Labor Advocate Online
We Fight the Wars—We Can Stop the Wars
Remarks to June 27 Kansas City Rally Against the Occupation, sponsored by the Iraq Task Force, endorsed by Kansas City Labor Against the War
by Bill Onasch
Onasch waits to speak while Tony Saper and Brad Fischer hold KCLAW banner
This Wednesday, we are told, will see the “handover” of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA—as the current occupation establishment is known—to a “fully sovereign” Iraqi government.
Of course the same people told us Iraq had to be invaded because of its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Or, if you don't like that one, because Saddam Hussein was allied with Ossama bin Laden. Or, still another alternative was that Saddam was no damn good and the world is better off without him.
They are also the same people who thirteen months ago celebrated “mission accomplished,” proclaiming an end to significant hostilities.
Given this track record perhaps we are entitled to look further for more credible, if not actionable, intelligence.
First, let's take a quick review of how the CPA has paved the way for the new democracy due on Wednesday.
Now the occupiers didn't recklessly throw out every aspect of the old Baathist state. No, they kept Saddam Hussein's labor codes which effectively outlaw legitimate, worker run trade unions. Here they saw nothing broke so they didn't need to fix it.
But the CPA has been responsible for a lot of changes in downtrodden Iraqi society.
They cut the minimum wage and eliminated state assistance to the unemployed and refugees.
The health care system—once the best in the Arab world—is in shambles.
Street crime, once unusual, is now rampant.
Women's rights, which had been the most substantial of any Islamic country, are under attack throughout the land.
And, for the second scorching summer of occupation, there is no reliable electricity supply.
The viceroy didn't trust the old army so he disbanded it. But, in his arrogant conviction that the Iraqis were truly whipped, he let them keep their weapons.
Bremer has been very busy the last few days issuing executive decrees, and making executive appointments to key positions, that the new government will have to live with.
These include the rules for the first election in “sovereign”Iraq. An electoral commission has been empowered to disqualify any parties or candidates they don't like.
This is the state of things that gauleiter Bremer bequeaths to the Iraqi quislings.
And what does this Vichy redux government look like? The prime minister of the new sovereign government has long been on the payroll of foreign governments—notably British MI6 and the American CIA. From a comfortable exile he directed a U.S. financed network inside Iraq that carried out terrorist bombings, and industrial sabotage for years.
Most of the ministers of this new regime in Baghdad also returned from abroad in the wake of the U.S. led invasion. Nearly all of them had been staunch supporters of the thirteen years of American sanctions that brought so much misery to the people they left behind.
With such credentials it is no wonder this new government is being so warmly received by the citizens of Iraq.
Now that Iraq is sovereign again the U.S. government is extending normal diplomatic recognition. They sent their UN ambassador, John Negroponte, to become the new emissary to Baghdad.
This is eerily reminiscent of when Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was moved from the UN to take over the embassy in Saigon during the height of the Vietnam war.
Negroponte, as deputy National Security Adviser to Reagan, was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra affair. He also helped coordinate U.S. intervention in civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in the 1980-90s and gave advice on counter-insurgency while Clinton’s ambassador to the Philippines.
The new Iraqi embassy is the largest in the world—just as Saigon was the biggest in the late sixties-early seventies. It is clearly designed to perform the same kind of functions as Saigon carried out under Lodge—running the country.
There are still 138,000 U.S. troops looking over the shoulder of the “sovereign” government. There is no time table for their withdrawal, or even reduction in their numbers.
Now, in the interests of nonpartisan full disclosure, we note that John Kerry, and many congressional Democrats, object to keeping 138,000 GIs in Iraq—they want more troops there, as many as 40,000 more.
Distributing Labor Party Press
So is this handover Wednesday just another scam, or does it signal some kind of change?
Certainly as far as granting Iraqi sovereignty is concerned it's what the poetic cockneys among the British Tommies would call a pork pie (rhymes with a lie.) The bipartisan war makers don't give a rodent's backside about democracy or living standards for the peoples of Iraq. Nothing good for either Iraqi or American working people can come from continued U.S. occupation, even if now now de facto rather than de jure.
But there has been a shift in Bush's strategy. They now recognize that what they once called the Bush Doctrine, which was supposed to shock and awe the whole world into obedience, was a neocon pipe dream turned nightmare. They now desperately want to extricate themselves from a bloody, and politically costly mess.
With no respect for intellectual property rights, they have blatantly stolen nearly all of Kerry's suggestions for to how to more intelligently pursue subjugation of Iraq.
They have had to humbly try to kiss and make up with “Old Europe.” This has required them to grant the old colonialists a piece of the action in Iraq. With European support Bush and Blair got unanimous approval for their latest UN resolution, giving them the cover of that world body in replacing direct rule with a puppet regime.
They have also been moving to buy off, rather than futilely trying to smash, both the religious based, and the foreign financed militias. With NATO assistance they hope to train a loyal Iraqi security force that can eventually allow them to reduce the number of GIs on the ground.
This is a different situation. But this new perspective, which will be pursued no matter who wins the November election, is still, in my opinion, illegal, still immoral, still contrary to the interests of the working class majority in both Iraq and the United States.
But there is some hope in these gloomy times. Not all of the opposition to the occupation are mad men video taping decapitations, or religious zealots as unsavory as Saddam Hussein.
There is also a mass movement developing among Iraqi working people fighting for genuine human and economic rights. Last March some of you heard, right here in this spot, Amjad al-Jawhary speak on behalf of the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions of Iraq. There are similar movements fighting for women's rights, jobs for the unemployed, and a secular democracy.
Working people have always fought the wars. Working people have mainly paid for wars. If we are organized, working people can also put a stop to wars.
That's what those of us in U.S. Labor Against the War aim to do. We want to mobilize the power of American workers, in solidarity with our fellow workers in Iraq, to put an end to this madness. We will do this not through beheadings, not through suicide bombings, and not through begging lesser evil politicians. We can do it because, as the old song tells us, “without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn!”
We serve fair warning to the politicians, the war profiteers, and the brass hats: we will become your new worst nightmare come true unless you end this occupation, let Iraqis truly run Iraq, and most of all—bring American workers in uniform back home where they belong!