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So, the US is occupying Iraq. What does that mean?
Does it mean that US marines are shooting into crowds of Iraqis protesting the US presence and killing some members of the crowd?
Does it mean the reappearance of death by cholera and typhoid in the city of Baghdad because the hospitals in that city have been bombed, looted and burned and these hospitals don’t have the medicines to combat these diseases and others related to the destruction wrought by years of US sanctions and days of bombing?
Does it mean the theft of priceless antiquities by organized gangs of criminals while US marines stood guard at Iraq’s oil ministry building?
Does it mean the death by cluster bombs and depleted uranium shell casings of more Iraqi civilians?
Does it mean the denial of entry into Iraq of UN weapons inspection teams by the United States?
Does it mean the construction of US military bases on Iraqi soil? Bases constructed for the purpose of maintaining US control of the country and to enable an easy attack on any other nations or popular movements in the region who refuse to go along with the US desire for global domination beginning in the Middle East?
Does it mean that anyone challenging the Americans and their plans is subject to arrest by the US military?
Does it mean incredible profiteering off the Iraqi people’s misery by corporations whose connections to the regime in Washington DC are more than just coincidental?
I wish I could truthfully answer no to all these questions, but I can’t. Unfortunately, the answer to every single one of them is yes. What this means is that the US is once again disregarding its moral and legal obligations. Not only was their war on Iraq immoral and illegal, so is their occupation! The invaders have a moral and legal obligation to rebuild the infrastructure they destroyed with money from their own pockets. The invaders have a moral and legal obligation to clean up the unexploded ammunition and the shell casings its attack left strewn about the country with money from their own pockets. The invaders have a moral and legal obligation to provide security and food to the citizens of the country that they so brutally destroyed-with money from their own pockets. But the US is doing none of this!
This fact is reason enough to insist that the US military get out of Iraq now and take all their weapons and airplanes with them. They shouldn’t wait until after their democracy anointed by Bush and Rumsfeld is installed. They shouldn’t even wait until their version of security is in place. Heck, they shouldn’t even wait until next week. They should leave NOW!.
The US has not begun aid shipments, it has blocked them. The US has not opened up the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community, it has made itself very clear that it has no intention of opening this process up. Indeed, the only thing the US has done in Iraq besides killing protesters opposed to its presence is get the oil flowing again.
Even if the US were to do an about face and meet all of its obligations they should still demand that they get out of Iraq. Why? Because they don’t belong there, that’s why. Nobody invited them in. Who, then will help the Iraqis rebuild if the US doesn’t? How will they ever achieve democracy and freedom?
Well, here’s a revolutionary thought. Why not let the Iraqis rebuild their country? Why not let them organize their own government? Can they do that? Do they know how?
Let me answer that by talking about another kind of occupation.
Occupation is not just a military action. It is a psychological and social phenomenon, too. Occupation is one of the first steps towards colonization. In the case of the US and Iraq in 2003, our country is the colonizer whether we like it or not. Now, the colonial mindset does not only affect the colonized, it also affects the colonizer. As surely as there are US servicewomen and men occupying Baghdad, our psyche is occupied by a mindset that leads us to question the ability of Iraqis to govern themselves and rebuild their country without US interference. Why? Because we are trained to think that only the US (and maybe some of its allies) know what a good government is. Many of us think this even if we don’t like our government.
It doesn’t matter if we think the US should run Iraq or if we think the UN should. It doesn’t matter whether we think the US liberated the Iraqi people or just took over the place for their oil. The very fact that we question the Iraqis’ ability to take care of themselves shows how our consciousness is tainted with the stain of the occupier.
As long as the United States is in Iraq and the Middle East, we are occupiers and colonizers.
So, can the Iraqis rebuild their own country?
Of course, the Iraqis can rebuild their own country.
Furthermore, the only way the Iraqi people will be able to really choose their own destiny is by getting the US masters of war out of their country. Likewise, the only way we in the United States will ever be able to truly choose our own destiny is by getting the masters of war out of our government. In other words, the first step towards real democracy in the USA is also the first step towards democracy in Iraq-and that first step is getting the US out of Iraq.
I watch the daughter of a friend every afternoon. This little girl has helped me remember in the past several months, more than anything or anybody else, why I oppose war and work for justice and peace. It’s a very simple reason: I want the world that she lives in to be a place where she and her generation can thrive. Not just survive, but thrive. Not just here in the US, but everywhere in the world. I want her smile and the smile that almost every child has, no matter what their circumstances, to never disappear from her face because of something I did or something I failed to do.
Insisting on the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is not only about improving the future of Iraq and its children, it’s also about improving the future of the United States.
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