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[casi] FW: The right to resist,3604,980363,00.html

The right to resist

Armed opposition to the occupation of Iraq will
continue until the US and Britain withdraw

Seumas Milne
Thursday June 19, 2003
The Guardian

It would have been hard to predict in advance that the
US and British occupation of Iraq could go so
spectacularly wrong so quickly. The words of the
historian Tacitus about the Roman invasion of Scotland
in the first century AD might just as well have been
written about our latter-day Rome's latest imperial
adventure: "They create a wasteland and they call it

More than two months after the collapse of Saddam
Hussein's regime, Iraq is sinking deeper into chaos
and insecurity, as US forces lash out at the Iraqi
resistance, which is now killing an average of one
American soldier a day. Another was shot dead in
Baghdad yesterday, while US troops killed more
protesters - as they have repeatedly done since the
massacres of demonstrators in Mosul and Falluja in
April. The British minister in charge of
reconstruction in occupied Iraq, Baroness Amos, had to
admit yesterday that she is unable to visit the
country because of the risk of guerilla attack, while
the British commander, Major General Freddie Viggers,
conceded that British troops may now be in Iraq for up
to four years because of the growing insurgency.

In Britain, the unravelling of what US deputy
secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, called the
"bureaucratic" pretext for war - the supposed threat
from Iraqi chemical and biological weapons - has
created the most serious political crisis for Tony
Blair's government in six years and removed the last
vestige of possible legality from the aggression. With
no sign of any such weapons on the ground in Iraq,
intelligence leaks and the withering accounts of
former cabinet ministers Clare Short and Robin Cook
have stripped bare the ultimate New Labour spin
operation. Polls show most British people are now
convinced the government deliberately exaggerated the
evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to
bounce public and parliament into war. Not
surprisingly, attitudes to the conflict itself are
also beginning to turn.

In Iraq, the mounting social and human cost of the
invasion and occupation has become ever clearer. The
country's first Burger King may have opened at Baghdad
airport and the Queen's birthday may once again be
celebrated on the banks of the Tigris, but the impact
of war and regime collapse on essential services and
infrastructure, on top of the havoc wreaked by the
first Gulf war and 13 years of grinding sanctions, has
been devastating.

Add to that the rampant lawlessness, insecurity,
looting of all public institutions, destruction of
national treasures, epidemic of murder and robbery,
and it is little wonder that most Iraqis appear to
find it hard to see themselves as having been
liberated. And far from being lower than expected, the
number of Iraqi civilians killed is now estimated - on
the basis of hospital, mortuary and media records - to
have been between 5,500 and 7,200, while Iraqi
military deaths are thought to run into tens of

Amidst all this misery, there have also been positive
changes. The fall of the dictatorship has meant an end
to the torture and execution of political prisoners,
replaced by more spasmodic beatings and killings of
innocents by coalition soldiers. Political parties can
now organise and independent newspapers circulate. The
discovery of mass graves has been a reminder of the
cruelty of Saddam's rule, though ironically the
largest were filled with victims of the 1991 uprising,
incited and then betrayed by George Bush senior.

But the anti-democratic and flagrantly colonial nature
of the new power in Iraq is undisguised. While Iraqi
political parties are pressing for a broadly-based
conference to elect a transitional government, the new
US proconsul, Paul Bremer, is only prepared to
tolerate a hand-picked Iraqi advisory council, while
his occupation authority ploughs ahead with shaping
the free market, pro-western order the US plans to
impose on the ruins of an independent Iraq.

The senior coalition "adviser" to the Iraqi industry
ministry, Tim Carney, declared this month that the
occupation authorities will press ahead with the
privatisation of dozens of state-owned companies
within a year, pre-empting the decision of any future
elected Iraqi government. And the Bush administration,
fresh from handing out contracts to White House
corporate cronies, has let it be known it aims to
reverse the historic nationalisation of Iraqi oil
before it's finished with "reconstruction".

What freedoms have been allowed are now being reined
in, with censorship of press and television. Bremer
has even issued a decree outlawing any "gatherings,
pronouncements or publications" that call for
opposition to the US occupation. All of which is a
clear sign that the US administration is far from
confident it can control the direction of Iraqi

It also helps to explain the scale of civil and armed
resistance, which is concentrated in the Sunni
triangle to the north and west of Baghdad. Around 50
US soldiers have been killed by Iraqi fighters since
the war was declared won - getting on for half the
number killed in the war itself. A series of punitive
counter-insurgency operations by US troops in the past
week has led to the capture and deaths of hundreds of
Iraqis - sweeping up many innocents in the process -
but appears to have had no impact on the level of
attacks. US commanders have branded the guerillas
"subversives" and even "terrorists", or tried to
dismiss them as "remnants" of the regime. The evidence
suggests that while Ba'athists form part of the
resistance, that is far from being the whole picture.

But what they cannot by any sensible reckoning be
called are terrorists - nor does the US have any right
to try guerillas who attack occupation troops as
criminals, which Bremer announced it plans to do this
week. It is an almost universally accepted principle
that a people occupied by a foreign power has the
right to use armed force to resist - though whether
force will be the best tactic is another matter. It
was the crudest self-delusion on the part of the
invading states to imagine that because most Iraqis
wanted an end to the Saddam regime they would accept
the imposition of a foreign occupation to replace it.

The situation seems bound to get worse, as the
resistance fights a war of attrition and the
occupation forces win new recruits for the guerillas
with brutal and misdirected counter-attacks. Armed
resistance has yet to spread to the south, where
British troops are based and rival Shi'ite Islamist
groups are busy building their political strength. The
longer the occupation continues, however, the more
that is likely to change, with the further risk of
drawing Iran into the maelstrom. Last week the
pro-Iranian Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Hakim predicted
that armed resistance would grow. Meanwhile,
anti-occupation protests have been multiplying across
the south. In Basra on Sunday, and again on Tuesday,
thousands demonstrated outside British headquarters
chanting slogans against Blair and Bush and demanding
the right to rule themselves. As things stand, British
troops are one fatwa short of the treatment being
meted out to the Americans further north, while the
occupation is achieving nothing for Iraqis they could
not more effectively achieve for themselves. The
sooner political pressure builds to end it and
negotiate an orderly withdrawal, the better for all of

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