Tariq Ali says the US is "Getting away with murder in Iraq"
- July 14, 2004
Getting away with murder in Iraq
By Tariq Ali
Green Left Weekly, Australia
Before the war, they said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that
threatened the West. Those of us who opposed the war said this was a lie. US
President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian PM
John Howard thought that if they magnified the untruth people would believe
it. They didn't. Now it's official. No weapons of mass destruction existed
Then we were told the people of Iraq would welcome the liberation. Some of
us warned there would be a resistance and were accused of living in the
past. The resistance emerged and exposed the weaknesses of the occupation.
US military leaders then said that the resistance was simply remnants of
the old regime and was being led by Saddam Hussein, and that once he was
apprehended, the problems would be manageable. We said that after the
capture of Saddam, the resistance would grow even more.
It is now obvious to all but the politically blind that with the partial
exception of the Kurdish tribal leaders, the bulk of Iraqis want the West
out of their country. The uprisings in southern Iraq last April showed how
tenuous the grip of the occupation had become.
Will the citizens of the warmonger states now follow the Spanish example and
punish their leaders, or are memories so short these days that lies are
either considered insignificant or forgotten? An alert, intelligent and
vigilant citizenry needs to make sure its leaders do not get away with
The US has already lost the war of images. Saddam's statue being torn down
by US military equipment and a handful of mercenaries in a city of several
million people did not exactly recall the Berlin Wall. It is the photographs
of torture (now referred to casually in sections of the Western media as
abuse) that have become the symbol of the war and the colonial occupation.
An alert, intelligent and vigilant citizenry needs to make sure its leaders
do not get away with murder.
Any people that has suffered colonial rule knows that torture has been part
and parcel of imperial policy. When the news surfaced, Gerry Adams, the Sinn
Fein leader, described in a newspaper article how he had been stripped and
humiliated by the British. Numerous Palestinians described what was still
going on in the Israeli gulags. It was the citizens of the West who were
surprised. They had forgotten what their leaders had done for most of the
The transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis is, of course, another whopper. The
irony in this case is that, as all Iraqis remember, this is a farcical
repeat of what the British did after World War I when they received a League
of Nations mandate to run Iraq. When the lease expired they kept their
military bases and dominated Iraqi politics. The British embassy in Baghdad
made the key decisions.
Now, after June 30, it is the US embassy playing this role and John
Negroponte, a tried and tested colonial official, who watched benignly as
the death squads created mayhem in Central America, is the de facto ruler of
Iraq. The former CIA agent, Ayad Allawi, who worked as a low-level police
spy for the Saddam regime and was responsible for handing over the names of
numerous dissidents, will be the new prime minister. How can even the most
naive camp-follower of the US empire regard this operation as a transfer of
Allawi has declared that what is needed is a tough policy to restore order.
And tame commentators are already beginning to parrot that Arabs prefer
strongmen to democracy. If Allawi fails, as he will, then like the fallen
fraudster Ahmed Chalabi, he, too, will be removed. Both men are time-servers
who, at a single nod from the conqueror, will sink into primitive obscurity.
The wealth and military strength of the US may enable it to buy the services
and support of poorer and weaker states, but that will not stop the
resistance in Iraq.
It was the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq,
who first raised the demand for an elected constituent assembly to determine
the future constitution in the country. His supporters argued it was no big
problem to prepare an electoral register since the citizens were already
registered for receiving food subsidies from the old regime. But this demand
was rejected. It was too early for democracy. The people were traumatised.
US ideologues such as Samuel Huntington now speak of the democratic
paradox. The paradox is the fact that people might elect governments
unfriendly to the US.
And few doubt that the two key demands of any genuinely elected government
in Iraq would be (a) the withdrawal of all foreign troops and (b) Iraqi
control of Iraqi oil. It is this that unites a large bulk of the country,
and I am convinced that the Kurdish leaders at present engaged in dangerous
manoeuvres with Israel will be isolated in their own territory if they carry
on in this fashion.
Nothing has changed in Iraq after June 30. It is a make-believe world where
things are made to mean what the occupiers want them to mean and not what
they really are. It is the Iraqi resistance that will determine the future
of the country. It is their actions targeting both foreign soldiers and
corporate mercenaries that have made the occupation untenable. It is their
presence that has prevented Iraq from being relegated to the inside pages of
the print media and forgotten by TV. It is the courage of the poor of
Baghdad, Basra and Fallujah that has exposed the political leaders of the
West who supported this enterprise.
The only response the US has got left is to increase the repression, but
whether Negroponte will go in for the big kill before the US presidential
election remains to be seen.
It might be a risky enterprise.