The current revolt in Iraq is to be expected. It is the latest in a long series of protests which have resulted in Iraqis being shot at by their "liberators." This time they are fighting back and on a large scale. Fighting has broken out in towns and cities which contain over 70% of Iraq's population. This must have put a damper any plans the US may have had to the mark the fall of Baghdad.
But credit where credit is due. The US has managed the near impossible. It has turned a population who used to be subject to a vicious dictator against them. Saying that, backing that dictator at the height of his tyranny obviously would not have helped nor would invading the country and killing over 10,000 civilians in the process. While it was predictable that the Sunni population would oppose the Americans (at least to any bar the US state), the fact that the US has added the Shia to their enemies is quite impressive. This group, which makes up the majority of Iraqis, suffered immensely under Saddam. That the Americans have turned their neutrality into a mass uprising says a lot about the regime they have imposed.
The occupying power has vowed to defeat the revolt. Helicopter gunships and tanks have been used against it, echoing Saddam's crushing of the Shia revolt back in 1991. Then they allowed Saddam to do it, this time they are doing it themselves. And while Saddam's act was portrayed as an evil act and (hypocritically) used to justify the war, the US repression is being presented in the best possible light. Yet again, the imperialists prove that dead Iraqis only count when its not the US who killed them. Both literally and figuratively, of course, as the occupying power dos not bother to keep track how many civilians they kill in Iraq.
The origins of the revolt
Why have parts of the Shia population joined with the Sunni insurgency? While this revolt is a product of general hatred of the occupation and US rule, the gun battles which have erupted all across Iraq came specifically as a result of protests by supporters of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr. Somewhat ironically, this violent revolt was triggered by the closure of Sadr's al-Hawza newspaper a week ago on the grounds that it was inciting anti-US violence. Then US troops arrested one of his top deputies in Najaf.
Rather than stifling the movement, the two acts of state repression inflamed the problem. Initially, there was a wave of peaceful demonstrations, including the occupying of police stations and government buildings across Iraq including UK occupied Basra. In Baghdad, the Iraqi army responded to the protests by opening fire and allegedly killing three people. Since then the revolt has spread, with rebels taking at least two towns by Thursday (Najaf and Kut). While occupying troops are suffering losses, it is Iraqis who, as usual, are making up the bulk of the dead and wounded.
As well as the Shia revolt, 1,200 US troops as well as Iraqi security forces were sent to "pacify" Falluja, a Sunni town of 200,000 people. This is where four US citizens were killed a few weeks ago (the US is less vocal that this was in response to deaths of Iraqi civilians in their raids). By the 8th of April, the US had killed over 300 Iraqis as a result of waging heavy street battles, using warplanes and tanks. This included around 40 worshippers killed when the US blew up part of a Mosque. Not the best way to win hearts and minds.
Faced with the insurrection, the various politicians got into the act. The current president of the American puppet Governing Council, said that "any act that leads to violence and losses among civilians and coalition (personnel) is an act that we sternly condemn." We wonder if he includes the invasion that brought his new masters into power?
Not to be outdone, America's dictator in Iraq, Bremer, stated he had "a difficult security situation. We have a group under Moqtada al-Sadr that has basically placed itself outside the legal authorities, the coalition and Iraqi officials." How legal are authorities imposed by violence? Without irony, he said that al-Sadr was "attempting to establish his authority in the place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate this." He did not explain how an illegal occupation following an illegal invasion can create "legitimate authority." So Bremer's "legitimate authority" only exists, like Saddam's, by means of state violence. But we can understand why he attacks Sadr for wanting to run the country: that is America's job. And his comment against groups who "think power in Iraq should come out of the barrel of a gun" was truly priceless.
Bush joined in with the political mumbo-jumbo and was his usual delusional self, insisting that "the message to the Iraqi citizens is they don't have to fear that America will turn and run, and that's an important message for them to hear." Obviously he fails to see that so many people are rebelling because they fear America will stay in Iraq and turn it into a de facto colony. If the US announced it was withdrawing then the levels of violence may decrease.
As it is, the number of American soldiers killed since the start of the war is now over 600. But rest assured, as in Vietnam the children of the rich, like Bush, are safe at home while their parents make money off the war. Rest assured, though. From the safety of Whitehall and Capitol Hill Blair and Bush are bravely agreeing to fight to the last man. As long, of course, it is not them.
And while the politicians and bureaucrats talk bollocks, the people of Iraq are being subject to the levels of repression last seen under Saddam. It is funny how quickly the Bush Junta, Blair and the pro-war crowd has went from being so concerned about Iraqi human rights and freedom to baying for Iraqi blood and urging the crushing of the same kind of popular revolt they wanted against Saddam.
The Media: whores of power
These developments do make it hard for the US to portray themselves as the liberators rather than the occupiers of Iraq, although the right-wing media is trying its best. It also makes life hard for the Bush Junta, which wanted to appear to be making some progress in extracting itself from the Iraqi quagmire before the elections in November. Now senior US congressmen have warned President George W Bush's administration that Iraq faces civil war. Or, more correctly, a war against US occupation.
More and more US politicians wonder if US should consider postponing the handing over of "sovereignty" to the Iraqis on 30 June. The fact the media takes this nonsense seriously and reports it with a straight face shows how subservient to power it is. What the Bush Junta calls returning sovereignty to the Iraqis is, in reality, simply the US occupying forces taking power from one set of US appointed Iraqi politicians and giving it to another set. The interim government appointed by the US will be prohibited from reversing any of the laws passed by the US. The US-UK military occupation will go on, with the US maintaining full effective control, particularly of security, oil, economic policy, major contracts.
Which, perhaps, explains why Bush does not appear to have the "exit strategy" the media is so concerned about: the US is not planning to leave. Why invest so much money to further imperialist adventures and then give the country to its people? Why else is the US so against genuinely free elections in Iraq? Why else is it ensuring that its forces will be "invited" to have military bases there? Why else is it talking about a Iraqi "civil war" in the light of such obvious and generalised opposition to its rule? Simply to justify its continuation.
A uniter, not a divider
Little wonder the Iraqis are rebelling. Anyone with any dignity would. This mass insurgency exposes the lie that the US are liberators. Which explains why the media has repeated the Bush Junta line that this is the start of a civil war rather than what it obviously is: a national liberation struggle. But on the positive side, at least Bush, as promised, has proven himself a uniter rather than a divider: the Iraqis are uniting against him and his imperialist plans.
Which exposes that other great myth of the US, funnelled faithfully by the media, namely that Iraq is on the brink of civil war. This revolt has seen Sunni and Shia unite in fighting the occupying forces. Thousands of Iraqis - from both the Sunni and Shia communities - marched 60 km from Baghdad to Falluja to bring food and medical supplies to the besieged citizens there. The repression by the US can only unite the populations and their resistance even more.
On the Brink of Anarchy?
With the uprising, the media is flogging that old chestnut of Iraq being on the edge of anarchy. As if. What we have is a series of competing governments and states, not their absence. The scale of current uprising suggests opposition to the occupation is popular. One thing is sure, this revolt shows that the Americans will have a major problem on their hands.
In these circumstances, anarchists can only redouble our call for the occupying powers to withdraw. It is up to the Iraqis to determine how they want to live, not an imperialist power which is shaping the country to further its interests.