As the battle for Baghdad (or perhaps the siege of Baghdad) begins to take shape, we are left to wonder what lies ahead. It’s looks pretty likely that the US’s overwhelming killing machine will eventually destroy the regime, either by destroying most of Iraq or by making life so miserable for the Iraqis that the military will surrender. The occupation, however, is certain to be a different matter. Once Hussein is gone from power, there are bound to be several factions vying for power in Iraq. Amongst these various factions will be the occupying forces of the United States military. Iraqis intent on revenge for years of sanctions, support of the Hussein government, and other US misdeeds are bound to exact some kind of punishment on the Americans. Whether or not that revenge actually organizes itself into some kind of resistance force is another question, which is currently unanswerable from this vantage point.
If one looks at recent (and current) military occupations, there is one common denominator: popular resistance. In Palestine that resistance has run the gamut from non-violent protest and direct action to suicide attacks and military action. In Kosovo and other regions of the former Yugoslavia, the scenario was pretty much the same. In Chechnya, the resistance has been more organized and, consequently, much more like what we consider to be a war. In other words, the military power has shifted from the occupier to the resistance and back again. In Afghanistan, it seems that the Chechnya model is beginning to formulate itself.
Reading Iraqi history, we find this little note regarding the British occupation of the Iraqi nation during the 1920s-“Churchill believed that the country could be cheaply policed by aircraft armed with gas bombs, supported by as few as 4,000 British and 10,000 (colonial) Indian troops” (from Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919-1939, David E. Omissi, 1990). Churchill was wrong. The Iraqis eventually drove the British from the country. The US strategists are saying today that they don’t believe they will need to capture or kill the entire Hussein government before they can occupy the country. Indeed, certain news agencies are reporting that some members of the administration don’t even believe that Baghdad needs to be controlled. This type of thinking is reminiscent of the British imperial arrogance that brought down their empire. Need I say more?
It is too early to speculate what truly lies ahead for the GIs in Iraq (and those on their way), but I think it is safe to say their job will continue to be bloody and dirty. One can only hope that those who have moral qualms about occupying another country at gunpoint will act on those qualms and refuse to serve. One also hopes that the opposition we have created to the war will continue to protest as the occupiers attempt to impose their will on the Iraqi people. Besides the occupation, one can be relatively certain that the administration will continue its plans to make war on other countries that oppose its plans for conquest.
Come Senators, Congressmen, Please Heed the Call, Don’t Stand in the Doorway, Don’t Block up the Hall
The antiwar movement cannot roll over. The fact that a bloody war is being fought in Iraq (and elsewhere) despite our incredible opposition around the world does not mean that we have failed. It only means we have not fought hard enough, nor have we reached enough of the world’s people. Furthermore, it means we must expand our reach, our tactics and our strategies to make the movement against war and occupation a movement that no government can ignore. In the US, this means that every presidential candidate must take a position on the war and occupation and answer for that position at the polls. Every Senator and Congressman who voted for the war and its funding must pay for it at election time. This is not just a question of right vs. wrong. It is a matter of life and death. The cost to the politicians must be such that they will oppose this war or lose their jobs.
Politicians may not be good for much, but they do serve as useful foci for raising the issues that need to be raised. Antiwar folks who are electorally inclined must run for office. The rest of us must organize, march, sit-in, and do whatever else to make the war and occupation a major issue in the political life of America. Citizens of other countries should take comparable actions in their nations. Even though the diplomatic battles in the UN before the war began were largely the result of differing commercial interests in Iraq and the Middle East, they would not have widened to the point they are currently at without the pressures applied by the antiwar protests. The fact that the antiwar movement was able to widen the fissures between the large capitalist nations is a victory of sorts. One hopes the space created by this split among these governments can be filled by those of us who honestly oppose Washington’s wars and the economics that drives them.
The man in line for the main administrator of Iraq’s postwar occupation government, Ret. General Jay Garner, is a public supporter of the Israeli policy of expansion and an executive (currently on leave) of the defense contractor L-3 Communications. His job in Iraq will be to help “introduce a capitalist system where there’s been central-control socialism since the 1960s,” according to Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation. As any student of right wing think tanks knows, this foundation supports the Sharon government in Israel and the expansion of US corporate power around the globe via military force. The other countries in the Middle East are very interested in Iraq’s future. After all, it could very well be their own. Iran and Syria are under increasing threats from the US. Saudi Arabia is in disfavor with the current administration in Washington, and Jordan and Egypt find themselves stuck between their allegiance to US aid and the anger of their people over the US presence in the region. If the occupation succeeds in Iraq, one can be pretty certain that US hawks will want to attempt a similar scenario elsewhere, beginning with those countries currently in Bush and Rumsfeld’s “axis of evil.”
The scenes of death and destruction we are seeing from Iraq will pale besides those that could come from the future wars of the madmen and women in Washington, DC. We have no choice but to oppose their occupation and their wars. They must be stopped.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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