He Thinks Its All Over...
6 May, 2003
So, its the end of
the war in Iraq, is it? If anyone thinks George Bush Jnr could pass
that one off aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last week
major combat operations have ended was the expression he
used on Thursday night they should take a closer look at Secretary
of Defence Rumsfelds cosy, sinister little speech to US troops
in Baghdad a day earlier.
It was filled with all the
usual myth-making: the many Iraqis who flocked to welcome
the Americans on their liberation of Baghdad, the fastest
march on a capital in modern military history (which the Israelis
achieved in three days in 1982). But the key line was slipped in at
the end. The Americans, he said, still had to root out the terrorist
networks operating in this country. What? What terrorist networks?
And who, one may ask, are behind these mysterious terrorist networks
operating in Iraq? I have a pretty good idea. They may not
actually exist yet. But Donald Rumsfeld knows (and he has been told
by US intelligence) that a growing resistance movement to Americas
occupation is gestating in Iraq. The Shia Muslim community, now supported
by thousands of Badr Brigade Iraqis trained in Iran, believes the US
is in Iraq for its oil. It is furious at Americas treatment of
Iraqs citizens; in three days last week at least 17 Sunni demonstrators
were killed, two of them less than 11 years old. And it is not impressed
by Washingtons attempts to cobble together an interim
Even during the war, you
could hear the same sentiments. Yes, the Shias would tell us, the Americans
can get rid of Saddam. No one doubted his viciousness. But, always,
this sentiment was followed by a desire to see the back of the Americans.
Most of the civilian victims of American and British bombs were Shias,
especially around Nasiriyah and Hillah. Which is another reason why
the Americans did not arrive in Baghdad where a US armoured vehicle
pulled down the famous statue of Saddam to be greeted by flowers
and music. When Iraqi civilians look into the faces of American troops,
President Bush famously told the world on Thursday, they see strength
and kindness and goodwill. Untrue, Mr Bush. They see occupation.
Already it is possible to
identify some familiar landmarks in the progress of occupation: a series
of brutal incidents for which the Americans are never, ever, to blame.
Just like the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the killing
of civilians is never the fault of the occupiers. The driver and the
old man shot and killed by US forces near a checkpoint in Baghdad, and
the little girl and the young woman badly wounded whose tragedy Channel
4 witnessed, received no apology from the United States. A family is
shot in its car in southern Iraq; cameramen are killed in the Palestine
Hotel; 15 Iraqis, including at least one child, are gunned down in Falujah.
For the Americans, it is always self-defence. Though, strangely,
few if any Americans have been seriously wounded in these incidents.
Of course, there must be gunmen shooting at the Americans. But the evidence
suggests there arent very many. The evidence also suggests that
very soon, there are going to be a lot more. You have only to observe
how deeply the Iraqi Shias admire the Lebanese Hizbollah to understand
how well they comprehend the art of guerrilla resistance. Succoured
by Iran or schooled in Saddams torture chambers
they are not going to take orders from ex-General Jay Garner, whose
all-expenses-paid trip to Israel to express his admiration for the Israeli
armys restraint in the Palestinian occupied territories
is well known in Iraq. And they realise full well that Americas
big corporations are preparing to make millions from their broken country.
Without waiting for any interim
government to take such decisions, the US Agency for International Development
has invited American multinationals to bid for everything from road
rebuilding to new text books. A US company, Stevedoring Services of
America, has already gobbled up the $4.8m (£3m) management contract
for the port at Um Qasr. US oil executives, many of them chums of George
Bush and his administration, are expected to visit the Iraqi oil ministry
(one of only two Iraqi ministries that the Americans miraculously saved
from arsonists) within a week.
No, Iraq today resembles
not some would-be democracy but rather the tragedy that greeted the
British when the German occupation of Greece ended in 1944. Hitler,
like Saddam, had ensured there were plenty of abandoned weapons lying
around to fuel a guerrilla resistance against the new rulers. Churchill
supported the nationalist government of George Papandreou the
Ahmed Chalabi of Greece but the Elas Communist guerrillas wanted
power. They had fought the Nazis since Germanys 1941 invasion
and, like many of the Muslim Shia today, feared that they were going
to be excluded from power by a new pro-Allied regime.
So the liberation
of Athens quickly turned into a pitched battle between British troops
(for which read the Americans in Iraq) and the Communists, who had received
years of support from the Soviet Union. For Russia then, read Iran now.
Claiming that he stood for freedom, Churchill remarked that democracy
is no harlot to be picked up in the street by a man with a tommy-gun.
But when martial law was imposed by the British (something the Americans
may have to consider) Churchill less charitably told the British commander
in a secret message that he should not hesitate to act as if you
were in a conquered city. In various battles, there were attempts
to find a mediator not unlike the desperate meetings in Falujah
last week between Iraqis and Americans. In the event, Churchill was
able to restore order only because he had secretly obtained Stalins
agreement that Greece should remain in the Western sphere of Europe.
Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and other eastern European countries paid
the price. The parallels are not exact, of course, and a critical difference
today is that the nation which might be able to help Washington, as
the Soviets helped London, is Iran. And Iran, far from being an uneasy
ally, is part of President Bushs axis of evil, which
fears that it may be next on Americas hit list. So here is a little
Mr Bush says the war is over,
or words to that effect. Then Shia resistance begins to bite the Americans
in Iraq. Of course, Mr Rumsfeld will have warned of this: it will be
characterised as the famous terrorist networks which still
have to be fought in Iraq. And Iran and no doubt Syria
will be accused of supporting these terrorists. The French
did much the same in their 1954-62 war against the FLN in Algeria. Tunisia
was to blame. Egypt was to blame. So stand by for part two of the Iraq
war, transmogrified into the next stage of the war on terror.