The constant stream of news, combined with photographic and video evidence, about maltreatment of Iraqis at the hands of occupying troops is having a traumatic impact on the Iraqi people. It is also affecting the outlook of soldiers, both British and American, and on the population in Britain and in the US. This will serve to strengthen resistance to the occupation inside Iraq and to increase pressure in Britain and America for withdrawal of the troops.
Last month the 100th British soldier died in Iraq. Over 2000 US troops are now dead, and as many as 6000 have suffered brain damage in the fighting. In the House of Commons, Blair, Cameron et al expressed their sincere condolences and wept their crocodile tears for the families of the dead. Yet British parliamentary hypocrisy – the cant for which it is famous – was clear for all to see when barely two dozen MPs bothered to turn up to listen to the Defence Secretary commit a further 3800 British soldiers to fight in Afghanistan.
This is Blair’s legacy, a procession of bodybags bringing home the dead. At least the British and American troops are counted. No one knows how many Iraqis have been killed. Even conservative estimates put the total at more than 100,000 since the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. To the imperialists the Iraqis do not count as human beings when they are alive, they certainly do not bother to count them when they are dead.
Most of the deaths in Iraq are not recorded, but many images of the inhuman degradation and sickening abuse of Iraqis are. Scenes of torture from Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, have become all too familiar on our television screens and in the newspapers. The horrific pictures from Abu Ghraib last year have now been supplemented by further photographic evidence of imperialism’s crimes. 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse; 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees; 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts; 20 images of a soldier with a swastika drawn between his eyes; 37 images of military working dogs being used in abuse of detainees; and to this graphic evidence must now be added the documentary evidence unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union. They have published material demonstrating systematic torture in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and elsewhere by shadowy organisations with names like ‘Task Force 626’. The barbaric acts at Abu Ghraib were not simply the responsibility of one or two ‘bad apples’, but examples of a widespread policy of torture.
The British media have long tried to distance British troops from this kind of behaviour, claiming that our army is ‘more civilised’ than that of the US. The whole history of British imperialism’s crimes around the world should testify against this nonsense. The ‘home video’ footage of unarmed young Iraqis dragged from the streets to be beaten senseless by British soldiers and left unconscious in pools of their own blood provides graphic evidence of the criminal role being played by British imperialism too.
All this is having a traumatic impact on the outlook of soldiers, British and American; the population here and in the US; and, of course, on the Iraqi people themselves.
Bush and Blair claim to be liberating Iraqis, introducing democracy and rebuilding the shattered economy, yet the truth is that life in Iraq is worse now than it was even under Saddam’s monstrous dictatorship. As the country spirals toward civil war, death lies around every corner either from British or American troops, or from sectarian violence.
To make matters still worse the imperialist occupation has another face. As well as its military uniform, it brings with it the suited bankers of the IMF. The International Monetary Fund insisted as a condition for its $685 million loan to the Iraqi government that it cut subsidies, and expand the private sector.
The combined impact of these bombers and bankers is mass unemployment and poverty. Oil production and electricity supplies remain below their pre-war levels. Much of the country's infrastructure remains in ruins, with the majority of reconstruction aid paying for 'security'. Meanwhile corrupt officials are siphoning off billions of dollars. Now the US administration has announced that they are not going to spend any more on rebuilding the country they destroyed!
All this is compounded by the wanton profiteering of US firms like Halliburton making a mint from government contracts and picking the remains from the carcass of the Iraqi economy.
The result has been a five-fold increase in fuel prices so that, in a country with the second largest oil reserves in the world, most people can only get petrol or heating and cooking fuel by queuing for hours or on the black market. So much for all the promises to rebuild the country and its economy.
What about their claims to have brought freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq? We know by now the real attitude of these people towards democracy. They have demonstrated it again recently in relation to the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. According to the International Herald Tribune (14/2/06): "The US and Israel are discussing a strategy aimed at destabilising a new Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority," by starving the PA of funds.
According to Blair the democrat, British troops will only leave when asked to do so by the (puppet) Iraqi administration. Yet already the Basra authority refuses to co-operate with British troops following the broadcast of footage showing the beatings they handed out to young Iraqis. Opinion polls in Iraq all call for the troops to get out, the latest by a margin of four to one. Opinion polls here and in the US have consistently shown the same result.
The majority elected in the recent poll in Iraq demand that the armies of foreign occupation should leave. The results from the parliamentary ‘election’ also show the country is dividing between the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions.
The Independent, analysing the election results in Iraq, explained what now seems obvious to everyone except Blair and co. "Religious fundamentalists now have the upper hand... The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq." (21/12/05). Iraq is now rushing headlong towards civil war. The recent bombing of the golden-domed mosque in the city of Samarra, one of Shia Islam's most revered sites, no matter who was responsible, has already resulted in reprisals and tit-for-tat killing that threatens to spiral out of control.
Sooner or later British and US troops will be forced to leave with their tails between their legs. Whatever new regime then emerges in Iraq it will certainly not be a friend of the US.
The first casualty of this war was, as always, truth. There never were any weapons of mass destruction. There was no capability to attack Britain in 45 minutes. These ‘reasons’ for going to war have been quietly sidelined. In their customary Orwellian style it now seems that regime change, getting Saddam out and installing western democracy were always the justifications for invading and occupying Iraq.
In reality this was about establishing the economic, political, and military domination of the Middle East by US imperialism. On paper the armed might of the US, combined with its economic dominance, would appear to make it invincible. Appearances can be deceptive.
The occupation of Iraq has proved far more difficult than the initial invasion. Three years on it has failed to create any sort of stability either for a stooge government in Baghdad or for the region as a whole. Neither Bush nor Blair will survive their war, politically fatally wounded by Iraq. This will be of little consolation to the families of all those who have died in Iraq. The only way to bring an abrupt end to this tragedy and prevent its repetition is to build the international struggle for the socialist transformation of society.
Demonstrate on 18 March!
End the brutal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Withdraw all imperialist troops.
Stop the attacks being prepared on Iran.
Close the Guantanamo camps.