Labor Advocate Online

On the Road to Kandahar?—An Ominous Scenario For Iraq
by Bill Onasch

Bush/Blair now realize they are whipped. Bush’s modestly named, kick-ass, bring ‘em on, Bush Doctrine is losing ground daily in Iraq and is not doing a whole lot better in Afghanistan. His ever loyal sidekick has had to scale down his ambition of New Labour staking out New Empire. This Dynamic Duo of Shock and Awe has turned into the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. They must now kiss ass and make up with Old Europe in order to devise a plan to ensure the security of Iraqi oil flow in the chaotic mess they have created but can’t control.

Setbacks for imperialist plans of our master, and that of our British cousins, is a good thing. But our joy has to be restrained when looking at likely scenarios resulting from the end of direct American rule.

Falluja Emerging As Islamic Mini-State was the headline of one of many such stories appearing since the truce agreement there.

If you will recall, Falluja was the crime scene of the brutal murder of four American contractors, whose mutilated bodies were dragged as trophies through the streets. U.S. Marines were dispatched to Falluja—described then as a stronghold of Saddam Hussein supporters—with the clear mission to "kill or capture" those responsible.

But virtually the whole town rallied to the defense of the Sunni mujahedeen targeted by the Marines. After some initial probes, it soon became clear that Falluja could not be subjugated without enormous—politically unacceptable—losses on both sides. Eventually the occupiers cut a deal that, in effect, turned over Falluja to the mujahedeen murderers. (Nominally the city is supposed to be under command of former Saddam Hussein army officers. Not much has been seen of these officers around town, however. They are wisely keeping a very low profile.)

The article cited above describes some of the actions of the mujahedeen—now posturing as the force that beat the superpower—in eradicating any remnants of secular society. There are public floggings of those caught imbibing or selling alcoholic beverages. Barbers are warned not to give western style haircuts or shaves, and youth with offending hair styles are shorn in public squares. Women not in the company of husbands or fathers are no longer seen on the streets. Now that they have tasted both blood and power the mujahedeen are unlikely to stop with these measures in their quest to purify Falluja. Welcome to liberation from tyranny.

Unfortunately, Falluja is not an isolated example. Muqtada al-Sadr, son of a late prominent Shia cleric, is widely believed to be responsible for the murder of a rival religious figure last October. The occupiers didn’t pay too much attention to this in-fighting until Sadr started having some success in recruiting followers on the basis of anti-American sentiment. Only then did the viceroy take steps to shut down Sadr’s newspaper and issue an arrest warrant.

Indignant about this hypocritical suppression of free press, and unwilling to grant the occupiers the right to try Sadr, many Iraqis of all different persuasions, rallied to his support.

The Sadr City neighborhood in Baghdad became an impenetrable Casbah. Sadr himself took refuge in holy sites in and around Najaf the occupiers were reluctant to destroy. After two months of skirmishes that killed at least 350 Iraqis and 21 GIs, the occupiers blinked. Under a settlement brokered by Iraqi authorities in Baghdad, coalition forces are withdrawing. As in Falluja, Iraqi authorities are supposed to take over control from the militia. The murder arrest warrant has been put back in the drawer and Sadr has become a player in Iraqi politics.

"The fact that we stood up for a period of about two months against the most powerful force in the world is a victory to us," crowed al-Khazali, Sadr's spokesman.

As I wrote in an earlier article, these are not nice people. "Sadr, until recently, was a small time fascist d.b.a. Shia cleric. He was best known for arranging the murder last year of a rival Shia cleric. He had at his disposal a small ‘militia,’ a mix of religious fanatics and sadistic lumpen. These thugs occasionally murdered suspected opponents, carried out pogroms against Gypsies, and intimidated women."

Now Sadr too has a fiefdom and a place at the table.

The Saddam Hussein regime was a dictatorship that needed to be overthrown. But there were some important remnants, even under his tyranny, of earlier revolutionary gains. Iraq by far had the best record of any Islamic country in the area of women’s rights. They also had the best university and health care systems of any Arab country.

Now Iraq faces the danger of becoming another Afghanistan. Instead of a centralized, secular dictatorship they may become ruled by rival regional war lords, suppressing women and education in the name of religion, in addition to the other human rights long curbed by Saddam.

You can bet these new warlords are negotiating with neighbors such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

As AP correspondent Hamza Hendawi wrote regarding Falluja, "With the departure of the Marines, the position of the U.S.-appointed civil administration has been weakened in favor of the clerics and the mujahedeen who resisted the U.S. occupation. That is a pattern that could be repeated elsewhere in Iraq after the occupation ends June 30, unless other legitimate leaders come forward to replace those tainted by association with the occupation."

Of course most other "legitimate leaders" from our point of view were either in jail or in exile under Saddam Hussein. Working class organizations are rebuilding themselves, under very difficult conditions, from the bottom up. They can expect no sympathy or help from the occupiers, the clerics, or the fascist militias.

Certainly we in the United States should continue to call for an end to the occupation, for our GIs to come home now. Nothing good for the Iraqi people can come from U.S. rule.

But we can’t be content with just that. I believe we also have an obligation to work for the alleviation of problems the occupiers will leave behind even after the last American soldier has come home.

We need to build active solidarity with working people in Iraq. That means supporting their courageous movements for democratic rights, secular society, and working class trade union and political organization. This solidarity should be both political and material.

We applaud US Labor Against the War’s Iraqi labor solidarity campaign.

We recommend that all who believe in working class internationalism familiarize yourself with organizations such as:

Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq/Union of the Unemployed of Iraq

Iraqi Women’s Rights Coalition

The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

Amnesty International Iraq Crisis Page

Oxfam Iraq

Worker Communist party of Iraq