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 Day 19

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Dying and Lying Occupied Iraq Will Never Know Peace

Occupied Iraq Will Never Know Peace

by TARIQ ALI

The recolonisation of Iraq is not proceeding smoothly. The resistance in the country (and in Palestine) is not, as Israeli and Western propagandists like to argue, a case of Islam gone mad. It is, in both cases, a direct consequence of the occupation.

Before the recent war, some of us argued that the Iraqi people, however much they despised Saddam Hussein, would not take kindly to being occupied by the United States and its British adjutant.

Contrary to the cocooned Iraqis who had been on the US payroll for far too long and who told George Bush that US troops would be garlanded with flowers and given sweets, we warned that the occupation would lead to the harrying and killing of Western soldiers every day and would soon develop into a low-intensity guerilla war.

The fact that events have vindicated this analysis is no reason to celebrate. The entire country is now in a mess and the situation is much worse than it was before the conflict.

The only explanation provided by Western news managers for the resistance is that these are dissatisfied remnants of the old regime.

This week Washington contradicted its propaganda by deciding to recruit the real remnants of the old state apparatus – the secret police – to try to track down the resistance organisations, which number more than 40 different groups. The demonstrations in Basra and the deaths of more British soldiers are a clear indication these former bastions of anti-Saddam sentiment are now prepared to join the struggle.

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad shocked the West, but as Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from the Iraqi capital last week, there is a deep ambivalence towards the UN among ordinary Iraqis. This is an understatement.

In fact, the UN is seen as one of Washington’s more ruthless enforcers. It supervised the sanctions that, according to UNICEF figures, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and a horrific rise in the mortality rate. Two senior UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest against these policies, explaining that the UN had failed in its duties to the people of Iraq.

Simultaneously the US and Britain, with UN approval, rained hundreds of tonnes of bombs and thousands of missiles on Iraq from 1992 onwards and, in 1999, US officials calmly informed The Wall Street Journal that they had run out of targets.

By 2001, the bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of Vietnam.

That’s why the UN is not viewed sympathetically by many Iraqis. The recent Security Council decision to retrospectively sanction the occupation, a direct breach of the UN charter, has only added to the anger.

All this poses the question of whether the UN today is anything more than a cleaning-up operation for the American Empire?

The effects of the Iraqi resistance are now beginning to be felt in both the occupying countries. The latest Newsweek poll reveals that President Bush’s approval ratings are down 18 points to 53 per cent and, for the first time since September 11, more registered voters (49 per cent) say they would not like to see him re-elected. This can only get worse (or better, depending on one’s point of view) as US casualties in Iraq continue to rise.

In Britain more than two-thirds of the population now believe that Tony Blair lied to them on Iraq. This view is shared by senior figures in the establishment. There was open disquiet within the armed forces before the war. Some generals were not too pleased by the sight of their Prime Minister, snarling at the leash like a petty mastiff, as he prepared to dispatch a third of the British army to help occupy one of the country’s largest former colonies in the Middle East.

After the capture of Baghdad, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, the former head of the joint intelligence committee and a former national security adviser to Blair, wrote an astonishing letter to the Financial Times in which he accused Blair of having deliberately engineered a war hysteria to frighten a deeply sceptical population into backing a war. Fishmongers sell fish, warmongers sell war, wrote Braithwaite, arguing that Blair had oversold his wares.

This anger within the establishment came to a head with the alleged suicide of the Ministry of Defence’s leading scientist, Dr David Kelly, and forced a judicial inquiry, a form of therapy much favoured by the English ruling class.

This week Blair will be interrogated before Lord Hutton, but already the inquiry has uncovered a mound of wriggling worms.

There is talk now that New Labour will offer the Defence Secretary, a talentless mediocrity by the name of Geoff Hoon, as a blood sacrifice to calm the public. But what if Hoon refuses to go alone? After all, he knows where the bodies are buried.

And Australia? Here the Prime Minister – a perennial parrot on the imperial shoulder – managed to pull his troops out before the resistance began. They were badly needed in the Solomon Islands. Like Blair, John Howard parroted untruths to justify the war and, like Blair, he’s lucky that the official Opposition is led by a weak-kneed and ineffective politician scared of his own shadow.

And one day, when the children of dead Iraqis and Americans ask why their parents died, the answer will come: because the politicians lied.

Meanwhile, there will be no peace as long as Palestine and Iraq continue to be occupied – and no amount of apologetics will conceal this fact.

TARIQ ALI is an editor of New Left Review and the author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms and the forthcoming, Bush in Babylon, to be published in October by Verso.