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US GANGSTERS LINE UP NEW TARGETS
by our Arab Affairs Correspondent
AMERICAN EFFORTS to establish a puppet regime in Iraq are faltering as mass protests against the occupation continue throughout the country. Armed resistance to the invaders has begun and Islamic religious leaders are demanding for freedom and independence.
US President Bush has tried to head off Arab fears that Syria may be the next target of the American war-machine. But this was undermined when one of his top aides denounced the Syrian leader as a “fascist” whose country needed “regime change”. And American hopes for an easy ride at the United Nations have been dampened following a blistering attack on the United States by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix.
While General Jay Garner spent the week setting up the US military administration, millions of Iraq’s Shia Muslim community marched to their holy city of Karbala in pilgrimage, which had been banned for many years by the Saddam Hussein government. But it was much more than a religious celebration. Shia clerics made it clear that it also had a political aspect – to demonstrate the unity of the Iraqi Shias, some 60 per cent of the population and raise the demand for the immediate end to foreign occupation.
One of their leaders, Sheikh Kaazam al Nasari, stressed that in the beginning their opposition would be expressed peacefully – but only in the beginning. The Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution has its own militia, the Badr brigade with bases in the Kurdish safe-havens. The Council’s deputy leader, Ayatollah Mohamed Bakr al Hakim, said the pilgrimage would demonstrate opposition to “a US led interim administration and defend Iraq’s independence”. And the Shia leaders have already established a working relationship with the Sunni Muslim leaders to press their demands for an independent Iraq based on Islamic law.
While the Shia protests have indeed been peaceful so far, guerrilla attacks against the Anglo-American expeditionary force continue. Two weeks ago the National Iraqi Liberation Organisation (NILO) was established and it claims to have members in every province. In a statement released to the Arab Al-Jazeera television network, NILO claims to have already killed 20 American soldiers and knocked out eight tanks and armoured cars.
The statement warned the Iraqi exiles that have returned on American tanks to staff a US puppet regime to vacate all state buildings, adding that General Garner will be killed before he gets any Iraqi oil.
In the Iraqi capital American and local police patrols have brought some of the looting under control — too late to save Iraq’s fabulous antiquities and art treasures from theft and destruction but just in time to nab four hapless GIs caught trying a bit of private enterprise of their own.
The four men have been arrested for trying to steal near a $1million out of a haul of $700 million taken from abandoned estates in the city.
Meanwhile the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and most of his ministers remains a mystery. A handful of Iraqi Baath leaders – fewer than five – have been turned in or given themselves up. The Iranian media claimed last week that Saddam and his top aides flew to Russia from Tikrit just before the fall of Baghdad in a secret deal with the Americans. Some Iraqi émigrés and would-be leaders believe Saddam has gone underground to lead a guerrilla campaign and others believe he died in the bombing.
What is certain is that some sort of deal was struck to ensure the unopposed entry of US troops into Baghdad. According to the leading French daily Le Monde, Maher Sufian, the Commander of the Republican Guard cut a deal with the Americans to secure his own safe exit to asylum abroad. Le Monde’s Baghdad correspondent says Sufian ordered his forces to lay down their arms and go home.
He was then picked up by an American helicopter at his barracks and taken to a “safe haven”. Significantly, Sufian does not appear on the American most-wanted Iraqis list. Other unexplained exceptions include Saddam’s foreign minister, the minister of health and the popular high profile Information Minister, Mohamed Saeed al Sahaf.
Arab fears that US imperialism is set on total control of the Middle East were confirmed by the arrogant remarks of James Woolsey, a member of General Garner’s interim administration and a former director of the CIA. Last Sunday he called Syrian President Bashar al Assad a terrorist supporting “fascist” whose country “needs a regime change”. His remarks were complemented by US Senator Richard Lugar, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said he did not expect Iraq to have a “functioning democracy” for at least five years. “In the Middle East today, we can speak very softly because we’ve got a very big stick,” he declared.
And that stick is also hovering over Iran, whose Shia Islamic government was warned by Washington not to assist their fellow-Shias in Iraq or the Iraqi Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution.
But in Britain and at the UN the question of the weapons of mass destruction – the pretext for Bush and Blair’s war – remains unanswered. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix told the BBC that the Americans tried to discredit him and his team in the run-up to the war. He also said the Americans used “shaky” evidence to build up their case against Iraq, referring to forged documents purporting to show that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from the African republic of Niger. No banned weapons have been found so far in Iraq and some Labour MPs are not going to let the matter drop. And nor should anyone else. This was an illegal and unjust war. British troops must leave Iraq now and the Iraqi people must be allowed to restore their republic with complete control of their oil resources.
We are told that imperialism has won the Iraq war though we’ve been spared,
so far, the gloating speeches and the “victory” parades. The war party’s media
tell us that the Iraqis are welcoming their conquerors while the imperialists
are preparing the ground for more horrors to come, perhaps in Syria, Iran
or the north of Korea.
Though the war was allegedly fought to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, none have been found.
Though it was claimed that the war would bring “democracy”, popular leaders are being sidelined in favour of worthless and corrupt placemen, groomed for their role during their long years of exile in Britain and the United States. Though the Americans tried several times to kill Saddam Hussein during the war, they can’t find him now even though the entire country is under the thumb of the Anglo-American expeditionary force.
Plenty for American imperialism. Dreams of installing a puppet regime which will agree to hand over the oil fields to the big oil corporations and allow the Americans to establish military bases all over the country. Little or nothing for British imperialism now that the guns are silent.
Blair’s appeal to the rest of the European Union to back British imperialism’s “UN road” received a lukewarm response in France and Germany.
While the European imperialists want their slice they didn’t expect much from the Americans in the first place let alone now after refusing to endorse the Anglo-American aggression in the Security Council.
Nor are they simply going to accept an American carve-up of Iraq and the Middle East and the global oil market lying down. Their next move, following the Franco-German-Russian summit, remains a secret though the continuing demand for the return of the UN weapons inspectors to independently see if Iraq was hiding any banned weapons shows that Berlin and Paris are not going to let the matter drop.
The European Union is divided and so is our own ruling class and the war has brought their divisions to a head. The most reactionary, aggressive and venal sections, those the Blair leadership are serving, are in the war camp.
They are opposed by those in favour of greater European integration; the elements of the ruling class which will profit from partnership inside the EU rather than with US imperialism. And they have turned to the peace movement for popular support in their struggle.
This is why the North American-owned press is targeting the peace movement now. Cold War veterans are rising, like Lazarus from his grave, to attack the leaders of the Stop the War Coalition. The campaigning Labour MP, George Galloway, has been singled out for special attention to punish him for his long-standing support for the Arabs over the years.
The war party, who believe that British imperialism’s global interests can only be preserved by American might, are dominant at the moment. Blair still struggles to maintain the old policy of straddling the Atlantic to play off Europe against America but he burnt his bridges in more than one sense in this war.
The Government is now hinting that the referendum on the single European currency will be deferred for a few more years. This is not out of any concern for working people who would suffer from EMU. It simply reflects the demands of the war party, which includes virtually all the Euro-sceptic Tories.
The struggle within the Labour Party is clearly going to intensify in the few months - a positive development as the only way the war party as a whole can be defeated is by defeating Blair & Co inside the party they claim to lead.
But the agenda must not be simply reduced to divisions within the ruling class itself over Europe and the United States. Nor must the movement be used simply as a weapon by one section of the ruling class over another.
The fight for a change in Labour’s leadership must be a fight for people’s policies - first and foremost for peace and the withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq. We must demand the restoration of all trade union rights; for cheap housing for all; good free education and health services; state welfare benefits and pensions that would enable workers to live in dignity. That’s our first step. We must take it now.
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