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Getting Away With Murder in Iraq



Before the war they said Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that threatened the West. Those of us who opposed the war said this was a lie. George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard thought that if they magnified the untruth people would believe it. They didn’t. Now it’s official. No WMD existed in Iraq.

Then we were told the people of Iraq would welcome the “liberation”. Some of us warned there would be a resistance and were accused of living in the past. The resistance emerged and exposed the weaknesses of the occupation.

US military leaders then said that the resistance was simply “remnants of the old regime” and was being led by Saddam Hussein and once he was apprehended the problems would be manageable. We said that after the capture of Saddam, the resistance would grow even more. It is now obvious to all but the blind that with the partial exception of the Kurdish tribal leaders, the bulk of Iraq wants the West out of their country. The uprisings in southern Iraq last April showed how tenuous the grip of the occupation had become.

Will the citizens of the warmonger states now follow the Spanish example and punish their leaders, or are memories so short these days that lies are either considered insignificant or forgotten? An alert, intelligent and vigilant citizenry needs to make sure its leaders do not get away with murder.

The United States has already lost the war of images. Saddam’s statue being torn down by US military equipment and a handful of mercenaries in a city of several million people did not exactly recall the Berlin Wall. It is the photographs of torture (now referred to casually in sections of the Western media as “abuse”) that have become the symbol of the war and the colonial occupation.

An alert, intelligent and vigilant citizenry needs to make sure its leaders do not get away with murder.

Any people that has suffered colonial rule knows that torture has been part and parcel of imperial policy. When the news surfaced, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, described in a newspaper article how he had been stripped and humiliated by the British. Numerous Palestinians described what was still going on in the Israeli gulags. It was the citizens of the West who were surprised. They had forgotten what their leaders had done for most of the 20th century.

The “transfer of sovereignty” to Iraqis is, of course, another whopper. The irony in this case is that, as all Iraqis remember, this is a farcical repeat of what the British did after World War I when they received a League of Nations mandate to run Iraq. When the lease expired they kept their military bases and dominated Iraqi politics. The British embassy in Baghdad made the key decisions.

After June 30 it will be the US embassy that will play this role and John Negroponte, a tried and tested colonial official, who watched benignly as the death squads created mayhem in Central America, will be the de facto ruler of Iraq. The former CIA agent, Ayad Allawi, who worked as a low-leval police spy for the Saddam regime and was responsible for handing over the names of numerous dissidents, will be the new “Prime Minister”. How can even the most naive camp-follower of the American empire regard this operation as a transfer of sovereignty?

Allawi has declared that what is needed is a tough policy to restore order. And tame commentators are already beginning to parrot that Arabs prefer strongmen to democracy. If Allawi fails, as he will, then like the fallen fraudster Ahmed Chalabi, he, too, will be removed. Both men are time-servers who, at a single nod from the conqueror, will sink into primitive obscurity.

The wealth and military strength of the US may enable it to buy the services and support of poorer and weaker states, but that will not stop the resistance in Iraq.

It was the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, who first raised the demand for an elected constituent assembly to determine the future constitution in the country. His supporters argued it was no big problem to prepare an electoral register since the citizens were already registered for receiving food subsidies from the old regime. But this demand was rejected. It was too early for democracy. The people were traumatised, etc.

US ideologues such as Samuel Huntington now speak of the “democratic paradox”. The paradox is the fact that people might elect governments unfriendly to the US.

And few doubt that the two key demands of any genuinely elected government in Iraq would be (a) the withdrawal of all foreign troops and (b) Iraqi control of Iraqi oil. It is this that unites a large bulk of the country, and I am convinced that the Kurdish leaders at present engaged in dangerous manoeuvres with Israel will be isolated in their own territory if they carry on in this fashion.

Nothing will change in Iraq after June 30. It is a make-believe world where things are made to mean what the occupiers want them to mean and not what they really are. It is the Iraqi resistance that will determine the future of the country. It is their actions targeting both foreign soldiers and corporate mercenaries that has made the occupation untenable. It is their presence that has prevented Iraq from being relegated to the inside pages of the print media and forgotten by TV. It is the courage of the poor of Baghdad, Basra and Fallujah that has exposed the political leaders of the West who supported this enterprise.

The only response the US has got left is to increase the repression, but whether Negroponte will go in for the big kill before the US presidential election remains to be seen.

It might be a risky enterprise.

TARIQ ALI’s latest book, Bush in Babylon: The Re-colonisation of Iraq, is published by Verso. He can be reached at:


Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

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