many others the CPA passed, may not be changed by the interim ‘government’.

Despite the soothing words coming from Downing Street and the White House about troops staying on for ‘just as long as the Iraqi people want them’, the fact is that the new ‘government’ has neither the means nor the authority to get rid of them. The many laws enacted by the CPA to ensure an occupation-friendly Iraq can only be amended by a two thirds majority vote in the National Assembly and the unanimous approval of the Presidency Council. 200 ‘foreign experts’ will be attached to the Iraqi ministries to ensure they don’t step out of line.

Meanwhile, air and sea ports remain under the control of the occupation and ‘reconstruction’ has been transferred from the CPA to the US embassy, which, with a staff of 3,000, is now the world’s largest. In fact, the US embassy in Iraq is nothing more or less than the new colonial office of US imperialism, while John Negroponte, the newly arrived ‘ambassador’, is the new governor of Iraq in all but name. Notorious for his role in facilitating death squads in Honduras and arming the contras in Nicaragua, Negroponte will control the real business of Iraq, with 165,000 troops, five offices spread around the country and an $18.4bn budget through the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

It is clear that the much trumpeted ‘government’ of Iraq is nothing more than a few Iraqi faces providing cover for the ongoing imperialist occupation. The lengthy process for ‘self rule’ laid down by the CPA (convening a National Conference to select a Consultative Council ahead of elections to a National Assembly in January, a referendum on the constitution in October and a general election in November 2005) is revealed in this context as nothing more than a show with which to saturate the world’s media while the occupation redoubles its efforts to crush the Iraqi people and plunder their wealth.

Warmongers exposed

Despite their best attempts at diversion, however, the US and British governments continue to be exposed as the imperialist warmongers they are as, one by one, their justifications for launching the war have collapsed in the face of reality.

Even inquiries carried out by such friendly faces as Butler have been forced to concede that Iraq never possessed the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) it was alleged to have and that, at best, the intelligence that provided the pretext for the invasion was ‘faulty’. More critical observers have not found it difficult to see that, on the contrary, the intelligence gathered from 12 years of UN inspections was very good indeed, and had given the imperialists the green light to invade without risk of any serious conventional retaliation, and the stories put out about Iraq’s possession of WMD and intent to use them were nothing more than lies to stir up hysteria and cover the real motivations for war.

Hot on the heels of the WMD exposures came the ignominious collapse of the ‘invasion as liberation’ theory. Always stretching it a bit thin, the plausibility of this story snapped altogether when the news broke of the systematic abuse and torture of prisoners. Of course, anyone who cared to take more than a cursory glance at the blood-stained history of either British or US colonialism would not have been remotely surprised by the revelations – exactly the same ‘techniques’ have been used by the British against national liberation fighters in India, Kenya, Malaysia and, more recently, in Ireland.

While Washington press officers issue statements about the dawning of a new democracy in Iraq, the American-appointed government in Iraq is busy discussing the introduction of martial law, and while the international media is filled with assurances of Iraqi sovereignty, their elected President, Saddam Hussein, is held in a jail guarded by US soldiers.

Resistance continues

The Iraqi people, however, as they have already proven, are not likely to take all this lying down. The media may have gone very quiet about the continuing resistance, but the truth is that, behind their optimistic words, the imperialists’ dreams for a pliant and plundered Iraq are lying in tatters.

It is true that Saddam Hussein has been deposed, but he remains a symbol of resistance – so much so that the television transmissions of his brief appearance at the kangaroo court had to be censored to stop the people of the Middle East from hearing, and being inspired by, his defiant altercations with the US-appointed puppet judge.

Meanwhile, the fabulous profits with which the US and British ruling classes hoped to kick start their crisis-ridden economies have failed to appear. True, a few select companies (most of them connected in some way to Bush or one of his cronies) are making good money supplying the soldiers with provisions or equipment for ‘reconstruction’, etc, but the money to pay for these contracts is coming from the already over-burdened US treasury. It’s a far cry from the original plan, whereby all reconstruction and invasion (sorry, ‘liberation’) costs were to be met from the profits of Iraqi oil.

The imperialists’ intelligence failed them on one point however. They may have been right in predicting the quick fall of the country’s conventional forces, but it is one thing to beat an army in straight fighting and quite another to conquer a country and its people. If they had been less blinded by the promise of fabulous profits, or less desperate to control Iraqi oil and find a way out of imperialism’s ever-worsening crisis of overproduction, the invaders might have been better placed to learn from their own history that “the people’s will for liberation is stronger than atom bombs” as the great American singer, actor, writer and athlete Paul Robeson once said. Just as US imperialism was kicked out of north Korea and Vietnam; just as the British have been unable to quell the national liberation struggle in Ireland; the invaders will find again that oppression breeds resistance – and the greater and more barbaric the repression, the greater will be the Iraqi people’s determination to send the occupiers packing.

Indeed, their tactics so far have been masterful. Targeting of collaborators has meant that fewer and fewer people are prepared to work with the occupation, and whole sections of Iraqi police regularly change sides when forced to do battle against their countrymen. Targeting of foreign assistance to the occupation has meant that aid agencies and other fig leaves for imperialism have left the country, while even the spectacular salaries being offered to security guards and other foreign workers are not enough to persuade many of them to risk their lives. Targeting the country’s infrastructure – roads, electricity, etc – has meant that the occupiers have become more and more unpopular as they fail to provide the Iraqi people with the basic necessities of life. And, most importantly of all, targeting the oil refineries and pipelines has deprived the occupation of its ability to plunder Iraqi oil and thereby robbed it of the means to pay its astronomical overheads.

As more and more soldiers are killed or captured, countries who were press ganged by the US into providing some veneer of ‘international’ backing are withdrawing their troops, leaving the US and Britain isolated and exposed.

Our tasks

Possession of WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) is not a crime – if it was, Britain, the US and Israel, the countries which possess the biggest stocks and have made use of them many times, would have to be put on trial.

Failure to admit inspectors is not a crime – if it was, Britain, the US and Israel would have been invaded by UN forces long ago.

Imperialism does not care for liberty or democracy – if it did it would give unstinting support to countries such as Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Vietnam, countries where democracy and freedom are living laws rather than dead letters.

The real problem for the Iraqi people, as for all the people of the Middle East, is continued imperialist interference, which has subjected them to a century of war in its quest to control the region’s ‘black gold’.

The CPGB-ML’s position is very clear. There was never any justification for the invasion of Iraq, which is an imperialist war for plunder and domination.

Such wars of aggression were condemned at the Nuremberg Tribunals after WWII as the highest of all crimes against humanity and, if we do not wish to be implicated in these crimes, it is our duty to do everything in our power to stop Britain’s continued participation in the barbaric and illegal occupation.

Therefore, we must refuse to cooperate in any way with the war effort – whether serving in the forces, making weapons, transporting equipment or putting out propaganda in support of the war. Individually, we may be powerless against the state, but collectively, the British working class has the ultimate veto over the war – they cannot fight it without us.

Marx wrote long ago that “no nation that oppresses another can itself be free”. British workers will never achieve anything for themselves while they continue to allow the British ruling class to plunder and pillage the rest of the world, for it is the fabulous wealth gained in this way that gives the British bourgeoisie the strength to oppress British workers at home.

Solidarity with the Iraqi people is not merely a matter of altruism but a question of the greatest importance and urgency for British workers. The Iraqi resistance is fighting on the front line against our common enemy – British and US imperialism – and every defeat inflicted on British imperialism makes our enemy a little weaker and our task a little easier.

Therefore, let the British working class work wholeheartedly for the defeat of British imperialism in Iraq.

Victory to the Iraqi resistance!

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