Recent developments in Iraq — from the exposure of torture and murder of Iraqi detainees to the killing of hundreds of civilians in Falluja — underline a simple point: the United States has no business occupying Iraq and should leave immediately.
Not after a transitional period, not after sending even more troops to die (as presidential candidate and Democratic Party front-runner John Kerry has advocated), and not after waiting to install a puppet regime with United Nations approval.
The U.S. military is not bringing “stability” to Iraq. It is the source of the chaos that in classic colonial fashion it claims it must intervene to prevent.
The U.S. occupation is distorting every aspect of Iraqi society, and is based on brutality and the daily humiliation of the Iraqi people.
Nor is the U.S. presence needed to prevent a civil war, as many have claimed (including some who at first opposed the invasion of Iraq).
In fact, the U.S. is making civil war more likely. U.S. planners are consciously sowing divisions between various Shia groups, between Sunni and Shia, between Kurds and Muslims, and between sections of the former Baath party.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, laid out the logic for the U.S. military fomenting civil war in Iraq.
Praising the brutal Operation Phoenix counter-insurgency program from the Vietnam War as a model for how to wage counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq, he explained, “We need better intelligence to identify and neutralize Iraqi insurgents, as in [Operation] Phoenix. We might even want to recruit Baathists and induce them to turn against their erstwhile comrades.”
Boot notes the charges of “excesses” in Operation Phoenix, but then assures us that “far more cadres were captured (33,000) or induced to defect under Phoenix (22,000) than were killed (26,000).”
The advantage of pitting Iraqi against Iraqi, Boot writes, is that “Iraqis would be able to try some of the strong-arm tactics that our own scrupulously legalistic armed forces shy away from.”
Boot might want to ask Hayder Sabbar Abd about the scrupulous legalism observed by his torturers at Abu Ghraib prison (notorious as a torture center from the time of the Hussein regime), where “he and six other inmates were beaten, stripped naked (a particularly deep humiliation in the Arab world), forced to pile on top of one another, to straddle one another’s backs naked, to simulate oral sex” (New York Times).
“It was humiliating,” Abd recounts. “We did not think that we would survive. All of us believed we would be killed and not get out alive.”
This the reality of the U.S. occupation. The torture and humiliation of Iraqis is not some aberration, but the logical extension of the state terrorism needed to impose U.S. authority in Iraq.
Far from encouraging steps toward Iraqi democracy, U.S. planners are doing everything in their power to prevent Iraqis from determining their own fate.
The reason is simple. If Iraqis could vote, the occupation would end tomorrow. Iraqis would control their own oil. U.S. troops would be compelled to leave immediately. And opportunists liked Ahmed Chalabi and other hand-picked quislings of the U.S. government, who have no legitimacy in Iraq, would never be elected.
Instead, the Bush administration announced that at least 138,000 troops will remain in Iraq, “until the end of 2005,” the Financial Times reported, May 5, noting that “the announcement of troop levels … comes before a new Iraqi governing authority has been established.”
“[O]ur folks are there and are going to stay there,” Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed early in May.
It has already become clear that the June 30 “transfer” will only represent a shift of limited authority from one group of hand-picked leaders to another (slightly larger) group of hand-picked leaders, intended as a public relations move for a badly embattled U.S. occupation.
On April 30, Colin Powell told Reuters that “It’s important to let the multi-national force be able to operate under its own command,” not Iraqi command, “and for us to provide that help, we have to be able to operate freely, which, in some ways, infringes on what some would call ‘full sovereignty.’”
Measures have also been taken to keep Iraqis from controlling the income from their own oil sales. Instead, these funds will continue to be managed by the United Nations and the occupying powers, and will be used as a leverage to influence the transition to power in Iraq.
Control over Middle Eastern oil is the real prize, and exposes all the other arguments used to sell the invasion: weapons of mass destruction (a lie), human rights (a hypocritical lie), Iraq’s connections to al-Qaeda (a lie even the liars can’t believe), and “democratizing the Middle East” (perhaps the biggest lie of all).
The U.S does not want democracy in Iraq, which could mean losing control over the world’s second largest reserve of oil in the world (in a region with two-thirds the world’s oil).
It wants “stability,” that is, a “pro-Western” regime that will do its bidding.
The Iraqi people have every right to resist this project, and those of us who support genuine democracy and freedom in Iraq should too.