Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
MARX: A HERO FOR OUR TIME? — Suddenly, everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Rolling Stone seems to be talking about Karl Marx. Louis Proyect delves into this mysterious resurgence, giving a vivid assessment of Marx’s relevance in the era of globalized capitalism. THE MEANING OF MANDELA: Longtime civil rights organizer Kevin Alexander Gray gives in intimate portrait of Nelson Mandela and the global struggle of racial justice. FALLOUT OVER FUKUSHIMA: Peter Lee investigates the scandalous exposure of sailors on board the USS Reagan to radioactive fallout from Fukushima. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: Kim Nicolini charts the rise of Matthew McConaughey. PLUS: Mike Whitney on the coming crash of the housing market. JoAnn Wypijewski on slavery, torture and revolt. Chris Floyd on the stupidity of US policy in Ukraine. Kristin Kolb on musicians and health care. And Jeffrey St. Clair on life and death on the mean streets of an America in decline
Elections and Death Squads

The Mysterious Murders of the ASM Clerics

by RON JACOBS

Is it a coincidence that US puppet Allawi is calling for the death penalty to be administered to the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) Sunni clerics who oppose elections, while, at the same time two of these clerics have been gunned down by unknown forces? This coincidence seems to be more intentional than coincidental. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turns out that these two men were killed by death squads employed by the US and its client government in Baghdad. John Negroponte, the current US ambassador to Iraq, organized such death squads while he was the ambassador to Honduras during the US wars in Central America and was quite successful at the endeavor. It is not a real stretch of the imagination to assume that he and his employer are up to the same thing in Iraq.

In the same way that Israel hopes to stifle the Palestinian resistance by killing off its leaders in extrajudicial assassinations, the US could be hoping for a similar result in Iraq. Whether they will be successful depends on, among other things, the depth of the Iraqi resistance. If the level of commitment to getting rid of the occupiers extends is as deep among those on the ground staging the attacks on US and Iraqi accomplice forces as it is among the leadership (clerical and secular), then it will take more than the murder of a few leaders to destroy the resistance. If not, then a few more assassinations of various outspoken clerics and other leaders could very well force the resistance into a steady retreat for the foreseeable future. If the resistance is as deep as it seems to be, then the only way the US would be able to impose its will would be by intensifying the slaughter it is carrying out across Iraq.

Some media outlets speculate that Shia forces are carrying out these assassinations, although these same outlets provide no verification for such speculation. Others suggest (with the urging of US intelligence, one assumes) that perhaps the mysterious creation known as al-Zarqawi is responsible. Although it is possible that this is the case, one has to ask why any such forces would think murdering clerics would be to their benefit. After all, for the mainstream Shia, these murders will only alienate these clerics’ followers even further from the political process that mainstream Shia leaders like al-Sistani hope will take hold after the US-sponsored elections take place. Without the participation of the majority of Iraqis and without a representative parliament, the likelihood of that process succeeding is greatly diminished. So, it would seem that the mainstream leadership not completely in debt to the US (that is, those who are not named Allawi) would oppose acts that further alienated the Sunni groupings in the opposition. As for the possibility that al-Zarqawi or his allies are responsible, this assumes that al-Zarqawi actually exists and is not a US black-ops creation or tool, and that if he does, it would be to his benefit to kill off clerics who agree with his group’s call for an end to the occupation and a boycott of the US-created elections-a deduction that makes no sense.

Only the US and Allawi really benefit from the assassinations of those clerics opposed to the US plan for continued interference in Iraqi affairs. After all, it is only if Allawi and his circle can maintain some kind of dominant role in the "elected" Iraqi government that Washington will be able to achieve its primary goals in Iraq. Eliminating the most militant opposition to the US and its Iraqi marionettes is one step in the process. That is what the attacks on Fallujah, Mosul, Samarra and elsewhere by US forces are intended to achieve. If the US is behind the assassinations of the clerics, it is also the intention of those murders.

Washington complains almost daily to the media that the resistance uses intimidation tactics against the Iraqi populace to maintain its control. While this is true in certain cases, the fact of the US saying it is the pot calling the kettle black. After all, it was the US who invaded the country, bombing and shelling villages and cities on its way to Baghdad, murdering women and children for no reason, and blowing up hospitals and markets no matter who was inside. Indeed, it is the US that continues to intimidate the Iraqi people through murder, maiming, and massacre; all in the name of something they call democracy. If it is their special forces who are killing off those clerics who oppose the occupation, then that, in itself, is one more form of intimidation. Of course, we may never discover the truth, since the US populace is intimidated by its leaders, as well.

What about those elections that all of the world are supporting over there in Iraq? Well, if those elections are anything like the ones Mr. Negroponte and his bosses in DC arranged for El Salvador, Honduras or Nicaragua back in the 1980s, then the people of Iraq have a lot to look forward to. Real representation is not one of them. In all honesty, I think a better example of what the future holds for the people of Iraq is the sham elections of southern Vietnam during that country’s short life. Sure, there would be elections ever couple of years, with candidates from the military or some other element of southern Vietnamese society that owed its existence to the presence of US troops and intelligence operatives in country, but the war never stopped raging all around as voters went to the polls. Candidates who differed from the US plans for the geopolitical region known as Southeast Asia usually lost, thanks to the creative vote counting that took place. However, if they did win, they were ignored, politically neutralized, or terminated with extreme prejudice (to borrow the appropriate parlance).

In Iraq, this scenario might work something like this. The elections are held on schedule, with over fifty per cent of the Iraqis voting. All 275 delegates are elected and represent the range of political parties approved by the US Embassy and its client regime in Baghdad, with some of the delegates strongly opposing the US occupation of their country. The assembly meets and a) elects Allawi or another US choice to run their country or b), they choose someone a bit more radical who is on record as promising that he will demand an immediate unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq. If a) occurs, then the war continues as the resistance increases in numbers and intensity. If b) occurs, then the war continues and the anti-occupation PM is "convinced" to modify his stance on US withdrawal or he is eliminated and the resistance increases in numbers and intensity.

Intriguingly, the New York Times reported on November 25, 2004 that some elements of the Iraqi client regime in Baghdad may meet with some members of the resistance. This could either be a ploy to buy off parts of the resistance and set up a so-called third way, much like the US tried with in Vietnam (as fictionalized in Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American) or it could be an attempt by elements in the Allawi government to exercise some independence. Either way, it is unlikely to succeed unless Washington approves. Given its past history, it is equally unlikely that Washington will do such a thing. Meanwhile, Washington will continue to send more troops to pacify the country in the true Orwellian sense of the word.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu